A self-given pat on the back by Jonah Begone
This marks ten years that this website, JonahWorld!, has been continuously available on the Internet. Ten years. While there are billions of websites on the World Wide Web, very few of them have been up as long.
(According to wikipedia, as of January 2005 there were over 11.5 billion publicly indexable web pages on the Internet – but another source says that Google indexed about 20 billion web pages. According to an MIT site, in January 1996 there were 100,000 websites – in June this number had risen to an estimated 230,000 sites. JonahWorld! was therefore one of the approximately 200,000 websites around ten years ago. That’s .01% of what’s available today. So I’m not only a Civil War reenacting on the web pioneer – I’m an Internet pioneer as well!)
My introduction to the Internet was via a comment heard at a workplace meeting in 1994; my bosses’ boss said something about a government information resource being posted to the “Internet,” if anywhere at all. “Internet? What’s that?”, I wondered. But you know how it is at meetings – you don’t ask such questions out of a fear at being perceived as uneducated, or pathetically out of the loop. Shortly thereafter my boss arranged for an Internet account for me on a Unix e-mail server appropriately called “Pioneer.”
I recall my first e-mail exchange outside of my corporate surroundings. It was to my pal Mal Stylo. His reply to me – “What hath God wrought?” - demonstrated a grand, and humorous, understanding of the occasion. We two dubbed ourselves “The Virtual Regiment.” I was impressed by the ability to send e-mails globally, or to read and post my useless opinions to Usenet. I remember being especially impressed at the fact that I could establish a dial-up modem connection between my home computer and the Pioneer server, and read an e-mail from a person in Scotland. And I quickly learned what “flames,” “rants” and “trolls” were.
In 1995 I made the acquaintance of a fellow named Tony Farrow, who, I learned, reenacted Dark Age Britain in a reenacting group calling itself Britannia. Wow! Even more incredibly, he was able to send me a digital image of himself in action – my first exchanged .jpg file. I put the color paper copy in my Big Scrapbook of Reenacting, which represented a new idea: Virtual reenacting.
In 1995 I set up the first Internet Civil War reenactors’ e-mail list group, “cw-reenactors.” A university server I had access to hosted it. As the owner and moderator of the group, my greatest challenge was to remind others to remain topical, and to remain topical myself. (It was very, very difficult since I have scattered interests.) Persuading neo-rebs to shut up about non-topical subjects like the constitutionality of secession and other heated non-reenacting sidebar discussions was tough. One woman made a real nuisance of herself with repeated assertions about her native state, West Virginia, being illegally seceded from Virginia, which itself seceded from the Union. (Her logical contortions made my brain hurt.) I finally booted her off the list. Keeping up with the e-mail flow was a real effort, too. A hundred e-mails a day was common. I finally burned out with the e-mail list, and Al Aronson of the Pequot Mess took it over. Eventually, our mutual pard Betty Barfield took it over, and I am pleased to observe that she still runs it today! (Click here for instructions on joining.) I then cast about for a different forum for my writing.
In early 1996 a friend turned me on to Geocities, which offered hosting space on the World Wide Web – for free (imagine that)! My first website, this one, was put up for the world to see in March 1996. I duly registered it with Lycos, Alta Vista and Yahoo! – Google came along somewhat later. And Google found me, rather than the other way around. JonahWorld! was one of the relatively few websites about Civil War reenacting available back then; in fact, I once maintained a links page that had every other Civil War website I could find. There weren’t many. Maintaining such a thing these days would be a full time job, and an unprofitably useless one, since the advent of website search engines.
As I mentioned earlier, a concept called “virtuality” was all the rage back then, and JonahWorld! became a virtual reenactment campfire of sorts. I think I even called it that for a while… but that phrase went away along with my “under construction” jpg images, which was another common feature of websites back then.
I had set myself some editorial goals for JonahWorld!:
1.) My self-written material will be of the highest possible grammatical quality. No typos.
2.) G, PG or PG-13 rated material only. No swearing.
3.) All links will be checked immediately after posting to the website. No broken links to my own internal pages.
4.) The website will receive additions on as frequent a basis as I can comfortably manage.
5.) Textual content is far more important than bells and whistles (which in the Internet world means, for instance, bit-mapped graphics, sound files and animated images).
6.) Material will be unique in some way, or reflect unique views and opinions about the world of Civil War reenacting.
Ten years on, I am satisfied that I have maintained all five goals. The requirement for uniqueness is one of my favorite things about this site. Did you know, for instance, that Stephen Crane wrote a sequel to The Red Badge of Courage? He did, and it’s here. Ever hear of the Tamasite reenactment? Or the Vatican’s Time Machine? Did you know that they reenact Christ’s crucifixion in the Philippines? How about an account of an early 19th C. mastectomy? It’s all here and more. If it’s historical and I find it unusual or interesting, I post it here.
JonahWorld! is a simple website. Formatting is kept to a basic level, content and links. The vast majority of the pages are black Times New Roman text on a white background for good readability. It is pretty much the same now as it was when I first set it up. Believe it or not, I still use the same primitive shareware HTML editor I used back in 1996: HTMLWrite. It’s so primitive that it doesn’t recognize extensions over three characters long! But you know how it is with a tool – you get used to it and only change with great reluctance.
My first material posted to JonahWorld! were articles that I had written for unit newsletters. Other material was culled from drawings that reenacting friends made for my unit newsletters, articles from the print media that I liked or thought worthwhile or bits of historical information that I could comment upon. To date, I have posted 575 articles and images to this site. It takes about 30 MB of space, which doesn’t seem like a lot, nowadays, unless you set out to write 30 MB of text. (Try it sometime!)
So, please forgive me this Hypertext pat on the back, but I think I can justifiably give myself one.
And here’s looking to twenty years on the Web!