In this section, I want to explain why I care enough about Muq to put a decade of my spare time into writing it and then giving it away free. Skip directly to the next section if you just want the technogeek stuff.
I am fascinated by the moving frontier where computing technology meets mainstream society: Where it stops being toys for geeks and becomes tools for tinkers and tailors -- and tots.
I've been involved with online communities since the late seventies, and I'm always amazed by the resonance they strike in their users.
I love the synergy when online communities bring together communities as diverse as anti-technology punk bassists and career books and motherhood libraries.
I enjoy seeing a Volkswagen mechanic teach himself to program just so he can help maintain an online community.
I'm delighted by the creativity random non-geek people display when they are given a chance to build cooperatively in a software-mediated environment: Things get attempted and often accomplished that were utterly unanticipated by the creators of the software substrate.
But I'm pained when I see such attempts failing primarily because the software substrate is grossly inadequate to the builder's vision. I'm embarassed on behalf of the programmer who provided the inadequate tools, and I'm frustrated on behalf of the community thus robbed of what might have been.
Eventually, I cannot stand it any more, and I take a stab at providing a better software substrate.
In the early '70s, one cutting edge was computer BBS systems. (I was on the Internet too, but it was purely geekly back then: Local modem driven computer BBS systems were what real people could use.) I wound up writing the public-domain Citadel BBS program, which twenty years later is still going strong, having been ported to just about every operating system and machine on the planet, modified creatively by hundreds of geeks (many of whom seem to have learned programming primarily to do so), linked into continental-size networks and used by millions of people, many of whom seem fondly loyal to Citadel long after it has objectively become technologically obsolescent. There are Citadel implementations out there without a single line of my code remaining, but the authors are still proud to call them Citadels: Some sort of larger sense of community has emerged. Wonderful!
In the early '90s, one cutting edge was muds, "Multi-User Dungeons". (When academe and industry moved in, respectability transformed them into "Multi-User Dimensions.") Where BBSes were limited by phone charges to city scale, Internet-linked muds allowed communities to form on the continental scale. Beyond that, muds allowed much more scope for creativity: Users could create virtual rooms, mazes and puzzles: Unicorns which shied away when approached, mini-applications to speed travel and communication, gifts, quests -- endless profusion!
Muq is fundamentally my reaction to that experience: A follow-on to the tinyMUDs and tinyMUSHes and MOOs intended to explore the visions and vistas which they have opened up, while enabling these communities to explore beyond the limits set by these previous tools.
Muq supports bigger databases, so users can create more works of wonder before hitting the system capacity limit.
Muq supports distributed operation, so community size is no longer limited by the capacity of any single machine or cluster (or budget!), but only by the aggregate computing power available to the community members as a whole. And so that the continued existence of the community need no longer be hostage to any single provider, or any handful of members.
Muq supports better security, so community members will less often have expectations of privacy rudely exploded.
Muq supports improved reliability, so community activities are less often disrupted by outages. (Distributed operation also means that a failure normally takes out a small part of the community space, rather than the whole kit and kaboodle.)
Muq supports a variety of more sophisticated programming facilities, so both the dedicated geeks and the self-taught mechanics can create more freely.
I envision Muq-based communities where nobody has creative projects frustrated by trivial limits on hardware resource consumptions, because any member can add another machine to the resource base at will.
I envision Muq-based communities where nobody has creative projects frustrated for lack of creation rights, because the substrate is secure and distributed enough that everyone can have creation rights sufficient unto their vision.
I envision Muq-based communities where new wonders are built because the tools are markedly less inadequate to the vision. (I hope our tools never cease to be inadequate to our visions, for that could only mean that we had forgotten how to dream.)
I envision Muq-based communities so broad-based that they are hostage to no individual or corporation: Communities that are immortal as long as any pair of members continue to value them.
I've spent years building Muq: Now go out and amaze me! :)
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