I was two months into Kindergarten in November 1989, when Sir Tim Berners-Lee first proved that he could connect a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) client and a server.
My first computer was green text on a black screen; a monster that ran on Microsoft DOS. My father brought it home from his job at IBM. The first time we bought a computer, my mother nearly nixed the purchase — she didn’t understand why we’d ever need a computer. Later, we’d own a Gateway 2000 with a full tower that allowed me to write my first computer program — in Basic. It played the song Maracas in Caracas, which I learned in fourth grade music class.
I remember the days when the SCREEEEE of a dial-up modem was the Internet. Do you remember using Prodigy? Or Compuserve? Or AOL back when it was AOL?
I started high school in 1998, the year before Sergei Brink and Larry Page changed the world with their PageRank algorithm. Mark Zuckerberg and I are the exact same age. I went to high school, and entered college, before Facebook, MySpace, Twitter … and all the other social networks revolutionizing the way we communicate.
Why am I telling you all this? What possible purpose could elucidating my relative age to Internet and web technology developments serve?
On the surface, the answer is not very much.
But then I mention that I’m now — in a sort of New Year’s Resolution for 2013 — learning about the web technologies that shape the way we communicate. In fact, I’m in the midst of a data analysis course offered free through Coursera by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and an Introduction to Databases course offered free by Stanford University.
And then I tell you that I’m learning about these things, as well as web-coding languages such as PHP, CSS, and HTML; and web analytics in order to further my career goals … and also because it’s, you know, interesting.
You see, I’ve been teaching myself for more than 20 years on how to write well and tell a compelling story. I’ve written thousands upon thousands of words in both fiction and non-fiction, and have now realized that the deeper we get into the landscape of the World Wide Web, the more important it is for strong communicators to learn how to tell their stories themselves.
Because let’s be honest here: the old skills of being able to turn a phrase effectively aren’t worth a hill of beans unless you can also present your work in a manner that people are going to read. That’s why I’m learning about web technologies — so I can present my work properly.
And I’m learning about statistical analysis, and web metrics, so I can better make sense of the mass amounts of data floating around in the proverbial ether. Data on a scale that has probably never existed before, and offers a window into human-computer interaction like nothing else can.
I’ll chronicle my journey here for your enjoyment, through all my studies and readings on web technologies. Hopefully I’ll be able to educate some of you, entertain a few, and maybe even make you think.
Oh, and writing about these things will also mean that I learn them better. So it’s a win-win.
Won’t you join me?