Friday, October 07, 2005

A Dose of Methadone

Ahhhhhhh.....I've gotten my fix. The Celebration Front Porch forums are back!

For the uninitiated, the Front Porch is Celebration's intranet for residents. The most active part, which cannot be viewed by those who don't live in The Bubble, is the discussion forums. Besides being informative, the discussions often take an interesting turn, since people will often type things from the safe solitude of their keyboard that they'd never say face to face.

For the technophiles among us, the forums were a daily fix (actually, several times daily). Thus, when hackers attacked the Front Porch and it poofed out existence into the nether regions of internet, we were forced to go cold turkey. Like junkies whose suppliers had suddenly skipped down, we wandered around the World Wide Web like zombies, desperate for our fix of "forum heroin."

Thankfully, we still had the message boards, but they're not nearly as fun because most of the users are anonymous and many probably don't even live in Celebration. On the Front Porch, you know exactly who is saying what. It's a high-tech version of the gossip circle in front of an old-time general store.

Fortunately, a few days ago the forums made their triumphant return. Unfortunately, they're in a totally new format. "New" isn't necessarily "bad." They're in a more traditional discussion forum format, and they have certain abilities that weren't present on the old site. But still, it feels like a dose of methadone rather than the full-fledged, vein-popping internet drug that I used to be accustomed to. The biggest loss is the content of the old discussions, which were apparently unsalvagable. Years of Celebation history have vanished into thin air; now the "famous" threads will become a part of town lore, never to be seen by human eyes again...instead, they'll be passed down through the generations as folk tales.

Oh well, at least the new forums allow a custom avatar in addition to a custom signature line. I like to change avatars and signatures on a regular basis and to make them as twisted as possible (at least within the forum guidelines). Two of my favorites were a picture of Homer Simpson and the tagline "Celebration, Florida, centrally located in America's Wang" and a finger-wagging animated .gif of Willy Wonka saying, "Don't touch that squirrel's nuts!" At the moment, I have a photo of me in foil headgear (signature pictures of Bunny Brigade members in their ears are quite de rigour).

In the cosmic scheme of things, my signature is pretty tame. One person has an animated clip from "Napoleon Dynamite," and I'm hoping that the person who had a clip of "Wonder Showzen" on the old site will resurrect it. Creativity and technical skills run rampant in Celebration, which makes for some very interesting results.

Since an avatar must be no larger than 80 x 80 pixels, I can't have quite as much fun with that. At the moment, I have a still of Canyonero from the Simpsons in honor of my Aztek.

Slowly but surely the new forums are becoming more active as people discover that they've risen from the dead. Most of the old core group of users is back, and I'm hoping that maybe some newbies will join in the fun. Overall, only a small percentage of Celebration residents use the Front Porch. That's a shame because it's a very powerful communication else could news (and rumors) gain the force of a speeding freight train within mere minutes? How else could a wedding be pulled together out of thin air within 48 hours?

A few years back, before I moved to Celebration, a co-worker said to me, "Isn't it a shame that the internet is killing social interaction and isolating people?" I didn't think that was a vaid asessment back then, and I definitely don't think it's valid now. Back in those days, I was already active in an online Disney Cruise Line forum. I "met" dozens of people online and later had the pleasure of meeting many of them face-to-face on board the ship on various cruises. Some of those meetings turned into lasting friendships; amazingly, some of the people even lived nearby, but I never would have met them without the internet. The web didn't isolate me; it expanded and widened my social circle.

Even before we bought our house in Celebration, I immersed myself into the former discussion forums and got a taste of the real-life town, not the Disneyfied version. One we bought Duloc Manor and I had access to the Front Porch, it became my lifeline over the long year that we did our bi-weekly commute back and forth to Chicago. Friendships were forged, and I always knew what was happening in town, even when I was stuck 1200 miles away.

I miss the old forums, but I've plunged head-on into the new ones...a new era has begin, and hopefully it will be a good (and hacker-proof) one.

Oh well, enough blogging. I'm off to the "methadone clinic."

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