Thursday, April 16, 2009

Train simulation, a factory,and forgotten profiles

Image from Thomas Hawk under a Creative Commons license

I am a strong advocate of never deleting a profile from any social media or other publicly accessible website. My reason? Because once a popular profile disappears, someone else - usually a spammer - steps in and appropriates the profile name. I've known of at least two blogs that were deleted by their owners and subsequently became spam traps.

That having been said, many of us have a lot of old profiles out there. I obtained my first publicly-accessible system account in 1979 (Reed College was one of the early nodes in what became USENET), and I've probably created dozens upon dozens (if not hundreds) of profiles in the last thirty years.

Recently, when I was doing an ego search, I remembered that I have an Amazon profile, and that my wish list was publicly accessible. After making a few deletions to said wish list (I really don't want to publicize my clothing sizes), I began searching around for Amazon profiles for other people. And I ran across this one. Here's an excerpt:

In My Own Words:

I run the MSN Train Simulator Fan Site at inSimulatorFanSite -- come and visit us!

And when you click through, the user only had one review, and it was (as expected) a review of MSN Train Simulator. It was actually a joint review, conducted by the Amazon member and his (then) six-year old son.

That review was written on March 27, 2001. Time has passed, and the MSN Train Simulator Fan Site no longer exists. Interestingly enough, the reviewer actually joined Microsoft as an employee a couple of years later, then eventually left and worked for some other tech firms. I can't recall him ever saying anything about trains, although it turns out that he did write about trains in general, and Train Simulator in particular, in a 2007 post in his blog. (Yeah, he's a blogger, although he spends more time on FriendFeed.)

There are two variables at work here - the time variable, and the service variable. Back in 2001, the reviewer chose to present himself to Amazon users in this way. In other forums, and at other times, he's probably choose to accentuate other aspects of his interests and passions.

In some cases, our interests change over time. As Steven Hodson has noted:

People change, people grow.

In his case, his interests have changed dramatically:

(Hodson's blog) WinExtra no longer was relevant to what I wanted to do. After all WinExtra was always intended to be a Windows and Microsoft related opinion and resource blog, but as it was turning out this was no longer even representative of where I was – or where I wanted to go.

(And, by the way, Steven Hodson has an Amazon profile also, a profile which also appeared to be dated.)

But however much we change, some things stay the same. I don't think I've ever publicly linked to this before, but I've mentioned it in several presentations that I've given. This is my 1982 review of the Wall of Voodoo album "Call of the West," posted to net.records:

Newsgroups: net.records
Path: utzoo!decvax!cca!hplabs!hao!menlo70!sytek!zehntel!teklabs!reed!bred@sri-unix
X-Path: utzoo!decvax!cca!hplabs!hao!menlo70!sytek!zehntel!teklabs!reed!bred@sri-unix
From: bred@sri-unix
Date: Thu Nov 18 10:19:00 1982
Subject: Wall of Voodoo album
Posted: Sun Nov 14 23:46:25 1982
Received: Thu Nov 18 10:19:00 1982

Just bought Wall of Voodoo's latest album "Call of the West"
(I.R.S.) a few weeks ago. The group uses synthesizers, etc.
while still maintaining a western American feel both in music and
lyrics (such as the lyrics in "Lost Weekend", about a couple who
just lost their life savings in Las Vegas, and "Factory", about a
factory worker). I'm not sure whether the album's being played
on many radio stations, having only heard it on Reed College's
(Portland OR) radio station KRRC. Wall of Voodoo has recorded at
least one other album, "Dark Continent", but I haven't listened
to it yet.

Questions: has anyone else heard this album or the previous one?
Opinions? How long has Wall of Voodoo been around?

John Bredehoft (...!teklabs!reed!bred)

P.S. At least one other person likes this album; the KRRC copy
has mysteriously disappeared...

I still love "Lost Weekend" and "Factory," over a quarter century later.

And these old profiles carry us back to an innocent time when "decvax" and "hplabs" were completely separate entities...and back when a "train simulator" would have graphics that looked like "########"...
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