Other people started the Internet. The military started off with DARPA. Just like General Eisenhower had to use the threat of military action on our own soil to push through funding for the interstate highway system, it was the threat of nuclear disaster that let the government come up with an inter-network of communication technology.
Well, we aren’t even close to tapping all the possibilities DARPA started, now become the world wide web, that trinity of double-yoos. It’s my internet. I’ll share it with the rest of you, but it is mine like the air I breathe.
Grizzled military contractors in their 60s will scoff at me, but I was an early adopter of the DARPA enterprise. My college had a system that connected up with it, and I latched on like a leech to that possibility of communicating with interesting people. I spent hours and hours chatting via green glowing text with all the other people who lived by the light of the computer lab monitors. It was 1990 and no one had heard of e-mail.
Back in the college days, I learned nothing about computers. I mean, nothing. I knew to hit the enter key when I was done, but not much more than that. I did ask for help to understand, I did. But I can’t help it if the nerd boys in the lab dissolved into blushing confusion when I asked them to explain. They just found it easier to do it for me. Speaking face to face with a freshman coed was too much.
I repented at my leisure for not asking more questions.
But look at us now! In a satisfyingly ironic twist, I now work as a video conferencing professional. I have progressed to a pretty darn sophisticated method of e-communication.
And email and the Internet are huge and getting bigger every day. I have been able to take my English major writing ambitions and get my stuff out there. I have my own blog, and I even have been a major contributor to starting up this cool website, Blogcritics.
I heard about BC, and it fit exactly what I wanted at the time. It was a place that was designed to get more of an audience than my own little webpage. Okay, so I really didn’t see how it could actually make a profit, but I was living in Silicon Valley at the time and had seen about 10 bazillion start up companies with worse ideas. Funding wasn’t my problem. BC was a place where I could be published and be read by more than just my mother. And I was thankful to Eric Olsen and Philip Winn for giving me that chance.
I practiced the art of writing, doing tons of reviews of whatever came across my path. I got pretty competitive with other writers, wanting to stay in the top ten frequent posters. It was fun! I admit I tossed off some posts that were fairly content-free at times. But then, I also composed some really great bits on Blogcritics.
Lo and behold. I got to be a significantly better writer, through the process of exercising that writing muscle. I wrote and wrote and finally began to work on some projects that were bigger than a website could hold.
I outgrew my blog. I was struggling out of the chrysalis and discovered that I didn’t have a home there anymore.
Which is not to say I don’t still enjoy tossing off the occasional posts on my blog. And whenever appropriate I cross-post to BC. But, as a writer, I’m in a different space. Doing reviews of things doesn’t interest me as much. I have my own things to say.
Okay, so, while I benched myself, the game goes on. BC has become a force, winning awards and attracting new contributors and becoming positively successful and viable. Way to go!
Now I am in the terrifying position of having completed—or nearly completed, there is still the last editing—a longer book-project. In giving myself a shake to look around at how to position my book in the market, I remembered my old stomping ground. Blogcritics would be a site to be seen on, so I could get some publicity as an author and sell some books.
So, I started posting a few things, and tossed off a review that I didn’t put that much effort into. I knew it was short, but it was the sort of thing I would have thrown up in my old competitive-to-be-a-top poster days.
I was shocked to get this reply from Connie Phillips:
“I wanted to drop you an email to let you know I have put a hold on the article you have in pending…You have a really intetersting seedling started here, and I’d love to see you expand on your thoughts just a bit. Give a little bit more information about the CD itself, or…”
Seedling indeed! Who did this person think she was? I stewed around about it. Hmph! What was wrong with my post? What were other people posting anyway?
I went back to the site and did some reading on the music section. I saw post after post of lengthy reviews, full of interesting info and opinions about the album and artists.
Wow. Blogcritics sure has come a long way.
Connie had the annoying quality of being right. I knew I had done a half-assed review, but I arrogantly thought that half-assed was good enough for the Internet.
Not so, my friends. We complain all the time about the sucky state of old guard journalism, and the dividing lines being blurred. The stuffy suits in the Times and News towers say that they have the right to be right, that they are more professional and accuse us bloggers of poor spelling and merely opinionating.
Well, I’m no Instapundit, but I have the right to be right as much as anybody.
However, the bar has been raised and we who have the soapbox have the responsibility. Here on the World Wide Web, we have the generational turnover of fruit flies. Been on the web two years? You’re the elder statesman! No more screwing around. “Good enough” isn’t good enough anymore.
The “child” I helped in my small way to bring into the world grew up to tell me to get with the times. Now that I’m over the shock, I’m really proud.
Fact is, I will probably never be as frequent a poster as I was in the early years, but I will never again take this forum lightly. With my right hand raised, I swear I will always and forevermore spell-check.