Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 23:41:19 -0400
From: Bob Rankin 
Subject: TOURBUS - 21 April 1998 - Interview With Patrick

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         TODAY'S TOURBUS TOPIC: Interview With Patrick

Over the past few years, I've had the pleasure of interviewing many
of the people who make the Internet tick.  So I'm very pleased now to
offer up an interview with my Tourbus co-driver Patrick Crispen.

This was published in TOURBUS PLUS back in February, but ever since
then I've been wanting to share it with the whole TOURBUS crowd, so
here it is!

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Although we've been doing TOURBUS together for over two and a half
years, Patrick and I have never met.  That's fine, though.  I'm happy
to count him among my many cyberfriends, and I hope you'll enjoy this
chance to get to know one of the true "good guys" of the online world
a little better...

BOB: How did you first become involved with computers?

PDC: I guess my first contact with computers came when I was in
junior high school.  My dad had just ended his 13-year career with
the YMCA to go back to school full-time at Tulsa Junior College.  He
took a whole bunch of computer courses (COBOL, FORTRAN, Assembler,
JCL, etc.) and I used to join him when he went to the computer lab.
I had absolutely _NO_ idea how to use any of those big mainframe
computers, but I do remember having a whole bunch of fun typing out
lewd messages on TJC's punch card machines.

My family's first computer (not counting our illustrious Pong
machine) was a TRS-80 Color Computer.  That machine rocked!  It came
with a cassette tape drive for data storage, but my dad replaced that
with a floppy disk drive that had a solenoid so large that the house
lights would dim every time you used the drive.  There is nothing
more reassuring than the ear-piercing _SLAM!_ that that drive would
make every time it fired up.

BOB: When were you first introduced to the Internet?

PDC: I got my first email account shortly after I transferred to the
University of Alabama in January of 1992.  People think I am kidding
when I say this, but the only reason that I got the account in the
first place was to send e-mail letters to my dad asking him for
money.  Interestingly, the first e-mail letter I ever received was a
reply from my father telling me to get a job.  I remember in the Fall
of 1993 a friend of mine at Virginia Tech told me about LISTSERV
lists and FTP and I sat there thinking to myself "how DULL!"

BOB: Lots of people know you as the "Roadmap Guy". What was that
     all about, and why did you do it?

PDC: I've paid most of my own way through college, so in the Spring
of 1994 I took a work-study job working the Friday and Saturday
overnight front desk shifts at one of the University's residence
halls.  The hours were horrible, but it paid the bills.

There wasn't much to do between 11:00 PM and 7:00 AM, so I tried to
keep myself awake by using the front desk's computer and modem to
connect to the Internet.  Since my Net-knowledge at the time was
pretty much limited to e-mail, I went out and bought what was then
the most popular Internet book.  To be completely honest, that book
was absolutely HORRIBLE!  I spent close to three weeks trying to
follow the book's directions and telnet into Minnesota's Gopher
server only to discover that:

  1.  Commands for a UNIX platform (which the book's author used) and
  commands for an IBM 3090 mainframe running VM/CMS (which I was using)
  are two completely different (and incompatible) things; and

  2.  The University of Alabama already had Gopher installed and
  running on its server, and all that I needed to do to access it was
  type "gopher" at VM's ready prompt.

So, I guess you could say that my learning curve was a little steep.
In fact, I made every mistake a newbie could make.  I remember the
first time I ever FTPd into SuraNet -- my heart was POUNDING because
I believed that SuraNet's server was vitally important to the
Internet, and I was afraid that I was going to make some silly
mistake that would crash their server.

Eventually, though, I got the hang of things.  In the May of 1994 I
participated in (and won) Rick Gates' "Internet Hunt" (a monthly
contest where Rick asked 10 extremely arcane questions and you had to
find, and explain how you found, the answers using nothing but the
Net).  After winning the Internet Hunt, and after seeing the success
that Richard Smith had had with his Navigating the Internet
workshops, I decided to borrow Smith's idea (with both his help and
permission) and create my own, free Internet training workshop.

I called the workshop Roadmap, announced it on Marty Hoag's New-List,
and went to bed.  The next morning, 2,300 people had signed up for
the workshop.  By the end, over half a million people participated in
Roadmap, making it the most popular online Internet training workshop
in history.

The workshop was rewritten in the Summer of 1996 and put up on a Web
site at the InterNIC (
By then, however, the Net had shifted away from command line
interfaces to graphical user interfaces like Netscape and Internet

BOB: What's your take on "Internet Culture"? What is it, and has it
     changed since the arrival of the Web a few years back?

