Looks like Lance is up to something...
January 1, 2001 7:14 AM   Subscribe

Looks like Lance is up to something... I took the usual peek at Glassdog to see if Lance had anything up. Lo and Behold, what the heck is that? :)
posted by Cavatica (18 comments total)
The DLO is a very sobering experience, it doesn't really hit you until you start writing your own dead letter. I suggest everyone should give it a try.
posted by riffola at 7:25 AM on January 1, 2001

Yes. Nothing like building a monument to your regrets instead of doing something about them, of imparting wisdom in an anonymous letter to no one instead of talking to someone you know. Nice design and visuals and borrowing from the amihotornot interface and all that, but the premise behind it all is kind of sad.

Dead letters are supposed to be undeliverable letters. Hopefully people will soon abandon this "last words from beyond the grave" perspective....

On an unrelated note, wasn't this tried before a couple of times? (ember.org and some other site, one of which was put up after the usual sordid falling out between co-founders) Will the interface with DLO (or the popularity of its creator) allow it to succeed where others have failed?
posted by cardboard at 8:44 AM on January 1, 2001

Nothing like building a monument to your regrets instead of doing something about them ...

Writing the letters is doing something. The authors aren't dead, after all, and can pull an Andrew Carnegie and change their lives to produce a better obituary.

However, after reading five of those dead letters, I have to say the experience is unpleasant. Why would anyone think that dying makes you wiser?
posted by rcade at 9:13 AM on January 1, 2001

cardboard: Ember.org was about first love. No letters involved. Sothere.com is about 'closure'. No death involved. :-)
posted by prolific at 4:15 PM on January 1, 2001

Allow me to call this website a 'sad existence'. It will only 'succeed' (if we can call this a success) because of the creator's popularity.

And the whole things makes me sad. I admired Lance Arthur for his careful work and (clever) web-related ideas.

But you know, it doesn't mean that every innovative idea you come up with is good. Some ones suck (like this one, for example).
posted by kchristidis at 5:27 PM on January 1, 2001

Actually, kchristidis - and by the way, I think you need a few more consonants in that handle - I found it to be a moving and actually quite profound. After all, what would you say if you died right now? How would your letter to the living read? What wisdom would you impart to those you loved?

What, in fact, would be the point of your life?
posted by solistrato at 5:46 PM on January 1, 2001

I admired Lance Arthur for his careful work and (clever) web-related ideas.

One idea you don't like and your admiration for the guy is past tense? Tough crowd.
posted by rcade at 6:42 PM on January 1, 2001

No, one idea he doesn't like, and kchristidis kills him.
posted by kindall at 6:57 PM on January 1, 2001

In all fairness, it might be a much better project if the quality of the writing was better.

Editors are our friends.
posted by gsh at 7:55 PM on January 1, 2001

One of the most interesting aspects of this project, for me, are the reactions to it. Death is a very touchy subject and I think that singular aspect colors one's opinion of the experience that the site delivers. Some people have preconceptions about death that will give them a picture of where they expect to be when this life is done. Since I, personally, have no idea what happens after death, I chose to focus on life, instead.

I purposefully tried to keep the mood neither overly somber nor playful. The idea struck me during a recent trip as I sat in my little airplane seat eating pasty pasta and considering, as I sometimes do when I fly, what would happen if the plane went down. Morbid, probably, but at least once during any plane flight this thought hits me. So this time I took out my laptop and wrote a letter putting down the things I wanted to leave behind, if this was all the time I had left.

One thing I took from that experience -- and the one I wanted to try to give to others -- is after I landed I wasn't dead, of course, and reading the letter I wrote I wondered why I had any regrets. Why did I stop myself from doing what I wanted? Why did I not tell people things that I decided I wanted them to know if I wasn't around anymore? Why did I continue to carry the emotional baggage of regret instead of just leaving it behind? And if I died right now, and had unfulfilled dreams, why not start pursuing them in earnest now? In doing the exercise, myself, I found it more life-affirming than a celebration of death.

That was my experience, and that was the part I hoped to share. But I also wanted to be able to allow anyone to interpret this however they want to. I also think that if I explain it too much, I then start changing the experience for every visitor, and I'd rather that everyone who chooses to participate has their own experience.

