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End of an era

End of an Era

September 2008

This month marks the end of an era, the moving of some of my original webpages. Before explaining why, a bit about me...

I spent the 80's studying Physics. I began my BSc, majoring in Physics at UBC in 1979, I worked for a couple of years as a Research Assistant at SFU, then went to Grad school at the University of Waterloo and graduated with my PhD in 1991. Among the things we geeks would do, that virtually nobody else had heard of - the internet. Now if you're not a geek, you might think the internet was invented in the 90's. In fact, long before the "World Wide Web" started becoming popular in the mid-90's there were many of use sending each other email, moving files around the world with FTP, logging into other computers by TELNET, reading everything from recipes to government documents via GOPHER, holding topical discussions in USENET groups, etc.

I think it was because Physicists were among the few early users of the internet that it was a scientist at the European Center for Nuclear Physics (CERN) who propoposed something "Conceived and developed to meet the demand for information sharing between scientists all over the world". We were naturally among the first surfers and developers of web pages. In fact, for years almost anything I searched for with "Winnipeg" in the keyword list would have Theoretical Physics at the University of Winnipeg at the top of the results list because it was probably the oldest and most linked-to website in Winnipeg (if you don't know about search engine ranking - that shoves the rating way up).

By the mid-90's my pastor asked me to look into getting the Church an email address. I found a local community "freenet" (which lost the name for trademark reasons). It was amazing for the era - free dial-up access with email and space for a webpage available at no cost. I was impressed enough that I joined the volunteer tech support group. We decided to put a basic church web page on the freenet. Around that time I was having some talks with the Pastor about misinformation on scientific topics that had found its way into some of his sermons. He explained that all kinds of common reference material said the same thing, and invited me to write up a correction. So I did, and he said this should be distributed. I don't think he said "put it on our website", but that's what I took it to mean. While I was at it I rattled off a few others based on other frustrations I had with talking science and Christianity in various settings. I gave them all a revision date, fully believing that I would one day update them. 12 years later, they're firmly part of the "World Wide Cobweb".

In the pre-Google days, finding websites was a huge issue. So lists of links was a big part of most websites. It actually never occured to me that I should only link to site which I entirely, or even mostly, agreed with. If the topic of a links list was "Does God Exist" I would like to Josh McDowell stuff for standard Christian apologetics stuff, and site like the Secular Web for the opposing point of view. Let the reader find whatever they may want to read and make up their own mind, right? There were a lot of us of a similar mind back then. In 1996 I was actually featured on the secular web with a biographic sketch. As of September 2008 they still have links to it at http://www.infidels.org/infidels/newsletter/1996/october.html and http://www.infidels.org/secular_web/new/1997/may.html. However, I think at some point a later editor saw words the effect "although he is a Christian his pages are well worth reading" and decided he better delete the bio (but missed the links to it). As of September 2008 they still provide some external links to pages I put on the Church website. See Argument to Design. (look for "Doug Craigen" on these pages)

I think that era is long gone. The web is no longer edited by us academic idealists, people expect their organizations website to be largely a marketing piece promoting the beliefs, policies, products, etc. that it stands for. Nobody has ever told me I should remove these pages from the Church site, they just seem out of place these days. So I'm moving them to my own site. If you'd care to browse through them for some historical reading, here is the list:

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