Sometimes an essay is timeless. That's an apt description for Cyberspace Innkeeping: Building Online Community by John "Tex" Coate. I met Tex online when Fig-Tex (Cliff Figalo & Tex) ran the WeLL. Tex won the respect of everyone on the WeLL, even the over-the-top rowdies who trashed everything else in sight.
This article dates from 1991-92 and was last updated 1998. It popped back into my active stack when Tex sent me an email to tell me the URL had changed. As Stuart Brand once said, "Tex knows community."
When it works right, an online gathering is a kind of organized mind pool. Everyone picks each other's brains. The informal nature of online conversation encourages people's amazing generosity in sharing the things that they know. It's a potluck for the mind.
...traveling through the chips and wires, as a kind of sub carrier to the words themselves, is real human emotion and feeling. The spectrum of the "vibes" is just about as wide as it is when people meet face to face. It's sometimes harder to interpret them because there isn't any facial expression or body English, but they are there just the same and people feel them and react to them. Furthermore, the quality of the vibes - the atmosphere, the ambience - largely determines whether or not the people involved will develop any affection for the system at all.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
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