Julie Sherman (julieswn) Fri 6 Jul 12 10:12
This week, we are starting a conversation with Andreas Schneider, part of the team of film makers who are currently working on a documentary about the WELL. Andreas Schneider studied fine arts in Karlsruhe and media arts as a postgraduate student in Cologne, Germany. He currently lives and works in Cologne, Germany. His artwork and films have been shown at film festivals as well as in the art context. His artistic work includes an anthropological view on technology, on how the human and the technological side relate to one another. In his work as an artist he explores the resulting social meaning of technology in everyday life and the standards, that reflect technological, social and economic developments. His main interest is the relation between technology and behavior and the historical development of social media is a field that his artistic work explores. I have the honor of interviewing Andreas about this project. Julie Sherman, <julieswn> on the WELL, lives and works in Asheville, North Carolina. She spent many years working in the HIV/AIDS education field and then being a program director/manager at health-related non-profits. Currently she is the administrator at the Reform congregation in Asheville. She is also an active member of the Asheville Film Society and loves film, especially documentaries. Welcome to Inkwell, Andreas!
Julie Sherman (julieswn) Fri 6 Jul 12 10:14
My first question for you, is what about the history of the WELL interested you enough to do this project? I don't imagine that the WELL was particularly well-known in Germany.
Andreas Schneider (andreasschn) Fri 6 Jul 12 14:03
Hi julie and thank you very much for the kind invitation, The WELL still seems pretty unknown in Germany, at least I think so. I had worked on other projects before, and I started to ask myself where terms like IRL came from. Another term and esspecially an idea that I found very interesting simply was the idea of an "online community". And - I think you can easily imagine - from there it was not far to the WELL. Certainly the WELLs history made me curious and I wondered about what the WELL is like today. I was able to read a lot about the WELL´s past but I wanted to know what it´s like today, how WELL members think about it, what they observed and experienced about being member of an online community for quite a long time, why they think it´s there after so many yeas and maybe also why it´s so constant. And certainly there was - and maybe still is - a "romtantic" idea in my mind about the WELL.
Julie Sherman (julieswn) Fri 6 Jul 12 14:33
I know that you have done some interviews with long-time WELL folks. Did they share anything surprising with you? Did their reports match your "romantic" idea of the WELL?
Andreas Schneider (andreasschn) Sat 7 Jul 12 05:18
Certainly my picture of the WELL is changing, and it´s less "romantic", I guess. Thinking of your question there are moments in every interview, that I could discribe now. But maybe I will just choose one or two in this post and try to discribe what they made me think of. And maybe I can come up with questions that I am curious to get to know more about. When I was talking to Cliff he mentioned the backstage area, where the staff could talk about what he called "meta issues", about behaviors that worked and on others that didn´t. So, there was a self-awareness and members seem very concious about this relation of software and behavior. Cliff told me that behaviors where also sometimes transformed into software, and he mentioned the bozo filter. Maybe there is other examples too? Is there still a need for this thinking about behavior and how it relates to software? Maybe there is someone - maybe also from the staff who worked on the software - who would like to share his/her thoughts about this relation? And it would be very interesting to get to know much more about the ways in that communitcations are/can be influenced on the WELL by it´s structure. I mean, what part of a conversation is public on the WELL and what part of a conversation takes place in private conference and how does that effect public conversations. I imagine that it allows a lot of play, but also sometimes caused some friction? And is there a tendency towards more privat conferences, where members meet in smaller groups? and why did it evolve this way? There is this mix of private, members-only and the public area here on inkWELL. To spent a little bit of time here on inkWELL gave me a little impression on something, that John discribed very precisely when we met. He called it "a feel of being online". A feel, maybe a little like being "on a stage", and maybe also the idea that others might communicate about you, maybe in private areas where you do not have access. I´m not sure, maybe it´s different than I discribe it, maybe WELL members got used to it very fast, maybe it´s different for everyone and depends. Maybe there is some answers about how this feeling evolved?
Jerry (jcs) Sat 7 Jul 12 08:14
Hello again, Andreas. As one of your interviewees I look forward to this conversation. When we met you had plans to interview several other people, but I am unclear on whom you actually eventually visited. Is it permissible to reveal that list?
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sat 7 Jul 12 08:30
Great questions about the dynamics of the community as its thinking has evolved regarding public/private conversations and "rules of the road". Andreas, certainly timely that you are doing this documentary now. I imagine our current challenges will put an additional perspective on it.
