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Last updated April 1999!!!!

WHY WEB?

It's all about making information available. There are lots of issues associated with that. Some of the information is garbage. What you want is hard to find. Not everyone has access. These are big problems and they aren't going away any time soon but they are being addressed. Public libraries have made it their goal to provide access to everyone. It's not perfect but it's an attempt. And many people are donating work to make websites for charitable institutions possible (like HoofbeatsTherapeutic Riding Center, Inc. or Rockbridge Area Conservation Council or Habitat For Humanity). There's tremendous potential in this medium.

It's also a job skill, probably a nearly essential one now. Besides that, it's fun.

If you're new to the web, or if you're thinking about creating your own website, it's a good idea to think about why people make web pages and who is likely to read any particular web page. That ought to have a lot to do with what's on the page and how it's packaged. I've picked out some opinions that I think are of value.

I like C J Silverio's cogent words, It's the content:

The rest of it is window-dressing. You can make your pages look absolutely fabulous but if they don't say anything, nobody's going to care. Don't give the world another glorified multimedia dot-finger file. Give the world your art, your music, your poetry, your political rants, your short stories, your first grade photos, your shareware and freeware, your archives of hobby stuff, your hints about how to make great tie-dye, your really handy Perl script, your list of the ten best bookstores in the Greater Podunk area. You know something that nobody else knows. You can do something that nobody else can do quite the same way. You've made something that the rest of the world has never seen.

Share it. Put it in your web page.

Willa says, "So why am I doing it? Because I can."

The Web grabbed my imagination from the first time I saw it. In the beginning, I didn't realize that publishing on the Web was something that anyone could do with a little work. I assumed that you had to know some arcane programming language or own an expensive piece of software or hardware to produce these works of art.

When I found out that anyone who was willing to put in a little work learning a fairly simple language could put up a web site, I couldn't contain my excitement. The idea that anyone in the world could publicize anything they wanted and anyone else could look at it just staggered me. Think of the possibilities!

Justin Hall has several words to say on the subject: why the web?:

This is what is healthy and wonderful about the web. When you discover the "model train home page," and it's not set up by Lionel, you know it is a labour of love. Some gal who loves those trains put up a page with a picture of her track, her and her son playing with the trains, and a list of designer trains she's created.

What does she get out of that effort? Folks who are interested see what she is doing, and she hears from people who share her passion for trains. Perhaps another train enthusiast will be inspired to set up their own page, and soon there will be a online community of train enthusiasts.

When you start talking about cancer, in addition to trains, the possibilities for enhancing our daily lives become apparent.

Justin again, from Forging Culture (27 april, 1995):
Don't wait for anyone to recognize your talent
do what you love, and do it online. . . .

This is culture people - unbound, unabridged, unedited, unpackaged, unfiltered. This is people culture - fresh, alive, un-self-conscious, hype-free.

Justin again, from consumption production (96.06.15):
as we spread technology far and wide, and endeavor to include folks in the brave new internetted world we should not strive to make of them mere consumers of information rather, the true power of technology lies in their power to produce, to communicate through the internet with other folks
Justin, one more time, from Publishing Empowerment (June 13, 1995):
This technology promotes decentralization. Force feeding the net public heaping spoonfuls of what you think is tasty will fail - even if people have a choice of spoons. People want to talk to eachother, if they are going to read something, they want it to be vibrant and heartfelt. Even now, large media has a hard time with both of those - in the future, on the net, they will grow lifeless and useless faster than ever.
If you're interested in this subject I'd recommend that you follow the links and read some of Justin's pages. I found them inspiring.

I like this bizarre explanation using sheep:

Using the Web, we could study humanity in a way unavailable to us prior to the existence of the Net. We could take a cross section of the human experience, revealing different layers of expression provided by other examinations of a particular experience. We could collect individual accounts of such experiences and benefit from the various levels of analysis drawn from religion, mythology or archetype, as well as wholly uneducated or raw versions of the experience. And we could track the experience across boundaries of age, gender, era, and culture. The Web may provide us with a way to transcend our current and limited spheres of knowledge to grasp a further and deeper understanding of what it means to be human and to be alive.

If you find yourself spending a lot of time online, there's hope. Here's a good summary of what most web page creators go through sooner or later, from Melty (October 20, 1998):

"I've, like, chilled out a bit. Which means I don't need Melty [the web site] so much as an outlet any more. At least not in the same way. Which changes my relationship to the site, and to its readers. Oh boy, the readers -- there's another big difference. I have, like, an audience now. Do you do a web site? Isn't it weird when you discover you have an audience? I mean, even if it's only a handful of people, it's still out there. And you start feeling guilty when you don't update. And then you wonder why -- like, does anyone care? And then you start thinking about the subsets of your audience: your real life friends, your net friends, your coworkers, colleagues, complete strangers. And you wish you could hide some parts of your site from some parts of your audience. And some parts of your audience you really like and other parts you really hate... And you wonder why you bother at all. Is the site for you or them? It's enough to make a girl want to pull the plug on her iMac.

Sigh. All this new media stuff sure is confusing. I still can't really explain why I do a website. I mean, there's lots of reasons. It can be really satisfying, writing out my ideas, clarifying them on screen, and then getting so much wonderful feedback. The experience of this site has taught me an ENORMOUS amount, and introduced me to countless brilliant, brilliant people. It's been great. (Sniff!) But there are also days when I find the whole intersecting cliquishness of the webzine/webjournal "community" really irritating. Catty minor celebrities bickering with one another. Jockeying for more links and higher page hits. Puhleeze, don't we have better things to do with our time? How many of us forgot what it's like to NOT check our email every half hour? How many of us rarely go outside on weekend afternoons because we're too busy surfing? And how important do we really think all this web stuff is, anyway, when less than 1% of the world's population even has access to the "world wide" web? Jeez."

One of the best things about the web is that many of the people most involved with its development, using it most creatively, have a realistic grasp of its importance, its value, and its limitations.


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Created 1996, updated occasionally, overhauled April 1999.