Friday, September 22, 2006

I'm back to celebrate OneWebDay

It's OneWebDay today, when people around the world are being encouraged to talk about what the Web means to them.

It's been awhile since I've posted to TheDailyUpload, so writing about what the Web has meant to me over the past decade and more seemed like a great way to get back into the swing of things.

But first, just so we're all up-to-date, I am now settled in Victoria, BC. We have a lovely new home (rented) and most of our possessions that we brought with us from Ontario. (More on the mover's saga in a future post.)

Now, a few random thoughts on how the Web has become a major part of my life over the years.

I've been connecting with others using on-line connections since the early 1980s. The monthly newspaper I was editing had a computer column and the guy who wrote it sent me his copy using an old 300-baud modem. It seemed like a miracle at the time. Heck, at that point, I was still writing my stories on an old manual Underwood and sending the copy to a typesetter via the mail. How times have changed.

It wasn't long before I had a CompuServe account and was also learning about bulletin boards and FidoNet and later Gopher.

Eventually, services like CompuServe had to give in and open up to the Web and as browsers proliferated, how I used the web evolved. The newspaper I was working for wasn't much interested in Web access for its employees, although a few of us were doing on-line research with our own email addresses. At that point, we needed separate phone lines for our modems and companies were loath to ante up for access.

It's been interesting to be part of various companies during their unique adaptations to the power of the Internet. In 1984, I helped our accountant purchase the first computers we'd ever had -- a pair of AT&T 6300's, I think they were.

When I joined SaskTel in the mid-90s, they had a flourishing networked culture, but their Internet presence was still new. I helped to implement an Intranet, a form of user-driven distributed communication which many people used to the top-down hierarchy structure in SaskTel had a lot of trouble accepting.

In every company I've been in, I've become involved in advancing their use of electronic communications, with varying degrees of success.

This is what I love to do, no question, but there are time when I wonder about the ultimate price we're paying. All around me, I see colleagues suffering from the stress of today's modern workplace. The new tools which were supposed to make our life easier have instead created new pressures to perform.

Whatever happened to the idea that we "work to live?" and that we would all be enjoying 30-hour work weeks and 10 weeks of vacation each year? Right...

It seems the more we are able to do, the more we do. But are we accomplishing more? I used to put out an 80-page newspaper every month, filled with original articles, photographs and colour ads. It came out every month and I worked hard, but not crazy hours. Although today's editors have a lot more electronic options and near-instantaneous communications, they seem to work a lot more hours than we did 25 years ago. But the publications still come out once a month.

Today, I have a website, a blog, a Flickr page, email addresses galore, a cellphone, plenty of computers and a never-ending list of things to do. I wouldn't give any of them up at this point, but I do wonder about where we're going.

There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic that we're moving into a better place, but every so often, I wonder...What if we just turned everything off again?

That's my take on this, OneWebDay.

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Anonymous said...

Interesting post. As an early adopter of computer technology, it is interesting to look back on the days before the internet, modems, hard drives or even double sided floppy disks. While in high school, my parents purchased one of the earliest model IBM Personal Computer and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. As an architect, it has been interesting to watch computer technology change the way we work. In many ways, the computer has helped, but in many ways we were better off manually drafting. My profession is giving up it's craft. Too often, we are seduced by the technology and loose sight of the fact that it is the information that we are communicating that is important, not the medium...damn Marshall McLuhan. We are becoming a lowest common denominator culture with Microsoft (and Apple, and others in tow) narrowly defining us. ClipArt(TM) should be banned as should standard templates..... If ever we needed to prove the old adage "a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing" the computer reminds of this every day.

Happy OneWebDay (watch out..Hallmark may be watching)


Dave said...

I'm convinced you're right. While it's easy to get carried away with how much fun we're having and "isn't this a great thing?" type of thinking, I sense that we're riding a pendulum. And thanks to the laws of nature, we know that pendulums swing one way, then stop and start swinging back. It's going to happen. I don't think the pendulum has stopped swinging yet, but at some point it will. I wonder what will happen then?

Donna Papacosta said...

Dave, glad to see you are settled in. The house looks lovely!