inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #76 of 215: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 29 Mar 05 10:53
    
I had meny hassles connecting to the WELL from Texas before I had
telnet access. I used Sprint's PC Pursuit for a long while, and then
Compuserve Packet Networks. Telnet saved me a whole lot of money.

Re. the split around genx, another piece of that puzzle was the
boomers conference. When Judy Bunce and I started that one, we had an
unexpected huge response; everybody was feeling nostalgic, I think, and
looking for a place to talk about it. As our numbers surged there was,
in the minds of some, a sense that we were in competition with the
ever-popular genx conference. 
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #77 of 215: Michael C. Berch (mcb) Tue 29 Mar 05 12:36
    
> The hippie/beatnik/deadhead hegemony had been a bit of an
> irritation factor amongst some of the younger users

Not just the younger ones, rik.  :-)
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #78 of 215: Low and popular (rik) Tue 29 Mar 05 13:05
    
Jon, I think that from the perspective of the genxers, the whole Well was a
boomers conference.   And while I am definitely on the leading edge of the
boomer generation, I could never figure out the fascination with the Dead
myself.   But since there were a bunch of deadheads in my new tribe, I made
my peace with it.
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #79 of 215: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Tue 29 Mar 05 14:17
    
Actually, I never cared for the Dead before the Well, but so many
people expressed appreciation for them, beyond the hits I heard on the
radio, that I was willing to give it a try. I don't consider myself a
Deadhead by any means but I have much more appreciation for their music
and their other influences.
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #80 of 215: Michael C. Berch (mcb) Tue 29 Mar 05 14:57
    
Me, I loved the Dead in their day, undoubtedly saw them live more than
any other band, still play their records, but GD hippie culture never
appealed to me, or perhaps I should say, did not survive high school in
my case. So I have only once or twice ventured into gd-related
conferences on the Well, and always regretted it afterwards. I don't
want to turn this into a thrash or anything, but 50+ year-old hippies
are *not* an attractive demographic.

I had several friends and acquaintances who went to join The Farm, and
I admired it at a distance, but I would have lasted about a week there,
tops, screaming "where the FUCK is my 24-hour deli {drugstore, cafe,
music store, gourmet supermarket, travel agency, art gallery}?!?!?"
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #81 of 215: Gail Williams (gail) Tue 29 Mar 05 16:07
    

I doubt many people here now call themselves hippies in many contexts 
except ironically, but there is still lingering mythology of the the 
cyper hippie Valhalla.

While all of us have (or had or intend to again have) computer access, 
and that may be the only thing we have in common, I think the ties to The
Whole Earth Catalogue, the Coevolution Quarterly, the Farm and the
deadhead community served as models in some ways even for our most
anti-hippy participants.  And there have always been some, it appears. 
To me the articulate folks who are from very different backgrounds provide
an essential ingredient.  If the whole system were deadheads or just
current and former heads, that would be cloying.  The counterpoint and
other bright minds keep the place alive for me.
 
I want to circle back to the early discussions of what this was.  It's
hard to describe the feelings of being intensely involved in The WELL.
Jon Carroll once noted that I would have a bunch of bouts of online
insanity as I got used to things, which caught my attention early on, and
was clearly true for me.  And I have seen hundreds of attempts by people
here to blindly describe the elephant.     

It's awfully hard to write promo copy, for that matter.  But early on it
seemed awfully common to grapple some with the question of what it is.
Howard and Cliff, how early did that start?  When did the WELL become
collectivly self-aware in that sense?
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #82 of 215: No hablo Greenspaņol (sd) Tue 29 Mar 05 17:23
    
i wasn't here back then but wasn't a certain amount of backlash almost
guarenteed for anything that so many people enjoyed? i haven't seen an
anti bluejeans or a pro neocon conference for example, but it wouldn't
surprise to stumble across one.
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #83 of 215: Uncle Jax (jax) Tue 29 Mar 05 18:49
    
Neocons tend to get hounded off the WELL. In the 17+ years I've been
on the system, one nearly irreducible component of online freedom has
been the phenomenon of the howling mob driving the non-conformist to
increasingly erratic behavior followed by an exit from the WELL.
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #84 of 215: Get Shorty (esau) Tue 29 Mar 05 20:09
    
But no matter how batshit crazy they get, they have a friend in you.
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #85 of 215: Shannon Clyne (vsclyne) Tue 29 Mar 05 20:32
    

The center of mass of this particular community is clearly far left of
center.  And most of the people in that center of mass are very happy
with themselves and comfortable in the almost automatic agreement of
most of their compatriots.

