Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

One Web Day – a celebration of the Internet

Posted by shannonclark on September 15, 2006

On Sept 22nd of 2006 the first global One Web Day will be celebrated. One Web Day is a day to celebrate the Internet and the impact the web has had on the globe. In the Bay Area, Susan Crawford, the founder of One Web Day, has asked me to help organize a series of events in San Francisco. As part of these celebrations people across the city (and the globe) are being asked to share how the Internet has impacted their lives and the world around them.

In the rest of this post I summarize a bit of how the Internet has, since 1991, played a critical role in my life and career.
In the 1988 I took an AP computer science class at my high school. All of the programming for the class took place on a PDP11 computer, one that also ran the school’s library card catalog. As we learned programming, we also built and used a variety of bulliten board tools many migrated from the PC’s of the day for our use as a class. We also had a simple, locally restricted email and messaging capabilities. For the next three years I, along with many of my friends, made extensive use of the school’s computer lab, building our own games and other applications.

In 1991 I entered the University of Chicago uncertain of what field I would choose to study. Since two of the subjects that interested me were Mathematics and Physics, and since I had spend that summer working as an intern at Argonne National Labs where I had done extensive work within Mathematica, I wanted a computer for college that would have Mathematica while also having sufficient other tools for the wordprocessing etc I would need to get through school. While not cheap, I made an investment then that shaped the rest of my life, I bought a used NeXT Cube which would be my computer for the next couple of years.

Sitting under my desk in my dorm room, my NeXT boxed, which I named Collatz, had an ethernet connection to the Internet (and a static IP address) from which I hosted what was then one of the largest MuCK’s in the world. In those early days of the Internet I recall looking up for people how to route email from one network to another (specifically from the Internet to Compuserve being a common request). I used Gopher extensively and encountered the first pages of the world wide web (from gopherspace links to CERN). I used Lynx as my primary browser for many, many years.

When I left the college dorms I sold Collatz to one of my fellow “gods” on the MuCK (who then used it for many more years to host the MuCK) and purchased my first laptop, a Compaq 386. Since about 1993 a laptop has been my primary computer for all of that time. First the Compaq, then a few years later I bought an early Sony VIAO. Then in 2000 when I started my company, JigZaw Inc, we purchased a number of Dell computers, though I still used my Sony VIAO primarily only migrating to a Dell for a short time (and using a Dell desktop while in the office). In 2003 I purchased my current IBM Thinkpad, historically I have kept my laptops for about 4 years each (though I only finally disposed of most of the laptops earlier this year when I moved to the Bay Area). As I blogged earlier today, I am now shopping for my next couple of personal computers.

Since at least 2000 I have also had a cell phone that offered data access to the web, at least to email, and over the years my voice minutes and usage has gone down while my data access has consistently gone up. In the fall of 2004 I started downloading a lot of podcasts. Since I was very young I had been an avid radio listener, listening each morning, most evenings and much of the daytime, especially as I walked around. In 2005 that stopped when i got my iPod shuffle and my listening habits shifted entirely to listening to podcasts – I now subscribe to over 40 podcasts and on an average day I download hundreds of mbs of podcasts and listen to some 300+ mbs of podcasts.

And when I moved to the Bay Area in January of 2006 I did not move my TV, so since then (and really most of that fall as well) I have lived without a television. My entertainment now comes from books (average of a couple of books a week), occasional movies and the Internet. In all my moves this past year many of my magazine subscriptions have lapsed or not kept up with, so while I still read the New Yorker on a weekly basis, my other subscriptions are only to technology publications (including Wired), so I rely almost entirely on the Internet for my news and current events information as well.

At Gnomedex this year I won an XBOX 360 though all summer it has sat, unopened, as I have not had a screen to use it on. This fall, I anticipate changing that so some of my entertainment may soon be shifting to the XBOX, but while I will probably play some games offline, I am most looking forward to exploring the worlds of XBOX Live.

So far I have resisted the lure of online games such as World of Warcraft, though as Joi Ito points out, it shows signs of being the tech crowd’s golf. I’ve also managed, again so far, to avoid Second Life though it is remarkably like ideas I had in the mid-1990’s (but never seriously pursued beyond paper business plans stages). And while I do have accounts on AIM, Yahoo, MSN, Gtalk, and Skype (and a few others I don’t use such as IRC) I only occasionally use anything other than Skype, and even that is pretty sporadic.

In the early 1990’s I received about 80-100 emails a day. Now on my primary account I receive about 400 emails a day, averaging a couple of megabytes (or more) each day. Yes, some of those messages are spam but a surprisingly large number of them are not. While I do visit more websites on a typical day than many (probably averaging close to 20 or more different domains  a day) most of my online activity is concentrated on a few sites – gmail, bloglines, my own blogs, google calendar, and (and a few different sites tailored to cell phones on my phone).

Needless to say, the Internet has more than shaped how I live my life, in a very real sense it is my career and much of my life – my entertainment, my information, my communication channels to friends and family. I’ve bought and sold extensively online, I can’t recall the last time I booked travel in any way other than online, and even most of my dates have been at least enhanced by online exchanges. When I am out of the house, i rely on Google Maps on my cell phone for directions, google search from my phone’s browser to look up information (if I don’t have it in my gmail account which I access from my phone).

How has the Internet changed or impacted your life?


One Response to “One Web Day – a celebration of the Internet”

  1. happy One Web Day, Shannon! Dave Gray and I spent about an hour yesterday discussing how we might collaborate to bring the MeshForum 2006 alive, as we orginially planned. We will be prepping you on our progress. I have been away for most of the summer – so it is time to get back in gear. I am still ready to help you with the MeshForum project and we should talk soon about how our resources can be employed. I will be talking to Chris Carfi and Jerry Michalski about our thoughts and hopefully engage their efforts in behalf of MeshForum as well.

    Best regards


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