PDC: Internet Culture?  Is that anything like Military Intelligence?
I've heard a lot of people talk about Internet culture recently,
especially about the homogenization of the Net, but I guess I just
don't get it.

BOB: How do you feel about the commercialization of the Internet? Can
     people make a buck in cyberspace, and still be good netizens?

PDC: Can you "make money fast" on the Internet?  Probably not.  The
few people who have, ended up destroying their reputations in the
process.  Can you make money slowly on the Internet?  Yes.  Is that a
bad thing?  No.

The key is that your focus must be on providing a service to the end
user.  Yahoo's banner ads are annoying, but you overlook that
annoyance because Yahoo offers you a valuable service.  Hewlett
Packard's Web site is one big pro-HP commercial, but you overlook the
pro-HP rhetoric because their Web site offers information and
software drivers that are helpful to you.  There is nothing wrong
with the commercialization of the Internet so long as we continue to
provide the end users with the services and products that they value.

BOB: What things about the Internet do you find most useful on a
     personal level?

PDC: I dunno.  I like the fact that I can send e-mail messages to my
father at all hours of the day asking him for money.  :)

BOB: You're an econmics major, so what's the big deal about electronic
     money? Why do I need a digital wallet if I have a credit card?

PDC: You don't.  Electronic money was an early solution to the
problem of securing online payments, but once the major credit card
companies and banks realized the potential revenue streams available
on the Internet they stepped in with ways to make existing payment
avenues (checks, credit cards, etc.) more secure.  Because of this,
most online merchants now accept credit card payments, but not
electronic cash.  Barring any unforeseen security breaches in the
secure sockets layer, electronic money is doomed.

BOB: What irritates you most about the Internet? If you were appointed
     Dictator of the Internet for a day, what would you do about it?

PDC: If I were appointed dictator of the Internet for a day, I would
immediately hand that title to someone more qualified than I am.  As
for what irritates me the most about the Internet, I guess it would
be a tie between spam and the foolish belief that _EVERYONE_ must be
on the Internet.

I don't mind that spam fills up my mailbox every morning (it isn't
all that difficult to set up a filter on my incoming mail stream that
deletes the junk mail).  What bothers me about spam is that its costs
are absorbed by the receivers, not the sender.

As an individual, the cost that you must pay for each spam that you
receive is minuscule.  But if you calculate the cost involved for
_EVERYONE_ on the Net that receives a particular spam, that cost is
quite large.

Here is just a small example.  Imagine that I decide to send a spam
out to every employee of the Boeing company.  Boeing has several
hundred thousand employees around the world.  If it takes each of
these employees just 3 seconds to open and then delete my spam,
Boeing has just lost 300,000 to 600,000 seconds (or 83.3 to 166.6
hours) of productivity from their employees.  That is for each and
every spam that is sent to Boeing's employees.  Multiply that by the
number of spams that Boeing receives every day, and multiply that by
365 days in a year, and you are talking about a serious loss of
productivity.  And that is just within the Boeing company.

Until spammers are required to pay the real costs associated with
their activities, our mailboxes will continue to flood with junk
mail.  Oh, and while we are on the topic of the cost of junk e-mail,
who do you think pays Boeing's spam costs?  Hint: Boeing is a major
military contractor.

The second thing that irritates me the most about the Internet is the
mistaken belief that everyone must be on it.  Nobody seems to be
asking why.  We have blindly accepted that every classroom in America
should be on the Net, but we have never taken the time to see if
every classroom NEEDS to be on the Net.  The question isn't "can the
Internet be used to teach subject X" but "can the Internet be use to
teach subject X better than the way that we are teaching it now?"

I really fear that we are wasting tens of billions of dollars putting
every school child on the Net without ever asking why we are doing
it, without ever setting any goals to judge this venture's success,
and without any clue whatsoever of the results this venture may or
may not produce.

BOB: Name two over-hyped Internet thingies that will fail miserably, and
     one that will become the Next Big Thing.

PDC: Over-hyped Internet thingie number one: digital cash.  Why, in
this world of disintermediation, would anyone go out of their way to
add a third or fourth party to their online purchasing processes?  In
fact, companies that accept only digital cash and not secure online
credit card payments are doomed to become the "S&H Green Stamps
Redemption Centers" of the Internet (and how long has it been since
you saw an S&H Green Stamp?).

Over-hyped Internet thingie number two: Virtual Reality Modeling
Language (VRML).  I've been online since 1992, and I know of only one
person who is competent in VRML: my dad.  The technical community has
been trying for years to take VRML into the mainstream, but no one
seems to care.

