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Harvard man provides musical solace for bereft bloggers

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Let music be the food of love.

Last weekend some scoundrel abruptly yanked the chain on 3,000 web logs without giving the authors any notice, or chance to save their work. Was this the action of a vandal, or a hacker, or some shadowy, self-loathing nihilist with some statement to make against society? No, in this case, the trail led back to the very man who had hosted these pages, a person who amazingly, the web loggers had trusted to keep their most personal thoughts safe for five years. Only he left clues: much like the Unabomber, or the British Angry Brigade or the Italian RAF of the 1970s, he'd left an incriminating communiqué - a bizarre, rambling nine minute audio tape justifying his actions. He'd made the mistake of posting it on the Internet - where it was eventually found this week.

The man, an eccentric but wealthy former software developer who, we discover, has been harbored by Harvard University's Berkman Law School for the past year, recorded this communiqué on Sunday. Criminal psychologists may be poring over the tape for years, looking for clues as to his motivation. But perhaps the answer is very simple. Just as each man, according to Oscar Wilde, is compelled to destroy the thing he most loves, the hoster decided to send eight thousand blog-years of creativity down the plug hole. As the man, one David Winer saw it, in his own strange mind: he created it, so he only he had the power to destroy it.

Yet this is a story with a twist in its tale. Out of this dark pathology comes light. Creative people have turned the man's angry, self-justifying rant into art. It's already spawned two dancefloor gems which you can find at waxy.org. Several phrases in the original communiqué begged to be sampled.

"My feeling is that people generally don't read essays," said the veteran essay writer in the tape, who's been posting them far and wide under the title "DaveNet" for a decade. This forms the hook for Dan Dickinson's very catchy I'm Sorry (Dave Winer Mix), which mashes the beats of Benny Benassi.

The refrain of "this is not a company, it's a person" (Winer retains ownership of the company, Userland Inc, that was hosting the weblogs) is highlighted on Matteo Canale's This is Not a Morning Coffee Note (Deep House Mix) (although it sounds more industrial than deep house to your reporter. Then again, who are we to say?)

"Formats and protocols are a deadly combination for me," says Winer in another sample, and many will agree.

In the tape, the Userland owner says he has no plans to host websites ever again - although this is probably a moot point, as no one will ever trust him to host websites again. Significant questions remain, however - it's more than simply another failure of the social care system. How could he be holed up at an Ivy League University, passing himself off as a figure of importance in the software community? Research shows that the character not only didn't invent even what he claims to have invented - they're the typical tall tables of a paranoid fabulist - but he was shunned by much of the community that he desperately wanted to use them. In many ways it's the familiar story of the sad outsider, desperately seeking acceptance.

It's just as well that the blogicidal maniac didn't make an audio file of his posting about having "childlike sex". Or people would think he was really strange. ®

Related stories

Harvard man loses 3,000 weblogs
One blogger is worth ten votes - Harvard man
Webloggers deal Harvard blog-bores a black eye

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