And yes, there is a bit of gang-up on non-conformists.

But this is twenty years later.  Here is a time unprecedented in the
history of the Well.  Republicans led by a loud and increasingly
successful phalanx of fundamentalist Christians are gaining control of
every branch of government.  They are in control of the House, they are
five votes short of being filibuster-proof in the Senate, they clearly
control the Executive, and they are an appointment or two short of
controlling the Supreme Court.

As a life-long Republican, I don't think this is what the Founders had
in mind and it is seriously not what I have in mind for the next
chapter in our fairly original and reasonably successful experiment in
representative government.

The Well has been amazingly influencial in countervening some bad
trends in the past.  (Remember Rim?)

If the Well persists in being a cistern of liberal complacency now, it
will not live up to its impressive past.  I think the tone of debate
on political matters needs to change in order to bring in new ideas and
new allies in battling something that is neither liberal nor
conservative, neither Republican nor Democrat, neither neocon nor
reactionary, but something that is successfully undermining the
Constitution itself.

If this is drift, sorry, but it seemed responsive to <83> and <84>.
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #86 of 215: Public persona (jmcarlin) Tue 29 Mar 05 20:50
    

> And yes, there is a bit of gang-up on non-conformists.

Some find a place for themselves out of the free fire zones.

And, interestingly, it's not always clear-cut red/blue as participants in
gun-related topics will attest. There are very vocal proponents of gun
owner rights here.
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #87 of 215: Cliff Figallo (fig) Wed 30 Mar 05 07:57
    
You know, there were very few hippies on the WELL. I don't know where
all this reaction is coming from. Even as a Farmie, I only referred to
myself as a hippie to get the goat of hardened squares. And Michael,
you are not one of those. So let's bury the WELL as hippie enclave
bullshit, shall we?

As to the WELL becoming self-aware, I think a sense of collective ego
first surfaced after John Markoff's New York Times article (complete
with photos). There was other local press before that, but once we went
national in the paper of record, we began to believe that we were on
the vanguard of something. About a year later, the morning after the
Loma Prieta earthquake, we were in the center column on the front page
of the Wall Street Journal.

Before that national press, there was plenty of discussion about the
potential of the medium and what we might do with the WELL to establish
some new networked citizen-based journalistic practice, but it was
hard to break out from a private, members-only dialup community of
early adopters. There was a sense among some people that a community
was forming and needed to be nurtured, but the implications of that
irked the hell out of other people. 

Sometimes I'd think of the WELL as a big cruise ship that required its
paying passengers to patch the leaky hull and repair the ailing
engines. We had plenty to focus on right in front of us, and any
national image we might have through the press did not fully portray
what our daily life was like.
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #88 of 215: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Wed 30 Mar 05 08:26
    
I remember Loma Prieta. I was in Michigan doing a gig with <roger> and
others, putting out a daily newspaper for a conference with about 1/3
Bay Area attendees. I was trying to log into the Well and I kept
getting this strange message when I dialed and then somebody came into
the room and said, hey, did you hear, there was an earthquake in San
Francisco and the Bay Bridge collapsed and they cancelled the World
Series. I said, yeah, right.

Soon enough we found out it was true and we all huddled in hotel rooms
watching the news and trying to figure out whether those were our
houses burning, and Dan Rather not understanding why the Oakland mayor
wanted him to put him pictures of a freeway until somebody explained,
Dan, there used to be *two* of them.

The conference daily newspaper became a way to let attendees know what
was happening at home and what was happening in terms of the airports,
and we got a lot of it from the Well. Our little paper had more up to
date, accurate information than the Michigan daily paper.
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #89 of 215: John Payne (satyr) Wed 30 Mar 05 09:17
    
> what we might do with the WELL to establish some new networked 
> citizen-based journalistic practice

There was a time, just as the WWW was emerging, when the Well might have
filled that role, and the distributed system of connected regional Well's
that Bruce Katz floated as something he was considering might have taken
us in that direction, although I don't think journalism is what he had in
mind.

That moment is long past, and others have already begun to fill the void.

But the Well remains truer to its origins than it might have had that
vision been built out, filling a niche in the ecosystem of conviviality
and discourse that welcomes the ecclectic and expansive minded.

