Saturday, April 09, 2011

One of my old favorite websites is dying

Back around the turn of the last decade, the website was a popular place, with a diverse community posting about technology and social issues. There was a proto-blogging feature (diaries), some very skilled and verbose posters, and the site was well-managed. I was a regular there (posting as "the original jht". At the time it looked like k5 (the nickname most folks had for it) would be one of the big long-term winners in "new media".

But sometime around 2004 or so, things started changing there. First of all, due to to some changes in his personal life, the site's founder couldn't spend as much time and care on the site as he once could. Then other sites with a more clearly defined profitability model started gaining traction. Finally, the trolls came and started chasing out the regulars. Today, though k5 is still on the Internet, it's barely registering in traffic stats and the community has mainly dispersed. The big surviving (and thriving) sites from that era are Slashdot and Fark (I'm still active at both of them, too).

But before k5 faded away, there were some really interesting discussions. Recently, I was wondering what I should do with all my content i posted there over the years I was active. This morning, I logged in and using the powers of copy/paste I created an archive file of it all. And I'm going to repost a few of my writings, along with the Big Questions I was responding to in them. Here's my first one below:

Original story link

Make the world a better place.

By seebs in Culture
Sun Feb 24, 2002 at 03:52:00 PM EST
Tags: Round Table (all tags)

If you were given a budget of a trillion US dollars, with the goal of making the world "a better place", what would you do?

I've occasionally had this conversation with friends, and it's amazing how many different ideas people have of what would make the most difference. What would you do, if you were going to try to get the most bang for your buck? A little of everything? One big project? Would you focus on short-term improvements, or long-term ones?
And no, I don't mean just this planet; if you think colonizing Mars is the best use of your money, go ahead.

My response:

I'd set priorities - the world needs basics first (3.00 / 2) (#293)
by the original jht on Tue Feb 26, 2002 at 09:00:40 AM EST

First off - the world needs cheap, reliable power. I'd build power plants in parts of the world that need them, using appropriate technology for an area (wind, solar, coal, gas, nuclear - probably not oil). People with no power don't need a lot - just enough for lights, refrigeration, and perhaps radio and/or TV. This'll make a big impact to people's lives and provide energy for the next two things on the list:
Item number 2 (and 3): Clean water supplies and adequate sanitation for parts of the world that don't have it. That'll cut back on disease vectors and improve health greatly.

Fourth - Provide basic medical care in places where it's not currently available. A little help goes a long way here, and money I gave out would be well-complimented by other charitable giving.

Fifth - Education. We need to replace the madrases (I think I spelled it right) and their equivalents in other nations with good, solid, basic secularized education. People don't need to be "fully indoctrinated into the capitalist system" to learn neutral facts about the world, how to read, write, and perform basic math, and be functional citizens of their society. People need to learn enough to thrive within their nation, and they need to learn that the rest of the world is not full of prospective enemies.

With those essentials funded, I think the world will be ultimately be able to take care of itself quite nicely.

Of course, the first three items on the list will cost money to build and money to run - As a society that is serviced improves their standard of living I'd expect to be able to charge enough for the infrastructure to pay for ongoing costs. So the infrastructure needs to be built as economically as possible understanding that the point of break-even operation may be years away.

And finally, I'd keep a million or so for myself to live off of - I'm going to be pretty busy coordinating all this and will not have time for my real job anymore. Hey - a man's gotta eat (and have a vacation house on the Vineyard!)...
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