I’m reading with warm nostalgia Andy Carvin’s celebrating 20 years ago today, I published my first website. But the real epiphany came afterwards.
Andy did this as a post-grad internship, studying telecommunications policy and finding his way into the early Cambrian era of the web:
On October 14, 1994, I felt EdWeb was ready-ish for prime time. So I posted a note to a number of education-related email lists inviting people to check it out. I didn’t get a huge number of responses, but the ones I did were both supportive and intimidating. Supportive in the sense that they appreciated my efforts and were curious to see how it would develop. And intimidating in the sense that the people wanting to talk to me knew a hell of a lot more than I did on the topic. Here I was, a glorified intern who slapped together some persona ramblings about education and technology?—?and now I was getting questions from actual educators and technologists. The cold hard reality was that their questions were often so advanced, I had no idea what to say to them.
So then I had an idea?—?why not admit the fact that I don’t fully know what I’m talking about, then encourage everyone to join a conversation so they could help answer each others’ questions?
Ironically I see this happen all the time, people express fear about even adding comments to a perceived expert’s blog, imagining some sort of tiered level of internet that does not exist.
There are no velvet ropes on the internet, just the ones we imagine.
What’s really cool in my book is that Andy’s 20 year old EdWeb site is still there!
I am pretty sure I remember the pencil graphic topic links, each one leading to an area that offered more branches to explore, e.g. The Role of the Web in Education offers four paths, one is a short article The Role of the Web in Curricular Reform itself with four more paths such as The Web as a Tutor.
Unlike Andy, all of my early web stuff has been decommissioned but its all mostly there on the Internet Archive. I kept a running history from Dec 1993 til 2006 the year left, even with “hit counts” (when those mattered as much as follower counts).
I know I was handed a disc with Mosaic on it in October 1993, and found my way to the NCSA HTML Tutorial, and eventually got a hold of a MacHTTP server running on a Mac/SE 30.
This was how the Maricopa Center for Learning & Instruction’s web site (the first web server in the system, yo) looked in January 1994
Grey background, mostly text and links. That logo was something I generated in Strata3D. And there we are under January 16, 1994 on the NCSA What’s New page in a time when just having a new web site was a big deal. You could pretty much know what was on the web by checking this page on a regular basis.
By August of 1994 our Labyrinth newsletter was devoted to “Mosaic of the Internet” besides including links and resources, we had perspectives from a faculty member and a student on using Mosaic (I chuckle in reading my writing where Mosaic is a short hand for the web; there was only one graphic browser then).
Andy Carvin’s message about his 20 year old web experience is as relevant as ever today (my emphasis):
As my career developed, I continued to embrace that simple idea: that it’s okay to be transparent about what you don’t know, especially if you’re in a position to mobilize others to help you and each other…
Some things haven’t changed much since I rolled out EdWeb 20 years ago. My HTML isn’t much better than it was back then, and I’m completely lost when it comes to more advanced website design. But that simple website I created 20 years ago?—?and the email list that followed it?—?led to something much more important. It showed me how a little openness, a little humility and a willingness to listen to other people’s ideas made me a more-informed person, while informing the rest of the community in the process. So to everyone who’s ever answered a question of mine via email, an @ reply, a bulletin board, a subreddit— I thank you. I literally couldn’t have done any of this without you.
There’s still time, create something, be open, humble, transparent, and keep those web pages alive. I hope to blog about this again in 2034.