Surfing the Tidal Wave
Toni ALATALO <email@example.com>
This paper introduces one young lifeline as an extreme example of how to get the most out of the networks and what kind of life they make possible. It is described how he first started to learn network dynamics on early systems, how Internet turned out to be a job and how, later on, work, free time and private life were separated into different interconnected entities. This organization of e-mail, WWW, and other Internet-service use to support different parts of life is covered in detail. Furthermore, the paper outlines how, during the last five years of Internet-accelerated life, he has been allowed to ride the tidal wave and move freely and independently between such areas as education, technology, arts and culture, business, communication, social issues, and even politics and to travel the world -- all around the Internet.
The case raises many questions. For example, is it wise to achieve location independence by becoming so Net-dependent? And is this kind of freedom possible because of his personality or is it something that the Internet boom made possible during the last years? Is it perhaps like a bubble that will break as the Net settles down and establishes everywhere?
Or, finally, might this be what the networked society on the whole is turning out to look like? After all, it is often said that these times require a variety of skills and just one profession is rarely enough. Also, working and studying in parallel are no exception anymore, at least on the Net business.
After spending some time living abroad I got to notice that what I once thought was a normal living and environment appears to be quite exotic for many people. Not only Finland's natural setting but also the social structures and the standards and use of technology in Finland are quite different compared to what I have experienced, for example, in Central Europe. I believe that our special arctic living conditions play a role in the development of telecommunication in northern Finland.
It seems that the people that are sometimes mentioned as being the most silent in the world start to babble when they get their mobile phones. The (in)famous IRC (Internet Relay Chat) was born and is extremely widely used in my hometown. Also, other technology, like ATM bank machines and online banking services, seem to be easily adapted to by people there. On top of all this the technology image has been also artificially emphasized by many campaigns to attract international attention to our projects. It is quite easy to understand because high technology is nowadays perhaps the only thing we can really use to participate in global markets in order to maintain our society in the Oulu-area where I come from.
There might be a poster session about the state of the Information Society in Finland based on the abstract I wrote.
As an answer to Laura's questions:
Oulu is below the reindeer-border but there were moose next to our house :)
The city has about 110,000 people now and its population is still growing! (was 90,000 or so)
Today the Internet is not about computers, at least not for me, but to get introduced to it in the beginning of 90s you had to be quite involved. We definitely were. The story is quite typical: my first contact with computers was with the Commodore family. First there were some games with my older cousin at the age of six and after a couple of years we -- my brother and I -- got our own. Besides games we did some simple programming at the age of ten or eleven.
Then when I was twelve, going on thirteen, this one new boy moved to the neighborhood and came to our class. He was already familiar with, not only computers, but modems and the world of 'boxes' (BBSs, bulletin board systems) we had only heard about. After first reading 'messages' (that's how we called the Fidonet flow, comparable to Usenet News today) for hours and hours at their house above his shoulder, I finally got to buy my own modem and dive into the world he'd introduced me to.
The daily routine changed: I stopped watching late night shows on TV and started going to bed early(!) to get up about 6 a.m. to poll new messages, have breakfast and read the newspaper, then check the messages that had come (polling, or downloading, them usually took about 20 minutes with my 2400bps modem) and perhaps write some before going to school. You probably are wondering why I didn't stay up late then, like computer people usually do. The simple answer is that those BBSs hardly ever had more than one line, and that line was usually free only in the early morning. I guess it was also nice in a way to combine the newly printed newspaper and the discussions we often had about the same topics -- but I don't think I really realized it that way back then, being only about fourteen years old.
Many BBSs at the time were independent 'islands' and actually did their job pretty well that way. I guess we sometimes feel the need of some kind of closed societies and SysOp's caretaking as the talk of Virtual Communities quite often suggests. Anyhow, the networks started to get more interesting. The ones we schoolkids got to use back then were technically FidoNet-based. One was the Fido itself, then we had the national Finnish SF. (Suomi-Fido) groups and a lot of locals (CL. for Circus Laplandia, etc.). Later on we changed to UUCP and joined nullnet which used Internet-type addresses and provided Usenet feed for those who could afford it. Most of us couldn't but we had the local pulp.nullnet groups instead (pulp as in pohjolan uljaat pojat, brave boys of the north :))
I guess the local groups were often most interesting since those were people that we soon started to do things with. There was always a lot of meetings and parties so that the virtual community became real. Many of those groups of friends exist even today.
At the time I had already had my first contact with the global Internet. I was fourteen and at the university for one week from school to see what working there was like. Naturally I had chosen the computer center where I got to know some basics of that kind of networking. Of course I had heard what it was like but having immediate access to places all over the world felt amazing. We were used to dial-up systems that changed new information perhaps once or twice a day with the node above, and international traffic was not only slow (took days) but also highly unreliable. My job back then was to use FTP to get up-to-date information about Internet connectivity. I still remember printing out the maps and showing them to some people there. After that week my account was valid for one month but for FTP only.
I have to admit that it was not before IRC got big in Oulu that I was really interested in the Internet. The access was a problem, and the (academic) newsgroups, although they sure were interesting, felt quite remote for a fourteen-year-old. But then we, thanks to some friendly people at the university, started getting limited access to their systems. Actually the server we got to use was the very first IRC server there ever was -- tolsun.oulu.fi -- through a limited menu system called OuluBox with time restrictions.
Most of the people I already knew from the local Fido- and UUCP systems, so basically the only difference was that we now got to be online simultaneously and hence were more interactive. IRC is also a lot more concurrent by nature; a quite common use was to log in around six or seven on a Friday night to discuss with the group where to party that night, meet there in few hours, and gather online again before going to sleep. Amazing amounts of alcohol were involved.
Later on, when I was about sixteen, we got unlimited Unix shell access and went crazy about it. We learned how to use "screen" that allows using several programs on a single terminal and is actually still the way my net being is built. Screen enabled us to use e-mail, news, and the early WWW more comfortably since quitting IRC was quite often out of the question. Some sessions during Christmas holidays (freezing cold and constantly dark outside, nothing to do, cheap phone calls, and lots of mandarins!) lasted days.
At the time we were perhaps more global than we have been ever since. The IRC was not so crowded by Finns yet (even though we were a kind of minor majority :) and the lag to #Texas (my friend's favorite), #aussies, or South Africa (where I got my best friend at the time) was a mere two seconds.
Until 1993 we were only computer geeks and yes, boys. I remember only one exception -- one girl who started ircing at the age of about 13 and kept on for some years. We were also totally dependent on the university and other schools that luckily gave some people access even though they were not obliged to. But then everything changed. The OuluNet (www.oulu.net), the school network in Oulu, got started. It was initiated and run by Jukka Orajarvi who was and still is working for the (www.otol.fi).
Actually, some guys my age had cracked some passwords on his (the school's, that is) machines to gain access but got caught. The best thing Jukka could come up with was to give them access but also responsibility for maintaining some systems. He and some enthusiasts from some of the high schools also decided to try connecting schools with slow (19.2kbps) modems with SLIP and putting up small Unix servers to the schools to provide Internet services for the kids. And, most surprisingly, the maintainers were us -- some 16- to 17-year-old nerds.
