Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Communal Waters of The Well

I just wanted to give a shout-out of thanks to all the thinkers who I have had the great fortune of meeting thanks to this flow of base-2 numbers we have compiled, stored, and shared in this experiment we have named the Internet. A personal thanks to my nephew Marcus for the many inspirations (his early work on the Apple) and the level of knowledge he possesses; and to my sons who have kept me active and up to date on technology as it's unfolded — even if they believe I am truly crazy, they have never failed to provide support! A collaborative thank you to my all my on-line communities for the knowledge they have always been willing to share; for their true concern toward humanity; and for the support they have continually given me as a web traveler through the years. Great thinkers — and every single one of them deserves a tribute — but this time I will concentrate on "The Well"; it's value as a community; and it's place as an oasis of thought and change within our social context!

I do not have a clue how many of you are aware of the Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link (WELL) — but if not — you can now consider yourself aware. In the late 80s and early 90s, there were many bulletin board systems (BBS) available when I made the jump from the game of Pong to the computer. However, The Well was my first introduction to a viable and valuable community of what I consider to be some of the first Internet citizens — or what we now call Netizens. Although I never personally was a member of The Well — I followed the trails of the thinkers who were active members of the community. Such as author of "The Whole Earth Catalog" and co-creator of The Well, Stewart Brand. Or The Well's other co-creator and current director of Google's philanthropic arm — ""— Larry Brilliant. Another early participant of the community and the author of one of the bibles ("The Virtual Community"), was Howard Rheingold. The list of influential thinkers and groups is very long — from Craig Newmark of Craigslist — Barlow, Gilmore, and Kapor of the Electronic Frontier Foundation — to the Grateful Deadheads.

From the early days until now, The Well has passed through the hands of Bruce Katz, the founder of "Rockport" shoes — and since 1999 has been owned by "" whose co-founder Scott Rosenberg, was an early participant in The Well. Cliff Figallo presented his paper on The Well at Harvard back in 1993. Here are a few of his quotes from — Small Town on the Internet Highway System:
The main attractions of these local Internet "towns" will prove to be their characteristic online conversations and social conventions and their focus on specialized fields of knowledge or problem solving...The WELL is a seminal example of what these small pioneering towns on the Internet highway system will be like.

...The discussion and dialog contained and archived on the WELL are its primary products. The WELL "sells its users to each other" and it considers its users to be both its consumers and its primary producers.

...It is my assertion that the actual exercise of free speech and assembly in online interaction is among the most significant and important uses of electronic networking; and that the value of this practice to the nation and to the world may prove critical at this stage in human history. I regard the WELL as a sample of the kind of small, diverse, grassroots service provider that can and should exist in profusion, mutually accessible through the open channels on the Internet.

I recommend reading the entire paper, it is great food for thought. Then take a look at how the web has changed. Now we have Facebook, Twitter, and scores of other social data gatherers to aid in organizing a community of interest. Given the networking capabilities we have now, we can organize a web presence in a matter of minutes. A community can quickly be built around a cause, event, group, or interest of any kind. The opportunities are there for all of us to utilize — but we must also understand a sustainable community such as The Well requires a belief in the overall mission, faith in humanity, and the power of grassroot activism in that belief. At least that is my take on community, and your mileage may vary.

The creation and growth of a community is definitely not an easy task — and through the trails blazed by the community of The Well and others that have followed it's lead, I have come to believe it is the level of participation and involvement by the members of the community which creates the glue of sustainability and it's value. It was organized labor that lit the candle I followed toward virtual communities, but it was my concern for the future of humanity that enticed me to stay once I had arrived! It is the people like each of you — who share that same concern — who inspire me to continue forward. Even during times when I could easily withdraw from the wired life and spend the rest of my days here on this planet in a much more natural and simplistic existence.

Upon reflection — I am not sure if I should be thanking you...or dissing you! :-)


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thursday, 06 May, 2010  
Blogger cile said...

I for one am very glad you remain with us in cyberspace, Atu. It would be lonely without you. So thank YOU for your kind attentions and your humanitarian cultivation of this uncharted and sometimes overwhelming frontier.

Thursday, 06 May, 2010  

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