For the past month or so, I have been obsessed with finding some way to respond to the corporate social media purge of traditional, mainstream ideas and attitudes. The speed and totality with which Silicon Valley tech-oligarchs eradicated online expressions of conservative and centrist wrong-think convinced me that we had to act quickly. And by we, my thinking was — "If not me, then who? If not now, when?" Those questions may be all I know of the Talmud, but I have always thought them compelling. Just not compelling enough to act.
I was obsessed, not only with the need to respond to the events of the day, but with the need to respond at light speed. My energy and focus were driven by the conviction that we were running out of time.
After considerable investigation and churn, I decided to stand up an instance of Mastodon. Specifically, I deployed the Hometown fork of Mastodon, developed and managed by Darius Kazemi. In the process, I learned quite a bit about Linux, about Ruby, and about my own propensity to swear like a drunken sailor when the simplest steps fail repeatedly. Having finally gotten the platform up and running, I have this awesomely sweet conversational playground (Discussion Studio), which means I'm all set, right? The problem is that you can't have a meaningful discussion with yourself. Well, you can, but you rarely learn anything new.
I had this idea in my mind that if you build it, they will come. Somehow, I hadn't thought through the question of why they would come. Now that I've built it, and they haven't come, I kind of have to deal with the question of why they would. Expecting people to just show up, without first being told why they should show up, is kind of like making a peanut butter sandwich, without first opening the jar. Okay, that was a terrible analogy, but you get the point.
In the midst of all this, I realized that this abrupt dead end happened, precisely because I went tearing off down the highway, without bothering to consult a road map. By telling myself "If you build it, they will come", I was trying to channel the spontaneous but tenacious Kevin Costner character from Field of Dreams. Completely forgotten in my haste was that the actual line from the film is "If you build it He will come." I had set out on my journey, taking counsel with none but myself. Now that I have built this conversational ballpark in the middle of my virtual corn field, if He doesn't come, then none of it will really matter. He is the map and the destination, and I left Him completely out of the equation.
So, while my field lies ready and waiting (grass mowed, bases set, lines chalked), I circle back to the beginning of this whirlwind journey to run my plans past the architect of the universe, and pray for guidance. Without His help, I know I will remain as rudderless as I feel today. With His help, there is nothing that cannot be. With providence, there will be good things to say in the coming months about this project. Whether it succeeds or fails, I will share the journey here.