A short history of Ebenezer's

iefaf said last week: 'what is the lesson fravia is teaching us by sharing and working together we can solve anything???' no, not anything, but a lot of things... so i simply will tell a story of working together via www and of friends around the world, who has built together the new place at www.ebmb.org.and , as an emotional note, it was my first experience of this kind and it is still a great one.

some of you will know the Ebenezer's Messageboard on InsideTheWeb?

'Welcome to the Ebenezerboard. This place is for conversations - for sharing points of view and information - for amusement, relaxation and reflection. Facts, philosophy, music and literature; politics, religion, love, and frustration. Whatever you like. But only for friends. It is up to each visitor to define herself or himself as a friend. The proof is in the pudding.'

This was and is a description of it's spirit. Here is Ebenezer's look back, how and why it begun.

'The history of the Ebenezerboard? Well, it's all in the mind. It is about loneliness, it's about laughs, it's about afterthoughts, it's about ideas, it's about nothing at all. It started somewhere at Fravia's page of reverse engineering. But I never was a reverse engineer of anything. Perhaps I could reassemble some physical gadgets. Perhaps I could reuse some thoughts in another context. Perhaps I had memorised some rhymes or nice sentences and could reproduce them. Nothing much: I was and am an end user of software - a fair one, but nothing special. I learnt a lot from the site, and I saw this strange creature, this anomaly, this freak: the reality cracking pages. Such stuff doesn't belong in a page of software. I liked it because of that.

Then there was an attack on the site. I don't remember all the details about Crazyboy, the US mirror. I think it held out. But the activity moved from the Site to the "experimental message board" at InsideTheWeb.com - moderated by svd and iefaf, and perhaps DQ - I cannot remember. And it definitely was not software dominated. It was a broad discussion forum - very mixed. Fascinating - because there were topics that allowed contributions from someone like me - mixed in with peak level software expertise. Rhyming and cooking were allowed. People were able to express more than one dimension.

For some reason the board degenerated (from my point of view). There were conflicts that made my presence there unbearable, and in the end I was actually thrown out for being off topic. I discussed this matter with friend Humphrey P, then opened the mb959559 at InsideTheWeb and invited him and svd, iefaf and jeff along. I dropped a line at fravia's - so new people came along. The remainder I think you know.

My philosophy has been that there should be something new and interesting available at the board most of the time. This means that when activity from other members is high, I can be just a common member of the crowd. When activity is low, I have to play locomotive. In the beginning this had to happen rather often. It may have looked a bit forced, but even that could have been a signal that I was serious about keeping the board up. So it might pay off in the end - and did, when all (pause - eyes suddenly got flooded) those guys started building the new ebmb site.

From my point of view the message board is a very good medium. Uploading takes no more time than writing. Replying to posts is quick. Self- censorship does not come so naturally as in emails (not to mention Web pages or printed pages) - so the board can keep its spontaneity. And all the valuable stuff that is uploaded by the members, can be archived centrally. Another asset is that a board is open to new people who come along. No screening of new members, no lists, no hearings, no passwords. When the new member makes her or his first post, (s)he automatically declares her/himself as a friend according to the welcome note.

I think that friends clause has been a lucky idea - and it means that even (ahem) hot postings should be regarded with patience, as they by definition are not intended to be evil. For this reason the only systematically censored person at the board has been yours truly.

But even the mb959559 has been hit by disappearing posts, as DOM describes in his chapter. Perhaps this could have a connection to the fact that svd implemented the banner- swallowing open tag method on mb959559 (special thanks to him for helping me out when I had (censored) up the codes.

What else to say? The ebenezerboard (named after Ebenezer Cooke, a major character in my favourite novel, John Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor. Ebenezer was a clumsy, but well-meaning guy - like myself.) is the product of many minds. I will not speak much about the coding - but that is because I do not understand it. To me it is magic, and i can only bow my head in gratitude. But if you look in the threads (by means of that lovely random access front page), you will see all the work and time and ideas that have been developed and posted.

I cannot predict the future. I see real life growing. I believe the same thing has happened to other early members of Ebenezer's. But whatever happens in future, I think the first year of the board's existence has left a lot of material open for study and enjoyment.

This is what I can think of about the history. With all the new members, the direction
may change a little. This, I think is in complete agreement with the welcome note.
The ebenezerboard is what its contributors make of it.'

We had the mb on itw and there was an associated place for sharing files of common interrest on driveway (a free [advertised] webspace provider) too. the MessageBoard on itw was often unreachable, has a lot of other problems till today, as you will have noticed, now there are some boards gone (deleted, i don't know). the Ebenezer's MessageBoard (~ebmb) was not a target of deleting, but some weeks ago, the threads of the last ten days were gone. 'and i thought to myself' !%/&"§!, it is time to leave.

monday evening i found a guy, who is nice enough to register a www.ebmb.org domain.
i laid back and took a beer (~ilbatab).
i'd earlier asked Laurent, if i may use his php-messageboard scripts and he'd sayed yes. you all know them, i think, the php-lab, the ~S~ seeker and the 'riddle' board are running with them. You may read, how Laurent discovers the ebmb and his impressions.

