Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Essay 2: The Early Internet

Under certain circumstances conversing on the Internet, one never truly knows who or what is on the other end of the text. The Internet is as vast as the real world itself, and is only getting larger and more complex over time. The amount of people “plugging in” to the web is quite mind-boggling. With more and more people, comes the chance to interact with interesting people through chat programs. Internet Relay Chat is no different from the real world; there are enemies and consequences, or friends and rewards, yet ultimately it depends on ones willingness to assimilate to see which path that is taken.

Internet Relay Chat, or better known as IRC for short, “came into being in 1988 by a Finnish student named Jarkko Oikarinen, allowing individuals to converse with one another in real time” (World Almanac, 2006). IRC allows people to talk to one another as if they were speaking in person. Although that seen as a plus it may also be seen as a minus, creating certain consequences and enemies that may hurt ones experience on IRC or the Internet in general. Specifically on the IRC network, GameSurge, an IRC network dedicated to gaming, fundamentally permits anyone to come on the network pending they follow the terms of service. The terms of service is a simple rulebook saying one will follow the rules and do no harm.

Anyone interested in any type of “gaming” seems to flock to the network, regardless of where in the world one lives. On the network and in their main channel, #GameSurge, users range in the hundreds. At one time the amount of people in the channel went to a staggering 350 people, and that is just in the one channel, on the network it could have been in the thousands. Yet, trying to identify the age or gender of any of the users is useless since each person is anonymous, and able to choose their own user name, or handle. If one was to look at the screen they would see a list filled with people, and the only logical thing one could do is make an assumption based upon their handles, yet this leaves to consequences on IRC, specially GameSurge. But because we are dealing with GameSurge, the average user age on the network can be ranged from as low as a freshman in high school to as high as a senior in college, and the network is mostly male. But one still should not make an assumption, simply because there are a handle of women on the network.

Even if there were a large population of woman on the network, one would still not be able to know. “There is no reliable way to find out whether the ostensible gender matches the real life one” (Danet, 1998). The only way to truly find out a person’s sexuality on the network would to ask each one and trust their answers. After all there is no oversight, so they could simply lie. With IRC, the users are mostly dealing with an honor system, making honor a very important thing to each and every user in the community. Like every rule, there happens to be exceptions, and some just do not feel that way. These users see no friends online, only people that can become their enemies and they get enjoyment out of such situations. There was one case where a user pretended to be a female. He used the handle, sexxysexyjill. Sometimes when users have forward and obvious nicks it is almost a give away that they are anything but what their handle says, but this is IRC and assumptions should be kept to a minimum. So “sexxysexyjill” attempted to reap havoc upon the channel by making everyone think that his sexuality was in fact a woman. Ironically, apparently this has been tried so many times that as soon as the user attempted anything the operator just muted the user so he could not chat and told him to play nice, resulting in him changing his name back to l4ndF4|3mer. Although Usenet, another form of Internet communication, is quite different from IRC, Kollock and Smith said it best when they speaking about those who act out against the network. “Don’t bother flaming them – attention is their reward. Just ignore them. They’ll get bored and go away” (Kollock and Smith, 1996). Once l4ndF4|3mer realized no one was buying into what he wanted to do he quietly left the channel.

Age is a big concern on the network due to maturity levels not being that high, and the Internet already being a collection of anything and everything, some users just lack self control in key situations. For instance, there was a user, cyberdeath, talking to another user, howmydictate, about the latest computer hardware and somewhere along the line howmydictate just lost interest in the conversation and only wanted laughs from the channel. So he starts saying offensive words, as well as pop culture references, mainly Borat, and low and behold he does not realize that cyberdeath is an operator, and moderator of the channel and is removed from the network for violating the networks terms of service. Later howmydictate returned with a botnet, bunch of zombie users, which simply spammed the channel until operators like cyberdeath channel the channel to moderated mode.

Right then and there one can see that howmydictate was attempting to take revenge on cyberdeath and the network for being removed from the channel and try and regain his honor in some why by disobeying the terms of service. Some users just live in a do or do not reality where trying to reach a middle ground and bring something beneficial to the network happen to be not an option. But there is good in some individuals and they end up allowing the community to grow, why else would there be thousands of people joining together on an IRC network, if there was not something worthwhile there?

In closing IRC, like anything depends entirely on the user. One might find a friend. One might find an enemy. Whatever it is that one does end up finding, hopefully it is they benefiting from the network while bringing something as well.

