EXAMINE THE NET WAY OF LIFE
by Paul C. Pinderski
Reality television shows rarely show reality. However, there was an interesting Public Television series, Frontier House, which set three families in 19th Century Montana to live off the land for five months and prepare for a harsh winter. 21st century families had to cope with only the tools and resources of 1880s America. Hard physical labor, care of animals, and limited wealth resources. Pioneer families moved west with few belongings, but with only great hope. If they survived five years, they would own their homestead.
The internet in the 1990s was described as a modern gold rush. It was not the back breaking labor of digging raw gold from mountain streams while fending off attacks, weather or disease. It was the business plan on the back of a napkin IPO madness that stampeded the medium into everyone's American Dream until the boom busted in 2000.
The net was a digital frontier, but few understood it. Few understood the nature of this new frontier. No one took seriously the hard work to sow long term bounty from electronic soil. There was a land rush to stake domain names. There were even squatters that had to be evicted from someone else's trademark or tradename. There were dubious claims, and snake oil salesmen touting the virtues of the new economy. In essence, we rushed through the Old West in record time without even knowing that we went back in Time.
Servers are littered with dead sites, or tombstones. Sites that are inactive or dormant. The torrid pace of new registrations has dwindled to a trickle of the past. The registration companies are having a range war of sorts to get registrants to change services upon renewal.
Just like the PBS families, very few internet sites have survived or prospered like the founders had planned when the idea was hatched. There being no fixed territorial limits (like the limited quanity of homestead land), there was no barrier for anyone to work their digital site. There was no time constraints of moving a family across the country to work on your claim, since any phone connection would route you to your host server. There was no shortage of eyeballs wandering the new media. The problem was content and being noticed as being a single drop in a stormy ocean.
Businessmen were sold on the idea that there businesses would die if they did not spend millions on B2B and B2C commerce sites. The jury is still out on whether it was cost effective allocation of resources to building tools when the life blood of any business is sales.
The Digital Frontier is not mature. It is somewhere between a utility and a fad in most people's minds. You probably are in contact with it everyday, through email or at your computer work station, but it not revolutionized they way you work, or lessened your work load dramatically. It is not the home entertainment hub either, by the record box office receipts from the theatre releases in the past few years.
The true measure of its success will be after a majority of the normal sites make it to five years of continous service. Will the marginal business, the portfolio artist, the hobbist, the civic organizations, the churches, the webbloggers, and the net zines hang in for the long haul? Will there digital homesteads grow and prosper, develop and evolve around a new digital lifestyle that computer manufacturers and futurists are saying is just around the corner.
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by Paul C. Pinderski
To have a few moments at work to surf is like trying to find that perfect breaking swell on a vacant white sand beach. It is hard to find.
My current traffic pattern may or may not be typical of the average deskbound serviceworker. But over the past few years, the retained bookmarks seem to boil down to a few trusted old sites.
In no particular order:
1. TheStreet.com: I start the business day with non-traditional business spin on actual companies, news that may move the market, and some different analysis from a professional trader's viewpoint. In the madcap 1990s, with the IPO-tech gold rush, sites like this played at least a balanced approached to the frenzy and warned early about the burst. The site has evolved into a pay-service as well, but the free site is all that I have time for when rushing through my bookmark list.
2. SunTimes.com: The second sister to the Chicago Tribune, this is the local webnews site of choice, since the Trib went to the annoying gray sections that require registration. Sun-Times columists have more of an edge, too.
3. Espn.com: This is the most in-depth daily sports site I have found for national coverage. And it is the only current home of nomadic writer, Hunter Thompson.
4. Maccentral.com: The internet daily update from the mac world. As a lifelong Macintosh user, you can tell there may be a rebellious gene in the double helix, so it has been a staple of information on product development and mac news in general.
5. Foxnews.com: Ever since my local cable system repositioned the channels and started to air Fox News just prior to the last major election, the difference in media bias with the other networks was almost appalling. However, every 24/7 cablenews station gets caught into the Springerisms of shouting matches with opining idiots that constructive debate or in-depth reporting of the issues of the day. The Foxnews site is a foray into quick daily update, and archive to their programs.