So by 1993/94, Oulu became, I believe, one of the first places in Europe to give children from 12 to 19 years old (upper preliminary and high school) and occasionally even younger children unlimited Internet access -- also from home! Soon a lot of noncomputer people were involved and in many schools girls especially were enthusiastic about e-mail and chat, as often is the case.
At first the teachers didn't know much about it. The initiative came from outside and the system: The technical solutions, maintenance, teaching and support, ethical questions, etc. were our trouble. Actually, the first job for many of us was the courses led by Jukka in summer '94 when we, by that time professionals, were teaching our own teachers the basics of the Internet on our holiday. The same summer we had a workshop that produced, for example, the first Web pages of the City of Oulu with connections to a database.
The OuluNet project was an important experiment and is considered successful. Actually Jukka Orajarvi got an award for it last year, i.e., three years later.
By the end of the year 1994 the structure was pretty much there and since then the Internet has been established as a part of school activities. We, the group of first pupil maintainers, were going to graduate soon but in most of the schools new enthusiasts were already there learning their job.
There was also growing demand for services outside of the school world so we, a group of ten from the schools, decided to found a company, Net People Oy, by the end of 1994. That's how we continued being (working) together for the following years. Net People's history is quite colorful just as I'd guess most of the Internet startups to be. The people and the profile have changed dramatically a couple of times and the company today is quite different than it was when it was started. For me the freedom and the ultimate challenges it offered were crucial.
Net People Oy (Ltd.) was founded in late 1994. The initiative originally came from the same Jukka Orajarvi who had put the whole OuluNet on its track two years earlier.
The ten founding members were three older (about twenty-three years of age) students from <otol.fi> and seven of us highschool kids, sixteen to nineteen. I was seventeen, almost eighteen at the time.
All seven of us had more than a year's experience in administrating the schools' Unix-servers, taking care of people's accounts, and teaching other kids and teachers as well as a strong technical background from the earlier years. Some had been active in the demo scene, some also as hackers/crackers; most could program some; and everyone was familiar with the Internet and spent a lot of time there.
The older three had been using the Net a lot too but didn't have the same service-oriented background. All of them had been working already either for their school (the polytechnic) or for Nokia (like everyone). We young were proud to make a vow not to ever work for Nokia ("the rubberboot factory").
The business idea was simple: provide people and companies in the Oulu-area with Internet services. Of course, there were already many companies doing it in Finland. The first to provide access to the Internet was, as far is I know, <clinet.fi> which started it back in '86. Also <eunet.fi> had been around since the early 80s and was marketing for private users in the 90s. So we bought a Twinhead Sun-clone running SunOS 4.1.3 and connected it first to the school's network and after a couple of months to the commercial network of the local telephone company <opoy.fi>. The idea was that the telephone company would take care of the access, i.e., the modem pool part, and we would handle the rest: user's e-mail accounts, home directories, Web services, customer support, customizing and programming, installing intranets, etc.
Problems started right in the beginning: the first server we got didn't work. The supplier's service was bad and we couldn't really cope with it. Somehow the boys finally managed to make things work and so we got the server running in the beginning of 1995 and could start using it.
The telephone company had trouble as well; actually, theirs was a lot more severe than ours as they couldn't get the modems working until ... (how long did it actually take??). As our customers were supposed to be the ones using the telephone company's access, which didn't work, our business didn't really start up that well.
We did have some other projects already; our first CEO was excellent in finding them, so by the spring we were working on them and got our first income for the company. What we charged for our work didn't really even cover the costs but we didn't know it and it sounded like a lot of money so we were happy. We had great times together (though somewhat filled with trouble) and partied a lot.
Most of us -- I believe, five of us seven young experts, which makes half of the whole group -- were graduating from high school that spring so work was more like a hobby anyway. The company was a nice way of getting together and gaining loads of server resources and fast access for ourselves as there were no customers yet.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention that we didn't have any physical office, none at all. Why would we have needed one? All papers were on the Net, with decision making on different mailing lists and most of the discussion on IRC. In practice there was no separate governing board but everybody could participate in all decision making as much as they would like to.
School classrooms and nice bars and cafes were quite comfortable for meetings and we had to travel a lot around the area installing servers, etc. anyway so the Net made a good office.
The CEO and other important people had mobile phones for customers to call but we <firstname.lastname@example.org> ourselves didn't really care about the phones in the beginning. Soon, however, the company bought them for the people who needed to be reached by one. I got mine the next summer ('95) and that's when I learned really to use a telephone. It quickly turned out to be the other important communication channel besides the Internet itself.
(Nowadays digital cellular mobile phones are more common in Finland than any other one telephone -- their use exceeded the conventional copperwireds in September 1997. I gave mine away in fall '97 when I moved here to Amsterdam -- no one has them here anyway and the Net is much nicer. I guess I need this peace for a change. We're expecting the whole telephone network to converge to be a part of the Internet by the end of '98 as Nokia and others release new portable/wearable network devices that handle both sides. Too bad the change is always slower than we'd expect.)
I still can't use a fax but many people in the company had to learn it, uh.
Soon we were to confront other difficulties, too: the customers were complaining that they had a hard time contacting us. As business started growing, the important people were busier and not reachable by their mobiles. (That was quite typical of us: we didn't advertise or really even look for customers but they had to find their way to us and still we sometimes neglected them totally if there was something more interesting going on on the Net.) The customers were either not yet used to e-mail or it didn't work, so that was no option for them.
So we decided to rent an office and put the servers there and also the fax machine. The technology park <otm.fi> was a good place as most high-tech companies in the area are based there, including Nokia. The park is also only a couple of hundred meters away from the university of Oulu where most of us young people started studying in fall '95. The technology park itself and the companies there started to be interested in the Internet, too, so there was a lot of work for us. The first task for us to do was to put up the server <otm.fi> for them and take care of the networking.
It turned out that I was the one tied up at the office that summer. I answered all the phone calls, most of the e-mails, looked after our own servers <friendly.netppl.fi>, and took care of the services of the technology park <otm.fi> creating new accounts and helping people, etc. Actually it was just the same as I had done for a couple of years in school before, but this time it was in the middle of the corporate business world. Besides the technology park itself and Nokia, our customers included companies like Elektrobit, Wasala <pressi.com>, BusCom, etc. of which some are doing quite well nowadays.
Besides taking care of the everyday business and answering the office phone, I was also responsible for a new service we started that summer. It was a telephone support service for Finnish people who had trouble with the Internet. Called 9-NET-9 (the number was 0600-9-net-9), it cost about a dollar (5FIM) a minute and was open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Saturday. When I was not at the office, I put a forward to the number so that it'd ring my mobile.
After three to four months of that work, I had such a strong routine that people's problems were quite often easy to solve even in the most awkward situations where the mobile phone allowed me to go.
Once we climbed on the roof of the university to see the view with Heikki. It was a beautiful, bright spring-winter's day, with a strong wind though. Of course someone called the number just then and I had a hard time finding shelter behind some constructions so that the wind wouldn't disturb the discussion. Some other time someone called early Saturday morning when we were still partying from Friday night. I couldn't even remember some of those calls afterwards (you know how we Finns drink) but friends always said they went OK.