Lisa Harris (lrph) Sat 7 Jul 12 09:37
Hi Andreas! Thanks for being here. I'm very interested to see how your documentary about a text-only community will look. For me, seeing members I only know by their user id on film may be difficult to get used to. As for the difference between private and public/featured conferences, I think the biggest difference is that in private conferences you know who can and can't be there. It's private. New members, typically, are introduced by the host to the entire group. In a public conference, any member can be lurking without anyone really knowing. It effects content, primarily, I think. In my experience here, granted only 7 years, there isn't friction amongst conferences. What happens in one place, generally, stays there. Of course, there are topics which are linked to more than one conference, but that is always noted within the topic.
Andreas Schneider (andreasschn) Sat 7 Jul 12 10:03
hi Lisa, The question on how a film or video project on the WELL might look like is definetly an interesting one. The situation in the interview is face to face and of course its very differnt from what the WELL is like. So probably one aspect is, since the WELL is text only, is that the interviews are communication about communicating not seeing each other. The face to face aspect like WELL office parties would be intersting either and we were very happy to have the chance to spent an hour at one of the sing things in Oakland and that we had the chance to get a little impression on a face to face event there.
With catlike tread (sumac) Sat 7 Jul 12 10:28
Hmm, tugboat party?
. (wickett) Sat 7 Jul 12 10:47
Welcome Andreas! Will you be doing more filming or is that aspect of your project finished?
Andreas Schneider (andreasschn) Sat 7 Jul 12 10:51
Hi Ted, I heard what´s going on and I´m not sure about what to think about this since one question that actually came up during some of the interviews was, why the WELL is still there and how it survived? But of course then it was just something that in my eyes proofed that the WELL is a piece of online history. I like to think of it as a historic site, that is still in use. I think historic sites are important to go back to. But maybe it would be great if you could describe your observations or experiences concerning the group dynamics and how people organize?
Andreas Schneider (andreasschn) Sat 7 Jul 12 11:07
And hi again Jerry! Hope you are fine. We so far mainly met WELL staff and managers. So we met Cliff and John, and Matthew too. And we also met Hilary and Nancy. Then we visited you and Reva, and Howard, David and Rita and Jon and Katherine and Gail, I hope both of you are fine!
With catlike tread (sumac) Sat 7 Jul 12 11:09
Liek (wickett), I wonder if you are still filming.
Jerry (jcs) Sat 7 Jul 12 11:23
Thanks for the response, Andreas.
Andreas Schneider (andreasschn) Sat 7 Jul 12 11:28
hi Susan, I am more evaluating on the interviews so far. It takes quite some time to watch the footage carefully. So that happens while I´m writing on my thesis for my theoretical diploma of my postgraduate studies. I´m thinking about applying for fundings here in Germany to go on with the project.
Ed Ward (captward) Sat 7 Jul 12 12:02
Ask Arte! And if you want to talk to a European Well member, I'm on your side of the Atlantic.
a plaid pajama ninja (cynsa) Sat 7 Jul 12 23:22
hi Andreas. good luck with your project! re: "Cliff told me that behaviors where also sometimes transformed into software, and he mentioned the bozo filter. Maybe there is other examples too? Is there still a need for this thinking about behavior and how it relates to software? " there were cases, yes, where the needs of the community required creation software; e.g., sweeper was a very popular program that was developed because, at the time, it cost us $2/hr to connect, and some of us (raises hand sheepishly) were accruing bills upwards of $200/mo, not to mention long-distance charges for those of us who didn't live close by! sweeper would log in, download any new responses, and post your replies in a minute or two. but this took away from the sense of "being there", and so I wasn't fond of it. another example was the expansion of unix's "write" command into a send command that bounces up into the picospan shell and interrupts whatever the user is reading to interpolate the message into the screen. this also adds to the sense of being there because people online at the time can interrupt each other to say hello and chat. but for the most part, the tools are what forms the community, not the other way around, (we call it "tools, not rules") and I think that is the real problem I'm having with other social media. I have seen people on tumblr have to hack their way using the api in order to force communication because it's not built into the system to be able to respond to each other's picture postings. people are trying desperately to communicate, but the tools don't make it easy. here on the WELL the tools make it the whole point of being here.
