Tales And Tips From A 90s HTML Slinger

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So, lets talk about all the evils of Social Media, fake news, fake videos and reality becoming an option in this new cyber world. Everything comes in at the speed of light, swiped across the screen, nope, nope, nope, nope, as we scroll through what the world has to say, what our neighbourhood, our city, our favourite celebrities, politicians, pundits, and politics, flow past us, day after day, week after week, months go by, and we become wrapped up in our curated content, our things, our peeps, our tribe, are all we see and all we know.

As an introvert, the internet has charmed me, obsessed me, and distracted me since I first sat down in the 90s and partook in this online community, I guess one could genuinely call it a love/hate relationship.

In those early years of it all, before smartphones and social media, we had online forums and newsgroups and mailing lists to meet up and share and some of us dreamed of this future of connection and unfettered access to knowledge we believed would change the world – which it has, just not the way many of us thought it would – this idealistic Pollyanna vision, this Utopian empire of diversity, individuality and freedom, well, maybe too Pollyanna.

The 21st century has often been hailed as the Age of Networks. While today we view the Internet as being centralized in a few gatekeepers like Google and Facebook, we forget that most early innovation was driven by grassroots organic communities rather than top-down central planning. Hackers and early adopters who spent their free time and weekends tinkering and living in online communities were the ones who ultimately brought the Internet to the masses.

MEDIUM.com | The History of Internet Communities | Richard Chen,
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That was me. tinkering and living in online communities, which no doubt is a contributing factor to my eventual separation and divorce from my husband in 1999. My ex lost me to that world of words and everything one could know and learn, interacting with people from all over, it was a bit like crack to this introverted deep-thinking nerd.

My first sojourn out into that world wide web took place within one of those early online communities, called CompuServe. It was there I first interacted with people from Scotland, England and all over the United States, and a couple from here in Canada – with online nicks like Blaqcat, Merlin, Morgy and Lord Byron – one of those peeps from back in the day I still keep in touch with, via Facebook.

That world lured me into new ideas, philosophies, beliefs, faiths, as well as of course people, places, things, all of it, right there waiting to be discovered.

It was in the CompuServe days I met a guy from Scotland in one of the forums where I hung out (Blaqcat), and he designed the(?) first website in Scotland, and even sent me an early copy to check out, and I was rather stunned. Interactive, graphics, navigation bars, photos, out in the WILD, outside of the safety of the community we had always known. Anything else at that time was all centred links on a page, file transfer, not much beyond dos prompt sort of stuff, and this website he’d built was a vision he’d had, passion really, of a knowledge base for all things Highland Scotland, from history to community events, the whole ball of wax.

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Maybe it was him, or maybe it was the idea of that kind of design, but eventually I sat down and taught myself HTML. My first website under my belt, I proceeded to spend the next 6 or so years, from the late 90s to the early 2000s, designing websites, right from scratch, ground up, using all those design skills I’d gone to school for years ago – waiting for just such a thing, I suppose, as this world wide web.

So here we are now years later, and the internet has become an evil nemesis, making us all fall for stupid memes and believe every cock-a-mamie thing we read.

With my years of experience, I have learned a few things.

First off, I learned from the ground up, on my own. We bought our first computer in 1994 or 5, and I remember sitting down for the first time with the mouse, it seemed so alien, so disconnected. But bit by bit, it lured me, I learned new things, went new places, met new people, and I fell for it.

I began designing websites just as sort of hobbie to pass the time while I was job hunting, and it turned into something much more.

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I taught myself from this book I’d bought, went out and found a site I liked and deconstructed it, and built my first website from scratch. Eventually hooked up with a company up north of Toronto in cottage country, a couple that had a small web design firm, and needed a designer. They’d met me through this scam web design company we’d both been sucked into, and afterwards they had just begun their own, and hired me.

This new skill I took with me back to Dodge after my mom died, but 9/11 had dried up American tourists, the bread and butter of Canadian Cottage Country, and so I lived off my line of credit for most of that year I was back home.

Out of necessity to pay the bills, I found a job with an IT distributor and I moved to the outer rim of Toronto, originally so that I could be closer to the city, closer to the hub of all that creativity and inspiration.

Well, what happened was something else, but anywho.

The point being I’ve been round the block, seen it from a certain perspective, from the ground up, wild wild west sort of experience, living in forums and newsgroups and mailing lists, I have a grasp of the ins and outs, the dos and don’ts, and here are a few.

Rule # 1

The internet is not the place to display your worst, straight up because anything you do or say will come back to bite you in the arse. Cause, NEWS FLASH, it contains an irrefutable archived copy of every single stupid thing you say.

So, if you don’t want everyone and your possible next employer or landlord to know every brain-dead thing you’ve ever thought and done, than my recommendation would be to not post it online.

Rule #2

Only provide people, places or apps you don’t know, websites you are unfamiliar with, whatever you interact with online, only give away the bare minimum of what you have to.

No one needs to know your birth date, or address, or town or whatever, unless you have to provide it for a form.

Rule #3

If you click on a link that takes you to a site that scroll hops as it loads its vabillion friggin’ ads, click away, nothing you will find there will be of any real value, as its only purpose in life is ad revenue.

This is another good way to weed out some low-lying fakes, of the fake news and deep fake videos, and all and any sorted blither and blather they post as click bait is questionable. They are not curating their news, views or whatever, they are merely selling ad revenue, period, their methods are obviously muddled up in the corporate shekel ONLY, not quality, but instead only QUANTITY.

There have always been those on the take, willing to take a dime from a poor man as soon as a rich one, makes no difference to them. Morality and anything of that sort is not a founding feature of the internet, it is rather more of a reflection of the morals and values and knowledge we share, what we bring to the table ourselves, it is merely a growing and consuming Leviathan of words and numbers and videos on demand, do not look to the internet for things it clearly is not.

It is, in a real sense, a reflection of the user. So, what we share with the world is in a fundamental sense what we will get back at us, three-fold, in spades, multiplying like ripples in a pond and then rebounding back off everyone who reads, sees or interacts with whatever WE share.

This is the underlying fault and feature of the internet, that it is nothing more than what WE make it. From the communities it creates to the apps and streams of content it spews, the only humanity is that of the user, and as such it can be, just as we all, subject to good or bad, evil or kind, loud or quiet, reserved or outrageous.

And that’s the final rule – # 4 – I guess, is that Social Media is only as powerful as we allow it to be. Falling for everything that scrolls past your eyes, believing something is fact when its actually fake is because you are so closed off from the world at large, isolation is the fault of the user, not the tool itself, as the world wide web is in the end merely just another tool, like fire.

As like fire, as that revolutionary element once it was in our control, it brought about profound change, and nothing was ever the same again.

Like fire, the internet can burn you, or it can warm you up on a cold night, light the darkest nights, or burn down everything in its wake, it is merely a product of what it has to work with.

In the end it was always and ever will be a creature of OUR own creation.

“Most neuroses and some psychoses can be traced to the unnecessary and unhealthy habit of daily wallowing in the troubles and sins of five billion strangers.”

Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
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