Although I am considered by some as one of the early Internet policy experts and an early adopted of the power of the Net to create and empower large groups of people (especially volunteers), I was actually very late to the Net. I only began using it in 1993, and started using AOL before I even knew the other technologies existed.
In 1994-5 I began running the legal discussions boards at AOL. I was an unapid volunteer, but did it becasue as a board host, I received AOL without charge. (It cost by the minute then.)I had board editing tools, where I could add new discussion boards, delete and edit others' posts, pretty much do what I wanted. It was a blast. I could start a special discussion and promote others. I was able to leave my mark on what we were doing, and it worked. Our area became very popular, and eventually Court TV cam to me and asked me to replicate this for them, which is how the Court TV Law Center was formed. We were all unapid volunteers and early pioneers of providing professional information to consumers without charge as a public and Internet service. It was was the net was born. People helping each other, sharing what they know and can do...it was fun and exciting.
Then I became mainstream. The media started following our discussions and judges would cite to our posts in their decisions. The law journals were all over whatever we did. But the more mainstream I became, the more I lost touch with the fun part of the Internet, everyone else.
I began Internet safety volunteer groups and ran them entirely online. But posting was work, not fun. And I spent time online because I had to, not because I wanted to. Instead of devoting time to jokes and learning about others, I was fielding hundreds and sometimes thousands of daily e-mails from people who wanted my advice, wanted to share their thoughts with me, wanted my help.
I knew about blogs, which harkened back to the good old days when I began using the Net and AOL. But dismissed them. "Who had time for blogging?" I wondered. Eugene Volokh, now well known in teh bloggin circles, was one fo those who hung out together with me in lawyers-only networks. We would chat about law, love and policy. Movies, music and infidelity. Being able to discourse with so many bright and well-informed people (even if they all were lawyers :-)) was so much fun.
I couldn't get enough. When in Moscow, in my now former husband's inner office, I unplugged a red phone to the Kremlin to use the special phone access to reach Counsel Connect and send posts from there. I understand Yeltsin's staff got a busy signal one time, and I denied knowing why :-).
It's truly sad when I look at 1993 and see it as the good old days. But much as changed. Now, instead of posting on AOL, I am interviewed on the Today Show or by the New York Times or People Magazine. And my e-mail responses are as short as possible to conserve my typing energy. (Everyone who reads this blog knows I cannot type or spell :-))
After a conference in June, 2004 I decided it was time to start blogging. It didn't take long for my blog to get noticed. (It doesn't hurt that I am a columnist for Informationweek.com :-)) I also became the subect of a cybersmear campaign that passed lies which were, unfortunately, picked up by bloggers thinking they were being given the truth. But, that's the nature of the Net. Good, bad, truth, lies, it's all about sharing our thoughts and ideas and opinions.
I am starting to enjoy this. It brings me back to the good old days.
I still can't type, or spell, but I am having lots more fun while doing it. :-)