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inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #26 of 134: Michael C. Berch (mcb) Thu 12 Nov 09 11:00
    
The DOD connection is something I was going to ask about. An childhood 
friend of mine ended up working on PLATO, but his project was some 
classified spook thing for DOD.  I knew about its use in DOD training,
since I wrote some DOD network training courses for MILNET in the
mid/late-'80s, but all our stuff was on homegrown UNIX software. But
apparently there were some classified projects using PLATO for
something. I lost track of this friend and never did get to ask what
that was all about, assuming it was declassified. Any idea? 
  
inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #27 of 134: Brian Dear (brian) Thu 12 Nov 09 12:13
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inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #28 of 134: Gail (gail) Thu 12 Nov 09 13:41
    
That kind of paranoia is both amusing and ultimately probably wise.
Committing your use of illegal substances to a written and searchable
form is a peculiar kind of risk taking when you think of it.  There's
generally no way to gauge how high that risk is, legally or in terms of
reputation for future job seeking, etc.

Use of the "scribble" command here at The WELL in conversations about
drugs is something I just never second-guess.  

There was a time when WELL members went through a tizzy about other
members talking about The WELL with the CIA, and then we got an openly
CIA employed member, which shifted the realization.  People realized
that the agencies could have snuck in if they felt something was amiss,
they could have gotten court orders and gotten email or other
evidence, but here was somebody openly associated with the Intelligence
community contributing and learning about the technology and culture
as a customer, and the dialog got interesting -- the perception
shifted.  

Funny in some ways how massive open platforms like Twitter will never
go through that. There's no assumption that real or metaphorical spying
would not be going on anyway, and during the Iranian election twitter
protest, people were able to remember that authorities would catch on
and figure out the system whether quickly or eventually.  It's probably
always true with new tech at a certain level of adaption  or use by
certain people, but maybe more of us are starting to understand the
ramifications and factor it into our feeling of who is in the room for
the outset, avoiding any regretful paranoia phases! 
  
inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #29 of 134: Michael C. Berch (mcb) Thu 12 Nov 09 14:00
    
Thanks for the info on DOD/CIA/NSA PLATO stuff. It would be very
interesting to get a glimpse into that world. I did very much get
the impression that my friend's spook project was *not* training or
courseware, though. So I really wonder what they were up to. 
  
inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #30 of 134: Gail (gail) Thu 12 Nov 09 17:27
    
Maybe some time in the future we'll get declassified records of spooks
discovering cyberspace(s) at various agencies and points in time. 
That would be cool!

Brian, what different formal and informal roles did you take in the
course of your time with PLATO?   I'm wondering if they prepared you --
educated you, if you will -- for things you have done since then.
  
inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #31 of 134: Brian Dear (brian) Thu 12 Nov 09 19:42
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inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #32 of 134: Brian Dear (brian) Fri 13 Nov 09 08:22
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inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #33 of 134: Brian Dear (brian) Fri 13 Nov 09 08:28
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inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #34 of 134: Brian Dear (brian) Fri 13 Nov 09 08:35
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inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #35 of 134: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 13 Nov 09 12:01
    
The language of these places is so interesting.  The idea of a
"signon" (like a login) is closer to the idea of having a key to a door
than the idea of some kind of agreement allowing participation and
accumulating karma, which seemed to me to be implied by a UNIX
"account." 

I love that PLATO's founder, Don Bitzer, appeared as a "maintenance
engineer" with an "m" because it reminds me of hosts I encountered in
the early days on The WELL who described themselves as "only the
Janitor" in their roll of freezing or hiding content, or taking other
actions regular participants can't. The social connotation of those
simple system powers can be enormous.  In a mythological sense, seeing
the creator of the system pose as a maintenance engineer seems a little
bit like a classical god disguised as a beggar to walk among the
mortals. There's poetry to it, because the community context needs a
dose of metaphor sometimes.  

That brings me to a question about women participants.  My
assumptions, which could be spectacularly wrong, would be that woman
educators and students were probably in the minority, but present. I'd
also speculate that authors, particularly the game authors, along with
the staff "s" and "p" systems programmers and their teams, were mostly
men.  I'd also speculate that romance and passion fell into place in
some of the ways we see in other social pyramids, with some of the
admiration of the godlike creators inspiring attraction, and some of
those crushes being acted on.  

