I used to ask new hires: When, how, and why did you "go online?"
The question seems quaint now, and it's been more than a decade since I asked it. After all, many of today's job prospects grew up with home broadband access to the World Wide Web, text messaging on their phones, and possibly a laptop in their bags.
But maybe it still applies.
I "went online" years before there was a Web. In the mid-1980s, I got a computer and a 300-bps modem. I discovered a whole world of online conversation. Before long, I was hooked, and within a year I was running my own Citadel bulletin board.
I learned the C programming language to write software so I could hook my Atari ST to Usenet. I begged and borrowed connections to get networked email, and discovered the Internet long before most people heard of it.
My experience was entirely focused on interpersonal communications -- one-to-one, many-to-many.
This shaped the way I looked at "online publishing" when Prodigy, AOL, and then the Internet began to upend everything we used to know about media.
The first newspaper online service I built, back in 1994-95, included community publishing for groups, discussion forums, private messaging and Internet mail.
Then came a wave of news companies rushing to get online, without stopping to think about how people use the medium. We wound up with shovelware "online editions" -- boring, predictable replicants of printed newspapers that failed to take advantage of any of the Internet's capabilities.
Most newspapers imagine themselves to have moved beyond that stage. I'm not so sure. "Allowing" comments on stories is hardly innovation.
So, how did you go online? And why? And how has it shaped your approach? Do you still think of it as a publishing medium? Or is it something else?