Works Cited:

GameSurge Overview (
GameSurge Terms of Service (

World Almanac & Book of Facts (anv ed.). (2006). New York, NY: World Almanac Books.

Danet, Brenda. (1998). text as mask: Gender, play, and performance on the Internet. In Steven G. Jones (Ed.), Cybersociety 2.0: Revisiting computer-mediated communication and community (pp. 129-158). Thousand Oaks, NJ: Sage.

Kollock, Peter & Smith, Marc. (1996). Managing the virtual commons: Cooperation and conflict in computer communities. In Susan C. Herring (Ed.), Computer-mediated communications: Linguistic, social and cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 109-128). Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reading Reaction: Sept 22

In the reading, Democratizing democracy: Strong democracy, US political campaigns and the Internet, the author, Stromer-Galley, evaluates a concept of a direct democracy brought to light by Benjamin Barber. According to Stromer-Galley, Barber believes that a direct democracy is a strong democracy and “is politics in a participatory mode.” With the creation of the Internet, it allows the general masses to finally participate with those running for office in Washington, to connect the politician to the voter.

One reason that the Internet is seen as a direct type of communication for democracy is that most Americans are not able to see the entire picture due to big media acting as gate keepers to information, as Stromer-Galley puts it, “through the lens of the camera or through the pen of the journalist.”

We are given six characteristics of the Internet, cost, volume, directionality, speed targeting, and convergence, which are explained in depth how they are used to democratize. Cost simply allowing the small candidate to square off again the big, rich candidate, since cost for a website and upkeep are quite small. Yet, I would state is the most important in this date in age, considering that younger ages are getting their information from the web rather than traditional news sources.

But Stromer-Galley also brought up the point of volume, where storing information is quite cheap. Yet, due to privacy laws in the United States being relaxed it brings up concerns. Also there is a breach of trust concern by receiving emails from politicians that attempt to target certain demographics without the voters permission.

The biggest point I want to sound off on is when Stromer-Galley says, the Internet gives “more opportunities to speak directly with the citizen, the less likely candidates can hide,” which is true. With this current election we are seeing countless information telling the truth on the candidates being found on the Internet, some information that main news outlets will not even pick up. So it might be safe to say that lens is finally coming off and that direct democracy is finally coming to light.

Stromer-Galley, Jennifer. (2000). Democratizing democracy: Strong democracy, US political campaigns and the Internet. In Peter Ferdianand (ed.), The Internet, democracy and democratization (pp. 36-58). Portland, OR: Frank Cass Publishers.

IRC: (5) Last Journal Entry

I have remembered a lot by interacting with IRC once more. One thing that I have not yet experienced are the early hours of the morning (12:00-1:00 AM) chat. Considering that this is my last journal that I must write, I thought I should get every angle of IRC. What's better than viewing the channel when the "real" world is sleeping.

Upon entering the channel, this time the main channel #GameSurge, I was greeted by countless conversations. Apparently I was lucky in my assumption to come on at this time. The channel was engulfed in conversations ranging from current events to who wanted to go play a Counter-Strike scrimmage.

I suppose IRC, GameSurge specifically, is like a college. There are a bunch of individuals on the network, who are involved in various activities, some help the network by interacting with one another and thus building up the community. And of course there are those willing to tear everything down. Some even go as far to get angry over something bitter that occurred online with text and try to seek redemption, quite similar to the real life.

But after all the observing I encountered I would have to say that the gender aspect did not come up much at all. Sure, if someone stated they were a girl, the men of the channel would ask for proof. If proof was given, the men would ogle her and ask why she enjoys playing video games and why she was spending her time online in IRC. But if they were just men trying to pawn themselves off as women, which was the majority, the community would just mock them for a short period until it became yesterday's news.

Now that I have reemerged myself in this channel I feel as though I will be returning quite often to speak with friends and just help support the community. After all I would not want to be a free rider.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

IRC: Day 4 Journal

Today I actually had a purpose to go onto GameSurge, the network that I am evaluating. My roommate has been having computer issues, and I have always found the best free tech support from people on the network. Around 1:00PM EST I entered the network and went into the channel, #help. In this channel there are countless people who sit idle by waiting for people to come into the channel with problems and assist them with anything to the best of their ability. There were approximately 50 people in the channel, one of them being my friend, cyberdeath. I asked my question and waited for a response. In the meantime people kept entering asking their questions, getting their answers and leaving. But some were so impatient that they left as soon as they asked their questions, only to miss the answers that were being given by the channel.

