What does a girls do when guys online keep asking for her photo? Well, if you are like me you turn this into your first social media community management project!
In 1991, I found my way into InterUser, a general topic user group on FidoNet, a network of international dial-in BBSes that shuffled thousands of messages around the world. There I made friend with users as far away as Vladivostok, Russia. Through the wonderful conversations I had, I discovered a different aspect of life. Remember that this is exactly when the iron curtain started falling, and every month there was a new international happening to discuss with people INSIDE the system that was crumbling! Also, I grew up writing to dozens of other teenager pen pals but InterUser was populated with adults and, at 20, I credit them for expanding my view of the world.
A list of names of most users provided by moderator Daan Van Rooijen of The Netherlands. You can click to view a larger sample. I plan to OCR this list to see if I can locate the people mentioned :)
I had my little clique of allies in the group but when I put out a call for submissions, I received a few dozen letters, some from people I didn’t know! Can you believe I still have those original submissions today?
Here are a few intriguing bits and pieces I received while working on the original books of faces which were published in 1992 and 1993.
First of all, Brian Lowe of Lancashire, England is the most awesome guy because he sent in an exact copy of his electronic note which includes my original request!
Brian has a great ASCII signature and he like to lean his smilies the other way :) I no longer have contact with Brian but he might be findable on Facebook.
Denis cannot wait to see a photo of famous ME. Denis lived in Montreal and we talked on the phone using the Bell relay system for deaf users. I also visited him in person. He is one of a dozen InterUsers I have happily met in person over the years. In the letter for the following year, Denis has found love online and is engaged to Nathalie. He wants me to have the yearbook cover pale yellow, her favorite color. He also talks about how another common acquaintance wanted the same girl and is now miffed and might have negative things to say. Classic online love triagle!
Aaron was the youngest SysOp in the bunch. I think he was only 16 at the time. We are Facebook buddies now and he says he had a crush on me. I am sure I will get to know Aaron in person in the future. I promised to go cook him a nice fancy meal in Texas.
James was one of my favorite pals on InterUser. He used to work on the Rodeo circuit. After an injury, he became a paramedic on an air rescue team where he continued to play guitar with a ‘Vai-like’ mastery and voted for Bill Clinton!! I am sad that I do not have contact with him anymore.
Dave is one of the most read authors in the world. He has written of countless comic books including Donald Duck and Batman. He excels at being famous yet unseen! Dave visited me in Quebec City in 1993 after his series Chiaroscurro was launched. I am still kicking myself for not stopping by D.C. Rawson’s place the last time I was in Los Angeles.
PJ De Kroon from The Netherlands is sorry he almost missed the deadline but a two page handwritten letter about the hurried process of photocopying his driver’s license makes everything better, I swear!
I love this picture from B.A. in Georgia. Doesn’t B.A. look like every Sys Admin you know from the office? The guy who can have a conversation without ever turning around to look at you. Unfortunately, B.A.s picture came in too late :(
Here are a few other people who didn’t make it into the Yearbook.
This lovely letter included a picture of the sender with an ex-girlfriend. Helpfully, he gave me permission to cut her out ‘cuz he doesn’t need it back.
I thought his picture was epic and anyone who writes stuppid with two Ps is great in my book (don’t you think it gives the word more gravitas?). Maybe it is because his name is Steef and he is from Haarlem.
Finally we have Peter from Saarland area in Germany. His letter is wonderful because it has so many interesting adventures at only 23! And just like everyone else who sent me their photo he ‘digs on it’ telling me how it’s a year old but he hasn’t changed much since. ‘I hope I can say that in twenty years too, ;-)‘ he writes. Did I hear a wish, a challenge?! So what do you say guys, let’s go see if Peter Wenger has changed, and how much in 20 years! I am going to try to find him again!!
So to the request, send me your photo I replied: Send me your photo and I’ll send you mine, but I’ll send everything to everyone so we can enjoy this little project in the same way we exchange online, where everybody can see everything and that’s how it should be :) And it was, eventually like that when social media really took off!
Remember me from InterUser, feel free to add me on Facebook :)