'How I went into ebenezer world ?

I'm not sure of it anymore, but I think it's Jeff who, a long time ago, suggested me to throw an eye into ebmb. I immediately appreciated the friendly atmosphere that surrounded the place (can we talk about atmosphere in this virtual world ? I think so). People were very kind, friendly, tolerant with each other. So, during a long time I went into the board a couple of time a week and tried to decipher what all those brilliant people were saying (I have to admit that I never found the key to decipher HumphreyP words :-). I don't think I ever contributed to any thread (we have a saying here that says "la culture c'est comme la confiture: moins on en a, plus on l'étale". I like to prove this wrong), but I was really enjoying beeing there, in my little corner, shamelessly leeching those philosophical, ethical, political, ... discussions that, for once, interested me.

So, you understand why, when dom asked me if he could use the mbs script for ebenezer, not only did I replied 'YES', but also did all I could to help him building the basements of ebenezer's brand new sweet home. That's the less I could do after having silently beeing there for such a long time without anyone noticing me (or did they ? :-)Actually, I didn't do that much. The script was already written for the phplab and it's svd who downgraded it to run on php version 3. Gregor Samsa did all the importing of the old threads. I helped dom to port the bowl script in its new place and to put some order in all this disorder.

Well, now, I probably will slowly move back in my little corner of this warm place, but this time, I know that the peoples around the tables knows about me and will look at me from times to times. And I won't be afraid anymore to stand up and give my opinion when I feel it's worth, cause I know I'm welcome in this world.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank 2 guys (amongst many others) without whom I would never be writting this. The first one is The Seeker. It's him who pulled me out of my passive position and pushed me forward to a more contributing one. Thanks Seeker !! The second one is DQ, who (patiently) teached me much more than i ever thought i could learn. Thanks DQ !!'

Tuesday morning i uploaded the sripts, written for php4 and it looks like if the new domain only supports php3. There's a man in .au from .bg called SVD, as far as i know, he didn't saw php before, but he start a run through 45 KB source code to downgrade from php4 to php3. something like he did, i've seldom seen before, although i'm working in IT since some :) years.
First thread looks like this:

eventualy works (24/10/00 17.25.53)
ohaa te

test (24/10/00 21.48.50)
just testing

1.1 (just testing) (25/10/00 00.17.26)
The easy way. No additional switches.

But one of the next thread start with this:

svd, you are a killer! (n/t) (24/10/00 18.10.17)

A killer ? (24/10/00 20.48.03)
I would say a beast :-)
I hope you'll enjoy your brand new board and won't have to report me too many bugs.
svd, if it's your job ... Great work for someone who didn't know much about php a few ... hours ago !!

from now on, further evolution can be watched on the board. we had a running mb, that's one thing, but we wanted to move from itw, which means taking with us the whole board and history of Ebenezer's to keep the spirit. Gregor Samsa started to convert/import the itw board threads and posts to the format of the new one. and

Re: may i call you a hero, Sir (n/t) (26/10/00 20.03.58)

If you had seen me fighting the windmills of plain C, you'd call me Don Quixotte... (no offense to DQ ;-) (n/t) (27/10/00 00.03.03)

Be my guest :-) (n/t) (30/10/00 08.44.22)

Gregor had done it. He did want to do it his way and he did. the third great job in this story (Laurent, Svd, Gs). meanwhile,
The ebmb domain is a professional hosted place, so it's not for free. But on the other hand, it's not really expensive (around 10 euro per month) and without i need to ask two other visitors are now sharing the costs of the domain.
the webspace (shared files of common interests) has to be moved too, iefaf had done a script for altern.org and i changed 20 lines to fit in the new place (thanks to Luc, who gives me a 'playground' at 2113),so no further need for driveway, but i was so exhausted,
i had to lay back and took some beers more.
When i came back and had a look at my little programm, i was startled. when i leave, it was short, precise and a beauty, ok one or two tiny security problems ;) But now, Laurent had added
while(($NewDir = preg_replace('@((?:/|^)([^/]*)/\.\.(?:/|$))@Ue',"('\\2'!='..'?'/':'\\1')",$verz))!=$verz)
I'm sure, you all know what that means! First thought of mine was something about the risk of drinking too much beer and than seing white mice or white elephants or lines like that :)

Meanwhile, Iefaf has started an index contest: the index page of ebmb. He, Jeff and Gregor (yes the windmill/programm master !) have contributed till now and that gave me the idea of the 'rotating' page.

Next thing to do, is to order the disorder, as Laurent mentioned. And then, we will see. that's it about working together so far, (.be .au .de .no .us .th ...). you see, i've done nothing, but have a feeling of friends around me in this tiny little world, friends never seen, but great ones...