More than a decade ago, I flew home from an Internet conference in San Francisco with the first (pink) edition of Larry Wall’s Programming Perl and a printout of the NCSA Mosaic page on how to write CGI scripts. The conference had been sparsely attended (vendors who found out that I and my colleagues worked for a customer that might actually buy some Internet technology flocked around us like sailors on leave) but I’d come back convinced that the web was probably a better place to do product development than the text-based protocols we’d been working with. Over the next few weeks I wrote my first set of CGI scripts, just for the hell of it (it would be several months before anyone at my company took seriously the idea of building a commercial web site) and created The Quote Server. It was a collection of my favorite quotations and an invitation to others to submit theirs. It’s gone through several generations of technology, and several hosting servers, but today I closed it to further submissions. It will still serve up quotes, and I’ll probably enter some here and there, but it’s no longer open for the public to contribute quotes.
In the early days I would get several good quotes a month. Over the last few years, the proportion of good quotes has dropped, with more and more people entering worthless nonsense or moronic aphorisms they’d dreamed up themselves. (Given that rumors of Mark Twain’s Internet access are greatly exaggerated, there’s simply no chance that anyone quoting themselves is going to say something that interesting.) For the last few months, the amount of raw spam (of the type familiar to anyone with a blog) has risen as well, and it’s simply not worth the trouble. I don’t think I’ve used more than a half-dozen submitted quotes in the last six months. It’s not that big a deal, but I did enjoy getting funny and interesting submissions from around the world.