As for me, I am still waiting for someone to figure out my issue. I have gotten responses back, yet none of the answers given thus far have not fixed the issue. I have found that you need to be clear and to the point, due to the fact that you are the only one who can see the issue. If you give a board answer then you will get a broad answer, so being specific enables you to get a specific answer. But ultimately I found this little interaction almost as if I was at a Best Buy seeking help, the people just are professional and take pride in helping people, except they do it for free.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

IRC: Day 3 Journal

This time entering the channel, #GameSurge, I arrived around 3:00PM CST (4:00PM EST) to ensure that there would be more activity. Well, things have not changed in over 4 years, people entered the channel in droves once they get home from school. Yet, I call them children because that is the type of attitude you receive when watching some of these conversations. The majority of the channel was once again filed with males, while females were scarce, although one of the operators is a female.

The conversations that were taking place mostly revolved around computer games, mainly because GameSurge is a computer gaming oriented IRC network. But the game of choice as far as I could tell was still Counter-Strike, a first person shooter style game that has been around for close to 10 years. One could say that the social atmosphere moves quite slow, since most are in high school and once they grow bored of the whole idea are replaced by someone else who is infatuated by it, plus its not like high school students are in short demand.

Basically after sitting in the channel, observing and watching a few people get out of line, they were removed swiftly by another friend TheifMaster, who happens to be from Berlin, Germany. Its just funny because you may think you are talking to someone who could be in the next room, yet for all you know, the person could be on the opposite side of the world. And with text traveling so fast you are never the wiser.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reading Reaction: Sept 17

In the reading, The Internet: The basics, one would assume that what Jason Whitaker speaks about would be the basic elements that make up the Internet. Yet, reading line after line I was bombarded by information that went far beyond basic. I think the title should be amended to The Internet: An Abridged History, because that is what the reader is getting from reading this piece.

But, in Whitaker’s defense he does speak about the basics, albeit in a strange way. Nonetheless he does speak about hypertext, "information that links to other information" (Whitaker, 2002), and how it essentially is the most basic building block that makes up the Internet on the surface. Meaning that it links texts, to images, or to video, ultimately it depends on the user and what he or she wants to publish on the web.

Whitaker does get back into the elements of the Internet, speaking about HTML, Hypertext Markup Language. HTML essentially speaks to web browsers, Internet Explorer or Firefox, to display the page a certain way, ranging from layout to color to size of the text, or even placement of a certain picture on the page. But like any standard, HTML is no different and its standard is set by the W3C, World Wide Web Consortium.

Alas HTML in its old age is being stretched to its limitations and XML, Extensible Markup Language, is being brought in to try to simplify things, Whitaker states that users can define their own tags. For instance a phone website has a form asking the user to input their phone. On the back end of things it would look more like [phone]Nokia[/phone]. Although it would be with <> instead, since blogger is not allowing me to demonstrate it.

Whether its code from HTML or new implications of XML, the Internet is an ever changing entity, we will just have to sit back and enjoy the ride, because the apparently the basics are not so basic after all.

Whitaker, Jason. (2002). The Internet: The basics (chapter 3). New York: Routledge

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

IRC: Day 2 Journal

Oddly, enough when I was going back to the GameSurge website and connect to the network to see what was going on in the channel once more, I remembered that a few years ago this would not have been possible. When I was a freshman at the university I remembered that the ports to get on to IRC were blocked completely and now I am actually able to return without a single problem. I just found that funny, and thought I would share that tiny tid bit of information.

I entered the channel around noon, I knew the channel would be ultimately dead since IRC life, especially on this network does not become alive until after 3:00PM since it is still mostly inhabitted by those who still go to high school and below. But to entertain myself, I spent the time going through my old commands with the ChanServ, which is the network appointed channel bot that maintains the channel. Next time I will try back when there is at least activity to speak of.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

IRC: Day 1 Journal

Today I went back to the GameSurge Network where I had originally been an IRC Operator, someone who monitors the network and make sure everyone is acting in accordance with the rules. Let me just say, once I connected, I automatically remembered all of the binds and codes that I had used while volunteering my time with them. But, once I joined the main channel, #GameSurge, where most of the operators on the network hangout, a large majority of them were no longer there. Ultimately, like me, people moved on to new things or just grew bored of the whole thing.

