Friday, April 27, 2007

How Did I Become a Wikipedian?

I would like to share my experiences of becoming a Wikipedia editor and contributor, which is also referred to as "Wikipedian". Let it entertain you and also teach you some lessons at the same time. I hope it will encourage you to start contributing to Wikipedia as well and also be a warning about possible pitfalls you should try to avoid.

1st Edit
My first Article at Wikipedia, which I edited via my Wikipedia account (and not anonymously. Which I never did, at least not on purpose :)) was the article for "Superior Art Creations" on 12/31/2005.

Realizing What Wikipedia Is
The article was already there, which amazed me (the sheer fact that it existed in Wikipedia). It also made me realize what Wikipedia is and what makes it so great compared to oldschool Encyclopedias like the Encyclopedia Britannica or the German Brockhaus. Wikipedia was not limited in size, like the printed encyclopedias and also not by the finite limit of knowledge and resources the creators and editors of classic encyclopedias have. SAC did not impact the course of world history, but it played a role for thousands of people around the globe at a specific time of the history of Bulletin Board Systems, the Warez Scene and Text Art (ASCII art in particular).

I found the article by accident. I decided to write down and make public my activities and experiences, primarily between 1992-1998, in the world of BBS, warez, demoscene, scene art, ASCII art, ANSI art, cracking and cracktros etc. I realized that knowledge about this history was fading and will continue so, if people who were eyewitnesses of it, not start to record it and archive, before they will forget about it themselves or die. The events back then did play a role in events that followed, including major events like the parallel development and growth of the Internet as we know it today, namely the World Wide Web and the introduction of the first commercial web browser called "Mosaic" in 1993 who was developed by people who later in 1994 founded the company with the name "Netscape", and made Mosaic to become better known as the Netscape Navigator web browser.

I wrote some stuff down. A large percentage was about Superior Art Creations, which I founded together with Hetero in December 1994. I made all releases ever made by SAC available online to the public. I remembered about some material and events which I did not have or in some cases did not have anymore. I was trying to find material online, in the hope that somebody else was more forward thinking than I was and kept those documents and maybe even made them public.

Before my first "real" edit, did I only make two edits in Wikipedia with my user account. Both were edits of the Wikipedia:Sandbox where I tested how to create links, external links that is.

My Start as a "Spammer"
My first "contribution" to Wikipedia was a link to my new pages I created about me, SAC and the Scene back then. If it would have been a highly trafficked article and commercial in nature, my contribution would have been most likely being deleted because of WP:EL (External Links). The content was going beyond the material provided by the article in Wikipedia and was a valid contribution. Fortunately was the edit not reverted, which would probably have caused me to abandon Wikipedia and not continue to contribute to it and have by April 2007 over 2,000 edits of over 300 unique pages, with over 800 of them in the Wikipedia Mainspace.

I continued to edit the article the same day. I first corrected the categories the article was in and added references (internal Wiki links) to relevant related subjects. THEN I started editing the main content of the article and updated and extended it. Since I was the founder of the group, did the edits all fall under the category WP:COI (Conflict of Interest). If you want to check the article to make sure that it follows WP:NPOV (Neutral Point of View), feel free to do so.

Case Study Idea
I continued with adding references to SAC to the "Computer art scene" and "ASCII art" articles. I was a "bad" editor who provided only little value to Wikipedia, but to my defense must I say that most people dont start big. I would even bet that most editors got their start at Wikipedia by doing an COI edit. COI articles tend to have the power to motivate that person strong enough to take the big step and actually EDIT a live article at Wikipedia. The rest are probably only people that are picky when it comes to correct grammar and punctuation. :) Changing the spelling of a word or add/remove a comma etc. requires a lot less courage and motivation than adding actual content to the article, be it a link or a sentence.

It would be interesting to make a case study and look at the very first contributions of a subset of Wikipedia editors at all levels, veterans, newbies and administrators and active, little active and occasional active editors. This case study does not exist so my statements are at this point nothing more than speculation and the believe that my experiences and motivations to create an editor account at Wikipedia and start editing stuff, are not that unique and rather typical.

Getting into Trouble
Two month after my first edits of Wikipedia did I have my first "run into the locals". I edited an article that was getting a lot of attention and also a lot of spam. I did not know that back then. I was still a rookie and did not know about any rules and guidelines and organization of Wikipedia. I just finished a very detailed article about Blogs, Blogging, XML, ATOM and RSS. I wrote that thing, because I tried to explain to a non-Geek already two times without success what blogs are, what they are for and how they are different from simple News pages that are being created by a news module of a content management system. I also tried to make that person understand what so cool is about content syndication via RSS. I spent a lot of time on that thing and was actually pretty proud of myself and the result.

