I like the diverging austerity of The Well. It had a maniacal focus on text and dialogue. You had to pay to be there. It was a deep community in which everyone was conceivably connected—you didn’t have to friend, follow, or subscribe to other users. These facets make me think The Well was ‘better’ than Tumblr, at least as far as intellectual progress is concerned. It was like a crucible, or an adult day care facility for chronic overthinkers.
Because I don’t want to give B Michael the satisfaction of mindlessly reblogging, I will only quote a brief part of his great analysis of The Well vs. Tumblr (not really, I could reblog without an ounce of guilt but I am not such a fan of massive reblogs so I am only being consistent with my own principles here).
I remember The Well and its problems quite clearly though (god, I am *that* old). I was living in Buenos Aires at the time and I had little options in terms of Internet sites in Spanish. In those days, “the Internet” was not “the Internet” but an almost exclusively English language library of sorts. I gravitated mostly between The Well and IRC channels (also in languages other than Spanish, mostly English, some Swedish, some Dutch and maybe German). There was almost no minority representation during those days. There was this general assumption of whiteness, privilege (well, you had to be to have a computer back then) and Western education.
I joined Howard Rheingold’s community in ‘98 (a free response to The Well’s paid membership) and ended up leaving because it was, honestly, too distanced from my South American reality.
Tumblr, for all its flaws, allows intersectionality. The diversity is much more apparent and present, perhaps as a result of better access to computers and internet connections but also perhaps due to the fact that it’s less centralized and as such, not so much of an echo chamber. The main problem with The Well was one of hierarchies (newbies, moderators, well established users, admins, etc.), whereas Tumblr is a horizontal aggregation of nodes. Censorship vis a vis opposing viewpoints only happens in so far as the person who owns the Tumblr can unfollow someone.
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