The now legendary 9-NET-9 wasn't profitable, like most of our services. As I mentioned earlier, the deal with the telephone company <opoy.fi> was that they'd take care of the access and we the rest of the business. We were supposed to share the profits that the access would bring in -- after all, we'd have to take care of all the support and service development -- but as we didn't have any agreement to that on paper it didn't quite turn out to be that way. We did get a fixed payment, 30FIM which is about $6, for every user who had a mailbox and access to usenet news and IRC servers plus the room for the home page on our server. It seems, however, that during the past years of Net business (1994-97) only charging for access has been really profitable for ISPs.
We also charged the technology park a fixed monthly sum for access to our servers and administrating their own server. Then we were active in many kinds of projects and really enthusiastic about them but most didn't profit as they were supposed to.
The monthly income kept us alive, and traveling to install systems, teaching, organizing work-shops, etc. was quite profitable. Still it took more than a year before any of us could really get paid for what we did. Even the three or four months in 1995 that I worked almost full-time didn't bring me any money but it was OK. No money, yes Honey! I used to say. :)
By the end of '95 the Internet Boom started to reach Northern Finland more than before and our services got more popular. Unfortunately we didn't have real products to sell and were not very good workers either. Studying and other interests took a lot of time and thoughts and as the company couldn't really pay for work, no one could concentrate on it full-time.
There were also new people starting to work on the business. The technology park and some companies there were not always too satisfied with our service and hired some other students to work directly for them. We, for whom the Net was almost like a religion and the company our own tribe or church, were a bit scared of that development. Fortunately, the other Networkers in the area were our friends since there were not many, if any, Internet professionals in the area that would have not been on #oulu on IRC and/or active with the OuluNet school network during the past years. So we approached those new people and asked them to join us, which they happily did, so we became a group of fourteen. Eventually those new people were to become the next two CEOs and the current core of the company, but of course we didn't know it then.
Apart from new workers we also needed money and especially someone with business skills. I can't remember how conscious I was of that need but we succeeded in finding a solution in the beginning of 1996 anyway. It was quite a coincidence.
I had been, actually for the first time, alone in Helsinki in October '95 for a party and went back there with some friends to spend the New Year's Eve 95-96. Then, after returning back to Oulu after a couple of weeks, I was spending my time at the university and working at the office next to it. One Tuesday afternoon I was browsing through the national sfnet.(discussion).www.* newsgroups, a part of my daily routine, and saw one message from some guy in Helsinki looking for "people who can write HTML." I was tired and bored after working all day so I called the phone number included in the message; I guess I was wondering about moving to Helsinki.
It was quite surprising to hear that the person who had written the short message had such big plans. He was looking for the best people in the country to form a group and start doing real business developing Internet services for companies. From the message I'd thought that it was only some boring, weak, HTML-writing startup but he was a real capitalist with successful businesses already. I told him about our company and we decided to meet in Helsinki the next Saturday.
So I traveled back south again on Friday and was going to sleep overnight in an apartment of a friend of mine to be fresh for the meeting the next morning. The friend is actually one of seven of us young first OuluNet and netppl-people but he had moved to Helsinki that autumn to study law. He was (and is) still participating actively on the mailing lists and took/takes care of the law and other bureaucracy. Anyway, as I was arriving in Helsinki, he told me that there would be a party that Friday night. One other guy, actually an older brother of another netppl-founder of my age from Oulu, was leaving to do his military service and was having a farewell party. This friend I was going to stay with was there already when I was finally at the railway station in Helsinki so I had no other choice than to go there too. It was a great party but I didn't get much sleep, and even those few hours were on the plain wooden floor because there was no furniture in the apartment.
Next morning my phone rang. Luckily I woke up because it was the businessman I had the meeting with. He asked me to come to lunch in the center. The others were still fast asleep as I left.
The meeting was a success. We ate well and talked constantly for about three hours about where the Net business was going and what we -- his contacts and resources in the business world and our group of experts -- could do together. His idea was to found a separate marketing company that would market our products in Helsinki, where all the money and business in Finland is, and we could work on them wherever we'd like to (Oulu, that is) and actually get paid for it. His condition was that he'd have to own 50% of the company as it would guarantee we would work in a reliable way. He assured us, however, that he would not force us to change the way we work -- he said he thought we were like artists who couldn't really be treated that way without killing all the creative drive.
I reported the results the same evening on the Net for the others to read. Of course the whole deal sounded promising as we were in financial trouble and didn't have any resources for anything. Only selling the majority share sounded problematic. Since the beginning all we ten had owned equal shares, 10% each, which was for us a natural and a democratic way to organize the company. One vote per person -- that's how things work, we always thought. But we were facing a dead end and this man's promise of good global/international contacts and resources was promising. He, being about 40 years old at the time, had been working internationally most of his life and also got his education for international marketing on the other side -- the business side -- of the Atlantic ocean.
The CEO decided to meet him as soon as possible and so we went back to Helsinki again. Things worked well. We really felt good together and were surprised how well this man could understand our spirit and think of how we could work. It was almost as if he had always been one of us -- perhaps he should have. After the long discussions we had at his house we felt like going for it. There was only one change in the original plan that our brilliant CEO came up with: He suggested that perhaps there was no need for a separate marketing company but the man could invest straight to our business and start working in tighter cooperation with us in the same company. This was a totally new thought for everybody but finally, after a good night's sleep and consideration, we decided that it'd be the solution we would propose to the others <email@example.com>.
After discussing the matter back home in Oulu, we invited the man to meet us there, had sauna together, and were planning the future together. He and the other new people we'd asked to join earlier would become shareholders so that he'd get the 50% he insisted and the rest would be shared among us. Everybody felt that it was a beginning of a new era. We had told him everything, and he, as a hard-boiled business professional, could point out the mistakes we had made and describe several solutions we should consider. He also had some customers with projects and international partners ready waiting.
The spring of 1996 and the following summer was the time when all those promises started to come true. The seeds had finally started to grow. I was spending half of my time in Helsinki and some of the others traveled there more, too. We also started our first project there. It was actually really a good one.
The customer was the best known auction house in Finland that sells high quality antiques and fine art plus even valuable classic cars. They were about to modernize their information system and digitalize the whole process of making the auction catalogue.
The catalogue is central to their business: It has to made in time and well since most people make their buying decisions based on the pictures where the quality of the print plays a central role. Putting all the information together is also a hard process. Demanding customers make it even more difficult as they withdraw their items or bring in new ones to sell at the very last moment. The traditional photography and print methods are so slow that the auction house can't adjust to customer's needs, so they hoped that the digitalization would be an answer.
Another company was working on the database and digital imaging so that our task was to participate in that process to create the online version. Our goal was to do it so that the same database and same pictures that the new system would use to publish the paper catalogue could be used to automatically create an interactive Web-version of it. I was responsible for our part of the project (at the age of 20) and this time we were in no hurry since we had the whole summer.
On the whole the project went well, or at least better than usual, since we had failed to keep the deadlines quite often before. One of the older guys back in Oulu built the database-interface for the Web and it worked well. We could also get the system to process the images that were created for print to be suitable for the Web with little trouble. The interface and the search engine for the online catalogue were OK and finished in time -- it was pretty neat to search for all silver rings you could buy with less than 5000FIM or check how many classic Ferraris the company had sold during the years.
