Changing world of prose-
A look outside the mainstream
A good place to find writers who truly fulfill the promise of the web is personal webpages, not magazines or any profit or hit-count minded websites. One of
the most impressive, and oldest, sites I have seen that really harnesses and exploits the potential of the web is the webpage of a man named Gus Mueller, or as he calls himself, simply The Gus. For the last 5 years, Gus, formerly a self-described "dumpster-diving punk" and now a respectable web developer, has been building one of the largest websites -personal or otherwise- I've ever seen. It all began with The Big Fun Glossary, an encyclopedic tome written about the goings-on of his social world. Centering around the lives of the residents of "Big Fun," a rural Virginia country house, the Big Fun Glossary list people, places, ideas, terms, and any other topic of conversation the housemates discuss. The Gus also maintained an online journal, called The Musings of the Gus, where he detailed every day of his life. Whenever he cited anything Big Fun related, he simply provided a link to the appropriate entry in the Glossary. This made it possible for readers to jump in at any point, instead of having to read from the very first entry. A textbook example of the power of the hypertext link, The Big Fun Glossary made it possible for Gus to write about anything with the knowledge that if his reader wanted to, he or she could know in great detail what Gus was talking about, without a long, drawn out explanation within the actual writing. The Big Fun Glossary thus provided a useful prose tool. It also brought attention to Gus's writings. In fact, the Glossary is how most people found his page. It covers such a wide variety of topics that anyone entering anything from "Classic Rock" to "Dextromethorphan Hydrobromide" will come across one of his pages. It's the classic model of good webpage design- someone finds one thing they like about it, then after a few minutes can't get out of it. It's web publishing combined with ethnography at its finest.
Gus has a keen understanding of the difference between publishing documents on the web versus static, printed documents. He spends days writing about this topic alone. In his pages, you will find one of the best examples of interesting writing fused with interesting presentation. He writes on topics such as the half-life of hypertext links, the problems with search engines, and the advantages of writing for Internet Explorer over Netscape. But he also writes about rummaging through dumpsters behind bagel shops, and shoplifting in Radioshack, corporate sabotage, and the hallucinatory affects of large amounts of Robitussin.
On his latest webpage, Randomly Ever After, Gus has invited his rather large cult following to participate in his dialogue, by setting up a forum where his
readers can participate in discussions. The participants in the forum, which includes Gus and several of the people he writes about as well as total strangers, write about anything they want. Though the discussion often centers on The Gus's own entries, the posts often discuss topics more worldly. Topics range from political (I'm fed up of the Bush/Gore board being the newest board. What is your favorite type of jam?) to more web-based topics (Post all the worst
destinations of your surfing each and every day!) to just sort of absurd postings (Hostess Cakes Nectar of the Gods!). The forum also features many serious
conversations, such as a running dialogue about the killings at Columbine. Almost immediately after the shootings in April 1999, Gus, a sometimes-satirist, had set up his own mock-Trenchcoat Mafia page, claiming to be Eric Harris, and detailing such things as how to build pipe bombs or how to kill a vegetarian with a poison-laced tofu dog. The page was his reaction to what he perceived to be a misrepresentation of Goth culture by the media. Predictably, most people who viewed the page thought it was real, and he has received countless angry letters and threats, which of course just fuels his argument. The Columbine topic provides some of the most interesting discourse on Gus's forum, as people weigh in with their opinions and rants, and is the perfect example of the new idea of "the writer" on the web. One person introduces a topic, and then it takes off from there. While Gus's writings used to be the center of his webpages, now they provide a jumping-off point for countless threads of conversation.
Though he's often petty and mean, the various pages of The Gus showcase some of the best examples of how prose is changing on the web. From his
liberal use of links and his reader-driven forum, to his understanding of the vast array of technical considerations when writing on the web, Gus shows what can
be done, and what has been done, with writing on the web when there are no corporate or other outside factors influencing web writing. Just pure, personal
devotion, executed knowledgeably and enthusiastically.
The Gus's Main Page
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