On the Internet’s Lawless Frontier

11 03 2010

If you haven’t heard of it yet, perhaps you should check out Topix.com, specifically this part.

The team that created this had a genius idea. They constructed forums specifically for every single town in America, no matter how small, and then gave any visitors instant access. Like the comments section of an article, simply input a username, your response, pass a bot test and your insightful, informative comment is instantly posted. There is no e-mail registering, no system to prevent multiple postings under different names and not a damn moderator in sight.

It is incredibly easy to create a topic and then populate it with fake posters. Comments are never removed once up, it’s the Internet Libertarian-style.

Though a forum, it also serves as a “news” outlet, if by news you mean rumors posted as fact. In this way, it is actually a kind of competition for my employer, Bardstown’s tri-weekly newspaper The Kentucky Standard. I peruse Topix daily for a few professional reasons – to keep track of what’s on the mind of Bardstown citizens, to check for any references to the newspaper – but mostly for its pure entertainment value.

It is a free-for-all brawl, the rumors and rants of small-town America laid bare. It is the kind of place one goes to “start shit,” as it were. Spurned by your ex-lover? Go on to Topix and create a post calling out that dirty ho/cheatin’ bastard. Fired from a job? Go on to Topix and create a post accusing the management of made-up crimes. Don’t like Mexicans? Go on to Topix and say just that with only 90 percent of the audience calling you a racist.

A solid fifty percent of the topics started will begin with one of two things, either A) a person’s full name, usually followed by a statement about their relative attractiveness B) an inquiry asking who’s the hot (or hideous) person who works at McDonald’s/the Five Star gas station/Wal-Mart.

One of the most interesting things about the Internet is its ability to run the full gamut from the most base of human instincts to our most noble aspirations in the space of a few .com’s. Take, for example, the protests staged after Iran’s recent election. Social media allowed video, images and words from protesters to get into the world from a country that tightly controls any and all dissent.

Contrast that to, say, this example of a Topix user posting on a thread titled “Ashley Auberry.” The poster here is referring to the thread’s namesake and expressing their opinion.

“Well she uses her body to get whateva she wants she’s a hoe,she lives ova here by me behind the courthouse, she brings all kinds men in nd out of her place. she works ova at the new bar not far from here and i heard she’s fu-kin the owner plus a few more mexicans

Truly, the Web is a lawless frontier. And I’m just talking about grammar and spelling.

Let’s take a look at another example. From a thread titled “Who is the girl behind the service desk at Wal-mart?” One user had an interesting tidbit considering the woman in question’s dental hygiene.

“Debbie has no teeth there fake”

There are precious few moments when I think to myself “Gee, I love living in a small town!”, but Topix provides a daily does of reasons to think this. The size of the town allows for the kind of intensely personal discussions that are lost on forums that instead attract their audiences based on a common interest.

I’ve always had some strange fascination with people and ideas that, to my mind, seem a bit crazy, and Topix is a Web site custom built for such nuts.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, perhaps you should check out Topix.com.

The team that created this had a genius idea. They constructed forums specifically for every single town in America, no matter how small, and then gave any visitors instant access. Like the comments section of an article, simply input any username, your response, pass a bot test and your insightful, informative comment is instantly posted. There is no e-mail registering, no system to prevent multiple postings under different names and not a damn moderator in sight.

It is incredibly easy to create a topic and then populate it with fake posters. Comments are never removed once up, it’s the Internet Libertarian-style.

Though a forum, it also serves as a “news” outlet, if by news you mean rumors posted as fact. In this way, it is actually a kind of competition for my employer, Bardstown’s tri-weekly newspaper The Kentucky Standard. I peruse Topix daily for a few proffesional reasons – to keep track of what’s on the mind of Bardstown citizens, to check for any references to the newspaper – but mostly for its pure entertainment value.

It is a free-for-all brawl, the rumors and rants of small-town America laid bare. It is the kind of place one goes to “start shit,” as it were. Spurned by your ex-lover? Go on to Topix and create a post calling out that dirty ho/cheatin’ bastard. Fired from job? Go on to Topix and create a post accusing the management of made-up crimes. Don’t like Mexicans? Go on to Topix and say just that with only 90 percent of the audience calling you a racist.

A solid fifty percent of the topics started will begin with one of two things, either A) a person’s full name, usually followed by a statement about their relative attractiveness B) an inquiry asking who’s the hot stud (or ugly ho) who works at McDonald’s/the gas station/Wal-Mart.

One of the most interesting things about the Internet is its ability to run the full gamut from the most base of human instincts to our most noble aspirations in the space of a few .com’s. Take, for example, the protests staged after Iran’s recent election. Social media allowed video, images and words from protestors to get into the world from a control that tightly controls any and all dissent.

Contrast that to, say, this example of a Topix user posting on a thread titled “Ashley Auberry.” The poster here is referring to the thread’s namesake and expressing their opinion.

“Well she uses her body to get whateva she wants she’s a hoe,she lives ova here by me behind the courthouse, she brings all kinds men in nd out of her place. she works ova at the new bar not far from here and i heard she’s fu-kin the owner plus a few more mexicans

Truly, the Web is a lawless frontier. And I’m just talking about grammar and spelling.

Let’s take a look at some more examples. From a thread titled “Who is the girl behind the service desk at Wal-mart?” One user had an interesting tidbit considering the woman in question’s dental hygiene.

“Debbie has no teeth there fake”

There are precious few moments when I think to myself “Gee, I love living in a small town!”, but Topix provides a daily does of reasons to think this. The size of the town allows for the kind of intensely personal discussions that are lost on forums that instead attract their audiences based on a common interest.

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One response

15 03 2010
Becky

I’ve never even heard of this before-I’ll have to check it out 🙂

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