Howard's Guru

exposing myself

sharing stories humanizes computer connections

I've spent endless hours a week on a computer since I was seven. Thirteen years of bits and bytes, and I'm just now discovering the underlying zeitgeist.
wry boy It took the Internet to make me a believer. In the eighties, I did consulting, teaching people how computers could enhance their lives. But it was hard to evangelize a DOS machine running Word Perfect as a quality of life enhancement; the learning curve was too great, the process and product too obtuse.

The net is different. There is still an obtuse programming language involved, but this one is easy enough for me to use, and the results look pretty spiffy. I've always known I wanted to be a writer, and I wanted an audience for my stories. January of 1994, I began publishing on the World Wide Web. Today I self-publish articles that are read daily by tens of thousands of people. I find this personal publishing power much easier to evangelize.

talking about myself keeps me going.

For the first couple of months, my magazine consisted largely of reviews - pointers to nifty net nuggets with commentary. To alleviate self-referential online uselessness, I shifted gears. In addition to luscious links, I now publish stories about my life. Having been at this for over a year and a half, talking about myself keeps me going.
So people can spout about themselves online, more pages than you can click a mouse at. Where's the revolution in all of this?

Storytelling is our catharsis, it's how we make sense of the world. More people can share more stories over the widespread wires of the web. This communication could be the building block of powerful community.

I just came down off an erratic intense relationship with a beautiful depressed woman. While we were going out, I wrote over 80 poems and stories about her. I have put many of these online, connecting them together with a narrative account of our time together.

Howard describes this page as "painfully candid." I have received word from readers who are taken aback by the amount of seemingly private personal information I have uploaded onto the web.

For me it is about honesty; figuring out what that relationship means to me by explored the bumps as well as the bliss.

I have received messages from folks who have experienced similar agony, trying to be close to someone who is depressed. They tell me about their relationships, some promise to post their tales on the net.

The story is precisely poignant because I do not withhold the powerful details. For me it was a transformative experience. To pay it casual lip service by publishing only the pleasant would be a falsehood.

When we tell stories on the Internet...

The best use of our technology enhances our humanity. When we tell stories on the Internet, we claim computers for communication and community over crass commercialism. By publishing ourselves on the web, we reject the role of passive media marketing recipient. If we all have a place to post our pages, the Howard Rheingold channel, the Rising City High School channel, there's no way the web will end up as banal and mediocre as television. There would be as many places to find fresh and engaging content as there are people who yearn to be heard.

...we claim computers for communication and community over crass commercialism.

I've been making myself heard on the Internet since January 1994. Many hours a day bent over the keyboard, staring into the glow, building and exploring virtual worlds. Up until 4am making pages, sleep, 10am wake up, the laptop on my bed is in my lap, pretty soon it's dinnertime, I haven't eaten or showered yet, let alone gotten out of bed. Recently, I've been putting my life online, telling stories about the people I know, the things that happen to me when I'm not geeking out.

I have fun telling stories on the Internet. I have made pages about my family members, my friends, the places I've worked and learned, the trips I've taken.

I have a page about HotWired that describes my time there and profiles the people I worked with. I have links to a few things I wrote, as well as some trouble I got into with Louis Rossetto. Each page has links to others, so you can wander through my stories according to what strikes your fancy.

People I haven't spoken to in years and people I have never met take the time to write me and share their impressions, or their stories in return.

The other day I recieved a 10k e-mail from the ex-girlfriend of somebody I'd written about, she spoke of how exciting it was to "meet" someone who understood the man she'd butted heads with. She, and others, say I've inspired them to begin telling their own stories online.

The Internet encourages participation. It is too easy, and there are already too many amateurs out there to resist trying your hand. By exposing myself on the web, I hope folks will be inspired to put a little soul in their systems.

My Guru, Justin Hall

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