That may be wrong, since it started as an educational platform, and I
am not asking for soap-opera like tales, but what was the role of
women, overall?

And secondly, was there significant flirtation and "pairing off" in
that world, informed partially by the social classes you describe, as
we encounter in most group environments over time?  
  
inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #36 of 134: Gail Williams (gail) Fri 13 Nov 09 16:05
    
By "that may be wrong," I meant it may be inaccurate.  It wasn't a
judgment or a guess at constraints on behavior in an academic context.
  
inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #37 of 134: Ari Davidow (ari) Fri 13 Nov 09 19:26
    
Hi all, I am almost back - one more day of conferencing and I'll be back 
home and less distracted.

I am at a conference in Portland, OR for a group called the Museum 
Computer Network - mcn.edu for those interested. What was fascinating to 
me was a session that I attended today which covered, among other things, 
the way that cultural heritage institutions communicate and build 
community. Sure enough, one of the panelists had fond memories of PLATO to 
which he got an account as a 9-year-old (his father was someone who 
created teaching tools or was otherwise involved high up).

Brian, you talk a lot about PLATO games. That strikes me as inherently 
different from systems such as the WELL where it is the conversation that 
is the primary reason people log in. It sounds as though PLATO offered 
education, AND games, AND conversation. 

Can you speak to that diversity and how it may have affected how people 
related to the system? Did the multiplicity of purposes make the system 
more sticky? (One imagines so--I have long felt that the terminal 
interface to the WELL, which opens the door to a host of unix-based 
servcies, some of which were unavailable 20 years ago when this started, 
was part of what made the WELL compelling, and makes the web interface to 
the WELL, which supports only the discussion forums side of the WELL, 
significantly less interesting.)
  
inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #38 of 134: Brian Dear (brian) Sat 14 Nov 09 13:30
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inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #39 of 134: Brian Dear (brian) Sat 14 Nov 09 13:33
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inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #40 of 134: Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 14 Nov 09 13:44
    

Fascinating discussion, Brian.  And I agree with you, Ari, regarding the 
terminal-based interface versus the Web-based interface.
  
inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #41 of 134: Infradibulated Gratility (ssol) Sun 15 Nov 09 11:54
    
This is great, Brian. About ten years ago I worked alongside of a
fellow named Don Byrd. He was from U-I and would often try to tell me
about the wonders of this early educational/telecom system called
PLATO. Now I'm getting a much better idea about the source of his
enthusiasm.
  
inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #42 of 134: Slightly Foxed (dshif) Sun 15 Nov 09 17:54
    
Very much enjoying this topic, Brian. 

What is it about the conference > topic > linear structure as opposed
to a threaded structure that works better? Threaded certainly seems to
rule the modern web.
  
inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #43 of 134: Brian Dear (brian) Sun 15 Nov 09 20:07
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inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #44 of 134: Brian Dear (brian) Sun 15 Nov 09 20:15
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inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #45 of 134: Brian Dear (brian) Sun 15 Nov 09 20:19
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inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #46 of 134: Brian Dear (brian) Sun 15 Nov 09 20:23
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inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #47 of 134: Brian Dear (brian) Sun 15 Nov 09 20:27
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inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #48 of 134: Brian Dear (brian) Sun 15 Nov 09 20:30
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inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #49 of 134: Brian Dear (brian) Sun 15 Nov 09 20:32
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inkwell.vue.369 : Brian Dear, on PLATO, Eventful and further adventures
permalink #50 of 134: Ari Davidow (ari) Mon 16 Nov 09 06:37
    
Brian, I want to go back to something that I posted over the weekend and 
see if I can get your feedback.

 Brian, you talk a lot about PLATO games. That strikes me as inherently 
 different from systems such as the WELL where it is the conversation that 
 is the primary reason people log in. It sounds as though PLATO offered 
 education, AND games, AND conversation. 
 
 Can you speak to that diversity and how it may have affected how people 
 related to the system? Did the multiplicity of purposes make the system 
 more sticky? (One imagines so--I have long felt that the terminal 
 interface to the WELL, which opens the door to a host of unix-based 
 servcies, some of which were unavailable 20 years ago when this started, 
 was part of what made the WELL compelling, and makes the web interface to 
 the WELL, which supports only the discussion forums side of the WELL, 
 significantly less interesting.)

In the light of today's posts, I am also curious as to how the 20-line 
limit also affected participation vs what you see today.
  

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