But this journal is not about the past, it is about what is going on in the channel itself. There were about 280 people on average in the channel, with a large amount of people coming in and out. Most came into the channel seeking assistance, but read the topic, which redirected them to #support where an operator would assist them in a first come first serve basis. But for a majority of the time that I spent in the channel I was speaking to an old operator who have been there before even I started helping out back in 2003, cyberdeath. We mostly talked in the channel to let everyone see our conversation, and of course other people chimed in to give us their two cents, but overall it was a good entrance back into the world of IRC.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reading Reaction: Sept 10

In the reading, Managing the virtual commons: Cooperation and conflict in computer communities, Kollock and Smith both speak about a few issues of communication that translate from the real world over to the Internet. One issue that is transparent throughout the reading is the issue of free-riding and how to correct it in certain online situations, like Usenet.

But in all honesty some of the reasons given for free-riding on Usenet, all in all do not make that much sense to me let alone I would consider it free-riding. In terms of bandwidth, as long as you in some way contribute to the conversation on hand you are doing what is right, even if you do end up writing long replies. But for someone to "Lurk" as Kollock and Smith say, that is in no way free-riding. Free-riding to me at least is for example there are three people that plant trees, one digs the hole, the other puts the tree in and the other put the dirt back into the hole. Now one calls out sick and the other continue to do their job, yet no one does the job of the man that is out sick because they have no incentive to do it, if they all get the same amount of compensation, that at least to me is free-riding.

I think that anyone using any type of communication on the Internet needs to remind himself or herself, that they are on the Internet. Kollock and Smith bring up a good point concerning Usenet and a post titled "Make Money Fast." Essentially the post is just a form of spam that is still common on message boards today as well as back then, but the way to get rid of such people so that conversation can continue is to follow the same advice that you would in real life if someone was antagonizing you, just ignore it and it will go away, just as Kollock and Smith advise.

Sure, once users connect to Usenet they can be advised by a FAQ file, but most people are in such a rush to start communicating with others that they fly on past that and worry about the consequences later. I know I have personally disregarded the rules just to get what I wanted to do faster, did it end up biting me in the end, not yet at least to my knowledge. Some things just can not be fixed, Usenet or not we still have most of these issues popping up in a Web 2.0 world.

Kollock, Peter and Smith, Marc. (1996). Managing the virtual commons: Cooperation and conflict in computer communities. In Susan C. Herring (Ed.), Computer-mediated communication: Linguistic, social and cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 109-128). Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Innovations can be big and they can be small. Oddly enough when it comes to innovations that led to the Internet there is nothing little, considering every little insignificant thing that occurs around the Internet has a huge impact on it overall. The Internet although young has had countless innovations involving its overall speed, the language it speaks, its structure, and connecting human beings and allowing them to communicate with one another with ease.

Americans live in a fast pace world, to get where they are going and to do it in the shortest amount of time. So in hindsight it is no secret that speed is quite high on our list as Americans, especially when it comes to the Internet. When most Americans want to find out where the largest salt mine in the United States is located, they head online and in a flash they have the answer they were seeking all because of speed. The dial up modems of yesteryear are all but gone from the memories of the American population, because they have all moved onto faster broadband. Whether it is a DSL, cable, or T1/3 connection without these improvements on both the user end and the Internet side (Adams and Clark, 2001), most of the content that we find on the Internet would just not be viable let alone enjoyable. Honestly, who would have waited in the early days of the Internet and downloaded a movie, only to have it completed in two to three days? Hopefully, the answer is no one because without speed the Internet in today’s day and age, would just not be viable.

Ultimately, the speed of ones connection to the Internet does not mean anything if the language of ones computer differs from that of a friend’s computer. With the change from NCP to the newer, stable language of TCP/IP. In its simplest form a common standard and protocol or set computer language called National Control Protocol, or better-known NCP governed the early form of the Internet (“Congressional Digest,” 2007). However, some of those on the network were not able to truly communicate with one another until a new standard was put into place, called Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, TCP/IP (Adams and Clark 2001). Without this language to govern the network a personal computer might not be able to communicate with any Apple computers out there on the web, let alone any Linux computers. Try imagining being a student with a major in video editing. As a student, one would of course need an Apple computer of some kind. Yet anytime one wished to go online the results that one acquired were half of that if one had been using a run of the mill personal computer. If anything by instating a new language that eventually everyone adopted, not only simplified the Internet, but increased productivity.

