The Innovators by Walter Isaacson has been one of my favorite books in years. I mentioned it briefly before and I’ll probably write more about it when I’m completely finished. It’s the history of computers and the Internet as we know them today and all of the characters and innovations along the way. It starts in the 1800s with Ada, Countess of Lovelace (considered by many to be the first programmer and daughter of Lord Byron) up through Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game) and the invention of the first computer, then the transistor and the microchip, to the graphical user interface, to the personal computer revolution with Bill Gates (the asshole who made the operating system on my first computer) and Steve Jobs (the asshole who made – well told other engineers to make – the computer I’m typing on right now), to AOL, to the World Wide Web (which was actually invented by someone, I always that it was the same thing as the Internet), to the Mosaic browser, and, to the part I’m at now, the first blogger.
I didn’t know that there was a patient zero of blogging but apparently there was. His name is Justin Hall and he got his first site up in 1994 and eventually settled on the name “Justin’s Links from the Underground.”
The hypertext link, and thus the World Wide Web, was invented by a man named Tim Berners-Lee and the first browser was created by Marc Andreessen. Berners-Lee wanted it to be a collaboration based tool in which there would be real time editing of content. Andreessen didn’t include editing tools in his browser (which then became Netscape, which essentially became Firefox) which was a decision we probably take for granted today. The web is not a collaboration tool for problem solving (Berners-Lee even resented the fact that the first popular browser had the capability to display images) it’s a publishing tool for content.
When launching his site, Hall felt that no one in this new self-publishing world had anything to say. So, he started writing and sharing links with his own point of view. What emerged from his writing was a “Web log of his personal activities, random thoughts, deep musings, and intimate encounters.” (Sometimes I honestly forget that the word blog comes from Web log.) Hall created “the recipe for his and many future blogs: stay casual, get personal, be provocative.”
I suppose I’m following the recipe. I’m conversational. I post about my activities, thoughts, and musings but not so much with the intimate encounters. I also don’t consider myself provocative. I wonder if I should be more so. It would take a push of some kind for that to happen. I just want to be read and be enjoyed. Pissing people off has never been my thing and pushing buttons just because they’re there to be pushed just seems childish to me. But, on the other hand, am I hiding? Am I being a coward because I’m worried I’ll offend?
Isaacson states that Hall often featured pictures of his penis, which, as you know, you will not find here. Not his, not mine, not anyone’s. He once wrote about an evening of painful intercourse where his foreskin swelled. He accompanied that with photos. You will not find any stories here about my foreskin, mainly because I don’t have one. (See? Are you happy that you know that?) I don’t push boundaries like that but Hall’s philosophy was this, “If you reveal TMI, it can make people feel a little less alone.” I couldn’t agree more.
The most satisfying thing for me is when someone reads a post of mine and says that it reminds them of their life somehow. Whether it’s losing a family member or watching a television show repeatedly. If I make someone feel less alone, it’s so satisfying.
While stories of my penis will probably not be forthcoming on this blog, I have ventured into that territory in podcasts. I’m really proud of the story, so, listen away and it’s up to you if you want to make eye contact with me afterwards. But I’ve gotten some thank yous both in person and online that made me realize that I was right to tell the story.
I might not be doing this if someone hadn’t provided the template for it. I didn’t even know the first blogger’s name until I read about him today. I just wanted to pay a little tribute. Thanks, Justin Hall. I just used the word “penis” in this post more than I have in all my other posts combined and I have you to thank.