My view is that you can’t overstate the significance of the WELL and its parent, Point Foundation/Whole Earth. Early bloggers (like those at boing boing and yours truly) were influenced by the structure of reviews in the Whole Earth publications, and adopted a similar style. For many of us, our WELL accounts were our pathway onto the Internet. Much of the culture of the Internet post 1990, especially the concept and execution of virtual community and the way it evolved into contemporary social media, was inspired and driven by experiences on the WELL. In my own case, I built an Internet career starting with my volunteer work at the WELL, and made many of my connections there. I became an editor for boing boing and Factsheet Five through connections on the WELL, a writer for publications like Mondo 2000, cofounder of FringeWare publisher of FringeWare Review, all via connections and experiences on the WELL. I became an active member and supporter of EFF and cofounder of EFF-Austin because of the WELL. I’ve had a number of major author interviews on in the Inkwell conference on the WELL, as well as the annual state of the world conversation Bruce Sterling and I have had every January for 13 years – we doubtless wouldn’t have done that without the WELL. I first heard the word “weblog” when Bruce applied it to his posts in the Mirrorshades conference that we cohosted on the WELL. I also recall, when Katie Hafner was working on her book about the WELL and interviewed me at her office, which was then in Austin, that I saw a diagram on her wall that she’d been working on, that showed how communal movements in the 60s fed into the WELL, and the WELL fed into the evolution of community and social aggregation on the Internet. From my perspective, the WELL’s influence has been huge.
At bOING bOING, Cory Doctorow explains what’s happening with the WELL. I commented there, reposted here: