Some of you may remember my wildly successful* experiment a few years ago, in which I delegated -- by which I mean, "avoided" -- my responsibility for coming up with a presentation for the Annual NPPR meeting by turning to you, the listening audience. The topic was "Is P2 Ready for Y2K?" You DO remember Y2K, don't you? Well, back in those days, we were all quite concerned that the world would come to an end in an abrupt, technology-induced catastrophe called the "Millennium bug." So it was quite the hot topic. We were so naive! Of course, today EVERYONE knows that it will end instead in the slow, protracted, technology-induced heat-death called global warming.
Knowledge is power!
But back then, Y2K didn't worry me, mostly because I didn't know much about it. So I decided to do something guaranteed to help me learn about the topic quickly -- I volunteered to present a paper on the subject at an NPPR conference! Filled with the irrational exuberance of the impending brave new millennium and the sort of inner confidence that could only come from a 401K fund packed with Enron, K-Mart, and pre-crash dot.com stocks ("CISCO stock for only $80 per share? How can I go wrong!?"), I agreed to bet not only my retirement but my professional reputation on the power of the Internet. Three years later, I am not so sure this was such a good decision, but at least take solace in the fact that neither was worth very much to begin with. Besides, medical advances like the mapping of the human genome and cyrogenic brain preservation are sure to keep me working well into my 70's, so who needs to retire at 62?
But I digress**. For those of you who don't remember, I submitted a post to P2TECH (http://www.great-lakes.net/lists/p2tech/1999-03/msg00035.html) in which I promised to build my NPPR presentation entirely around the questions submitted by readers of this list server. Sort of an experiment in participatory technocracy, if you will. And proving that you can never fail if you set your hopes high enough (or your standards low enough), the P2TECH community came through like champs!
That was 3 years ago. And, as we are constantly reminded -- the whole world has changed. Y2K has come and gone with barely a whimper (not surprisingly -- hell, my VCR still thinks it's midnight -- it never DID have a clue what year it is!). More recent events have reminded us that people are far more worrisome than their machines. But while the world may have changed, unfortunately I haven't. Which is why I find myself, predictably, a week away from an NPPR session that I am chairing and wondering exactly**** what I am going to say.
For you see, on Thursday, April 4 from 10:30 a.m. to noon (PST) in the lovely city of Portland, Oregon -- a city regarded by many here in the Great Northwest as the second best place to live in the U.S.***** -- I will be chairing a NPPR break-out session on the topic: "Has the Web Lived Up to It's Hype?" Being no fool, or at least hoping to postpone judgement on the matter, I will be leaving the heavy intellectual lifting to my esteemed panelists, to wit: Dr. Paul Chalmer, Mr. Rick Yoder, the honorable Greg Geyer, and the ubiquitous Gary Hunt. Given the impressive, one might even say breathtaking, quality of this panel, I want to make sure that we have questions and commentary that are the equal of these great minds. Normally, I'd depend upon the high caliber of people that attend the NPPR meeting. But springtime in Portland can be a terribly seductive thing, leading people to such diversions as trips to OMSI, the zoo, or a drive down I-5 to Eugene to taunt the anarchists and throw eggs at the "Nader for President in 2000" offices. And should the temperature magically creep up into the 70's, the Portland sun can volatilize an audience as quickly as if it were an open can of acetone. It seems wise, then, to have a few good audience questions tucked away in my back pocket, figuratively speaking anyway.
So I am putting the question to P2TECH: HAS the web lived up to its hype? Has the web improved the way you work, or has it merely changed it? Are you empowered by the 137 new e-mails that were waiting in your inbox this morning******, or merely intimidated? Or is it some mixture of both? Are we at the dawn of a new "Infotopia," to borrow a phrase -- a world in which well-informed reason prevails, and open access to high quality information leads inexorably to globally optimal decision making, happy consensus on matters of policy, and whiter, brighter teeth? or has information overload shrunken our MTV-impaired attention spans to such a small size that we cannot even finish a complete thou.. --- and another thing: Pop-up ads! What's up with THOSE?! Honestly, sometimes I just want to scream...
Seriously, we hope to use this session as a forum for looking at the role that the Internet has played in P2 ("In the beginning, there was David Liebl...."), the role it is playing today, and the role that it could, and perhaps should, play in the future. Our panelists will provide their perspectives on how the web has exceeded our expectations (who would have predicted that P2TECH could survive messages like this one?) and how it still has a long way to go (see previous comment about messages like this one). So, if you are in Portland for the National P2 Roundtable meeting next week, I encourage you to come to our session (Thursday, April 4 from 10:30 a.m. to noon) and share your thoughts with us. We hope to become enlightened. People in Portland are really into enlightenment. Oh yes, and lattes*******.
If you cannot be in Portland in person, I am asking you to do two things: (1) examine your priorities -- there's still time to book a flight! (2) send your comments, opinions and questions on this matter to P2TECH in response to this message thread. As session moderator, I will read the best ones (with proper attribution, unless they're really, really good, in which case I'll probably take credit for them -- but think of the positive karmic repercussions!) and ask the panelists to respond to them during the session. I will post their responses to P2TECH following the meeting. The circle will remain unbroken, and the Internet will once again have saved the day.
Now if only I could figure out what to do with my 1,000 shares of eToys. Anyone know of some beneficial reuses of old stock certificates?
My inbox awaits your opinion!
* hey -- when you get to choose your own metrics, success is easy!
** and here I digress even further by noting that those who know me are not surprised by my digression.***
*** ooops. I did it again. Sorry about that.
**** or even approximately -- see note above about setting realistic standards
***** Many residents of Portland, or "hippies" as they're known to those of us in the more rural areas of the Northwest, consider Portland to be the best place to live. The residents of Seattle tend to think that's sort of cute.
****** make that 138. I forgot to count this one.
******* there seems to be a connection between the two, but to say more would come dangerously close to using government-owned computing resources to promote the use of chemical stimulants. So I'll merely note: "make mine a triple!"
Scott Butner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Co-Chair, NPPR Information Working Group
Pacific NW National Laboratory
PO Box 999
Richland, WA 99352