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Server side netizen

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This is a personal statement, so I'll use first person. It is relevant to the pubwan movement, though, so this is probably an appropriate enough place to put it.

I suppose I became a netizen in 1991. My first exposure to the Internet happaned as a result of taking a computer science class at <a href="http://www.oakland.edu/">a local university</a>. I didn't even know the internet existed when I started there. I was exploring the local filesystem and inevitably found my way to /usr/spool/news. I was udderly amaized. It was like letters to the editor, but without the editor. It was like talk radio, but without the call screener. It was like a 1980's style "bulletin board," but with multiple hosts. It was like ham radio, but without having to get a license. In a multi objective optimization sense, it was clearly the most significant development yet in the area of communication. I knew intuitively, of course, that it was too good to be true. Even during the Internet's age of (relative) "innocence," I was as troubled by the conspicuous rarity of third world participation as I was delighted by the otherwise highly international nature of the netizen population. I was as troubled by its origins in the Military Industrial Complex as I was intrigued by its apparent lack of central organization.

Thirteen years later, my access to the internet is still through academia, as the library at <a href="http://www.macomb.edu/">Macomb Community College</a> is (as of this writing) open to the general public. You might say I'm a transient among netizens! Macomb's public access point is especially appreciated because they even offer non-diskless workstations! Without sneakernet, this "wiki" would be all but impossible. I am also very grateful to Bill and Melinda Gates, and philanthropists everywhere who have acted to provide the Internet with free public points of access.

While I am still impressed with the Internet's (and its users') capability to find creative end-runs around de facto barriers to sam izdat, I am more than a little disillusioned with the overall trends in its development over the last decade or so.

Many fans of the Internet have contrasted it with television, pointing out that television is a passive audience medium. There is a lot of truth to this, and even during these ultraproprietary times, I think, from an "active audience" standpoint that the Internet is (still!) vastly superior over all other media and communication technologies. But I now think of this difference as one of degree, not kind. I no longer think of the Internet as "samizdat friendly," rather "less samizdat hostile." Samizdat itself, of course, originated in an extremely hostile environment, so I am not discouraged.

My goal in life is to become a successful volunteer coordinator. My other goal is to become a server-side netizen.

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