If you want to appear like you’re at the cutting edge of net culture but can’t be bothered to spend hours online, then never fear. Scotsman.com’s pathetic team of geeks, freaks and gimps will do the hard work for you. While you sip wine, read a book or engage in normal social interaction, they will burn out their retinas staring at badly designed web pages and dodge creeps in chatrooms to prepare for you: Scotsman.com’s lazy guide to net culture.
The blessing of the internet is that it provides a voice for minority groups ignored by the hide-bound traditional media.
The curse of the internet is that it provides a voice for minority groups ignored by the hide-bound traditional media.
So it is that Glasgow's teenage gangs have their own thriving corner of cyberspace. Assorted Tois, Fleets and Tongs from various rundown parts of the city have their own websites for displaying their mission statments, which largely revolve around fighting and drinking Buckfast.
Intriguingly, they have made a pretty good fist of protecting their sites and identities from the polis.
Now if I worked for a moronic tabloid, which I thank the Lord I no longer do, I'd have to dress up this fact with faux outrage along the lines of the following.
Evil twisted thugs are using the internet to brag about their violent sprees.
And the police are POWERLESS to stop them.
For the teenage tearaways of Glasgow's notorious street gangs have used hi-tech trickery to hide their identities.
They BOAST about their drug-fuelled violence.
Show SICK pictures of their battlegrounds.
And openly FLAUNT weapons, bottles of Buckfast and faces full of plukes.
Tracked down by this reporter, one young thug confessed: "No, I'm sorry. I think you must have confused me with someone else. Can I interest you in a copy of the Watchtower?"
Sobbed the guilty hooligan: "Mmm, that website looks like a wind-up to me."
A top Tory politician has called for them all to be birched, then hanged, then birched some more. Then hanged, birched, birched, locked up and birched some more.
A spokesman for the SSP said that these misunderstood practitioners of working class culture should be celebrated.
But I'm not going to do that because it's tired, it's tedious, it's lazy and it's been done.
There's nothing new about gangs having sites. There was a big fuss in the late 90s when a site for the Crips and Bloods appeared. (To the uninitiated the Crips and the Bloods are Los Angeles gangs whose principal hobby is exchanging large amounts of hot lead. The main way of telling these two gangs apart is their dress code: the Crips wear blue and the Bloods red. Given that the colour schemes are the same, it strikes me that this rivalry might be related to that between the Edinburgh public schools Watsons and Heriots - though I have not had time to properly research this.)
Now however the URLs crips.com and bloods.com just point to a rather odd site that features a dark spiritual journey involving grim reaper. I fear this is somebody's attempt at being meaningful.
And even Glasgow's neds have had some online presence for a while - unsurprising given that most of these gangs are made up of bored teenagers and the net is a haven for bored teenagers.
The interesting thing about these sites is how they've evolved.
First, they all share are some common features. Unsurprisingly they're largely anonymous, given that the forces of law and order take a dim view of teenagers getting together to fight, take drugs and steal cars.
All the sites feature truly appalling spelling.
Finally, with very few exceptions, the pictures on the sites feature one of three key elements: the digitus impudicus, Buckfast and the Old Firm.
Oh, and all the blokes have plukes.
A good example of a really crude page is the Young Toryglen Toi's effort (youngtoryglentoi.freewebspace.com). It uses the services of a bargain basement web hoster, which gives you web space for free and for which you can sign up anonymously.
The Young Toryglen Toi "webmaster" has just used a very basic template and written the following introduction.
"Well done troops fur coming on the toi website. if yer fae toryglen yer are sound tae enter but if yer fae govanhill, ruggie, gorbals, brigton or fernhill a lockback will pop oot yer screen and slash yae", which is only marginally more offensive than pop-up ads.
The highlight of this site is the contact page, which has not been updated and still has the template's default dummy address accompanied by a picture of Venice. Now, I've seen Toryglen. It doesn't look like Venice, though parts of it might benefit from being submerged.
Some of the other gangs sites look identical to this one as they share the same template - and the same picture of Venice. Maybe they've all taken a sudden interest in the scenes that inspired Canaletto or maybe the picture comes with the template. Who can tell?
A more complex, but hardly sophisticated, effort comes from the Duke Street Firm at geocities.com/DUKE_ST_FIRM/. Again it's served from a web hoster (in this case geocities.com).
However rather than rely on a template, the site is built from home-made HTML. And boy do I mean home-made. I'm not sure the designer's intention was to create a homepage that looks like Post-It notes stuck to a broken electric fire but it's certainly dramatic. The use of a red-on-red colour scheme for highlighted text is particularly unusual.
What really makes this site sing is the second page of the photo gallery, which perfectly sums up Glasgow gangs. The three images show the off-licence where neds get their booze, the bridge where they do their fighting and the police station where they end up. How cute is that?
You should tremble with fear when you stray into the territory of the Young Posso Fleeto at at young-she-donna-posso.2ya.com. Not because of the gang's reputation but because you have descended into HTML hell. Every possible design no-no has been committed by Donna*B in her site: tons of gratuitous animation, text trailing from the cursor, garish backgrounds, you name it, it's there. Less is more, Donna dear, less is more.
Mind you she might be able to pass on a few design tips to a certain West Coast newspaper with a disappointing website.
Her site features many many images of members of her gang. I'm pretty sure this neds gallery isn't meant to be funny but it is. What is about cameras that every time one is produced it makes these individuals extend their middle fingers and wave bottles of Buckfast in the air?
Donna's also got a guest book, which has been heavily spammed. One poster, a Detective Mixu Paatlanainen (a misspelled pseudonym perhaps) has submitted long biographical passages about Jackson Pollock - a possible reference to the site's design concept.
A better site can be found at pjyst.tk, the not terribly memorable URL of the Young Ru'glen Scheme Team. While the content is the usual melange of bad spelling, acne, Buckfast and a vague atmosphere of threat the design is actually pretty good.
Or at least it appears pretty good until you look at one of the links, and realise that both sites have just used the same template. Even so they are much more polished sites and are served from more sophisticated hosters.
Again, both sites use a web hoster that will hide their owners' identities - although the inclusion of pictures might puncture this somewhat.
Of course all this anonymity means that there's no guarantee that the people running the sites are who they say they are. Maybe the Young Posso Fleeto is actually run by a Walter Mitty accountant in Morningside, or a bored student on a web design course or a particularly cunning policeman on an information trawl. But if they are fakes then they're damn good ones and deserve to be publicised.