In praise of….the internet

I love the internet. But when I started loving it in 1990, it felt like us nerds were almost alone….ARPANET was the US military defence network. Instead of information travelling from point to point in a straight line (which meant that if one point was destroyed by an attack, information couldn’t get through), it was sent in a web/net formation so that if one point was destroyed information could travel around the damaged point. No matter how big the hole blown was, as long as some points were still functioning the information could get around. Academics then discovered the usefulness of this network for exchanging scientific information. And after, as always, came the porn and then the hobby sites and personal interest bulletin boards (pets, jobs, science fiction fans etc) But no one saw any commercial value in it – even after Windows arrived.

I used to have to beg people to sign up for an email address, without success. I battled to get them to use Lynx and Pine to read newsgroups and email because there was no graphic interface and the command line entry felt like computer programming to most people. But personally I read newsgroups about cats, books, jobs rabidly every day. I even found my long-lost brother on the internet in 1994 when looking for a job. We had been separated when I was three.

When Netscape, Mosaic and Cello arrived it was easier because of the point and click interface but it was slow slow slow. Even when things sped up, the amount of information available was not enough to make it worth anyone’s while. But now look at it…..

Google, YouTube, Wikipedia, Ebay, Amazon, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Angry Birds, WordFeud, imdb.com….the list is endless. Amazon.com is probably going to make more money than any other retailer this Christmas. Nobody could have predicted that in 1990!

What are my favourite things on the internet?

Finding information

I was so curious about everything that when I was four my father taught me to read, gave me a dictionary and an encyclopaedia and told me to look things up. This was in the 60s so naturally the information was limited and quickly outdated. If a song got stuck in your head or you couldn’t think where you had seen an actor before you didn’t have the information readily available. Now you can have almost anything at your fingertips in an instant just by using Google. In a way I feel that we do have to deal with a flood of information that is too much to cope with sometimes but I could not live without Wikipedia and Google!

Shopping

I buy most things online and mostly from the UK. Its cheaper, more convenient and I can do it any time of the day or night. Favourite websites are Amazon, Ebay and Lookfantastic.com  – Lookfantastic has free international shipping always and amazing specials (particularly over the weekends). They don’t bombard you with spam emails but send out emails with one special midweek and one over the weekend. I can buy Redken shampoo for less than a supermarket shampoo would cost in Sweden.

Good communication, easy to find information about shipping and the products, and the ability to buy with Paypal are the things I like. I don’t like designery interfaces with hard to navigate pages and no clear information. I also like reasonable shipping charges, clear information on the progress of my order and not to be spammed with emails after I have registered on a site. Regarding product information I would like clear measurements (metric and imperial), good photographs and and a nice description. Fast delivery is also good.

The spirit of community

Ebay was created as a site for people to swap Beanie Babies. The sense of community on there was amazing. Nowadays there are scammers and fakes galore on there but the good people far outweigh the rotten apples. Nowadays if you have a vintage car, like fountain pens, are a fan of a particular book or movie, are a new mum or a handbag fan there are communities out there just for you. Not for profit, just full of people drawn together by a common love of something.

I love notebooks, journals and planners and an example of community spirit is the Philofaxy community. Filofax itself has really lost the plot. Faced with increasing digitalisation they have moved away from their solid core market of Filofax fans, to the fashion arena where, in my opinion, they do not belong. So the good people of Philofaxy create their own inserts, do their own customisations, share the love. About a month ago I happened to spot a post on Philofaxy about Swedish inserts. Someone in New Zealand wanted some and was unable to get them shipped. So I offered to buy them and post them. We didn’t know each other but I bought them, she paid me (using good old Paypal). I could have posted them but my husband happened to be travelling to New Zealand so he took them over and posted them there. It felt nice to be able to help and to feel the trust in a transaction like that, and confidence in people. I know if I ever want something there will be someone out there on a forum who will step up and help.

A forum like The Purse Forum will authenticate a handbag for you. No charge, no demands. Just because they love handbags! And they probably know more about handbags than the people who actually sell them.

The Vintage Filofax Group on Facebook can identify almost any Filofax just from a serial number and will tell you what a good price is for any model. They also post links to finds on ebay.

Two interesting feelgood stories are those of Missy and Shoep (both dogs).

Missy was a German Shepherd abandoned by her owner on one of the highest peaks in Colorado. After nine days she was rescued by 8 strangers who had seen her photo on the internet forum 14ers.org and climbed up to bring her down – she now lives happily with one of the rescuers and a Search and Rescue organization for animals stranded in the mountain has now been started.

John Unger asked his friend to take a picture of his 19 year-old dog Shoep as he felt he would soon have to put him down. Her Facebook photo of John with Shoep in the lake with his precious dog sleeping against him  as the warm water soothed the pain of arthritis caused a huge outpouring of love from the entire world. $25 000 was raised to give Shoep medical attention. He is now gambolling almost like a young pup and has a foundation started in his name.

Fanfiction

Fanfiction is created by fans of a book or movie as an Alternate Canon (AC) to the original story (or Original Canon – OC). Often created by non-professional people just because they really love a book or characters in a movie. They do it for free, just for the love of a book. And they are often extremely talented. Some fanfiction is way better than the original in my opinion.

I have a writing background (started writing when I was four, have an Honours degree in English literature and journalism, love reading and writing, trained as a journalist, taught journalism for the internet and am now a proofreader/translator/English teacher) so I love watching these writers develop and get into the characters.

My first interest was in Brokeback Mountain fan fiction. Brokeback Mountain was a short story published in the New Yorker. Only 11 pages long. I love Annie Proulx – she can use a few words to paint a picture that speaks a thousand words and is a Pulitzer prize winning author. When I heard it was going to be made into a movie I wondered how they would manage to make 11 pages into 2 hours. But they did. That screenplay was perfect. They didn’t add or leave anything out. The movie was extraordinary. You didn’t notice the gender of the characters, just the impossible love story. No matter what happened, it would not have ended happily.

So the fanfiction grew out of people wanting to give it a happy ending or wanting to continue the story somehow. There were prequels, sequels, whole alternate canon which started from particular points in the book. I decided to try. And I learned so much. How to develop characters and keep them interesting, how to cope with the pressure of writing regular updates, the reviews from thousands of readers, the deluge of email from people. You can just see yourself getting better day by day.

My second interest has been in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Fifty Shades of Grey arose as fan fiction of the Twilight Series and was published as its own trilogy about a year ago. It has topped bestselling lists for ages – I seem to remember that it is the fastest selling book/series of books of all time. In this case often when people exhaust the books themselves, they write further,purely out of love for the characters and/or the story. And they can actually write! Fifty Shades of Grey would never have been published the usual way because of the content. But the huge success of it as fanfiction meant that publishers really had no choice in the end.

Sites mentioned in this post

Philofaxy

The Purse Forum 

Good sites for Fanfiction are Fanfiction.net and Livejournal.com

Lookfantastic.com

Vintage Filofax Group on Facebook

Fanfiction of Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy – my two favourites are from Christian’s point of view and from Taylor’s point of view . The latter is hysterically funny. If you are put off the subject matter but want to know what the story is about, read the Fifty Shades of Taylor fanfic and you will get the rough tough plainspeaking bodyguard’s point of view.

Facebook sites for Missy and Shoep

Thanks for reading this long ramble folks!



Categories: Journalism, Online Resources

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