Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Requiem for a satire site

In the past few months, a small bastion of wit and wisdom passed silently from the web. Thinkdammit (no link because the domain has changed hands) was a site not unlike many; in this case, two talented writers set out to periodically offer unabashedly biased views of current events, media culture, and foreign and domestic policies. Via the tried and true format of pseudo-news stories, Thinkdammit aimed its very sharp and largely accurate rapier wit at the foibles of modern politics from 2002 through 2007.

And then... it didn't. What happens when writers move on? It is easy to forget how ephemeral the world wide web can be. Even the oldest sites are often not more than a decade old, and many last far less long. The fact that domains must be actively maintained and paid for makes archival survival of inactive sites far less likely.

This is troubling, because a lot of good writing is poised to vanish into the wind. It may be easier to get published online, but it's much harder to establish a lasting legacy. The Wayback machine notwithstanding, if a site passes from its owner's hands, it's essentially gone, leaving behind a fragmented patchwork of broken links and, perhaps, quoted excerpts in forums. Compare this to the average age of the books on your bookshelf. Odds are, most of your books predate the web by years. On the other hand, who among us is prepared to, essentially, assume a lifelong commitment to maintain a website that was active for perhaps a few years? Few writers, unless they are professionals, would do so. Some (present company included) seek to make the leap from HTML to hard copy, though it's not easy to accomplish. Most humor-based websites surely won't result in a book.

It's hard to think about what will happen with our websites down the road: the web is, for better and for worse, a product of the "now". So live in the now. Raise a glass of something suitable to toast the departure of a fine collection of humor articles, and thank the writers for sharing their vision with us, however briefly.

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Blogger Caius said...

Thanks for your kind words about Thinkdammit. You've just made the day of this former contributing writer.

5:27 PM  
Blogger John Curtis said...

Of course, I expect many writers would have written nothing if not for the Internet. I only decided to write because I knew I could have an immediate audience, no matter how small.

Good thoughts on the vitality of the online word though.

5:30 PM  
Blogger tramplibrarian said...

This post has been removed by the author.

6:38 PM  
Blogger tramplibrarian said...

Hi folks --

Speaking as another one of the writers (though not the chief writer -- that honor goes to my brother), and the Thinkdammit site designer, many thanks for your kind thoughts!

The articles are not gone forever, just hiding out on my hard drive, waiting to emerge from the depths some other time, spreading their Lovecraftian tentacles across the uneasy collective consciousness of our nation's political elites (read: bozos).

We did let the domain go (I have no idea who has it now), but I'm sure we can find something else suitable should we want to. "Thinkdammit" was a favorite phrase of a friend of ours for a while, and it suited the mood of the site well. :-)

Like my friend Caius, I am delighted to hear you enjoyed the site! One thing we never had with the site was a sense of readership; I created the design for the site in a pre-Word Press era and was not set up to foster the community that helps sites thrive these days, what with their fancy comment sections and all. So when we put stuff out, we were never really sure if anyone saw it but us. Now we know that someone did, and enjoyed it. How wonderful!

Not that we had time to manage something like an online community anyway: Thinkdammit was a collection of writers, political news junkies, teachers, librarians, and others who worked hard to carve out the time to take a stick to the world. We didn't always manage it -- the site was the largely the work of one writer (and I'll let him post for himself) who really devoted a lot of time and creativity to it, with a lot of bouncing ideas off of the other folks, who contributed here and there as best we could. So hats off to him for his talent, and thanks for your kind thoughts for him and all of us.

We never knew we had an audience, much less one that would remember us fondly. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and putting a nice finishing touch on a fun project.

6:49 PM  
Blogger Check Please! Editors said...

Every site has its readership, however modest. Thinkdammit was a worthy venture - sorry the domain is gone. I'm glad the articles survive somewhere. Should you guys ever start up again, come apply to HumorFeed!

1:44 PM  

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Satire pervades the web, seeping into mailboxes and mainstream news like a spilled cup of coffee. It stains and it won't go away.

The Bitter Cup is a collaborative blog for members of HumorFeed, a collaborative of satire and humor sites that has been making trouble since 2003.