It's Like an Ant Farm!
Sunday, February 25, 1996 by Dave Winer.
I'm totally buzzing with ideas from the 24 Hours project.
Every time I think I have a perspective on it, that I'm ready to write, something changes and blows all my expectations out of the water.
So I'll write now, and try to catch up later. An example. This morning when I got up, there's a newly registered page from The Well. Go there. It's a policy statement from the company. Very nice! There's a list of Well employees who signed the statement. Many are links. I go there. Personal statements about freedom of speech!
This page was a surprise. Until this morning I didn't even know it existed. It wasn't linked into the chain of 963 web pages that are holding hands as part of the 24 Hours of Democracy project.
We learned a lot. Don't do page registrations via email. A web form works much better. There were pages that didn't get registered.
There were glitches. Interesting ones -- it seems that mail from "CompuServe" to "America OnLine" bounces. That's not cool!
So we've put into service a new set of CGI scripts and a database to catch registrations we missed.
Check it out: Did we miss your essay?
By the way, it's OK to register pages for other people. Enter your email address in the form. When the reply comes back, help the page's author get linked into the chain. It's a buddy system. Sometimes that's the only way it can work.
An example, I'm going to help Bill Gates link his essay into the chain by working with the webmasters at Microsoft. It's a web-based way for me to thank Microsoft for supporting free speech on the Internet. I'm glad to do the same for other leaders of the online industry. Let me know.
AIDS is a terrible thing. A challenge to the human race. It could be our end, we don't know. And if it isn't, AIDS just tells us that we got lucky this time.
Shouldn't we be seriously thinking about a backup for the human race? Maybe AIDS is the stimulus we need to establish colonies on the moon and perhaps other planets or in other solar systems.
I don't equate the attempted censorship of the Internet with the threat of AIDS, but it's the same kind of thing, on a different scale.
Links are different from TV. 24 Hours is state of the art in linking. To my knowledge, it's the first time anyone has tried to deliberately distribute such a large set of websites. It's a systematic way to refer to each other. It's already a very complex structure and it's only been three days! When will it be finished? Will it run out of steam? It's impossible to know.
It's been suggested on various sites that this is the Internet's equivalent of the "AIDS quilt". If so, the 24 Hours name is going to be the wierdest joke. The process started in a hailstorm of activity in a 24 Hour period. But the quilt will keep growing and growing, channeling opinion, feelings and people, and creating new connections between them.
These are real people, not Roseanne, Homer, Picard or Butthead. They have lives.
It's a parade of humanity. In that way it's very much like the AIDS quilt.
It's tragic that something as negative as censorship has to intersect with something as young as the Internet. But in all struggles there is beauty.
The writers of the 24 Hours project are struggling to make sense of it, that's why the result is so beautiful.
We asked for respect, universal respect and self-respect. The four-letter-words and black backgrounds that were so common on the web earlier this month seem to be a vestige. They reflected the immediate wound that happened.
There are quite a few nasty words in the DaveNet pieces I wrote in early February. I'm leaving them on the record.
The wound is older now, and the anger is being replaced with a desire to solve the problem and move on.
I have decided to reject censorship. But that doesn't mean I can't practice respect.
That theme, respect, is repeated over and over, in the vast majority of the essays.
Some of the best writing comes from teenagers. They know how to answer questions, and they speak honestly. They write essays in school. Why not post their ideas on the Internet? They have time. They have ideas. And they have the biggest stake in the future.
As I read their essays I heard over and over how adults don't get the Internet. They make rules that don't make sense. The kids are frustrated. It rings true. I remember, when I was a teenager, I observed the same thing.
I trust these kids, and I care what they have to say.
We don't have a Teenage Tour linked into the 24 Hours site yet, but I want one.
No one has collected statistics, nor is it clear that it's possible to. But it *seems* like a lot of the pages are from women. Maybe more than half. In earlier DaveNet pieces I predicted that the biggest change coming for the net is more and more contributions from women. Feminine energy flowing onto the web. I think we're seeing it happen now.
Use the "Reading the Essays" page to visit sites.
Set aside a couple of hours sometime in the next few of days.
Or do it tonight, instead of watching 60 Minutes.
It's an amazing thing to watch. It's like an Ant Farm! It's impossible to get all the sites you like into your Bookmarks menu. Just bounce around. You'll see the best use of audio and animation. Neat web tricks. And the best writing I've ever seen.
It's a World's Fair for the web. This project has captured the next level of growth. It's a collaborative evolving structure of people, doing what I had hoped could happen -- they're holding each other's hands. Speaking and listening. Learning. And spreading the word.
To our political leaders, current and future, I think these people vote.
Or will soon.
Check it out!