As such, the Well remains relevant, but more as a crucible of discussion
than as a conduit of information.  It's product is distilled consensus, 
or as close to that as the collection of participants in any particular
discussion is motivated to pursue.
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #90 of 215: Living life backwards... to... whoom! (rabar) Wed 30 Mar 05 09:47
    
Jehosaphat, you folks have great rememberers! I just did a 'find' on
my three hard drives, and the earliest Well file there only goes back
to 1991. Of course buried in my diskette archives must be downloads
from earlier days. I might just rummage there and see what memories
emerge from the 'back attic,' but this catches me on an unusually busy
week. But it's great to have a quick peek at where various long-time
friends have been going with their lives! I blame Gail for the warm and
cozy community that just goes on forever through all types of weather.
Always a big thank-you to you!

First Well party I remember was at the Arboretum in G G Park - 1985
maybe? That pre-dated the WOPs at Gate 5 slightly. I first met
Howard, the Mame, and Judy there. Not long after that I dropped by 
their place in Cole Valley and kept admiring tabs on the Rheingoldian
career. Just learned this week, by the way, that the Rhinegold myth of
little elves hammering gold on the river bottom came from rocks that
rumbled downstream in the Rhine, and when they clashed together gave
off golden sparks. So now you know, Howard!

I came to the Well via some sort of heads-up from Stewart, I think, or
a mention via a previous sign-up with a somewhat high-forehead BBS in
New Jersey - EIES or something like that. The long distance charges
made my subscription brief. The WELL community that formed was very
important for me, substituting for earlier tribal experiences similar
to our ex-Farm folks. I spent my time in Writers, Spirituality,
co-founded the Poetry conference - what else? Mind, Pegleg's Pub...
Howard and Mo dragged me to a Dead concert at the Greek Theater, an
experience for which I remain forever grateful. 

As new aquifers opened, I drifted into the wider tributaries and then
into the Internet 'ocean' when it appeared. But I'll remain always
attached and grateful for all the Well friends I made and continue to
cherish, including the truly unique characters that showed up, both
online and in person. Amazing what just leaving the front door ajar
will do for one's social life!

The heart-warming response that my projects received over the years
meant a great deal to me! Always will! Gotta run to the lumberyard, but
will check back later.  
 
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #91 of 215: Gail Williams (gail) Wed 30 Mar 05 11:27
    
Ramon!  Good to see you.  How's Shady?

I haven't heard about the party in the Arboretum in G G Park before.
Anybody else remember it?

Are there pictures anyplace?
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #92 of 215: Lena M. Diethelm (lendie) Wed 30 Mar 05 13:07
    

I miss Shady.
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #93 of 215: David Gans (tnf) Wed 30 Mar 05 13:24
    

> These days the Well seems a bit like a resort community with a fading his-
> tory as a hellraising frontier town.

A great image in a great post, phred.

I'm on the road and just now starting to catch up on this topic.  Wonderful
stuff so far, and some amazing memories.
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #94 of 215: beneath the blue suburban skies (aud) Wed 30 Mar 05 13:34
    
when I joined in '86 I had an almost-4 year old, a very demanding job and
3000 miles between me & area code 415. Despite the prohibitive cost, me & my
300-baud modem racked up many hours and bills. Never needing the pager at
that speed. When we got up to 1200, I started capturing my sessions, still
with no pager and reading a lot offline. I have boxes somewhere of disks
with arc'd capture files - but likely only <gd> related confs.

It was Dead tours that brought me f2f with wellfolk, and I still remember
the night that phred (who I'd met when he came back east for Dead shows)
took me around and gave me my first introductions. It's funny how many
people looked like I'd pictured them in my mind's eye. That was early '89.
Loma Prieta looms large in legend as a lot of Bay Area wellfolks were here
in Philly for shows, and without the well they never would have gotten good
information about their homes and loved ones.

I'll see if I can uncover that old box of disks. I remember arc'ing files
predated zipping - hopefully I can un-arc them.
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #95 of 215: Jim Klopfenstein (klopfens) Wed 30 Mar 05 13:49
    
A year or so ago the Golden Gate Park party came up in <oldtimers.42>.
 I'm pretty sure it was in '86.  I remember it vividly because it
remains the only Well event I ever attended (though I ran into some of
the same folks at West Coast Computer Faires during that era).

<tnf> said he was there.  I specifically remember meeting dhawk, fig,
crunch, tex, marye, and hlr.

I left the Bay Area and The Well in '87 (abandoning username jklop)
and then rejoined after access via telnet became available in something
like '92.

I believe I still have capture files somewhere, too, though I'm not
sure any of them are from before 1990.
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #96 of 215: Yaki Beja (simon-says) Wed 30 Mar 05 14:33
    
I'm also catching up on this conversation - nice to see you again,
<fig>! Your <12> definitely resonated with me:

"We all three agreed: the WELL would NOT be like the Farm. There would
be no infallible authority figure...We'd seen the deterioration of the
Farm under the hovering influence of Stephen, its founder and
"teacher." ... But our intention was to allow the WELL to be a
self-creating entity."

