Five years. Five years isn't so long. Five years ago was, what, 1998, right? Practically yesterday.
Not on the web.
On the web, things that take a long time are measured in seconds. Days? What have you ever done for days on the web?
Five years—if we take Moore's Law, raise it to the power of dog years, and take the limit as x approaches y—well, five years is just about forever on the web.
Five years ago, the thriving MonkeyJunkies web discussion group was rattled by a group of posters who were rightly angered at learning that their posts, their intellectual property, was claimed as the intellectual property of the new owners of the list. At first, I didn't see what the brouhaha was all about. I hadn't posted anything I cared about owning.
It didn't occur to me that I hadn't posted anything I really cared about, period.
These folks had. These folks had devoted enormous brain strain and energy to learning their craft, and then, of their own free will, shared it with others in their community. Now, a corporation who hadn't even been there when the list was formed was claiming rights which would, legally, allow them to publish this treasure trove of knowledge in any format they saw fit, claiming it as their own.
Appeals were made. Appeals were rebuffed, then ignored. Words were exchanged. Before long, nasty cranky bitter words were exchanged. When the dust settled and 'those people' were gone to create their own list, it was so peaceful.
(Flash forward three years: yours truly is reminded that the nasty cranky bitter words were, in fact, virtually all authored by a single poster, not the group in general.)
When the fiery debates died down, we were left with ashes. In a very short time, I realized that, even with my then limited knowledge, there was no one left to answer my questions; no one to give me those little tips and nudges which had gotten me over the hump when I was figuring out so many things for the first time.
So, I timidly (yeah, back then, I wasn't the raging bull I am now) headed over to the new list, 'evolt' to see if any of those folks would still answer my questions. Though the details are now shrouded in the mists of time (I told you it was a long time!) I remember that almost immediately after my arrival, the aforementioned nasty poster launched another session of bitter crankiness, and I fled back to the refuge of the quiet, albeit boring, MonkeyJunkies list. (Flash forward again: yours truly learns that the poster in question, within moments after the aforementioned, left and was never heard from again.)
Soon after, someone on the MJ list asked about joining the evolt.org list. "Sure," I said. "Lots of smart folks." I said. "But conversations there are quick to descend into vitriol."
A couple folks who were on both lists, in reasonable and fair language, defended evolt.org and recommended that interested parties see for themselves.
Well, I had seen for myself, so I stayed away. For over two years.
Then I had a problem I just knew no one at MJ was going to be any help with. Emerging from the cocoon of intranet development, I realized it was time to get some serious technical information about cross-browser, cross-platform, usable, accessible web development.
So, shielding my more delicate portions with one hand, I sent my first ever missive to thelist. For the sheer fascination of its historical value, you should read it.
The responses were intelligent, well-thought-out, and friendly. Before long, I was sucked in, chatting with and learning from folks whose knowledge of their special fields still amazes me. Eventually, I accepted the responsibilities of helping administer thelist.
Over the past three years, there have been lots of personnel changes at evolt.org. Some of the founding members have left. Some of the most prominent voices of that period have moved on for various reasons. I've been all but inactive in the administrative end of late due to overwhelming circumstances in my own life. But the community is still here.
When someone important leaves town, no matter how rich, powerful, or likable they were, no one suggests shutting down the town. Because a community doesn't depend on any individual to survive, to thrive.
It depends on every individual—every individual who continues to be a part of the community. Mohandas Ghandi said "Be that change you want to see in the world." It's your community: shape it; mold it; make it what you want it to be. Get involved in thelist or one of the various committees which manages this community while its members drive it along at internet speed. The opportunity to share and be shared with is unequaled. Your words remain your own.
As the semantic web evolves and your computer takes the place of your TV, stereo, telephone, and library, you'll be here to get the little tips and nudges to get you over the humps as you create and implement the technologies making it all happen.
Welcome to 'evolt.org, the next generation.' See you in five years.
(For those of you far too young to remember, the title is an excerpt from the opening song 'Five Years' from the album 'Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars' released in 1972. In real years, that was over three decades ago. I don't know what it is in internet years.)