Last week there was a request for resources in a certain domain (this was on a listserv (see recursion) related to open education resources). As people, do they shared links, but I noted with irony that several of them were links to other web pages of listed links.

It gave me one of those flashbacks, as it seems like in the very beginning of the web, when every new site was new, fresh, worth looking at, that was the first thing many of us did. Heck, the first significant web resource I remember checking regularly was the NCSA Mosaic What’s New page (gone but archived elsewhere). It was the premise in the mid 1990s of a once mighty company that started as “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web.” And as the web goes, a rational idea of curation gets turned inside out when it becomes known as something that rhymes with body parts best kept hidden.

It made sense to do this, and likely still does. I started thinking of my own web roots in the early 1990s, and unearthing my old web files from a 20 year old hard drive of content from the Maricopa Center for Learning & Instruction, I was a bit started to see how much link listing I did myself.

So I can’t criticize it too much. Here is a List of Alan’s Old Link Lists.

(1) World Wide Web News (WWW News) 1994-1995

1994 was the year I was trying to share the concept of the web (then you needed to use all three parts of the name, World Wide Web) with the Maricopa system. It started as emails I sent as an “ALL-A1” but as the tagline says,

This all began as a series of irregular electronic messages via our internal mail system. We aimed to send brief notes updating the information on the World Wide Web and the MCLI Web Server, as well as listing new sites of interest to our faculty and staff. It made only sense to make this available in Web format…

The first issues included information about browser software and HTML editors, but I tried to include “Sites of Intrigue” I thought would spark some interest. With not much surprise, every link I tried in the September 1994 issue was dead.

The style of the site is a dead give away to the time period- repeating tile pattern backgrounds and layout in HTML tables.

(2) Community College Web (CC Web) 1994-2002

Since I worked at a community college, and believe I had one of the first community college web sites hoisted, it seemed natural to start organizing other institution web site as they came on board.

From my own notes in a flickr image this started as a hand coded list of links from 1994-1995. I had hired a clever student programmer, Derek, who may have made this first of many resource sites we made that went from static HTML to dynamic resources, searchable too, using perl scripts and a unix indexing package called GLIMPSE.

The “database” was a tab delimited text file, and in addition to search, we could also have a form where visitors could add new community college sites (how quaint an era when we could have scripts updating world writable text files). By 2002 the spam was too severed and the submission form was neutered.

I was able to extract the old data to a google spreadsheet and then use AwesomeTable to make an interface that makes the old data visible and searchable. Like anyone cares…

This site was featured in a Chronicle of Higher Education article February 2, 1996 yet I cannot see it because it’s behind a fricking paywall. Seriously, oh ye holy Chronicle, you have to paywall articles 24 years old? Pffft.

This site was mentioned as well in one of the early web books (1994) The World Wide Web Unleashed by John December and Neil Randall (and yes, I got an autographed copy, thank you John!)

This was an early step going from hand edited lists of links to a (crude) system for managing them.

(3) 451F : Blistering Hot Web Sites (~1995-1997)

I cannot even remember a reason for doing this site, except another mid 1990s effort to create subject organized lists of web sites. I think I just wanted to riff on a metaphor.

4 5 1  f

451 degrees Fahrenheit, temperature at which paper spontaneously combusts (apologies to Ray Bradbury), includes  the most blistering hot web sites. No… We are not trying to be some kind of yahoo or 5% badge distributer. For each category, we provide starting points and selected sites that are glistening examples of the web at its best.

This might have been a thing for another student programmer I hired, Kurt Leinbach, to work with another fla file indexing program. It was abandoned in 1997, but I think I had archive the search results as HTML so it still sort of works as at least a way to show the old crusty sites as lists.

(4) Teaching and Learning on the WWW (1995-2005)

Yet another effort to collect examples of the way the web was used organized by academic disciplines, this has pretty much the same footprint as the community college web. As noted, it was started around 1995 and I kept it going right up until I left Maricopa in 2006, and it hung around there til maybe 2015.

Yes, like all the others, this uses old school HTML frames– and they still work, damnit. You might notice too that as I was messing around with it around 1999, I figured out a way to generate an RSS feed. Put this in your aggregator- it still works (don’t look for updates).

