Knowing what you know now about the internet and how your venture turned out, what do you wish you had done differently from the beginning?

Engineers like me are often prejudiced against communications and public relations, perhaps since so much of it serves unfortunate goals and often hurts people. We stereotypically feel that our good work should speak for itself, and normally works.

In our naivete, we don’t realize that disinformation professionals are really good at taking a good thing and building a profitable lie around it, sometimes in order to manufacture a culture war, often to attack good efforts for profit.

My support for veterans groups is extensive, and I get angry when people exploit veterans for profit. This happened most notably in the “swiftboating” of John Kerry. This happens relatively often on the Internet, but I really didn’t understand the possibility, and didn’t prepare for that, given my misconceptions.

I feel I failed my community by not preparing for this from the beginning. 

Around ten years ago, I realized how badly I had blundered in this regard, and started getting serious communications help, both advice and training. I’ll never be really good at it, since that requires social skills, and I’m an original, 1950s-style nerd, maybe nerd patient zero.

Furthermore, I’ll never be a match for a disinformation professional, since they’re good at generating new lies in real time. Though I have realized one thing I can do is to help trusted journalists and outlets spread trustworthy news––so I fund those types of groups.

I’m atoning for my sins of omission, but I’ll only do so as long as I live.

Lessons From the First Internet Ages

What is the future of the internet? Thirty years after the creation of the first web page, what have we learned about the impact of the internet on communication, connection, and democracy?   Join the Knight Foundation for Lessons from the First Internet Ages, a virtual symposium that will explore and evaluate what key figures in the development […]

October 11, 2021
Lessons From the First Internet Ages