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Surfing the Web with Grandpa

September 12, 2010 |
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This post is less about Clickability and more about the Internet and I dare say, humanity in general.  The last 5 days I was away from the office, visiting family back home in Rhode Island and this afternoon I surfed the Internet with my grandfather for the first time.

He is 92 years old, and in contrast to most of the last 65 years, he talks a lot about his time in the Navy during World War II these days.  His stories are amazing - they are not tales of bravery, or combat, or triumph.  They are mostly stories about small things during a conflict of epic proportions.  They are stories of friendship, camaraderie, and discovery that describe the elements of human experience that he found during an unimaginable time.

I heard many of the best ones again this weekend, such as the making of donuts for the 59 men on his ship based on a recipe in the Navy Cookbook that he had to scale back from serving 1000 men!  And the bottle of black label bourbon he snuck past the shore patrol and hid in his locker, judiciously sharing with his shipmates (he still remembers who) over the course of months rather than in one "blowout" night. 

To go along with the stories were the pictures -  amazing, one of a kind photos.  Cameras were strictly forbidden to sailors and soldiers during the war.  However, with special permission from his Captain, my Grandpa kept his 35mm camera safely stowed beside the 40mm gun which was his post during general quarters, capturing shots of his life in the Navy and the events unfolding around him.

This afternoon, my wife and I found ourselves searching the Internet with him for his ship and shipmates.  We found a couple of pictures (like this one LSN 326), and we found a scanned program from his ship's commissioning, including the roster of sailors aboard.  This was all "user generated content" collected by websites that encouraged veterans to share their photos and stories online.  Yeah, UGC!

At Clickability, when we talk about websites and design our products and services, we are focusing on commercial aspects of the Internet. But the human implications of the Internet are so much greater. Facebook, Twitter and others have created a new social fabric, Wikipedia answers (almost) all of our questions, and the ability for anybody to create content on the Internet means it can truly become an archive of humankind that is open and accessible to all.



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