There have been four moments where I’ve realized something big is happening.
The first came in 1982 when I sent my first e-mail from an RBBS bulletin board to another RBBS bulletin board. Connectivity! WOW!
Then there was 1987 or 1988. I was hanging out with a group called the Electronic Networking Association (ENA) when I first saw a domain address, and at the time met the folks from DasNet. ENA had people from the WELL, BIX, and all kinds of other systems, boards and online efforts. DasNet was part of it, and they were a remarkable little company that managed to link together dozens of public and private e-mail systems into one coherent whole, all based on the @symbol. Of course, the Internet was one of those systems, and thus I went WOW as I realized the connectivity implications of global e-mail. (There’s a great little glimpse of DasNet online — and I still have the manual, which shows a fascinating glimpse of e-mail connectivity circa-1987) [ link ] [ ENA in 1987 ]
Of course, the 3rd WOW came with the Web. Who wasn’t bowled over, particularly when realizing that everyone could have their own little web server and publish to the world.
The 4th came, slowly but surely over the last few weeks as I’ve continued to immerse myself in blogdom. I knew there was a WOW in there somewhere, and I’ve been patiently waiting for it to come out.
It emerged today once I downloaded and installed NewzCrawler, and I realized the full implications of what this community was doing.
I haven’t quite figured out RSS yet — and all the standards that are emerging in this community. I try — I read Scripting Log and several other sites, not quite comprehending all of it, but realizing that in there is but one corner of what seems to be a rapidly evolving evolution (if there is such a thing) of multiple standards supporting multiple things in multiple ways. I’m using MovableType for what I do, and I really don’t *get* Trackbacks yet, but I’m certain that there is something profound there. It’s like peeling an onion — every time I look into another aspect of blogs, I’m kinda stunned. Add it all up, and to me, it’s a WOW!
I come by this WOWness quite honestly. I’m not bowled over easily by hype. I guess what I see is *momentum.* In the same way I didn’t quite comprehend the intricacies of the methodology behind the @ when I first encountered it, I understood the significance of its implications — a worldwide coalescence of people grabbing on to it as a *standard* that was easy, made sense, and had the momentum of a lot of smart people behind it, who were defining a future that was different from that of the BIG COMPANIES.
The WOW moment of 1987 was comparable to that of today. Back then, I was wrestling with the intricacies of X.400 — a bastardish standard developed by worldwide telephone companies that allowed them to link their e-mail systems together — and which involved a hugely ridiculous addressing scheme that would have given me an address like this:
Contrast that to what DasNet provided me:
I wrote an article back in 1994 that described that WOW moment — it makes for fascinating reading today. Suffice it to say, while the telephone companies were trying to invent the future, the geeks went out and snatched it from underneath them. (Credit Peter Lewis for that phrase!) [ link ]
And of course, RBBS in 1982 was a start of a voyage into the online world, and the mere idea that people were figuring out how to link TRS-80’s into Apple-1’s into VAX computers and everything else through a device called a modem (300 baud!) was a stunning eye-opener, one that led me from being an accountant into what I do today.
So what is the significance of this 4th WOW moment? As I see it, while the Web evolves, with .NET and all kinds of OTHER BIG OFFICIAL STANDARDS that INVOLVE BIG COMPANIES DEFINING THE FUTURE, an online community is already busy — and rapidly — building a different future — one that sticks to the ideals, wisdom and openness that I’ve seen throughout this 20 year voyage online.
Although I don’t quite yet understand it all, it is tremendously innovative, seems tremendously important, and speaks well for the future.