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Why Geeks Win In The Long Run

Why Geeks Win In The Long Run

By David Ponce

VIA [ Geeks Are Sexy ]

  • Anton Gully

    My first ever job, while I was at University, was acting as a host on Micronet’s chatroom, whose name I have forgotten. It was a first of its kind back in the 80s and based off their Shades MUD.

    To put this in context, the twenty five quid a week I got for it made a significant difference to my life back them.

    Initially the hosts were drafted in to keep an eye on things outside of work hours and all we had to do was log so many hours, so many times a week – it worked out about £2.50 an hour and you could do, say, two by five hour blocks in a week and get your money at the end of the month.

    That was fine for a couple of months but the block nature of the coverage meant users knew when the hosts had gone. It became predictable.

    Let’s make this clear, initially the hosts were there to make sure that chat was chat and NOTHING untoward or un-British went on. We were there to censor people by ejecting them from the chat-room if they started talking naughty.

    As I said, after a couple of months it became obvious that most hosts were electing to cover the 6pm-11pm slot a couple of nights a week and that was that. This left a huge hole in the monitoring from 11pm until about 9am in the morning when office hours started.

    Clearly they needed to offer the hosts a better deal to encourage them to cover a wider range of hours.

    No, no they did not do that.

    They changed the terms of the agreement so that you had to cover a wider range of time for the same money. You still only had to be logged on for the same amount of time, and you got paid the same, but you had to stretch that logged-in time over a longer period so the early morning was covered.

    At the time I was using an Amstrad PPC640 with an external monitor. I’d sold my Atari ST to get it because the Atari ST was a fluffy computer, only useful for games and frivolous nonsense. I have no idea what I was thinking. My urge towards earnest endeavour in the 80s washed up against the remorseless rocks of entertainment when Doom was released. That’s another story.

    The client I was using at the time had a scripting language. So… at first I still monitored the chat room as normal, popping in here and there as required. Once it hit about 9 to 10 pm I ran a script which alerted me with a beep when someone new popped into the lobby. I’d appear, say hi, make sure new people were aware I was around and then watch them for a while until I was happy they weren’t raving perverts, or “Internet users” as we call them nowadays. There weren’t THAT many people using the service. It cost about six quid an hour.

    There’s a great book called “The Cybergypsies” by Indra Sinha that was written about Micronet and Shades at the time. It doesn’t cover the chat rooms but it’s a good feel for what was going on. This was a time when game addiction could absolutely cripple you financially, and it was billed by the telecoms provider so if you were an idiot you could rack up hundreds of pounds of charges with no-one to put a brake on you. That’s another story.

    Eventually my terms of employment changed yet again. The buttoned-down, no sex please we’re British approach wasn’t working. People had no interest in innocent chat. At the time Micronet had two big successes, Shades the proto-MMORPG (HAKENSLASH FTW!!!), and “The CUG”, which was the subscription gay user group. They had primitive “chatlines” which ran on a carousel of about 100 messages, but they weren’t real-time. I learned to troll like a trooper back on those chatlines. sniff. It could take twenty minutes for a message to appear, so anyone who waited for a reply to their enquiry got lost under a barrage of people, “people”, typing as fast as they could so that the carousel held more of their thoughts than anyone else. Good times.

    Now sexy times were okay, but we had to enforce, strictly enforce, an age ban, because now the chat rooms had gone “after dark” and everything was fair game. So long as you were prepared to pay 10p a minute. And you weren’t under 18. Or… no, that was about it.

    Relations with the management hadn’t improved much. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t some faceless corporation. This was a small, focussed, generally fantastic company, but we were contract workers paying back a good chunk of what we earned in subscriptions to Micronet, the company employing us.

    At some point I just became disillusioned and wrote a massive ugly script (I’m not a coder) that cycled through the chat rooms and checked for key words. You know, “key words”. I logged into the chat room, ran the script and whenever it was triggered by a key word, I was probably in a bar or at a house party. I didn’t really care.

    When somebody new logged in the script whispered them an anonymous (I was invisible) message telling them hello, and if they had any problems to send me a tell, but I mispelled the name they should use. I programmed a bunch of deniable plausability into that thing. By comparison my final year degree project was primitive.

    Eventually the inevitable happened and they didn’t need the outside office hours hosts anymore. Obviously, the thing just ran itself. It really did.

  • Anonymous

    Once the script is ready, the time spent should drop down a lot below that what the graph shows 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Once the script is ready, the time spent should drop down a lot below that what the graph shows 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Once the script is ready, the time spent should drop down a lot below that what the graph shows 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Once the script is ready, the time spent should drop down a lot below that what the graph shows 🙂

  • Meat Lover

     the time spent on the chart is cumulative.  It shows the non-geek still spending time while after the geek writes the script, no time is spent thereafter.