A comment today on another post by Harry Stevens prompts this post. Harry asks whether I've ever visited The Computer Museum in Boston and if so whether they would be interested in the donation of a server with his ground-breaking software, Participate, on it.
Long before most reading here were even thinking about email (or for that matter computers), Harry Stevens had developed Participate, computer conferencing software described below. Visionary and its basic design still underlies most really good discussion software.
Alas, The Computer Museum in Boston exists no more, having closed in 1996 (what does that say about our history), its collection now belonging to The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California (i.e. Silicon Valley), which opened in its current location in 2002. Watch what's coming there: next year they're opening an exhibit called "Computer History: The First 2000 Years." Bold. I also will refrain from commenting on the endless rivalry between Silicon Valley and Boston's MIT/Route 128 cultures, evidenced by the museum ending up in "their" vicinity rather than ours. Harrumph.
Why am I writing this post really? Because for a few years before and after 1995, a group of us, including Jeff Stamps and me, volunteered to create a new initiative here in Boston that would engender the kind of collaborative culture that, for all its cutthroat competitiveness has characterized Silicon Valley: "MassNet: Collaboration for the Commonwealth," which leaves but this small trace on an MIT server.
On a cold January day in 1995, MassNet brought together 250 representatives of each of the area's major sectors--from business, education, the denominations, foundations, healthcare, government...you name it, they were there. Among the event's sponsors was The Computer Museum, then housed next to Boston's incomparable Children's Museum right along Fort Point Channel, which provided the space for the event. (John Marchiony was then executive director of the museum--forever thanks, John).
When not talking about collaboration and how to forge strong links across the notoriously non-collaborative sectors in the area, participants wandered around looking at the first 1000 years of computer history. It was a beautiful space to hold this event and the cast of presenters and participants was stellar.
Among those who spoke: Congressman Ed Markey, an early visionary about telecommunications, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the Harvard Business School prof and author who has written often about collaboration, Peter Drucker, yes, *the* Peter Drucker, who participated via videoconference from his home in Southern California, Drucker's grandson, Nova Spivack, late of Twine, Harry Saal, then CEO of Smart Valley, an initiative in Silicon Valley to wire the area (the digital divide was then the major topic among computer aficiandoes), Charlotte Kahn, who leads the Boston Indicators Project at the The Boston Foundation (and was my high school classmate), and others, including, need I say, moi. David Straus, founder of Interaction Associates, led the band of facilitators who conducted the breakout groups.
I could go on with all who participated and how ambitious our agenda was. Like so many great ideas, MassNet ran its course then died, having left a lot of people educated about the value of collaboration.
One last bit of personal history: Jeff's and my book, The Age of the Network, had its launch that night, also at The Computer Museum, where our publisher, Darryl Landvater of Oliver Wight, and our editor, Jim Childs, now publisher at Time Inc., hosted a book party
So, thanks, Harry, for giving me the opening to write about MassNet and...try The Computer History Museum. If they're not interested in a server loaded with Participate, they should be.