Monday, February 28, 2005

Older attempts at using e-Media

An interesting confluence: This morning I read a comment on one of my posts that talked about the kinds of people who come to media innovation at different stages in its development; I also got an e-mail from a documentary producer; and it all reminded me, rather surprisingly, that I did something similar to "blogging my stories" back in 1995.

I made my first web page in 1994 (might have been 1993, but I'm sure about 1994) via Geocities: It was a home page for the Manly Football League (fantasy football), and in those pre-Google days, if you typed the word "manly" into the Yahoo! search engine, we were the No. 1 result. Hence, the site's motto: "Voted No. 1 Most Manly Site On the Web by Yahoo!" It included a link to a yodeling page in Austria where you could listen to people yodel. Just because.

Andy Rhinehart took over that site, and look what happened to him: His RSS feed from is part of the documentation for RSS that Dave Winer posted at Harvard, and he's one of the most forward-thinking web guys in the MSM.

After handing off the MFL site, I posted something new at geocities: a web site that published a 150-page research summary of the work I had done on retelling the story of World War I aviators Frank Luke and Joseph Wehner. I realized I couldn't travel to find more information, so I thought that if I made available what I had learned -- RATHER THAN HIDING IT FROM COMPETITORS -- perhaps bits of the story that I would never find otherwise would make their way to me.

Those bits continue to find me. The grandson of the commander of the 27th Pursuit Squadron found me through the site and has promised to call me in the next few days. Descendents of long-dead pilots and support crews have provided jpegs and diaries. This morning, a documentary film producer wrote to say his film is moving ahead and that he still hopes to interview me for the project.

Yes, other people have submitted manuscripts to publishers and scripts to studios based at least in part on the research that I did and made available for free. But I felt in 1995 what I am feeling even more strongly today: Cooperation works.

I never really wanted to be a web designer or a programmer. I wanted to be a writer. Thing is, you can't be part of anything innovative without being a bit of a shade-tree mechanic, too. You've got to want to pull things apart and figure how they work.

I've never made an innovative website or written a computer program. I'm more like that first wave of settlers, the people who follow the scouts and build really ugly little houses out where the wild things roam.