Chuck Charlton (chuck) Sun 8 Jul 12 00:00
Now that's an interesting comment from Cliff. That's not quite the way I remember it. In 1992 I dropped my Well account for a few months, and a big reason was my frustration with what seemed to me to be a rising level of incivility on the system. But I stayed in touch with my Well friends, and I continued to attend Well face-to-face events. At a Well picnic one of the Well's trusted cadre of volunteer software contributors mentioned to me that he had written a bozofilter for picospan. I was quick to sign up again and rejoin the conversation, and I used the bozofilter a lot. But I thought the bozofilter was introduced after Cliff left, when Mo was the General Manager. But I could be wrong. A few years later, when the web interface, Engaged, was introduced, it had a native filter built in. But I think it was perhaps ten years after that before picospan had an integral filter to replace the one that a volunteer had tacked on. For about a dozen years I forced myself to look behind my bozofilter from time to time to see if people had changed. And indeed I sometimes found that a few of my former bozos were more interesting to me. But I don't know whether they had changed, or whether I had.
Andreas Schneider (andreasschn) Sun 8 Jul 12 02:39
Hi Chuck, you´re right and maybe I can take the opportunity to correct that I was maybe not precise enough. Cliff mentioned the bozo filter and that the idea appeared earlier, but was realized after he left. You mentioned that that you dropped your account for a few month? As I was told it sometimes could get very emotional, very exciting and sometimes rough at the same time. And, I also heard often very kind and supportive, too. My picture of the WELL is not that there was friction all the time, just to mention that. So, how do filters and emotions relate to another? Is it kind of a protection and software can create a feel of "security", what then could match with what you mean by "civility" ? So how do you think that "civility" evolved, or what human amd also what technological factors brought forward "civility"?
Andreas Schneider (andreasschn) Sun 8 Jul 12 03:04
thanks very much and hello Cynsia! This sense of "being there" - it would be great if you could try to discribe it a little more and maybe your experiences as a musician performing in front of an audience is comparable in some way?
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sun 8 Jul 12 05:15
I first joined the WELL around 1995. I was so intimidated by the level of conversation and flaming, in some conversations, that I lurked for a year before actually posting anything. I'm not sure if the bozo filter was in place then, and have never used it. Like any new social situation you have to learn to navigate your way around and appreciate the various personalities. I found Pico a bit much as a learning curve and Engaged worked for me. When I did finally venture a few posts I found people responsive and threw myself into the adventure wholeheartedly. The spectrum of topics is so broad that you can find just about anything of interest. And if you don't, you are encouraged to start your own topic(s) of conversation; which I have done. Over time you build up a rapport as you engage people. It's not just finding people you agree with, or who second your opinions. Much of the value for me has been in recognizing and enjoying people with far different points of view. There was a time where I lived in to take care of two aging family members dealing with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. The <elder.pri> conference became a life saver for me, both emotionally and informationally for those three years. It is unique, in my experience, to have such strong bonds with people you have never met. I've only met three Wellperns face to face over all these years. Yet I think of this community as the first and last place to go when I want to discover or share something. It also has one of the richest senses of humor and outrageousness. Conversations, their drifts, and pauses, and downturns, can often take a whole new tack by comedic relief.
Scott Underwood (esau) Sun 8 Jul 12 05:21
An oft-repeated result of the use of the bozofilter is the realization "it's me, not you." The few times I used the bozofilter were because my reactions to someone's posts were consistent: rising anger and a need to compose an excellent, withering reply. This would result in 20 minutes of furious typing, at the end of which I would either post and scribble, or just decline to post at all. I started seeing this first as wasted time (thus, the bozofilter had an economic effect), but eventually I realized that my anger was about trying to control what the other person said. I don't have anyone in my bozofilter anymore, and I've become much better at rolling my eyes and passing over the offending post(er). Not always, but most often.
Scott Underwood (esau) Sun 8 Jul 12 05:21
Laura Venersha (mtrbike) Sun 8 Jul 12 07:26
The bozofilter was in place when I joined in 1993, because I was surprised at how poor it was (and still is) compared to usenet's killfiles. I see nothing wrong with the bozofilter at all. Have used it happily since day 1. (well, probably day 5 or 6, when I first got fed up with someone and asked how do do it).
Andreas Schneider (andreasschn) Sun 8 Jul 12 10:58
inspiring answer Ted, I remember very well, when John told me about a women who did not want to attend face to face events. Maybe she had created an imagination about the users that she didn´t want to loose if she would have met them. And Nancy told me that she thought that members sometimes communicated things that they might not easily tell face to face to someone, even if they do know the person very well. So there remains a distance, like people stay strangers and know each other very well at the same time. It would certainly be very intresting to get to know your thoughts about that?
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