In 1990, my life tumbled into the WELL, deep and cool. I found myself reinventing myself from scratch, word by word, in a place made of pure expression. OK, actually it was a bunch of people typing into a machine, in a text-based asynchronous conferencing system. But I was entranced by the richness of the conversation, soup-thick with meanings. I love how we make brilliant collaborative word pictures.
In 1994, when I handcoded those words in HTML, it was still a revolutionary novelty to
put up a simple page with pictures!
Social interaction in The WELL community had already changed me, and was continuing to change for me. I had first logged on before the invention of the browser, thirsty for technical information. In the text-only caverns of The WELL I found the company of many invigorating ideas and vivid personalities, and after many months and megabites of posting, I stayed to take on the role of innkeeper, or barkeep if you prefer. Conferencing Manager was the title. Eventually I became the Executive Director here, and then after The WELL was acquired by Salon.com, I became the Director of Communities, adding Table Talk and other Salon projects to the mix. What a fascinating work life this quirky cyberspace adventure has turned out to be. While I was not here for the earliest days, much has changed since I logged in to The WELL in 1990, including the general public awareness of the Net. Along the way, Web browsers blossomed and The WELL become known as well.com. The conversation continued, the community deepened.
It's a real community, virtually convened, most days. It's not utopian. You can easily find people you don't care for. It's the others you will come back for.
Since many WELLbeings have gone to music events together, and some are likely to have coveted backstage-pass laminates, we evolved a tradition of making our own laminated Backstage Passes to the Universe. They tended to be collages, like mine above on this page, and some are wordless. Perhaps a relief in this wordy crowd.
We each bring a series of metaphors to any group endeavor, and in a place made of words, they are one of our most important offerings. All of my experience is food for thought and actions online, from way back in my early days as a child in Canyon, and soon after as a young adventurer in the Palisades, on the Eastern Sierra Crest, where my school-teacher dad and family ran California's first climbing and mountaineering school in the summers.
And then there was my political comedy era with the Plutonium Players, spent mostly as "Virginia Cholesterol" of the ficticious Ladies Against Women (here snapped outside the 1984 Republican National Convention by Book of the Subgenius author Doug Smith. We were doing a Bake Sale for the Deficit featuring "twinkies from scratch" at the time.) Besides performing, there was the challenge and thrill of producing touring stage shows and curious events like that one, coordinating media adventures, composing satirical press releases, performing and directing others, and doing community-building for my own and other troupes.
Doing improv on the sidewalk is an awful lot like posting online. Of course, we called flaming "heckling" if they did it real-time, and "criticism" if they printed it.
I love living online, while living a life with friends and connection to geographical place, in my home in northern California.
This page has only changed a bit since I first put it up in 1994.
After initially delighting in the idea of Web site as a maze, I eventually
constructed a slightly more orderly index of essays, mini-rants and pictures.
Try this more linear strand from my corner of
our tangled global web.
Hop up to The WELL and over around Salon.com to get an overview of this online place where I work and often live.
- Gail Ann Williams
1994; most recently revised July 2007.