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The Wise-Women Web Site:
Looking Forward And Back

Looking back to how Wise-Women started, and thinking about the future.

by Dori Smith

Welcome to the opening of the Wise-Women's Web Site! Thanks to the work of many dedicated volunteers, this site is a result of the success of the Wise-Women's Web Lists. I'm writing this as things are just starting to come together, but I'm already overwhelmed at how much time, creativity, and knowledge has been contributed to make this resource a reality.

Seeing this new site grow has made me think about Wise-Women's beginnings. In 1997, when I joined the list that was the genesis of WW, I was looking for a comfortable place where I could both ask and answer questions. I immediately felt at home; my very first post the day I subscribed thanked someone for a piece of information that I hadn't even known I wanted until I got it.

When that list imploded in early 1999, a group of us frantically emailed back and forth about our loss. I had a under-utilized mailing list server, so I offered to host a replacement. A quick survey was taken among us refugees and the new name "Wise-Women" was agreed upon.

As we've gone on, I've grown to appreciate the Wise-Women name more and more. Wisdom is a goal that we all strive for. People are born with varying levels of intelligence, but wisdom is something that we all have to work towards, our entire lives. And the word "Women" is inclusive--it's not one woman in particular; it's all of us women, together. And we're not chicks, babes, girls, or even grrls--we're women, and we're okay with being women.

We're not chicks, babes, girls, or even grrls-we're women, and we're okay with being women.

On the other hand, I like that while this list is women-centered it's also men-friendly. I don't believe in discrimination of any kind, and a list that didn't allow men would just get filled with men with fake names, pretending to be women so they could eavesdrop on the secrets we were supposedly sharing. Welcoming men on this list keeps those kind of jerks off. The men here are truly unique--it takes a certain kind of guy to want to join a list with "women" in the name, and an even more special kind to want to stick around.

I've re-read a lot of old messages tonight, and a few themes keep showing up over and over:

  • We were all beginners once. No question is too basic here, and no question is ever too stupid to be answered. And as we were all newbies once and someone helped us, we should pass along that helping hand.
  • No one knows everything, but everyone knows something. There aren't just a few people here who answer all the questions. The person who asks an elementary Photoshop question today will be answering tomorrow's UNIX stumper, and the person who answers the Photoshop question will tomorrow need information on CGI's. This field is just too big for anyone to know everything (and it's growing all the time) so everyone asks and answers as best they can.
  • The world-wide nature of this list reflects the World Wide Web itself. Ask a question from North America, and you might get a reply from Europe, Australia, or South America. While I don't have a complete list of countries, I know we have members with email addresses from the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, the Philippines, Israel, Austria, Argentina, and Brazil. This is especially valuable when you're tearing your hair out at 2am California time, and suddenly your question is answered by someone who's just come in to the office in Europe.
  • This group has a core culture that has not changed no matter its size. New members come along and are welcomed, and learn how things are done around here by the way they see others act. There are no flames here, because it's possible to disagree without being disagreeable. And by far, this group has had the fewest fake virus warnings of any that I've been associated with!
  • But the most important theme of all has been community. This list started because there was a community that needed a home. Over the years, individuals have come and gone, but the community itself has remained. No one person is more important that anyone else here, but all of us together make the whole.

Personally, I feel like I've provided an empty room, and the list members have brought to it warmth, refreshments, and wonderful conversation. The community has agreed that the time has come to start hanging our works on the walls and I'm proud to be able to provide the space.

To all of you, Wise-Women old and new, welcome!

Photo of Dori Smith

Dori Smith is co-author (with Tom Negrino) of JavaScript for the WWW: Visual QuickStart Guide, 5th edition and Mac OS X Unwired, author of Java 2 for the WWW: Visual QuickStart Guide, and numerous print and online magazine articles. She is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and is a member of the Web Standards Project Steering Committee. She maintains the Backup Brain weblog, and is also the List Mom for the Wise-Women mailing lists.

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