I thought that the version of the article about "Blogs" at Wikipedia failed to explain what a Blog really is. I still think that it lacks that ability, but I have too much on my table already to even start messing with that article. Anyhow, I decided to add a link to my article, which was originally posted as a blog post at another site of mine, to the "Blog" article at Wikipedia. All hell broke loose after I did it. See the discussion at the articles talk page and also at the talk page of one of the editors called "Monkeyman" who is part of the Wikipedia: Spam project that fights the countless more or less successful attempts to spam Wikipedia.

Looking back, I admit that I was wrong. I learned a lot from it though, because it was the first time that I had interaction with other Wikipedians. Others that cared about Wikipedia. I'd like to highlight the statements of one particular editor with the name Rhobite. I will have another contention with him in a dispute about the content of another article.

He is a perfect example of a very fair, honest and caring Wikipedian, which you should take as an example to follow. It might sounds funny after all the "nice" conversations we had. What shows his character the best are the facts that he edited and improved content, which I added to an article with a subject, which he is certainly not a big fan of and a great example of WP:WFTE (Writing for the enemy) and also his ability to change his opinion about something after some changes to the environment surrounding the subject.

He did teach me back in February 2006 a valuable lesson, which I would to share, because it is a very good explanation of some aspects of what Wikipedia is and what it is not (WP:NOT)

"Nobody is forcing you to contribute to Wikipedia or support the cause of free content, but please dont expect to write external content and add it to Wikipedia as a link. Wikipedia has almost a million articles, which shows that many people do not mind contributing to free content projects. Your criticisms are similar to the ways that Microsoft and other commercial software vendors criticized open source software.. they said that no good developer would ever work for free. But the success of projects like Firefox and Apache -- and Wikipedia -- shows that the open source model has merit. I hope youll consider sticking around and improving Wikipedia."

I did ask him to do an Editor Review on me. I hope he will do me that favor.

Other Influential People
The second person that had strong influence on me regarding Wikipedia was the editor and Wikipedia admin that created the Superior Art Creations article. His name is Christian Wirth aka RaD Man who was the founder of the big and popular artscene group called ANSI Creators in Demand (ACiD).

He noticed my edits of the Superior Art Creations article and found my contact information via references from my Wikipedia user pages. I wrote about this already in February 2006 in this blog post.

He did teach me a lot about how Wikipedia works and also gave me tips to specific issues I encountered. Our paths never crossed at Wikipedia itself as far as I know, except for the fact that we edited both the SAC article. I showed him discussions I was involved in, but never entered them to support me. I guess he is a good admin, because he did not help me by joining discussions, but by showing me guides and mechanisms available at Wikipedia. He knows that joining a discussion only because I am involved would be full of bias and personal conflicts. He could not be fair and neutral, if one of his "buddies" is part of a group that represents one side of the argument.

I edited to-date a large number of articles, which are with a few exceptions all either related to internet marketing or to text art and my scene days as Roy/SAC. I also created 9 new articles already and plan to create more in the future.

Conclusion and Encouragement
I hope that my story will encourage you to consider to contribute to Wikipedia yourself. I strongly recommend to get started by working on articles to a subject that are not commercial. Dont start editing articles about your business or company. That can go awfully wrong. Start with something you like and do as a hobby. Always remember the little tab labeled "edit" at the top of each article at Wikipedia, the encyclopedia anybody can edit.


Carsten aka Roy/SAC

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Travel back in Time for a Vision of the Future

I traveled a couple days a go back in time to the year 1994 to an internet marketing and advertising conference. Wait a moment. Did I say 1994? Yes I did and I am not trying to trick you.

See here the video recording of one of the first, if not the first internet marketing and advertising conference, which was held on November 4th,1994 in San Francisco, California.

What happened?
Ken McCarthy is the first speaker and talks about opportunities. He was very forward thinking and you might think that what he says is obvious and logical. They were not in 1994. The second speaker is Marc Andreessen, co-Founder of Netscape, which was founded just a bit earlier in 1994 as well after the overwhelming success and popularity of their software called "web browser", the original "Mosaic" and the creation of the World Wide Web as we know it today.

The Web is just existed for a year or so when the conference was held.

link to video

It was a nice trip back in time. It also brought some memories back and a chuckle when I heard Ken talk about the role of BBS systems in the growth of the internet.

I have to say that he was a bit off when it comes to the role of Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) would play in getting people online by becoming something like a mini-ISP. True, a lot of BBS software development companies were jumping on the bandwagon and worked on internet integration into their software. With about 50,000+ bulletin boards in the united states at that time did it may be quite reasonable. I happened to be a Sysop of a bulletin board exactly around that time and can tell you that this could not have worked that way.