The only trouble was the overall graphic design of the site: The customer wanted to have all kinds of information, like their history, on the site and gave us the texts as we had agreed. We had asked them who would make the graphics and the design that would be needed to make the site look good and they had promised to deliver them. In the end they didn't -- it turned out that they had misunderstood our question and gave us only the paper catalogues to show us what the style was supposed to be -- so we had to do the design ourselves and they were not willing to pay for it. I can't do professional graphics myself and we had no money to pay anyone so it was a severe crisis. Finally, after two weeks of panic as the deadline was coming close, the CEO made the graphics and the whole design himself in one night with my assistant.
The result was, especially at that time when a lot of Web design was really poor, quite good and the customer was astonished because it was so much more than they had expected. The project was finally successfully over, except that the pages were not technically finished so that some other people had to go through them back in Oulu. The CEO and I had to travel elsewhere to teach already and so we didn't have the time to finish them and that caused a quarrel.
Not one of us got paid for the whole project. The database designer did the Web engine as his master's to graduate from the polytechnic. We did our parts for fun and to learn and just because we had to. The company didn't charge enough so the income covered only the expenses -- travel, telephone calls, secretary's salary and other running costs. Of course it was quite sad but at least we had managed to finish one real project and got good publicity from it.
Before the work in the spring we had been to Stockholm in Sweden (my first time there) to present the plan for the bigger auction house there that owns this Finnish one. They thought it was an interesting plan but didn't believe that we (Finns) were needed for them to accomplish the same. Actually they said that they were already about to publish something "the next Thursday." Several months later in autumn when our work in Finland was published with a lot of interest from even the international press -- I believe that the service was the first full online auction catalogue with database and search capabilities and nice pictures in the whole world! -- the Swedes had still absolutely nothing. If you know Scandinavian history (or current ice hockey), you might have a clue of what this meant to us. ;)
The autumn after that auction house summer was to witness even a better project with even more work, publicity, and no pay. The Swedish royal family was coming to visit Oulu and the town wanted to get everything out of it. Our CEO was involved in the planning and -- being the amazingly creative propeller he is -- came up with great ideas, found the partners, and convinced the representatives of the city to go for it. So <firstname.lastname@example.org> worked like hell most of August and when the royals came we had just finished everything -- in fact just the same morning after a 28-hour day of work -- to be ready for the show.
The result is still present at <URL:http://www.ouka.fi/victoria/> and was a good example (and one of the first in the world, I believe) of how modern Internet communication services combined with mobile digital technology can be used to share important events with people across the world as they happen. The site functioned as a press center for the international media and was also the fastest news channel for the public.
We had borrowed two digital cameras from Canon and the hospital in Oulu that the photographers were using. The pictures taken were transferred immediately from the field from the back seat of a taxi using a laptop with a GSM-datalink to our office. There they were photoshopped and published for the press to use and people to watch with short explanations of what was going on. Best quality pictures were 1200x800 or even larger so they were good enough for the print media to use. Some places the royals visited had video-cameras installed so that we could send their stream live on the Net too. We also had a digital pocket camera and we <email@example.com> were using them ourselves. Some pictures I took of the princess Victoria arriving at the technology park were published in real-time too. :)
Of course today with all the media giants using the Web extensively to report the Olympic games, all that is nothing new. Back then, one and a half years ago in the far north of Scandinavia -- in the middle of nowhere, if you prefer -- it was quite an achievement for a bunch of youngsters. The one coordinating the work that day the royal visited was 23 years old at the time and later became the next CEO of Net People. I was nineteen myself like most of the technicians taking care of ISDN and videoconferencing systems, the CU-SeeMe link, the outgoing MBone-feed, and the basic Web services. The girl (there is one in the group! :) finishing the pictures for the press was eighteen. All world-class professionals I'd say. The middle-aged man who had bought the half of the company was sitting in the office in Helsinki, 600 km (400 miles or so) away and happy to follow everything on the Net.
All that was '96 and before. At the end of that year and during '97 the company became organized, established, and serious on the whole. Business has slowed down and is quite boring compared to the crazy early times but at least the ones working nine-to-five every day -- instead of 30 hours a day and then disappearing -- get paid and can live a normal life. The customers can rely on them. The current (third) CEO has a family with a child and the workers have to pay their rents so they can't do it just for fun anymore like I (we) always did. There's still much of the spirit left, though.
Most of the founding members of the society (it wasn't really a company in the beginning) are somewhere else: the first leader, creator, and spirit maker CEO moved to the countryside and is working there on his own projects; some of us youngsters are busy studying other things (law, sociology, languages, cultural studies) in other parts of the country or abroad; some professionals have changed to different companies for better pay or different work, etc. Many of the originals are, however, working full-time now. I think that, combined with the newcomers, they together form the core of about eight active people at the office. And naturally also we who are away, only for a while I hope, still hang around on the Net as always.
The main product is our own package called Net Access which is a basic service for people and companies to use the Internet from home and/or office with a modem or an ISDN connection. We have our own modem pool now which brings in the basic income from about 1,500 customers. There are also some cable modem users. The server services are OK; for example, the whole an.org is on netppl's systems in Oulu which I happily use from all over the world every day. Some people are working on projects, mainly building Web sites sometimes combined with more advanced database facilities.
The biggest challenge in the future is to find a new business model as the whole service-business is changing. Although the good local service is a strength, globalization seems to be necessary. A long-term strategy has been to form good partnerships and try to move out from the tiny markets in Northern Finland (only some hundreds of thousands inhabitants there and tightening competition) for the global markets. This is one reason I've been traveling and meeting ISOC people and why I came to live here in Amsterdam which is about the best place for international business on the continent.
I also hope that the soon-to-be-born Finnish chapter of the Internet Society will help us to take this step. Otherwise the fight is lost and we will die away as the old world (telcos, big media, IT corporations, etc.) is taking over the Net as it becomes just a regular part of the society. Then those delightful memories of the past years will be nothing but a useless effort -- but there's nothing I hope more than to show the world that it was only the beginning. Revolution!
Or at least a good life.
maintenance, business, services, projects, contacts, tougher knowledge,
traveling -- teaching, yet the community (home pages, IRC, etc.)
(A view from a home page, fall '97)
Apart from Net People activities the living in Helsinki opened many other new aspects to the world around the Internet in Finland.
I was living in the legendary L16.fi, a real world Net community in a nice old building in the center of the capital. L16 had been there for a couple of years already. I hadn't heard much of it, as I knew hardly anything of Helsinki on the whole, but some of my friends from Oulu living in the capital had been there a couple of times to some parties. That is also how I went there, to an afterparty with some people I had met earlier that night. I knew one guy living there before from IRC <henkka:#fi-rave> and luckily he happened to be there then. That was early '96 and later during the spring and summer I spent some more time half living there and finally getting my own room when I moved to Helsinki in September.
It's really a lovely building for an apartment building -- big walls of stone, high rooms, nice wooden floors, and some decorations. The original community known as L16 is one big apartment of six but at my time we had three separate apartments with a total of twelve rooms. There was also a group of other young people living together upstairs and the rest of the building was offices and normal apartments. People weren't always too clean, quite the opposite in fact, but it was really nice to live in the centre with so much going on in the house.
The PiiPaa Oy (~SiliconHead Ltd.) that owns and develops <www.fi> (a popular search engine for *.fi) was located in the cellar and the L16-community had had their connection from the company. At the time when L16 had been covered in the Helsingin Sanomat (most important newspaper in Finland), the freaks living there had terminals and workstations connected to their own server in most of the rooms and was there one even in the toilet?
