Looking Back: Five months ago, five years ago

This is my 100th post/essay, so I thought I’d have fun and reflect back. When I started thinking about putting together this website, we were enjoying fifty-degree weather in December. Now we have fifty-degree weather in May. In between were a lot of cold and rainy weekends and weeknights, which in small part kept me inside writing. Five months ago, I had just been clued in to the online Dean campaign, just as it was fading. I jumped into the online forums, but finding them ill-moderated, I withdrew and decided to develop my own site for “constructing informative viewpoints”.

Five years before, I was just getting used to life after college. I had started working for a $700 million Internet company; not just any Internet company but the one that invented it (though I was working for the part then called GTE Internetworking). Unfortunately the company was spending two dollars to earn every one, which would lead to the most disastrous IPO in history, of the Genuity spinoff from the GTE/Bell Atlantic merger. The company bled to bankruptcy after I left in summer 2001. Even more problematic for me, we weren’t really doing much in the field of Internet applications; our innovation was long in the past and confined to the network plumbing. I tried to keep up with the developments in community networking, particularly on the <nettime> list I had been on since college. Most of what I could remember was rants against the onslaught of ecommerce.

Among the rants, it appears, is one of mine. I forgot I had written it, but here it is. What I was I saying? Listen to these thunderous constructions of undegraduate drivel: “That I blame the Wired/Rheingold collective* for unlearning how to write is just hyperbole.” and “They supposedly engage in this hyperlinear culture; but still feel perfectly alright in linear texts and conversations.” My goodness! I hope I have improved; if not in writing quality, in temperament as well.

I think I was ranting then about not finding an online community. Somebody forwarded my message to Howard Rheingold, who subsequently invited me to join his online community, Brainstorms. It wasn’t exactly what I Was looking for, but I did thank him for getting me started in thinking about of Virtual Communities— his book of five years before.

So ten years later from reading that book, I’ve just about caught up. I’ve joined Democratic GAIN the Grassroots Activism and Information Network. I got to meet Sanford Dickert, outgoing CTO of the Kerry campaign, and incoming DNCC tech coordinator. To cap it off, Jon Lebowsky‘s invited me to join the demcomm group of democratic tech activists, a group which includes, none other than– Howard Rheingold.

A long journey indeed, and it’s just getting started. I have been able to write a number of pieces around my theory of constructive media, and the other familiar themes of building/consensus and access/network. I look forward to continue building for the new era of virtual communities.