6. Cnbc.com: The cable station rode the Tech Boom to big ratings and big profits for GE. It made stars of their business reporters. However, the site has been pared down to more ad content than business content since its launch. However, some of their reporters still break business news stories so it is still a must peek at times.
7. Apple.com: Well, this is the default page for the web browser (by choice). Again, Apple news releases are of interest because I collect mac computers like others collect ex-wives.
8. sydney morning herald (smh.au): This is a weird one to figure out why I go there on a regular basis. I have never been to Australia, maybe that's the ticket. It is also on the other side of the world. It is based on a penal colony and European castoff foundation (much like the United States). It has a different spin on international stories; and its local stories are something we don't read about in the States.
9. Examiner.com and sfgate.com: I found these sites when researching a trip to Northern California. The Examiner site is a minimal content site with their columnists being the key read; the Chron site is more extensive in content, and with more weird spins on the headlines/feature stories. One needs to get a left coast view of the world ever so often.
10. Nypost.com and Nydailynews.com: The same reason as number 9; there needs to get a right coast spin on things.
There are other sites that are fading from must-view listings: washingtonpost.com, chicagtribune.com, miamiherald.com. Other sites have caught my attention recently: chron.com from Houston for its extensive Andersen-Enron coverage has been very good.
As you can tell, when I am surfing I am surfing for information content from different sites that may be covering the same issues like politics, society or technology. If you have enough contact with different sites, one may stumble upon a few truths.
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by Paul C. Pinderski
Last year, I began the journey of creating a web site to digitally port my zine to cyberspace (a project pushed along by the desires of many friends who demanded more publications). Well, as a novice in the web publishing game, it took six months to work things through to determine that if I was to download my brain, I think I need three pie pans to catch the filling.
skirealnew.com is the site for the zine, The Real News, editorial cartoons and feature satire. The original plan was to scan in old issues then work up to new ones. However, that process got totally reversed. Web publishing is similar to desktop publishing. It was easier to design pages and links than I had originally thought. The technology was not the Great Wall of China that some IP people make it out to be (at least at this scale). An understandable program, like Dreamweaver, and a reliable web host, makes the job fairly easy during non-working hours. Too easy. A lot of web sites update monthly, sporatically or not at all. The net is littered with tombstones, and I did not want to immediately contribute to that information highway roadkill. So the original plan was to upload the last few years of RN editions, and sneak in maybe the usual four or so new editions throughout the year. Either this medium jolted some extra creative juices or I had alot of new stuff to vent, but skirealnews.com has expanded in the past six months from four basic site links to eight current site link features. My current editorial cartoons, under Endorphin Rush graphic, are updated at least three times a week. I have already doubled the output of Real News editions in PDF format.
This venue, cyberbarf.com, was my intelligence saying you need some sort of neo-journalism site. Since I was new to this form of publication distribution, the focus of cyberbarf was an interactive publication on net issues and how the net was treating me. I summed it all up in the fortune cookie like phrase, Examine the Net Way of Life. I decided from the beginning to maybe do cyberbarf quarterly, but suddenly after running the bugs through major updates, it quickly has churned into a regular monthly publication. Which is fine, because this is fertile territory to explore internet issues.
The last site, pindermedia.com, was to get part catch-all and part expand the horizons. This is where I would at least try to experiment and push my level of creativity through more cartoons, comics, animation and iMovies. I based the home page as a street to symbolize the various different features. I used the street as a graphic metaphor as well as the navigation tool because at the time no one else was really using this approach. I have yet to tackle much of these goals (especially the hard ones) but there is glacial like progress in that area as well, as over the last few months additional regular comic features have come on-line.
Since this is not a full-time job, I had no major ambitions except to get my stuff to friends quicker and cheaper than spending hours at the local copy shop and dropping big bills on postage. However, I know that these sites have spread beyond the normal sphere of the original clan of zine readers. The web statistics show a consistent growth of unique visitors to the sites. Viewers are going through the archives to see past issues. It is encouraging and humbling.
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