- behind the screen with independent designers, developers and others.
Dan Gillmor is a Journalist who writes about technology.
What did you do before the Web?
I played music for a living for 7 years, in between first and second semesters of my sophomore year in college. Wrote freelance while finishing school and got a job at a tiny weekly paper in Vermont, where I lived, after graduation. I moved to a daily in the state capital, became the Vermont stringer for the New York Times and Boston Globe. Then I worked for several larger papers, writing about everything from national politics to economics to features, until moving into a tech beat at the Detroit Free Press in the early '90s. The Mercury News recruited me in 1994 to edit the personal tech section and write a column. My column went full-time four years ago.
I've always had an interest in technology -- studied Fortran in high school (forgot almost all of it); got a Radio Shack in the '70s; an Osborne in early '80s, then a Kaypro and a series of Intel compatibles and Macs. I never did get an Amiga or Atari...
How did you find the web?
I'd been online since the early '80s, and when I moved to Michigan in the late '80s I got an e-mail account with the first ISP in the state, which was at the time the center of Merit and the NSFNet activity. I put up a Gopher for the Free Press, and used the Web when it was just text links. Heard about the UI-Champaign stuff going on in '83, and when I saw Mosaic I knew life had changed.
Interestingly, in 1993 I spoke at a journalism conference about the Internet. The audience in my session saw a videotape of Mosaic in action. An executive with Knight Ridder, the company that owns the Free Press (and Mercury News), asked me two questions after hearing about the Net: How big an opportunity is this for us? And how big a threat? Those are still the right questions, and we're still trying to figure out the answers.
Why are you here?
The Net -- not just the Web -- brings me information. It spreads my work to others. It helps me communicate with my friends, relatives and readers, who are becoming collaborators. The Net has changed my perspective. My guiding principle to day is that my readers know more than I do, and because of the Net we can take mutual advantage of that fact to inform each other.
Methods of production
What do you use to create your sites?
When we started the blog, we were using Userland's Manila software. Knight Ridder has created a massive publishing platform for all of its newspapers and Web properties, and I'm currently using a kludge based on that software. The company plans to massage the platform to create specific weblog capabilities.
About the Web
What do you see as the greatest strengths of the web?
The strength is communication, and the ability of anyone to publish anything (or almost anything) for whatever audience can find it. In coming years, the strength will also be machines talking to machines, the "Web services" revolution we've all been hearing about. It's going to be a real revolution.
What do you see as the greatest dangers?
The entertainment industry is pushing governments, with the quiet approval of authoritarian types inside governments, to make the Web an essentially read-only medium. This is a disaster, and it will happen unless people recognize what's at stake and fight for their rights.
What would you say to folks who want to work the web?
Don't ask for permission.
NOTE! Due to the changes by the Knight Ridder Co., our list of Dan's work is extremely short. I urge you to use Google or your favorite search engine to read more of his work. It will be time well spent.
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