History of this web site

Back then..

This site was created in mid-1993 when Mosaic was still in its prerelease (alpha/beta stages) and way before Netscape came around. At that time, the entire listing of all web sites in the world were provided on a single page as NSCA's Who's Who. I was running the server out of a nist.gov address since I was a graduate student at a research institution that was partly a collaboration with NIST which led to an interesting situation. However, I had obtained the ram.org domain (for free from the National Science Foundation) and transitioned over before things got too ugly. My original server was definitely among the first 1000 listed, perhaps in the top 200 at NCSA's Who's Who which was a list of all the sites on the Web before there were search engines.

I currently maintain only certain sections of my pages due to my responsibilities to model and understand life. The current most active portion of my site is astrophotography. The Primus web page, arguably one of the first music fan band pages, won't be maintained for example. There are some other areas that I routinely update (including movie ratings and TV show episode commentary) and I add stuff to the ramblings portion once in a while. But that's mostly it.

These web pages and web sites can claim many firsts. The first web logs (blogs), the first dynamic CGI scripts, the first (facebook, myspace) profile page, and one of the first to come into existence since Tim Berniers-Lee came up with the concept of the Web, and so on. The only thing I didn't go for was community management of content like Wikipedia, or allow direct comments on pages. In that regard, this page has a traditional editorial system for a very good reason, expounded below, but I believe technological solution independent of, and not maintained by, the author/publisher is the answer, something like Google's SideWiki where people at individual social networks, search engines and other portals, have their own commenting system on EVERY page on the Web OR the browser could have that as a feature (Mozilla could easily start a community of Mozilla users that discuss what they're browsing and this could easily become the biggest social network and if another browser, like Chrome, catches on, then this could expand further and include all open sourced browser users under one community). By popular demand, I've expounded a bit more about browser based social networks.

No comment

In the very early days, even before the Web, there was USENET as a means for people to just say what they wanted. It was a true worldwide public forum and a complete anarchy (and you know what, it would've withstood authorities cutting pipes off since it used a hodgepodge of technologies to get communications across).

USENET I believe revealed what people are just now rediscovering about the Web based social discourse: that people can be mean and that they're meaner when they hide behind a computer screen. Anonymity is a part of it, but not all of it. People using their real contact information would say things I'm sure they wouldn't say in public. Something about the lack of face to face communication brought out the worst in people.

This was recognised eaarly on and there was a lot written on it and discussed, and it's a shame people lament the lack of civility in Web discourse as if it were a new thing, ignoring all the history that came before it. You know, those are who forget history and all that.

Still, it was't anonymity as I said that was the problem. I am a believe in superstrong anonymity, and I even believe in the equivalent of anonymity that is similar to steganography, where you don't even know that a person is being anonymous. People's discourse should stand on its own merits, there s no need for identities to be known in my view.

So what does this have to do with my editorial policies? Well, I believe in strong anonymity. I believe the lack of face to face discourse (aided by anonymity, but not entirely) erodes civility to a point that it is pure illogic. The articles I write are expressions of my thought; I'm sharing them in the hope they may be useful to you but my point of sharing them is as a favour, not specifically for critiquing. I seek and obtain criticism of my ideas through many other means in the real world, and my missives are really the outcomes of such dialectic (and sometimes even carry on an argument/discussion with a friend IRL).

That said, there are no restrictions on your ability to communicate with me and sometimes those communications do end up back in a missive. My missives aren't activism, i.e., for example I'm not trying to convince a religious person to become an atheist (I just say why I'm one). I don't see a point in making it easy for someone else to engage in activism on my site when I'm trying to make a point, or worse, engage in "he's right/he's wrong" arguments. Some parts of my site have allowed this and I've seen it degenerate to the equivalent of a drunken barroom fight only that the punches thrown are virtual and verbal. So that's my motivation, to keep it clean by keeping it clean.

Again, I support anonymity generally, I support open discourse. I have great respect for the collaborative attitude and the people who've taken care of free software or resources like Wikipedia. Unfortunately I didn't see that working here on this site. So what you see is really undiluted commentary from yours truly.

I realise the irony of my above statements being applicable to the provocative articles I sometimes write, as well this page itself!

But perhaps the most important point, if you're still not satisfied with the above reasoning, is a technological solution not implemented by the author/publisher that I propose above. This would not only have the added value of creating bigger and better social networks, but also enable one to comment on ANY piece of content on the Web.

Where we have gone

These days, we explore latest ground breaking technologies on the Web (HTTP and HTML were not designed for this purpose, so I consider these a horrible kludge) via the Bioverse framework, which enables exploring the relationships among the molecular, genomic, proteomic, systems, and organismal worlds. Our goal is to perform sophisticated analytics and algorithm development to elucidate and engineer small and macromolecular structure, function, interaction, evolution, and design at mulitple scales.

Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org