This book is about how the Internet and the World Wide Web became a part of my everyday life - for business and pleasure. It consists of edited versions of web pages and other on-line documents prepared during my last five years working and living on-line.
During this technological tourist's trip I became one of the many people with a small part in helping set the direction of the Internet, rather than just being swept along on a wave of uncritical enthusiasm for technology. I hope this work will dispel some myths about how inevitable technological developments are and how infallible technologists are.
My first web page was prepared for a presentation at the Australian Computer Society Canberra Branch, 20 July 1994:
It is intended to not be a polished performance, but like a holiday slide show. The photographs have been scanned at a resolution suitable for display on a personal computer and compressed to be transmitted in a reasonable time ... This describes a holiday in Europe, during which I did some work and visited some people.
Those few words summarise how I spent much of the following five years: preparing on-line presentations, doing work on the Internet and visiting some people.
No one really knew the Internet was going to be a success and no one knows now what will be the next big thing on the net. Many corporations have tried to lay claim to the on-line world and have failed. That failure is partly due to over optimism about technology and partly a failure to understand the social factors at work.
This book looks at some of the social aspects of working on-line, not from theory, but from having done it. This book is a child of the Internet, prepared on-line in the same way as my policy work over the last few years. A request for contributions was first issued, and then a draft was placed on-line for review. Many people contributed to its preparation, in a spirit of cooperation. How to foster that cooperation, and its value, is one of the major lessons to learn about the net. You can help the continuing evolution of this work on the web at: www.tomw.net.au/nt
The Internet has the potential to change our world radically. It may destroy the basic concept of a company, foster the creation of a handful of global companies, or both. The Internet has the potential to enslave whole communities, with a rigid control of information, undreamt of by the most oppressive of totalitarian regimes. Alternatively, it may make possible the original idea of direct, citizen involvement in the democratic process.
It will be those of us who participate in the on-line community, who will decide the fate of that community and, increasingly, the world as a whole. Join me on a journey back over the past years, and then join me on-line to form the future.
Apart from this introduction, each chapter is an edited version of an on-line document, usually a web page. They are arranged roughly in chronological order. To make the book more readable, short relatively light travelogues with photographs alternate with chapters that are more substantial.
While some themes are developed, on the nature of on-line work and the electronic document, the chapters can be read in any order. The casual reader can just look at the pictures and skip the theory.
While not intended as a textbook, discussion questions have been included at the end of each chapter. These may be of use for secondary school or university courses in journalism, library studies, communications and information technology.
Early photographs used in this book (pre 1996) were scanned from printed originals. Later photographs were taken with a digital camera. The quality of earlier photos is not up to usual publishing standards.
Excerpts from electronic mail messages have been quoted in some sections. A different type style has been used to denote these sections. Corrections have not been made to the spelling or punctuation of these sections, as they are direct quotes. Some details have been blanked (such as telephone numbers) to preserve the privacy of individuals.
The proposal to publish this book received in-principle approval from the Australian Computer Society in December 1998. The on-line draft was started in February 1999 and the first edition was planned for release in mid 1999.
The plan was to initially laser-print in small quantities as required, and sell by mail order over the Internet, through the ACS Office. The royalties from the first edition are being donated to a charity, Technical Aid to the Disabled.
The printed book was typeset using free-ware software. The text and images were first prepared as web pages, then converted from HTML to LaTeX (Torrington 1995), then to DVI (Vanness 1998). The DVI format was converted to PDF for laser printing (Wicks 1998). As well as being free, this text based, batch mode software proved more effective for typesetting a large document, than an interactive, graphical user interface program.
Torrington, N. (1995) html2latex -- convert HTML markup to LaTeX markup, URL
Vanness, D. (1998) How to Install LaTeX for Windows 95 / 98 / NT, URL
Wicks, M.A. (1998) Dvipdfm User's Manual, URL
Copyright © Tom Worthington 1999.