The Internet Circa 1994

Interesting narrative regarding budding etiquette and communication from the early days of the internet:

If the net as a civilization does mature to the point where it produces a central book of wisdom, like the Bible or the Koran, the following true story might make a good parable. In 1982, a group of forty people associated with a research institute in La Jolla established a small, private on-line network for themselves. For about six months, the participants were caught up in the rapture of the new medium, until one day a member of the group began provoking the others with anonymous on-line taunts. Before long, the community was so absorbed in an attempt to identify the bad apple that constructive discourse ceased. The group posted many messages imploring whoever was doing this to stop, but the person didn’t, and the community was destroyed. Stewart Brand, who is a founder of the well, an on-line service based in San Francisco, and who told me this story, said, “And not only did this break up the on-line community–it permanently affected the trust that those people had for each other in the face-to-face world, because they were never able to figure out who did it. To this day, they don’t know which one of them it was.”


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