I saw the article that the Helsingin Sanomat had published quite late when I was already living there. Later I got to know also about the 24 Hours in Cyberspace project where L16 had participated. Soon I heard stories about articles that some people living there were writing for major Finnish magazines. I also met people visiting the community, first without knowing who they were, whose books I had read just a couple of years before like they were from some other world.
In Oulu there's hardly any mass media present. There's one important newspaper that's read in the whole of North Finland that's based in Oulu and writes mostly about it but no TV channels. Local radio programs almost died after the boom in the 80s and on the whole there's very little content-producing. Always when something or someone from Oulu is in the national news it's a sure topic in table discussions the next day. People always speak about "getting into the TV" like it was a major achievement. I always felt they were awfully distant, hardly existing.
In Helsinki I was suddenly surrounded by media professionals, both on the technical and content-producing side. Besides the writers one guy was working for <yle.fi>, the Finnish Broadcasting Company, and many were Internet professionals working for a radio station <city.fi> and ISPs like me. They could talk about what was going on before it was, if it ever was, covered in the media and knew the backgrounds and intentions behind the stories. The life was more about avoiding publicity than adoring it the way we sometimes did in the north.
I've always written a lot myself. Then it was mostly on some mailing lists <tieli, fi-rave>. Sometimes those new friends of mine, who actually earned their living by writing, wondered why I didn't get any of mine published. It was a weird thought for me. Until then I had always thought there was a huge difference in between bits and paper, cable and book.
From (current) home page http://www.cs.vu.nl/~antont/:
The [asepalvelus on yha pakollinen] in Finland. Instead of going to the army we can join the alternative civil service for 13 months. I served from September 1996 through October 1997. I had found the place myself beforehand from, naturally, the Net. I had been following the national Internet-library discussion list and knew the people from there. Once they came to Oulu to organize a House of Knowledge seminar which I attended as a representative of Net People. The seminar was over already in the afternoon and those Cable Book/House of Knowledge people had time still before their evening train was leaving. We got to know each other better as I showed them the best (i.e., cheapest, it turned out to be) places to drink in town.
The first month, September that is, was the training in Vaasa before the real service begun. It was true leisure time after the Swedish Royal Visit in Oulu where I had been working like crazy in the end of August. With the colorful group of young "alternative" men gathered to spend the comfortable autumn's month (that's what September, "syyskuu," means in Finnish), I really felt young after a long time. The others, most of whom had come there after finishing high school and the long summer holiday (several months), were quite bored after that when nothing really happened there during the days but I needed that rest.
I wasn't totally free of the earlier business life, though, since I was a board member of Net People and there was a lot going on right then as we were introducing the new CEO and other reformations. Quite often I had to spend all the breaks on the telephone and sometimes hours in the evening too. I sincerely hope that the GSM microwaves don't cause any permanent damage.
Then in the beginning of October I started at the library. It describes itself in the following words:
The Cable Book Library and the Knot at the Cable were opened in 1994 at the Cable Factory in Helsinki. The Library moved to the Lasipalatsi center of Helsinki to find new challenges in April 1996. Cable Book has moved temporarily to Iso Roobertinkatu because Lasipalatsi will be rebuilt by the end of the year 1998. The Library continues to develop the information society in cooperation with several cultural and commercial entities.
At the Cable Book Library you can, in a comfortable environment, surf and look for information on the Internet, use CD-ROMs, or read magazines and comics. The Cable Book is also a traditional library with all the services of the Helsinki City Public Library. You can, e.g., browse our online bibliographic catalogs. The Cable Book is also a great meeting point in the center of Helsinki.
The library is really recognized as the first public library to provide Internet services in the world. I asked on the international library forums myself to be sure. My work there, or so I thought in the beginning, was pretty much the same as what I had always done -- that is, Internet service development and practically everything related to the Internet like consulting and participating in different projects, helping others to cope with the technology, and teaching.
The surprise was -- just like for the other boys there before me -- the demands and difficulties in facing the real world. First problem was the work hours: in the beginning I didn't really care about what time of the day (or night) it was and was coming to the library and going back home or out to town when I felt like it. Sometimes I stayed at home half the day, as we had a better connection there (2M) than at the library (256k), and went to work later if it seemed necessary based on the mails and chat we had during the day.
Soon it became clear that it didn't really work that way: there were a lot of activities at the library that never appeared on the Net, like phone calls, table discussions, and of course the customers that came there to use the Net, read magazines, and borrow books. The others had the habit of being present fixed hours and absent only on special occasions and I had to learn to do the same.
Besides time and place the Cable Book taught me also the importance of materia. A lot of our activities were not only concerned about the electronic information networks but also the traditional ones that work on paper. I love the touch and feel of those marvelous items! I had to learn to put books on shelves and search them from there, pack them in bags for transportation, keep places (relatively) clean, and turn the alarm on when leaving the place at night.
There were also all the computers -- I mean the physical machines -- which I had to fix quite often. It had really been a long time since I had used a screwdriver. Back home in Oulu there was always someone else taking care of the mechanics.
During the year many of the customers became familiar and I'll
never forget some of them, but the people who have created this
special library are just great. It was quite an experience to
work intensively together with this group of such different people
of all ages. There was so much more than work to it: we spent
time together outside work both during the weeks and weekends
and even traveled together. I can't tell how important those moments
were for me.
House of Knowledge
Places are important. They're not everything, but they're important.
Again from the home page:
I participated in the work as, once again, a representative of Net People. The others were older people from big telcos (two (three) in Finland) and other organizations and from the state (ministries, etc.).
It was interesting; I also taught them some basics of the IRC. :)
Results: the report, contacts, possible future work ... also the
interest in ISOC!
A group of friends often gathers to eat together at the university restaurant in the center of Helsinki. I joined them often when living in Helsinki.
One girl (24 years or so, studies theology, and has always been
hyper-social) got enthusiastic about IRC and the Net in general
in spring '97. She started this thing called Tivoli (funfair)
which is (was) a mailing list and an IRC channel for that group.
A lot of people were international exchange students, like many
of my friends in Helsinki back then, so it was quite interesting
although I was a bit bored since it felt like going through all
the same thing we had done in Oulu several years ago.
still wanna hear something?
might be time to get to an.
oh, in Helsinki there were still, among others:
inter- national cultural personal- Net People T-shirt, design by Jori Nissinen (an understanding outsider?)
abstract to see,
culture for nerds
always grown up with the
we were born at the same time
when the net became communication
when it developed to be social
one day it'll become irrelevant
i am afraid of war
i've felt uneasy for some time now
i seem to take it personally
yesterday i think heard the first shots
today i'm settled
the first net war is coming.
(an / summer 1997)
At the moment I'm quite status-less. Hanging around Central Europe, based in Amsterdam and Net-based in all of the cities (Oulu, Helsinki, Amsterdam) where I exist.
My role at the Net People is mainly just consulting and taking care of some international matters but I do participate actively in both technical research and development and strategic decision making.
I'm also active in many other national and global forums and follow some local (Dutch, that is) Internet and New Media issues. I try to maintain a broad view from all different aspects of the things I'm interested in, like technology, economy, social issues, lawmaking, art, ordinary life, science, philosophy, dance, etc.