I think you have really succeeded in making the WELL an autonomous and
self creating entity with a unique culture. It seems the pitfall you
describe of VC's deteriorating and becoming self serving tools for
infallible inflated egos is a familiar pattern, like the Coruscant tale
I shared in <vc.486>.
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #97 of 215: Mark Frauenfelder (mark) Wed 30 Mar 05 14:37
    
Wow, I am really getting nostalgic reading this, Cliff and Howard. I'm
getting misty eyed about it. Every day was a great adventure on the
Well for me, and I loved getting to know my heroes. Those first few
years on the Well had much more impact on me than everything webish
that followed.
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #98 of 215: Hoover Chan (hchan) Wed 30 Mar 05 15:01
    
Yes, this is great nostalgia.

Howard, I didn't know/remember that you were on Skateboard. My memory of
that time was seeing David Hawkins disappear for a few weeks only to come
back to tell me to check out this new place called the WELL. Online life as
I knew it to that time changed forever...

As for parties, I still remember my first one at the Gate 5 office. Being
able to touch the modems and the VAX.
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #99 of 215: Cliff Figallo (fig) Wed 30 Mar 05 17:17
    
Ah, to see, hear, smell and touch the VAX! Remember the movie Invaders
From Mars, where the power and intelligence that drove all the hulking
droids was a brain with a face suspended in a big jar? When folks at
the WOPs or just dropping by asked to see the VAX, I often felt like
they had the same fascination they would have had for seeing that alien
CPU. The VAX. Ooooooh-wah-wah.

But as we all know, the VAX had no balls. It couldn't keep up with 12
simultaneous users. You can hold more than its power in the palm of
your hand these days. And let me remind you of what 360 MB hard disks
were like in 1985 - they cost about $10,000, were the size of a big
Samsonite suitcase and took two people with good backs to lift.

I remember the Arboretum gathering for the chill fog that greeted us
that day as well as for the folks I met there. Lucky we had Tex and
<nana> to jumpstart the social side of things. I was such the hermit.
OK, I still am, but I'm a lone wolf consultant these days. 

And with Mr. Gans' appearance and mentions of MaryE, I'm reminded of
how our relationship with the GD community formed and staggered along. 
Bennett Falk was the nerdy one, David "maddog" Gans was the musical
one and Mary (Computer Currents) Eisenhart was the writing one. They
were looking for an online network for the wired deadheads and we were
fellow cousins of Wavy Gravy, so it seemed like a pretty good match.
But we apparently didn't have our "bona fides" together in their eyes
and for a couple years at least we were reminded that the GD people
could just up and leave us if we crossed them. This was where Tex and I
*did* call on our hippie roots for some cred. Tex was an early
attendee of Dead shows and it was indeed so that I'd attended a Dead
show in Georgetown U's McDonough Gym in 1970, which was not bad for an
East Coaster. Sure, I got the opening act New Riders confused with the
Dead, but those were drug-addled details.

But again I'll maintain that the great majority of deadheads who
showed up were not true hippies. Dopers...I'll grant that. A true
hippie in those days would not have discovered the value of using a
modem and PC. Hell, Whole Earth was getting plenty of flack from
hard-working practical guys like Jay Baldwin and his appropriate tech
followers for going in such a silicon-flavored direction. It took many
years before enough of my old compadres at the Farm got online that we
could have a real mail list. I still can't lure them into a message
board.
  
inkwell.vue.240 : The WELL at 20, with Howard Rheingold, Cliff Figallo and friends
permalink #100 of 215: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 30 Mar 05 18:38
    
On the FringeWare Bay Area Tour of '94 or '95 (I forget which), we
spent quite a while standing in the parking lot at Whole Earth/WELL
Central talking to J. Baldwin. Monte McCarter was explaining visual and
audio sampling, and Baldwin had a bemused look, sorta like an elder
statesman encountering a senate page.

That was one of several trips organized on the WELL.  The best was
probably '93 CFP, where Eric Theise and I met f2f for the first time.
He, Matisse, and I were co-conspirators working on the WELL gopher, and
we hung out together, going (with Marsha and Eric's lady at the time,
whose name I forget) to the SpoonFest BetaTest at Life on the Water.
Howard and Mamie did a dance number as part of that, and Brenda Laurel
was performing, too, and I forget who else. A spectacle. 
  

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