A Time When I Felt Cool

Ten years ago I felt like one of the cool kids. I was on the bleeding edge of video on the Internet, way before YouTube was a twinkle in anyone’s eye…

There was a time when web pages were just text and pictures. There was no flash, no video, nothing interactive. The fanciest thing was when you could make text bounce left to right or blink on a page. Believe me: if I did that here now, you’d run away screaming.

Then I found a site called Rocket Boom (which is now gone). (Here is kind of what it looked like back then, minus the video in the middle.) I saw it… and I was mesmerized… wow! How do you put video on a website? I want to do that!

I had a website. I paid for hosting. I tried it–I posted a video. I emailed my friends and told them to check out the cool video of my kids on my web page.

Within a day of posting the video, my web page completely crashed.

Why?

Watching videos takes up a lot of bandwidth. Most hosting providers say you can only use up so much bandwidth per month; and when you use up your bandwidth, you either pony up the bucks, or your site stays down.

All right, fine. So where do I put my video? I started talking to my online friends. One of them pointed me in the direction of archive.org. It was an internet historical library of sorts that allowed you to post your videos there for free. It still does–and nowadays I have a lot of musician friends who host their concert audio files there.

Added bonus: on archive.org, There is a collection of song files from Adam Ezra Group playing on the Sounds of the Sea Cruise. If you listen to the whole thing, listen really carefully, and know what to listen for, you might (but probably won’t) actually hear me singing along in the background. You’re best chance is in the last track when Adam starts hollering, “Suzy, get over here!”   (This is one of my favorite bands of all time, by the way.)

Then came blip.tv (defunct), and then came YouTube. Once YouTube came around, any random kid could be a cool kid. Us old hoagies who had put blood, sweat, and tears into painstakingly putting together web pages, setting up RSS feeds with video containers, and ultimately magically putting video on the web… we early adopters were suddenly obsolete.

What does all this have to do with this one picture?

When I began videoblogging I was starting to make friends with a bunch of other people who did. We all struggled together. We helped each other with our websites. We shared each other’s content. Some of us went on to become really famous (like Gary Vaynerchuk), but some of us just petered out and became soccer moms and dads (like me).

Making videos wasn’t just about throwing our lives out there. Even for the people that seemed like that was all they were doing (cough, me, cough), strangers got something from it. I had a guy in Norway, who became a really good friend of mine, tell me in a comment, “Wow… I’ve never seen the inside of a U.S. grocery store before!” (My son had been carrying around my video camera in Kroger, and 75% of the video was of my butt.)

One week in the height of my vlogger days I was sent to New Jersey for work. When we were done with work a little early one day, I hopped on a bus and rode blindly into New York City. I got to meet, face to face, a group of these people I had been watching videos of for months.

We all felt like old friends.

We hugged like old friends. We chatted like old friends. Even though we had never physically touched before that night, we had already seen each other through a pane of glass (a computer screen, not an iPhone, because those weren’t around back then).

This photo is of me and Clark ov Saturn. he is a seriously cool dude… and now a parent, like me.

Later on I would even go out of the country to an event called “Vlog Europe.” I met up with a new group of friends (including the grocery store commenting fella) and walked all over Budapest, Hungary with them. We, of course, were taking videos the whole time. (Back then, video on Flickr was a new thing; and I was taking tons of 90 second videos to later upload there.)

Here’s another bonus for you: We found “Texas” spray-painted on a wall in Budapest. What are the odds? No other US state names were spray-painted there… 😀

It was so neat and wonderful to have these fresh strange connections with people who otherwise would have been complete strangers from halfway across the country, and all the way across the world.

If you’re friends with someone online, and you’ve never met, and you’re passing through their town, send them an email ahead of time. Ask them out for coffee. Tell them you’d love to meet them in person. Even if they’re just a blogger whose work you love, you’ll be surprised to know that they would love to meet up and chit chat with you.

In the same vein, if you have people that are more likely to pass through your town, extend an open-ended invitation to them. Let them know that “next time you’re in Dallas, send me an email!” It will maybe help them feel less awkward about asking you out for coffee.

If you’re ever in Dallas, drop me an email.

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About Susan Pitman

Susan is an artist who grew up in Massachusetts and now lives in Texas. She writes songs, short stories, and books. You can follow @susanpitman143 on Twitter.

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