The studies include Networks, Multi-Agent Systems, Conceptual Modeling, User Interface Design, Hypermedia, Evolution Programming and I am still hoping to take up some social studies and perhaps some others still. I'm in no hurry but hope to get some degrees during, say, the fifteen. I don't need academic certificates to work where I want to work but I do value them highly.
Most of my time goes in communication and thinking but fortunately there's much more to life, too. From a productive point of view I produce, besides these texts and other communications, quite a lot of poems, drawings, paintings, and nowadays (thanks to the birthday/Christmas present my Sis (sanna-imagined-sister) gave me!) even small statues.
I have no money and no income except the public money that I get from the state of Finland and from (the university of?) Oulu. That is about $400 a month which is enough for rent and living. If I need more money I can usually sell some writings that I've webbed on my site but since I'm not really a marketing person most of the stuff remains unpublished, except for the site itself, of course. Usually selling is more trouble than it's worth so I'm pretty happy the way things are. Being status-less, unestablished, and in peace. Just an-ything I feel like -- just like the Net itself. Inter-, in-between, almost a-nothing, nowhere.
Probably, as the Net establishes like I often seem to state, I need to establish as well to justify my existence (in other words: to get money). Obviously this is a step on that path. Or the opposite?
pioneers are never the typical end users 70's programmers are programmers 90's communicators are communicatorswhat do people do?
Pioneers are not usually the typical end-users. The Internet pioneers did the founding work in the '70s, almost thirty years ago. I don't know much about them even though I once had the joy to share the same dance floor with the famous Vint Cerf and have been hanging around ISOC a while. I wonder, how do they use the Net? Have they ever studied it? Do they think of it?
Those creators were/are engineers and programmers. I quit programming five years ago, mostly because of the Internet. Suddenly there were people behind the screen and the computer itself vanished; I hardly ever think of them anymore. The Net was there ready for us with all these wonderful services and programs evolving.
I think of communication, or interaction in a broader sense, a
lot and that's what the Net most of all is about. That is also
what I do for work -- communication and communication systems
for other people to use. Perhaps I could be called a communicator,
like people sometimes are (the edge digerati).
I haven't really had a computer in ages. Why would I need one? The Net is much nicer!
common knowledge, from the U.S.A.: "a PC without the net is like a car without a road"an/amsterdam, Europe: "I need no car but prefer walking, cycling and public transport"
Sometimes I see a difference between people who use the Net and Net people who are on the Net and have perhaps grown up there, from the Net. The Net is the same for all of us and we use pretty much the same tools but it seems, however, that we have some differences in our perspectives.
Is it that we are another generation of Net pioneers and live not only on it but also for it? I mean that we use and promote the Net perhaps more than it would deserve to push it forward. But why?
I guess we must admit that our lives are really dependent on the Net. It is where we work; it is perhaps the only thing that we know well enough to be able to make a living. Many have skipped school and don't progress in their studies because they are so busy learning the Net and working there.
Furthermore, I'm afraid that our social relationships rely on it more than we realize. The people in Helsinki I used to live with at the L16 net community are now spread all over and I don't even know where some of them live. Yet we spend a lot of time every day chatting on IRC and feel togetherness almost like when we lived in the same building. What would happen to us if the Net would collapse? I don't even have the money to travel there ... I couldn't be able to live in Amsterdam, the town I love, and still spend the days together with my friends in Helsinki and in tight contact with the company, people, and family back in Oulu, etc. Where would I locate in this triangle of cities without losing too much?
So we are extremely dependent and pioneers and probably can't
be used as an example when envisioning what the typical future
user will be like. I don't think I have a clue of that.
Because we grew up with the Net, its ways of doing things often feel more familiar than those of the outer world. For most people, I mean just normal people, this is still quite the opposite as they are often even afraid of computers and can't often really understand what's going on in the Net behind them.
The adventurous are encouraged to buy a computer with a modem in search for excitement. Ads and campaigns in the old media (TV, radio, paper, etc.) keep hyping and talk about Web surfing, emphasizing all the dangers. The Information Revolution comes up in table discussions and the New Economy buzzes economists. Gee.
The people (I know) on/from/for the Net couldn't care less. Many of them work around it and do consider it important and follow what's going on but are fascinated about quite different things. The Net was always there and doesn't really seem to change. Even the small improvements we've had during the last couple of years were known well before and the only surprise seems to be how slowly everything happens. But as the tools are pretty much OK already it doesn't really matter that much 'cause we can happily use them.
"For us the net is not about surfing but a cozy place where
we like to be.
Is it the dealing with the real/old world: paper, snailmail, traveling,
body ... is where we find the adventures? For some of us it definitely
is but not always in a positive sense. My most terrifying experiences
come from paper bureaucracy and many people simply hate telephones,
not to mention TV. Joy is in dance. Importance in people,
togetherness. Excitement in fishing?
("everybody" stands for "typical user")
Everybody usually puts their stuff online after writing, presenting,
or by other means finishing it. Our work seems to have a different
approach: it's born online, in discussions, grown with comments
and formed on the Net. The peak of its presence might be some
publication (speak, article in a newspaper) but even though those
moments and delivering are important they are only short
moments, dots in a lifeline. ... after which the creation itself
continues to exist on the Net (virtually) forever, accessible
A classical example about people from the old world is the way they emphasize the importance of (something that is called "lahdekritiikki") a critical way of reading everything they find on the Web.
They say: "you never know who's written it, could be some school kid or a respected researcher," "there is nothing to signify the context."
I would believe that people who are used to it know very well the different contexts and sources of information even on unfamiliar sites. URLs and other addressing often tell quite a lot, as does the design style of a page (which can, of course, be faked), but most importantly it is easy to get the same information from different independent sources and to learn which ones you can trust and when. These are really the basic skills that evolve. Furthermore they are assumed naturally -- of course you must be aware of who you're listening to!
On the Net the possibility of disinformation and numerous contradictions are so obvious that it is accepted as a part of communication. People used to the polished safe old media who want to benefit from it need to get used to it.
And, most importantly, I'd say that people who grew up on the
Net realize that the whole world is like that and don't necessarily
take the stories on TV and magazines so seriously either. It is
always only one point of view after all. This is common knowledge
but in some discussions some friends have been pointing out how
natural it is for Net people and I quite agree.
The Net is not (only) about knowledge, even information.
In Finland there has been a lot of discussion by critics concerning the development of the Information Society by driving the Internet and computers, etc.
The Finnish word for information is "tieto" so the information society is called "tietoyhteiskunta." "Tieto" means (loosely) also knowledge and even, on the other opposite, raw data. A data file is called "tiedosto" (~ a piece of "tieto") and the Internet and other computer-based networks are called "tietoverkko" (data/information(/knowledge) network).
It is often claimed that computer networks are only data networks that don't necessarily support information and more importantly knowledge networks at all -- even though the word "tietoverkko" would suggest so. The critics say that a lot of knowledge is still better presented in books and journals when the Internet appears to be filled with disinformation and other meaningless data.
I'd say that the critics are right in their perceptions but I think that it's more of a benefit than a drawback. These networks' capabilities of carrying all kinds of data are just what makes them so flexible!
