# Chapter Two: Daily Life in Cyberspace: How the Computerized Counterculture Built a New Kind of Place
Howard reports about his debut as a member of The Well when it started in 1985. He mentions the American writer and media person Stewart Brand best known as editor of the Whole Earth Catalog. He founded a number of organizations, including The WELL, the Global Business Network, and the Long Now Foundation.
The Whole Earth Catalog originally emerged from the Haight-Ashbury counterculture as Stewart Brand's way of providing access to tools and ideas to all the communards who were exploring alternate ways of life in the forests of Mendocino or the high deserts outside Santa Fe.
> One of Whole Earth's gurus, [Buckminster Fuller](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckminster_Fuller), was fond of using the analogy of the tiprudder--the small rudder on very big ships that is used to control the larger, main rudder. The tiprudder people who steer the movements and disciplines that steer society--the editors and engineers, scientists and science-fiction writers, freelance programmers and permaculture evangelists, grassroots political activists and congressional aides--continued to need new tools and ideas, even though they were no longer a counterculture but part of the mainstream. These cultural experimenters continued to feed Co-Evolution Quarterly and then Whole Earth Review through decades when magazines died by the thousands.
There was another major influence to make something like The Well possible: computer conferencing.
Brand realized that the technology of computer conferencing had potential far beyond its origins in military, scientific, and government communications.
Brand and his allies had three objectives:
> to facilitate communications among interesting people in the San Francisco Bay area, to provide sophisticated conferencing at a revolutionary low price, and to bring e-mail to the masses. To reach a critical mass, they knew they would need to start with interesting people having conversations at a somewhat more elevated level than the usual BBS stuff.
Interesting to note is that Howard specifies 'interesting people in the **San Francisco area**'. Compare with today's Facebook which ambitions are not local, but global.
Yet another cultural revolution touching The Well and turning it into a success was that of the personal computer. "Hackers" - in the broad sense of the word - flocked to the community.
Finally, music was all-important with a conference (group forum) dedicated to the Grateful Dead and their subculture.
The Well has 'hosts', persons we would now call "community managers" running specific conferences (forums). One important design decision was that nobody was anonymous. But even when identities are known or at least discoverable, things can become heated. So what is the general principle for running online communities?
> onlife life can become unpleasant and how to make it work. We kept concluding that simple, corny, all-powerful love was the only way to make a community work when it is diverse, thus guaranteeing friction, and at the same time committed to free expression, which can and does get out of hand.
## Gift Economy
Chapter Two has some fascinating insights about cyberspace as a gift economy. The "gifts" in this case are information, and that "good" is very relevant for the demographic invested in online communities:
> Since so many members of virtual communities are workers whose professional standing is based on what they know, virtual communities can be practical instruments. If you need specific information or an expert opinion or a pointer to a resource, a virtual community is like a living encyclopedia. Virtual communities can help their members, whether or not they are information-related workers, to cope with information overload. The problem with the information age, especially for students and knowledge workers who spend their time immersed in the info flow, is that there is too much information available and few effective filters for sifting the key data that are useful and interesting to us as individuals.
Howard describes how he discovers online information which is of no interest to him, but he still uses this informartion as a "gift" for those who are interested. Some of those people return the favor, and the gift returns.
> This informal, unwritten social contract is supported by a blend of strong-tie and weak-tie relationships among people who have a mixture of motives and ephemeral affiliations. It requires one to give something, and enables one to receive something. I have to keep my friends in mind and send them pointers instead of throwing my informational discards into the virtual scrap heap. It doesn't take much energy to do that, since I have to sift that information anyway to find the knowledge I seek for my own purposes; it takes two keystrokes to delete the information, three keystrokes to forward it to someone else. And with scores of other people who have an eye out for my interests while they explore sectors of the information space that I normally wouldn't frequent, I find that the help I receive far outweighs the energy I expend helping others: a marriage of altruism and self-interest.
Question one may ask: how relevant is this social contract now we have Google and AI-driven personal assistants?
Howard himself, in his book, has questions about the self-governance capabilities of the Net.
> One of the great problems with the atmosphere of free expression now tolerated on the Net is the fragility of communities and their susceptibility to disruption. The only alternative to imposing potentially dangerous restrictions on freedom of expression is to develop norms, folklore, ways of acceptable behavior that are widely modeled, taught, and valued, that can give the citizens of cyberspace clear ideas of what they can and cannot do with the medium, how they can gain leverage, and where they must beware of pitfalls inherent in the medium, if we intend to use it for community-building. But all arguments about virtual community values take place in the absence of any base of even roughly quantified systematic observation.