Some of those experiences will be negative and uncomfortable. That I can't (and don't want to) change.
posted by honkzilla at 7:56 PM on January 1, 2001

I would distinguish between the therapeutic act of a person evaluating their progress in life, and the creative act of producing a "dead letter" for public consumption. For the website to be successful (and for individual letters to be successful on the DLO website with its user-ranking system), the letters must be well-written. Polishing and editing your work does not in general provide you with any further insight on your own human condition, but instead focuses you on the writing process. In effect you start writing for other people to ensure they understand what you are writing; this is in direct conflict with any efforts at self-exploration. I would strongly recommend against trying to conduct a self-help session in the public-eye.

Conversely, everyone can write to their own inner muse alone, and be inwardly enlightened and rejuvenated (a wonderful thing, I fully agree), and not care if anyone else reads their letters, but in that case it seems to be an awful lot of web overhead for something that no one else will want to read too much of.

Doubtless the reality will fall somewhere in between these two extremes, leaving some groups of people to rave about it and others to decry it, each for their own conflicting reasons, and everyone will have a Dickensian old time....
posted by cardboard at 9:35 PM on January 1, 2001

I don't know about all that, but DLO is nice. I'm glad pople keep putting up these interesting sites.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 10:35 PM on January 1, 2001

I can just see what's going to happen here. Some nut is going to post a suicide note there, and then kill him/herself a couple days later. Then the family of that person will sue Lance for having received the letter and not notified the authorities in time to "do something about it."
posted by aaron at 11:25 PM on January 1, 2001

Maybe they'll sue you for seeing it ahead of time and not giving them enough warning.

Seems like a silly thing to say.
posted by mkn at 11:55 PM on January 1, 2001

It's very disciplined. No link to the author breaks the conversation at the point death would. No search other than mood. It forces the reader to work.

Maybe I just like to be dominated?

John Diamond has written a sort of real dead letter.

And nobody has posted their dead letter to metafilter which gives me a sort of warm feeling inside.
posted by fullerine at 2:44 AM on January 2, 2001

I dunno. I had fun. I found it rather morbid and disturbing, but it is one of the most thought-provoking and ironically downright fun experiences I've ever had in recent memory online. The premise really does make one think. It makes a writer work. I just approached it as a writing exercise. I didn't bring any sociological baggage in with it.

What if someone writes a suicide note? Well gee if they did that it would go against the grain of the premise. It's about a letter written after you die. Anyone who writes a suicide note to the site just didn't grok it. I'm sure some will find it entirely offensive of me, but who cares if someone does do that? I wouldn't pay it no mind, personally.

As for success? In the past the experiences I've had with Lance's work... he's an idea man. I mean he comes up with an idea and he works it. Makes it happen. Perhaps more than some of us can say. The fact he's as successful as he is seems rather like icing on the cake. It's not like he consciously wanted to become about the closest thing to a cyber celebrity that I've ever seen. That was a happy coincidence. He works ideas. Success is ..well it just is. And it's subjective. I doubt he'd judge himself on success the same way you might.

I just dunno. I had fun. Thanks, Lance. =) To those of you who balk at it, that's your opinion. Your choice. You're welcome to it. Just seems rather hollow and petty to me to do that. He worked an idea. I think a damn good one. It'll be very interesting to see how this progresses.

And no I ain't kissing Lance's ass either. =P If I were I'd be using Excelsior! adjectives like amazing or incredible or fantastic. I just said I had fun. =) No harm no foul. Give it a try you might be surprised.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:43 AM on January 2, 2001

So, some people like it and some simply don't. It's perfectly fine with me - I respect that.

On a side note, I don't want to start talking about proper behaviour, etc. but MeFi is all about respecting other people's opinions and not misinterpreting them on (bad?) purpose.
posted by kchristidis at 7:04 AM on January 2, 2001

Lance is the man, and has been since, well, way the hell back when. Subscribe to Glassdog.memo - he's been dropping deadletter hints and 'beta invites' for weeks now....
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:19 AM on January 5, 2001

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