There's a more to life than information or knowledge. What appears irrelevant to those big-minded thinkers might be essential for someone else's life. (there's one new book titled "moral, beyond knowledge" that might say something?)
These are quite new thoughts for me. I've always been the one wondering why and how some people can spend their lives just taking care of bits' welfare. I've felt it more important to look at what's there, in the meanings, and what new services we could develop. I guess that is also important but ... (dunno)
So "data" and "bits" cover a lot more than "information." Perhaps they are even capable of carrying atmospheres and feelings at least in some way, (...)
But not even bits -- being digital -- is the key. I don't even want to be digital -- analog is often great! It is not the issue at all. What then?
Networks!, I hear already. OK, the distributed parallel amoebae-like nature of these new structures is important. That is the technology and said to be the politics too. I've been wondering about social structures, so-called networked (distributed?) social relations, and even got to hear about this study about Network Families.
But, sigh, even networks aren't everything. Wonder if I used to think so?
There's lots of them everywhere, though, economy and everything. One of my favorites is language. The new visual thesaurus by PlumbDesign <URL:http://www.plumbdesign.com/thesaurus/ > demonstrates it in quite a nice way, as does also WebSom in Helsinki http://websom.hut.fi/
Still they are just ... networks. Some people don't care for them too much but concentrate on ... just some specific nodes on them? By node, I mean, for example, a person or some other entity (family) on a social network or perhaps some special culture or style from some other aspect (music or whatever)....
I can say I'm one of Net People, a person perhaps. I think I know what it stands for and am proud of it. It is not about computers, bits, data, information, knowledge, or even networks although I guess I'll have to admit that they're related. Perhaps ... perhaps the essence is in attitude ... I'm quite satisfied with what it stands for as being (often) the a of an. Attitude meaning the way to relate to things, way of thinking and especially doing.
Tapscott's book seems to have a grip on this. I hate the name, though, and some of the approach. http://www.growingupdigital.com/
Said aloud in a party Friday night:
I guess I had arguments: "It's the best place to know what's going on and where and how to get there and who's doing what who to meet and what to say and do."
But if it means ending up spending half of your time online wouldn't
it be just
And get drowned in paper and fascinated by
moved from background...
Internet exploded and suddenly the world was like a void that needed us desperately. So we got involved in all kinds of projects, met many people, and started traveling around teaching, consulting and helping companies and other organizations to build new systems. Mostly we were around Finland -- that was our world.
While staying in Helsinki I felt pretty much the same: I could do anything I wanted to, go wherever I felt like and meet and talk with whomever. That came to mean people from important companies, politicians, artists, writers....
Then I wanted to go to Malaysia to INET'97 to check what ISOC and the world out there looked like. Some planning and e-mailing and that was it (well, OK, it was quite hard and troublesome, but still). Arranging the stay in Amsterdam was, say, trivial. Some mailing, checking things on the Web, and then the flight.
There was a tremendous free space for us to explore for the last five years. In the end life started to feel like world surf. Is that what we've learned? Change context in a flash? Understand aspects? Know what's needed and where? Learn fast and forget even faster?
home, screen home
Of course none of this would be possible without something stable behind it.
We need something to attach to and the Internet seems to be perfect
-- it's always there. I'd guess that's the reason it seems like
a good thing to live around and where to build a home. It makes
me feel secure. No matter where I am I can always log on and my
friends, family, work -- basically everything -- is there.
The last five years have been crazy. Yet many say that the true boom is still ahead. Will the next five years need us?
Did I come to central Europe to win time? They are behind in the
I've already been bored since the Net has become so established. Money, world politics ... that's not us. Is our time already over before it really started?
Sometimes I dream of being a musician who can go anywhere, just
any place, and
all the modern things have always existed they've just been waiting in a mountain for the right moment
From a technical service aspect the Net is for me the same old four services it offers:
Being on the Net means using them, usually all four, simultaneously. What are they, then?
I consider chat being most interactive and sites the least. Chat is about togetherness, often seemingly useless things. Mail is most practical for work and also for private things and is often very intimate, too.
Forums, like UseNet news, public mailing list discussions, and Web-based forums are usually interest groups for me.
Sites represent often the remotest and coldest parts of the Net like company services, mass media, shopping malls, etc. Sometimes we spend amazingly little time among them and often the most important are friends' sites.
Home pages are central but not covered well here at the moment.
All those boys with fascinating fingers, touching their tools
The applications (programs, software) we use are quite primitive. Sometimes I wonder if that's stupid, if it makes us old-fashioned and inefficient. Then again, they are the tools we know and that work well; they are reliable, fast, straightforward, and flexible, for example in their location independence which we have always valued highly.
A typical session is to open connections to suitable bases and reattach to screens on them:
Session: ssh current.base.server ; screen -r
Besides applications used during sessions, the systems, every Net base, run processes that take care of users' well-being while they are away. Most of the ones I use are standard mail filtering facilities and IRC helpers but a lot better agency should be coming.
System: (what is always running on background)
In the background story I tell how I quit programming because of the Internet. It's like the tools were perfect already. Of course they aren't, but is it that there are so many people making them anyway and we get to use them immediately that other things fascinate me more?
Should the following make me think differently?
about tools and art on nettime:
from a reply:
isn't it obvious that you can't be in one place at one time
A base is a server (typically one for domain/role) where I have a screen, usually an active one and home page and e-mail activities.
The Net presence is not independent from real world situation.
Perhaps it can/could be, but to get the best support I've started
to separate different roles and even
- projects, responsibilities, ...
back in Oulu I was mostly just there,
study, work, private, etc., all integrated
in Helsinki the situation was still clearly divided.
How to organize Net being so that it supports existing locations and roles (situations) best?
I've done it mainly by separating different situations on different bases so that when logging in I can choose which roles to have and how much.
Now in Amsterdam I'm still in a process:
cs.vu.nl has replaced lib.hel.fi as daily activities but the whole
thing has not really taken form yet... (as has not the rest of
the life either ... which is probably the reason 'cause they're
while you're away my heart comes undone, slowly unravels..
Just by letting my Net presence lay in those systems I can, every day, follow what is going on. I'd get official documents and other information otherwise, too, but it seems that following everyday babble and participating in shared problem solving gives a lot more.
so when you come back we'll have to make new love
When I return to Finland, go to Helsinki or Oulu, I know already what has happened almost every day while I was away and we can share our (rare) moments together without a terrible need to talk about some basic things -- we do it almost every day anyway.
The company, Net People, is an extreme example as quite many of them work over the Net and walk on IRC even inside the town (or office!) so I can see all that from everywhere else, too.
Of course every moment I spend on the Net with my old friends back in Finland is away from my intensity of being here in Holland. Sure I'd need to use the Net anyway just to get general information and to keep contact with other people, too, but hanging with friends tends to take quite a lot of time especially if I make the mistake of trying to continue work when tired.
It seems, however, that many of my international friends spend quite a lot of time writing and reading letters, books, magazines, etc. from their homes without using the Internet, too. I'd guess it distracts from the local culture just the same way.
The time I've been working on this presentation here in this computer class at the university I've been writing and thinking quite a lot about how happy I am with the IRC and other services we use with these ancient programs.
I've felt comfortable with being textual.
That is, luckily, not always true.
I value true physical embodiment with my full body priceless.