What are we talking about here?
The vast majority of the BBS's where run by individuals as a hobby and not as a business. Access was often free, but donations for hardware upgrades were appreciated. The resources were limited and multi-line (more than one modem) BBS's became only widely available at the beginning of the nineties when the computer hardware was able to connect multiple nodes to a single computer. But even then remained the number of BBS systems with more than 5 or even more than 10 nodes relatively low.

A BBS that was an ISP (kind of)
If you want to get an Idea how a BBS looked like with over 20-30 nodes, look at the picture below. That is "one corner" of the Rusty-n-Edie's BBS around 1988-89 and far away from its final size. The BBS had a staggering 128 dial in connections available in its prime and needed one computer for each line, plus multiple support servers. Details are from the article "The Birth of Rusty n Edie's BBS" that was written by the sysop of Rusty n Edie's, Rusty Hardenburgh.

If the majority of BBS's would have been like that, the Idea of them becoming a micro-ISP would have been a bit more realistic.

(Equipment detail follow at the end of the post)

The Reality
Normal BBS's were limited in bandwidth and dial in connections. My BBS had 5 lines, which means that it could handle 5 callers at the same time. My BBS had over 100 active users and a lot of them called every day or every other day. At peak times were all 5 lines constantly busy, which means that a lot of my users got a busy signal for a period of time, before they got a connection when another user left.

A user that is finally able to connect checks a few mails online, if the BBS was file focuses as mine. Some Systems were message focused and connected in networks like the Fidonet (which could be compared to the early Usenet of the Internet). Since the volume of message could be pretty big depending on the number of subjects you were interested in and subscribed for, users did not read the emails while connected to the BBS, but connected with special software, like Email clients today and downloaded new messages and uploaded responses.

If the BBS was created to be a place to swap files, the user would check the mostly new uploaded files only, flag the ones he is interested in and start a download and possibly an upload at the same time. When finished, users would hang up and leave to consume the downloaded content "offline", making the node available to another user.

Because of that was it possible for small BBS's with only a handful nodes to serve so much people. The "online time" was fairly brief.

..and the conclusion
Connecting the user with the world wide web would have changed that and make users stay longer connected because they can't browse the net "offline". During that time is the node blocked for any other user, which would reduce the number of people you could serve in a reasonable manner.

Add to this, that the BBS would also require a permanent connection to the internet which was not cheap back then. There was no such thing as high speed internet yet. What some Sysops did, was the option for users to create an internet email account and use the BBS as something like a Hotmail or Gmail.

The end of the BBS era was coming, but some did not wanted to believe it. BBS software companies attempted to create internet versions of their BBS software, but failed to realize that the internet does not work like a BBS. Needless to say, with the BBS's did also die a lot of BBS software companies, including Clark Development who created "PcBoard", the BBS software I was using (Rusty n Edie's too btw).

That's life. There is nothing anybody could have done to change the course of history.

Here are the promised technical details about the Rusty-n-Edie's BBS.
  • Three 486 33Mhz servers with 32 Megabytes of memory on each. One 22Mhz 486 server with 80 Megabytes of RAM. They each have a caching controller. We need that much memory to cache the fifteen 780 Megabytes SCSI drives, three 1.2 Gigabytes and two 386 Megabytes ESDI drives, the 20 drives format to something over 15 Gigabytes.

  • 128 (one for each node) 16Mhz 286's.
  • In addition, we have eight 33Mhz 386's, a 16Mhz 386 (our original server, our original Tandy XT type machine died about a year ago), and five 12Mhz 286's (These machines are so we can work on the system without taking it down).
  • 25 Anchor: 2400 baud modems.
  • 58 US Robotic's Dual Standards 14.4 V32 V32bis V42bis.
  • 24 Compucom 9600 baud Speedmodems.
  • 5 Hayes V-Series V42bis modem.
  • 16 direct connect CONNECT-USA lines.
  • All of this networked together with four copies of the wonderful Novell Netware 386. It works great!
  • The whole thing is hooked up to ten huge batteries that supply 16KV of uninterruptable power.
  • Sysops: the couple Rusty Hardenburgh and Edwina Hardenburgh, two of their son's, their daughter and a friend of the family with the name Carl
The BBS was busted by and shut down by the FBI in 1993 because of software piracy.
More to that is available at Wikipedia.