And at some time after I hoisted the archive, I had set up the data from the original site into an AwesomeTables interface, so all of those old, likely dead as doornail links, are still findable with filters.

The more modern search interface grafted into the old site.

(5) Web’s Eye View (1996-2002)

This would be the kitchen sink for my web list linking, The Web’s Eye View proclaimed itself

the eye scans the web, the vast, uncharted, turbulent horizons, filtering out the chaff, and bringing you only the most precious, desirable nuggets…

I only noticed on viewing the archive that the graphic on the top, the winking all seeing eye was an animated GIF created in 1998!

Yeah, after animated mailboxes and weird dancing babies, I was making animated GIFs in 1998!
Meta data for gif image showing a creation date of May 2, 1998

The image file’s metadata tells the truth!

I have no memory how this was created, probably as frames in Photoshop and assembled in some other GIF making crude app.

Like this matters… But the graphics did for me then as they do now.

The Web’s Eye included a manual created blog with “posts” written in HTML from 1996-2002 on topics like

There were a few more pseudo posts sharing code. I had some kind of email list sign up running on an Apple Xserve, but the big lists was something I contrived, that pretty much describes this post, the Bag of URLs

This was an entire system of ?? PHP scripts for adding new sites via a web form, some kind of other script that would compile new ones into an issue, create an archive. It collected over 4700 described web links from 1996 to 2005. At some point in the mid 2000s I was tagging them too in del.icio.us which afforded then a golden RSS feed (because it was good data I was able to pull them over to pinboard when del.icio.us tanked).

I remember making the graphic from one of the royalty free image of the shopping bag from the Clement Mok Visual Designs CD (this was years before there was even such a thing as open licenses).

What’s the value here? Maybe someone wants a snapshot of what was interesting on the web, say eleven years ago on December 9, 1999? The links are most likely kaput but most should be accessible in the Internet Archive Wayback machine (as described in a Webs Eye View I wrote about there in 2002). Maybe one day I will do a fancy grep to make all those links point to the Wayback versions.

The biggest surprise and forgotten memory was when I found a reference in my own site to something called iVisit. This was an early version of What We Do Daily Now (aka Zoom) of video conference meeting online. It was free!

can we talk? see? chat?
They (the invisible technopundits) have been saying for a long time that person to person video communication will be a BIG THING or perhaps a NEXT BIG THING. Over the years, we have dabbled with CU-SeeMe as well as NetMeeting with the bulk of the time spent saying, “Can you hear me? I cannot see you..” , “What?”“That was completely garbled”, and “Let’s use the chat window..”

In the summer of 1998, we came across a new software that seemed to drop the hurdle low enough that it might be used for effective communication over the net.

I experimented with a few drop in meetings, but found a reference to a project related meeting where we set up a video meeting (in 1998) of about 30 participants between  sites in Arizona at Mesa Community College (2 stations), the Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction (1 station, me), and 4-5 stations at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. This was working with Phil Long and a project that was “hot” then for Student Technology Assistants (see the notes).

Screenshot of an August 4, 1998 video conference meeting with ~30 participants Arizona and New Jersey.

I find this typical when people gush about “zoom” like it was a concept invented last year. And as usual, this kind of innovation with technology and learning done at community colleges always seems to be missing in the histories.

But not mine. I got the files. On an ancient hard drive (and backed up elsewhere!)

So What?

Maybe this is just more of me just waxing about the old days of the web. Each time I poke around that hard drive I find more projects and experiments I have forgotten.

And this act of making lists of web sites (or lists of resources) is as old as dirt, even when we dress it up as “content curation.” And there is nothing wrong with it (as I spent line 12 years at it multiple times) as its a way of managing so much information that algorithms and search tools look like they solve, but don’t.

No. I would say that this human curation, efficient, repetitive, not universal, is more interesting, and maybe even more useful.

Put this link on a list, willya?


Featured Image: Screenshot of the Web News site first launched in 1994 available in my archives at http://mcli.cogdogblog.com/webnews

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

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