One of my old ambitions is combining, bridging these two worlds
in a way that allows to play in between. That's actually what
I always do but worlds of the Net and dance are quite a special
case. Did you already take a look at one early experiment I always
like to mention: http://www.netppl.fi/~antont/pics/montaasi94.jpg
I drop my anchor and this is where I'm staying, this is my Home
I spend a lot of time constructing home sites for various reasons. Home-page freaks are often categorized to be some kind of self-promoters but I think that some ways of use are developing that will be simply handy.
Traditionally, home pages are just separate creations. I've been experimenting with direct sharing and collaboration supporting easy re-use of all kinds of material on my Web home. Last autumn I put the non-confidential parts of most important mail-discussions straight online. My friends could read them there, I could refer to them easily anywhere, etc. Perhaps something similar should be done with other services, like IRC and Usenet or other public forums too.
The four services I separated (chat, mail, forums, pages) are integrated together in the user. The user is the one who uses them all, like we usually do parallel in the same time, and draws conclusions of all input. Furthermore, the use is typically active in all means so that most Net people chat, write mail, participate in forums, and make their own Web pages so that they produce output in all those channels as well.
('d draw a picture of this but the scanner room is closed; I will figure it out later)
The tools I've been working on support these methods we already have and use manually every day. They are far from ready but I've already been using them to share some e-mail discussions with friends flexibly on the Web and now we're doing the same with the chat. I still have to work a lot manually to get the right texts from one place to another and for the right groups of people at the right time and in right order and form. We would definitely need some better database and automation facilities and I hope to work on them during this spring.
The idea that everything one person creates would be on his or her site is discussed quite a lot nowadays. The talk about OPS (open profiling system) which often aims at total control of personal information and even making current databases that big media companies use comes close to this.
This would be more like farming than industrial living in a city. Everything you grow is on your own land and in your control yet often free and participating in the community but the way you decide. I think we have good reasons to share and even take risks about being too open but also so that we have the right to ... hmm, what?
These thoughts about control are quite vague still but open for
discussion. I know that many people for example in the hypermedia
community have defined some of these issues since Ted Nelson in
the 60s and even earlier.
recycle and refine
Apart from control issues, the homebuilding-centered way of using the Internet supports all kinds of re-use of all kinds of material efficiently.
Most people store all the e-mails they have ever sent. I also have almost all of them since I was fourteen and from the last few years; they are quite well-organized. I think that the same practice should be used with the other ways of communicating, like articles posted to mail/news/Web forums and the Web pages that we create, too. I started doing it last autumn myself.
By consciously storing all (relevant) data flows in/out from Net bases in use a valuable database can be built. At least now that I'm used to it I find it useful to have all material I've ever produced or received at hand and with the IRC also many discussions that I might sometimes need to recall.
Continuous re-use of all kinds of material is changing the way we communicate a lot. It is still quite unclear what the good practices will be as everyone knows how irritating forwards (fwd) are and how unreadable IRC-logs may often be.
So how does the Net support re-use? How should it? What does it do?
One of the cases presented here is the solving of the robbery in Rotterdam. There the active re-use of material (audio, video, written explanations, and discussions) play a central role.
Also for smooth re-using we would need better database facilities!
do not think communicate!
(I was never
Collaboration is a central goal of the whole homebuilding and of course the Internet and (information) technology in general.
My intuition is that the more you share, the better the collaboration gets. It seems quite obvious. The tradeoff is, of course, the loss in privacy.
What do we need privacy for? For (almost?) nothing with the family I'd say. But what about when the family is more like a fuzzy network? Of course just friends and not the whole Internet ... or what if?
are we an/t or hum-an ?
Augmented sharing, especially when it reaches traditionally private parts of life as the network replaces the family and many other social needs, effects the identity. Identity is basically what privacy is about. What, then?
I think that networks are efficient on the whole. You can trust that most of them work. But what does it do for a person who's participating as a node? What should he or she keep safe in his or her own privacy? I don't really always know. The same goes with groups with identities like companies, etc.
humala.html (stands for "drunkenness") ... authentic!
in a party, around 5am, people leaving,
she was sort of familiar from #Oulu on IRC, we were
got interested when gtld-mou was published,
announced interest fall '95, got e-mail
The decair, meaning the airspace freaks from Digital Equipment
Corporation in Finland, sent mail
I was violently robbed in Rotterdam at the time of the International Film Festival, at the end of January 1998. I wasn't hurt and lost only some money and it didn't really bother my stay over the weekend but made me think afterwards.
Returning back home to Amsterdam and the following week there became an interesting case showing some aspects about Net-oriented vs. ordinary life.
On the Net I could share the accident, a description of what had happened, with friends and other people who were interested, with little trouble, basically writing it once, after which we could talk about the thoughts and feelings it really made us feel.
With the people I lived in Amsterdam with it was quite the opposite. I had to explain the story, repeat the same tape for everyone, but had then very few real discussions about it. Several times there just wasn't really time for it after the story itself. Not to mention the police, who of course cared nothing about how I felt, just kept bothering me with the same questions (and traveling!) again and again.
 = not on the Net
[talk in the bar and at the Hospitium with friends]
[some talk in the morning]
did other things, police visited
morning: [phone call from Rotterdam],
... the marvelous web ...
and they will assist us 'cause we're asking for help-Björk, All Neon Like
The Icelandic singer/musician and pop star Björk is really important for me. I was most delighted to notice that she was coming to perform in Amsterdam just when I'd moved (t)here. I had left all my albums back in Finland to try living without them. I thought I'd like to go to the concert the first even though I knew I loved the new album anyway.
Of course the gig was sold out before I got the ticket. I was terrified. So I went around and listened to the record at Virgin's ... it was the first time so I was really moved emotionally. After listening I went to a cafe to write about it for all the beppers on the list where we share these feelings.
I was already satisfied with the fact that I'd miss the concert. I'd have the music, anyway.
Then, suddenly, out of the blue, there is this guy from Belgium with a perfect solution: a ticket to the concert in Brussels the day before the one in Amsterdam -- the first gig on the new tour! What am I to do? Of course I went and enjoyed it really and am really thankful for all the people who made it possible. I'll never forget the evening.
This is what I think the Net really is about.
Still I was left with a bit of mixed feelings: what was this leading
time: fall '97
The presentation is mostly based on own experiences of life and how I feel about it. Of course a lot of it comes from all the books, articles, discussions, etc. I have had about the Net during the years but this is (unfortunately) not an academic text and provides no accuracy in the use of literacy not to mention methods and methodologies.
Music is an important source of inspiration and truth.
Friends are all in all.
Here, however, are some pieces of media I've been following while writing:
(haven't read either one, though :)
"1. The net, for inexplicable reasons, delivers a level of
diversity unparalleled in the "real" world. How
can anyone pretend to make generalizations about the digital world
in general? It's ridiculous, it's irresponsible to feed the non-wired
I used to hate pop music and culture but had to change my opinion as they seem to be so good in interpreting our current feelings. Even Oasis answers the difficult question about telepresence, etc. simply: "Be Here, Now"
Some pieces that are my inspiration:
(DP: around the world)
net: all neon like?
... marvelous web ...
and they will assist
S: ehka minun kanssa on
groups: an netppl l16 hospitium appelsiini steim mazzo deep ...