Monday, April 16, 2007

ASCII plus Animation is ASCIImation

A fellow ASCII artist with the pseudonym "Skylined" over at deviantART sent me something cool and unique and makes me rethink about "the death" of text art in the internet age. It's pretty much kicking butt for something that was announced dead by Microsoft over a decade ago.

He does not have a real website (the URL I got works sometimes and sometimes it does not) and what he did can not be displayed at deviantART, so I asked him for permission to put it on my website and he was okay with it.

What he did is a combination of Text art and cool JavaScript coding to get the desired effects.

The first one is a horizontal scrolling "Star Field Effect" emulation, which used to be very popular during the end of the eighties and nineties with demosceners and crack intro coders alike.

It also "fades in" and out an ASCII logo, which can be easily replaced by different logos, because it is pulled dynamically from an external text file on the fly. No coding necessary.

You can see the real-time "Star Field" animation here or click on the image.

The second piece is even cooler in my opinion, but the graphic is not as easy to replace. It is possible though, but you need to know a bit about JavaScript that you done screw it up.

The Animation contains two main parts. The first one is a "Morph" effect between four different ASCII logos, which are also cool and done by Skylined himself.

I like the "Shark-like" logo the best, because it looks even more 3D with the morph effect than it did already without it.

But his ASCII called "Julia at Awakenings", which was a contribution to the Non-Existent ASCII contest at deviantART in November/December last year is also pretty cool.

He did not win unfortunately, although he was my personal favorite and got my #1 vote (I was one of the judges of the contest).

The second part is actually more impressive and something for the coders at heart, what I am unfortunately not. It shows a real-time Mandelbrot fractal look-alike zoom and rotation and was programmed entirely (no ASCII logo).

Check the Morph and Mandelbrot Animation here or click on one of the images.

Carsten aka Roy/SAC

Saturday, April 07, 2007

VNV Nation saved the day (okay, my day)

I took the time (had to) to visit the U.S. consulate in Berlin, Germany to get a new visa document into my passport while I was in Berlin last week on Thursday. My old one expired last October, but I already got the approval papers for my visa extension for 3 years (l am living in the U.S. for over 7 years already, but do not have any Green card yet).

Okay, this is nothing worth to bug you with, but this is also not the reason why I am writing this.

I had an appointment at the U.S. consulate at 8 am that morning and was waiting in line when I noticed some familiar faces in the crowd of people that were waiting as well.

It was my favorite Band, the two members Ronan Harris and Mark Jackson.
They are the British EBM band VNV Nation.

I engaged them and asked what (WTF was actually the precise thought that crossed my mind at that moment) they are doing close to 8 am at the U.S. consulate in Berlin, Germany.
It turns out that they got them paper work done for the upcoming U.S. tour and they were giving a concert in Berlin that night, so they decided to get their visa's for the U.S. here. That does make sense.

No picture to proof it, because no camera was available anywhere (including no camera cell phone), which is no coincidence, because you are not allowed to bring any electronic device (including cell phones, iPods, Blackberries and whatnot) to the consulate. You heard right, “bring to the consulate”, since they do not give you the option to drop it off at the door and pick it up again when you leave.

Everybody felt so safe now, which is no surprise, since everybody was virtually as naked as a hippy in the sixties. Add now nitpicking bureaucracy to the mix and it would have been a bad day for me, if it had not happened that I meet and talk to my favorite band in person.

It made my day so to speak.

Want to hear more like this, because it does not just end there. Weird coincidences seem to “travel” in packs hehe. What is also funny, is the fact that by a weird twist of fate VNV Nation is using “my”* ShoWare Box Office Solution of one of my companies clients for their Fan Direct Ticket sales.

Fans got the access code for the site. I got it “officially” via internal mail at, because I befriended VNV Nation at MySpace.

p.s. Visit My MySpace Page. Guess what music is being played in the background? :)

* I am the Head Developer of the U.S. ShoWare Solution so I joked when I told Ronan that he could send complaints to me directly, if he has any.

He seems to be quite happy with the System though and I gave them my business card, in case they want to do some more Ticket sales via ShoWare. Maybe even get their own co-branded site to do all their ticket sales on their own. We will see.

My favorite VNV Nation Song – “Solitary” (live)

More VNV Nation Music Videos at

- VNV Nation – Standing (Live)
- VNV Nation – Legion (Live)
- VNV Nation – Kingdom (Live)
- VNV Nation – Procession (Live)

and also

- VNV Nation – Saviour (VOX) Fan Video


- VNV Nation – Pastperfect DVD Trailer

Also check my EBM, Industrial and Gothic Music Video play list at my Page.

Here is the play list directly (Via a widget provided by, which I use for the first time now. Nice!).

Carsten aka Roy/SAC