EMC has an online magazine called On. In this month’s issue, it talks about the Web being 20 years old. Len Devanna tagged myself and Barry Burke to answer the following questions (which were also asked in the magazine):
- How has the Web changed your life?
- How has the Web changed business and society?
- What do you think the Web will look like in twenty years?
How has the Web changed your life?
I’ve talked about my journey before, but basically the web pulled me out of poverty. I went to college in my early 30s, a single mom of 2 kids living well below the poverty level. I was enrolled in an Associates degree studying Electronic Engineering Technology. My electronics classes were on a campus about 30 minutes away from my house. We had lab times to use breadboards to construct circuits to practice the theories we were learning. It was hard for me to get to the labs because the times scheduled were after the kids came home from school, and going back out to the college campus was hard on my non-existent budget (gas, someone to watch the kids).
Fortunately someone made software to emulate those breadboards. This posed another problem, because I didn’t have a computer. So I used pell grant money and probably some tax return money and bought a computer. Then I could put the kids to bed and work on my electronics homework.
Back in those days, computers came with a floppy drive that gave you free minutes for AOL!! I signed up, and was introduced to the World Wide Web. So I would do my homework, and then get on AOL to chat in the chat rooms. Once I figured out what Netscape was, my world opened up entirely. When I found up that I could get unlimited access to the Internet with a local ISP – I jumped on it! I actually had to choose between internet access and cable, and internet access won.
I learned html. I learned how to do real searches – using boolean phrases. I played in an online community called Worlds Away, where I was blown away by the kids who were writing scripts to manipulate the world. When they moved from a free to a subscription model I couldn’t play anymore, and most of the kids couldn’t either. We held a protest with all of the stuff we had in our “apartments”. It was a great community uprising. 🙂
Having access to encouragement from my online support groups, I finished my bachelor’s degree and pulled myself out of poverty. I also hooked into a learning disabilities community called LDonline who helped me use the legal words necessary to trigger the schools in Florida to test and provide accomodations for my daughter (we found out 6 years later that she has autism – something we would have never found out without the internet!).
How has the web changed business and society?
I’ll stick to the society piece. At EMC we talk alot about how much information is out there, and how to manage it. The trick to taking advantage of all of this information is knowing how to navigate it, and knowing how to determine relevance of the information we find.
I almost feel bad for people who get online now – when I got on you could actually find real stuff pretty easily. Now there is so much noise. But if you look, and you try, you can connect to someone on the other side of the world who has things in common with you. You can share cultural differences. You can unlearn all the biased filters that you have that are based on your own culture. But it takes work, and willingness to have experience that cognitive dissonance that comes with having your filters shattered.
We can use the web to change the world.
Or, you can keep buying the fluff we’ve always been sold. Maybe that is how the web has changed society – you can use it to change the world or to just keep your own little world going. Its up to you.
What do you think the web will look like in twenty years?
I hope the web in 20 years is freely available to everyone. We still have the digital divide, and I think some of us who live and breathe the internet forget that not everyone has the privilege of being connected.
I think that things will be more integrated. I hope Bono is wrong – and the big media companies won’t convince US lawmakers try to lock down the web like China did (seriously Bono – what happened to the dude I loved back in the 80s? Did you sell your soul when you cut your mullet?).
Here are some things I wish I could do with the internet now:
- Connect a device to our tv and get radio, movies, news, everything else. You can do that now, but I want to be able to get BBC shows without waiting 4 years.
- I wish right now I could buy songs I that people I listen to on blip.fm blip. (blip.fm is the closest thing to sharing mix tapes I’ve ever seen – it is seriously awesome).
- I wish I had a better way of scanning/organizing my RSS feeds
- I wish I was able to share all the stuff I know how to do faster and more efficiently
Ok – so that’s my take on the first 20 years of the WWW. So now I get to tag someone else — from EMC I pick Stu Miniman because he blogged about the questions but didn’t answer them, and from outside EMC I pick #lrnchatters and elearning gurus Jane Bozarth and Clark Quinn.