For a second imagine a student enrolled in college and is given an IP, Internet Protocol, address of a page on the Internet to further explore on their own time. But wait a second, imputing long digits into the address field of an Internet browser is not the Internet that we have come to love, or is it? Instead of typing out long IP address in this day and age we have been able to type in the URL, Uniform Resource Locator, or instead of typing in its IP address, As students, we have all come to love the inclusion of domain names and URLs, notable example Coming about to better classify information, it has made determining websites content even easier before one have reached the page (Adams and Clark, 2001). Looking at the Albany address again one can see edu, which stands for education. Upon visiting the page, as a student, one would assume the page has to do with something educational, due to the fact that it has been assigned an educational domain name. There are countless other domain names as well, some include .com, .net, .org, all of which are designated for certain groups that wish to create their page on the Internet. Although, as time has shown us the registering of domains has become easier. Particularly in 2008 the organization that overseas domains the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN for short announced that they would be relaxing their rules concerning domain name creation (Marguerite Reardon, 2008). All this means is that the general public is now going to be able to register domains that make their lives even easier, or complicated considering the ruling was just passed this June, we as a people will just have to wait and see if works out for the better, or worse. But one thing is certain with the inclusion of domain names as they stand now, they have definitely made the Internet into what we know it as today.

Yet, the biggest innovation that led to the Internet, as we know it today would have to have come from humans being well, humans and their appetite for communicating with one another. What better way to communicate with individuals over vast distances than e-mail, which was created by Ray Tomlinson in 1972 (Adams and Clark, 2001). Essentially e-mail is taking the simplest form of communication, writing on a piece of paper and mailing it to a designated location, and digitizing it for the twenty-first century. Ironically enough, by simply transferring e-mail across the network, ARPANET, in effect created the Internet that we very well know today. With the use of so much bandwidth being put aside for this form of communication, the military dropped out in effect turning over the reigns to the people (Adams and Clark, 2001).

In closing, whether it is from the speed of ones connection, the ability to download files from a computer different from ones own, researching information on Wikipedia or just the simple yearning to talk to a friend the Internet has helped move humanity into new territory whether it is for better or worse, we will have to see, but hopefully this marriage will only bring us together as a people after all the Internet has come to be through these certain innovations but at its current rate of change no one can be sure of anything will stay the same for long.

Works Cited
Anonymous. (2007, February). Internet History: From ARPANET to Broadband. Congressional Digest, 86(2), 35-64.
Reardon, M. (2008, June 26). ICANN adopts new Web site naming rules. Retrieved from
Adam and Clark (2001). Welcome to the Future of Global Communication.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

September 3: Reading Reaction

Essentially the reading for this week dealt with, where does the Internet fall in retrospect to current mediums. When I say mediums I mean traditional outlets, television and radio as well as print. The tricky thing when attempting to classify the Internet is that it in a sense takes all the characteristics from all different mediums and different types of communication and infuses it together to form, well what we know today as the Internet.

Not only does the Internet try to reinvent what we know today as mediums but it is also eliminating certain problems that other communication has run into in the past. For instance in the reading it cites three issues, reliability, speed, and distribution. Now before I dig deep into these issues, first let me state that anything created by man is not perfect for man himself is not perfect. As a result the reliability regardless of the type of medium, Internet or not, sometimes things just go wrong. But in theory the Internet with its speed that is increasing ever more so every day, is allowing us to reach new heights and make the world seem ever so small. Granted the distribution system the Internet does have, enables us to receive items that if they were in the real world would otherwise be lost and end up creating headaches.

Alas the internet is an ever expanding entity that hungers for more and more information. The one amusing point in the reading was when the author spoke, "Most statistics about the Internet are more accurately labeled estimates, and by the time anyone reads this paragraph they will hopelessly be out of date, (pg 7)" which more or less is probably as I write this reaction.

The author for the most part had my abiding attention and for the most part I agreed with him, yet when it came to explaning how the Internet will always find a way past certain firewalls and boundaries to deliver its information, I am not sure the author knew about the "Great Firewall of China." But just as I said in the begining of this post, anything that is created by man is not perfect, and some information does get past, but only by those users who know the system well enough to use it to their advantage. Almost similar to those users who know how to navigate the web through its hypertextual interfaces in order to find what they are looking for, whether its for business or pleasure.

Even today with all of this talk about Web 2.0 and some people are even speaking on Web 3.0, to clasify the Internet just seems foolish in retrospect, it is almost like trying to classify the world we live in and why we are here to begin with...