In the first year after I retired from FT work, July 1999 to July 2000, Google officially became the world's largest search engine. With its introduction of a billion-page index by June 2000 much of the internet's content became available in a searchable format at one search engine. In the next several years, 2000-2005, as I was retiring from PT work as well as casual and most volunteer activity that had occupied me for decades, Google entered into a series of partnerships and made a series of innovations that brought their vast internet enterprize billions of users in the international marketplace. I was one.
Not only did Google have billions of users, but internet users like myself throughout the world gained access to billions of web documents in Google’s growing index/library. The information revolution set off in the closing decade of the 20th century by the invention of the World Wide Web transformed irreversibly much of human activity. Internet communication, which has the ability to transmit in seconds the entire contents of libraries that took centuries of study to amass, vastly enriched the intellectual life of anyone able to use it, as well as providing sophisticated training in a broad range of professional fields. It was a finer and more useful library than any of those in the small towns where I would spend my retirement in the years ahead. It was also a library with a myriad locations in which I could interact with others and engage in learning and teaching in ways I had never dreamt of in the first five decades of my life as a student and teacher: 1949-1999.
This electronic system of communication has built a sense of shared community among its users that is impatient of either geographic or cultural distances. This description of the sense of shared community created by the internet has proved to be a prescient insight into the evolution of internet use worldwide. It is interesting to note that Friendster began in 2001, Linkedin and Myspace in 2003, and Facebook in 2004.
The internet is a cornucopia of accurate, well-argued and knowledgeable information. But it is also a place for specious and spurious, inaccurate and beguiling arguments. People who know little about an issue are often easily taken-in on the internet. Many often believe a u-tube post they can see to one that requires study and reading on their part. The internet, like many forms of technology before it, is both boon and beast, asset and debit, to the lives of its participants. Indeed, a quite separate section of this statement on my cyberspace experience could be devoted to the negative and positive impacts of the internet.
In 1994, at the age of fifty and as I was beginning to eye my retirement from FT work as a teacher and lecturer, Microsoft launched its public internet web domain with a home page. Website traffic climbed steadily and episodically in the years 1995 to 1999. Daily site traffic of 35,000 in mid-1996 grew to 5.1 million visitors by 1999 when I had taken a sea-change and retired to Tasmania at the age of 55. Throughout 1997 and 1998 the site grew up and went from being the web equivalent of a start-up company to a world-class organization. I retired from FT work, then, at just the right time in terms of the internet capacity to provide me with: (a) access to information by the truckload on virtually any topic; and (b) learning and teaching opportunities, both direct and indirect, far in excess of any I had had in my previous years as a student and teacher.
This new technology had also developed sufficiently to a stage that gave me the opportunity, the capacity to post, write, indeed, “publish” is quite an appropriate term, on the internet at the same time. From 1999 to 2005, as I say, I released myself from FT, PT, casual and most volunteer work, and Google and Microsoft offered more and more technology for my writing activity for my work in a Cause that I had devoted my life to since my late teens and early twenties.
The Internet has become emblematic in many respects of globalisation. Its planetary system of fibre optic cables and instantaneous transfer of information are considered, by many accounts, one of the essential keys to understanding the transformation of the world into some degree of order and the ability to imagine the world as a single, global space. The Internet has widely been viewed as an essential catalyst of contemporary globalisation and it has been central to debates about what globalisation means and where it will lead.
There are now several hundred thousand readers, as I say above, engaged in parts of my internet tapestry, my jig-saw puzzle, my literary product, my creation, my immense pile of words across the internet--and hundreds of people with whom I correspond on occasion as a result. This amazing technical facility, the world wide web, has made this literary success possible. If my writing had been left in the hands of the traditional hard and soft cover publishers, where it had been without success when I was employed full time as a teacher, lecturer, adult educator and casual/volunteer teacher from 1981 to 2001, these results would never have been achieved.
I have been asked how I have come to have so many readers at my website and on my internet tapestry of writing that I have created across the world-wide-web. My literary product is just another form of published writing in addition to the traditional forms in the hands of publishers. The literally hundreds of thousands of readers(perhaps even millions since it has become impossible to keep even an accurate account of all those who come across what I write and see the name of the Cause) I have at locations on my tapestry of prose and poetry, a tapestry I have sewn in a loose-fitting warp and weft across the internet, are found at over 8000 websites where I have registered: forums, message boards, discussion sites, blogs, locations for debate and the exchange of views. They are sites to place essays, articles, books, ebooks, poems and other genres of writing. I have registered at this multitude of sites, placed the many forms of my literary output there and engaged in discussions with literally thousands of people, little by little and day by day over the last decade. I enjoy these results without ever having to deal with publishers as I did for two decades without any success.
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- This post is written in memory of Ray Bradbury
- This post was written in connection with the transit of Venus