I am sometimes asked why I have taken on the burden of running a system for the Lower Lights community.
The answer to that question is mostly “because I can,” but there is a lot of nostalgia involved too. The friendships I forged on Lower Lights hastened the breakdown of my first marriage and helped me through the divorce. This was during my twenties, when the male of the species wakes up and begins to mature. The things that happen during this phase of your life have an enormous impact on who you are, even more than High School. I met a lot of people on Lower Lights, and the experience was for the most part very positive.
Running the site, I often feel like I am herding dozens of schoolchildren who have escaped from an insane asylum. I have banned a few users who were completely unwilling to adhere to the forum rules, which are fairly lenient. Despite this, I enjoy running it.
Read on for a look back at why I was in the right place at the right time to inherit the domain.
In late 1998, I had just been fired from a job because my new manager, promoted from position that was my peer, was intimidated by my competence. I’m sure the paperwork mentions performance, but the real reason was that he did not like me, and did not like the fact that I was a better network engineer than him.
I had been a regular user of the Lower Lights BBS for 4 years by this point, and Western Online (the ISP, also known as Wolsi) had been my Internet provider for at least two years by that point. A couple of weeks later, I was chatting with the Light Keeper.
Like most of the users on the BBS, John (the Light Keeper) knew my situation. I also knew a little about his situation — he had built up the BBS and then the ISP with the help of two of my friends, Steve Sawaya and Mike Biesele. These two are gods of Unix administration. Early on, Steve had been the first to leave, recruited by a startup ISP that by now everyone in Utah has heard of — ArosNet. A few months before this story began, Mike was also lured away to Aros. Before Mike left, he told John that all Wolsi needed was a babysitter. This was true — the servers had been well-engineered and took care of most management themselves.
I can’t even remember the name of the babysitter that John brought on board to handle Wolsi and Lower Lights. His alias was The Joker. Leaving out a lot of detail, things really fell apart while he was at the helm.
John asked me if I was interested in taking over. I didn’t have a job, and though the pay was atrociously low, it also came with a place to live and all the bandwidth I wanted.
The story of life at Wolsi would be several blog entries all by itself, and I’m not going to cover it here.
About ten years after Lower Lights first came online, it suffered a major fileserver crash. For various reasons, John decided to leave it offline permanently. A year or so after that, circumstances forced John to sell his entire interest in Western Online, and he let me have the lowerlights.com domain when that was complete.