The next big thing: Digital Subscriber Line Lite.  Now that
Microsoft, Intel, and Compaq have thrown their weight behind this
standard, be looking for ultra-fast, in-home, inexpensive Internet
connections shortly after the turn of the century.

BOB: You're not shy about the fact that you use a Macintosh computer
     But now that Apple's market share has slipped to 6%, what would you
     do if you had to buy a new computer tomorrow? I guess what I'm
     asking is - are you one of those die-hard "Apple is the one true
     religion" fanatics?

PDC: I was in the "Windows users couldn't find a clue if they smeared
themselves with clue musk in a room full of clues in clue rutting
season" camp for a very long time.  I've used Windows, Windows 95,
and Mac OS, and the Mac is, hands-down, much easier to use and much
more intuitive.  Not a lot of people are willing to admit this,
though.  The popular opinion is that the Mac is an inferior machine
made by an inferior company.

Sadly, Apple's recent actions only reinforce that perception (how
long have they been looking for a CEO?).  Apple has also made no
discernable effort to increase the number of software titles that
will run on its platform (even the most die-hard Mac fan is forced to
reevaluate his or her pro-Mac position after every visit to his or
her local software store).  Even more embarrassingly, anyone who
dares to publicly question Apple is immediately ambushed by Guy
Kawasaki's militant "evangalistas," a group of Apple-supported
Mac-fanatics that e-mail bomb and verbally attack anyone who is
deemed an "enemy" of Apple.

You asked me what I would do if I had to buy a new computer tomorrow.
Actually, thanks to the financial support of my parents, I just got
a new computer: a Dell Inspiron 3000 running Windows95.

BOB: Exactly how tall are you? :-)

PDC: Quite.  :)

BOB: Will the Internet bring world peace, global prosperity, and Apple
     Cinnamon Cheerios to every cereal bowl? Or is it just a bunch of
     geeks on an electronic playground?

PDC: Neither.  Most of the stuff that has been said or written about
the Internet recently, both the good and the bad, is hype.  My dad
taught me three important lessons.  The first two have absolutely
nothing to do with what we are talking about, so I will share them
with you now:

  1.  Never solve a puzzle that opens the gates of Hell; and
  2.  A motion to adjourn is ALWAYS in order

My dad's third lesson, however, actually does have something to do
with the topic at hand.  That lesson is: always ask "cui bono?"
(roughly "who benefits from my believing this?").  Most of the
pro-Internet rhetoric that you have heard recently is from companies
wanting you to pay them money for their software or Internet service.
Most of the anti-Internet rhetoric that you have heard recently is
from groups who want you to support their restrictive political

The truth is that the Internet isn't as bad as everyone says it is,
nor is it as good.  It just "is."

     your mother told me I had to ask you that question.)

PDC: Every time I get close to graduating some celebrity appears on
my TV screen and says something like "don't be a fool ...  stay in
school!" I really want to graduate, but I don't think I could ever
live with the shame of knowing that Tori Spelling thought I was a

     ON YOUR COLLEGE EDUCATION??? (Sorry, your father made me say that.)
     To reword slightly, will that sheepskin with the "Economics" tattoo
     figure in your future employment, or are you going to persist in the
     delusion that someday the Internet will make you rich, Rich RICH?

PDC: Will I abandon the Net and get a job in the real world when I
graduate?  Gosh, I hope not.  I enjoy the time that I spend teaching
people about the Internet, and I hope to be able to find a
professional position somewhere that lets me keep doing this for
years to come.

As for the desire to become rich, that would be nice ...  but it
really isn't a goal.  I started 1997 with $30,000 in student loans.
Thanks in part to money that I made from TOURBUS last year, I am
starting 1998 with only $25,000 in student loans.  So, I guess you
could say that my goal isn't to become rich.  I'll settle for being
debt-free.  :)

BOB: Rumor has it that someday you're going to run an online workshop
     called ATLAS - the mother of all Web classes. Is it true?

PDC: Damn that Kenneth Starr!  You can't tell him ANYTHING!

Yes, I am really going to write a Web workshop.  I plan on working on
the Web workshop full-time (at least until I find another paying job).
Atlas will be a free, self-paced Web tutorial that will (hopefully)
help you answer the question "Okay ...  I'm on the Net ...  Now what?!"
TOURBUS shows you where to go.  Atlas will show you how to get there.

BOB: Describe your vision of what the Internet will be like five years
     from now.

PDC: I really don't know.  I have enough trouble picturing what life
will be like after graduation.  :)

You can e-mail Patrick Douglas Crispen at, or
visit his home page at

See you next time! --Bob Rankin


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