Saturday, January 20, 2007

1: They fear the internet

Does anyone remember PINE? It was the e-mail system universities were using back when bison still roamed the plains and my friends and I had just graduated high school. At that point in history, very few of us really knew what to do with e-mail. At the start of the semester we'd bang out a tedious, misspelled tome to our friend in Boston or our girlfriend in New York and then we'd forget all about e-mail for multi-week stretches.

Twelve years later, all civilised peoples have moved to using e-mail on a daily basis. All civilised peoples but the Welsh. One of the best ways to hide from a Welsh person is to send him or her an e-mail telling them where you are.

On the whole, Welsh people seem to approach the internet like a complicated Christmas present they didn't ask for, as if the world has given them a Bowflex. They're appreciative, and a handful of them have taken to it and developed killer abs, but for the most part they would have preferred that Voices of the Valley CD and perhaps a gift certificate to NEXT.

I would suspect that all of this country's regular internet users would fit comfortably into the available seating at a Bangor City FC home game. And most of them would work for the BBC.

For those of us blogging in Welsh -- less than 80 at my last count -- we find it is very difficult to get past the "What is a blog?" question. And with the exception of Dogfael, who seems to blog every 12 minutes, Welshies tend not to be the most dedicated of bloggers. With English blogs, I will assume they've gone dead if they go without updates for a month. With Welsh blogs, I find the window needs to be about six months.

It's not that the Welsh are mentally slow or any such crap*, it's just that they tend not to trust the whole thing. Before moving here, I had never been asked whether I was concerned about the possible negative effects of keeping a blog. I get asked that question all the time over here, referring to my English blog, my Welsh blog or both. And the tone of the question implies not just that I should be concerned but that I shouldn't be doing it in the first place -- the tone one would perhaps use if asking: "I'm sure it's invigorating, but aren't you concerned that bathing naked in the Taff will get you arrested?"

Last semester, people in my course were instructed to form groups for a project that will become the bane of my existence in the coming semester. As always happens when classmates are forced to do group projects, we immediately discovered that none of us could be arsed to adjust our schedules so as to meet with one another. To counter this, I decided to create a Google Group that would allow us to stay in e-mail contact and set up a basic running structure. This worked slightly less effectively than if I had tried to recruit for Promise Keepers. A week later, we still had failed to come up with a name for the group (a goofy requirement of the course). When I pressed on this, I discovered that the majority of my group members had not checked their e-mail. In a week.

In a way, it is very endearing. Having previously worked in a web-based company, I'll be the first to admit that the internet is not the World-Peace-Making Magic Box that people sold it as in the 1990s. It doesn't bother me that I am unlikely to hear a conversation about "hi-def compression and the emerging rival optical disc formats" in the Mochyn Du. Taking technology with a grain of salt is a good thing. But, come on, answer my freakin' e-mails, will you?

*I have actually had one or two people try to tell me that Welsh people aren't all that bright. OK, fuckers, then why don't you tell me who developed the equals sign? And the word "zenzizenzizenzic?" And the Jolly Roger? And the sleeping bag? That's right, bitches, the sleeping bag. Your ass would be freezing on camping trips if it weren't for the Welsh.

20 comments:

Nic Dafis said...

You ain't whistling Dixie, frawd.

Eric said...

Jebus, at the U of M (Minnesota that is) you are pretty much gauranteed to fail if you don't check your email twice a day because professors like to make decisions four hours before class and assume that you must be planning on checking your email five minutes or so thereafter. The flip side of the coin isn't all that great either I guess.
Either way, PINE rules. Oh and Gopher was a kick ass way of searching the internet, if you didn't like pictures or if you didn't want to find anything interesting that is.

Wierdo said...

When I'm at university, I check my emails several times daily (I have no life). But at home I have no need. Nobody emails me and its much much too cold!

Zoe said...

>>With Welsh blogs, I find the window needs to be about six months.<<

I'm guilty of this. Though in all fairness, my life has been a regular soap opera the past few months, and it's hard to discuss in English, much less Cymraeg. But I'll do better, I swear!

I must say though, if your observations are true (and I believe they are), this doesn't bode well for my PhD research...

Afe said...

I remember PINE! I remember PINE! Does that make me a super-nerd or just really old? Either way, the news isn't good.

Mei said...

I don't think this is limited to the Welsh.

A friend of mine completed a Film degree at Coventry a couple of years ago, and there were people on her course who wrote every essay by hand.

Flickr also gets weird looks: "So, anyone can see your pictures?"

tuckmac said...

I'm going with Mei on this one, my Master's course at Canterbury fell into disarray several times a month, due to the "oh, you sent me an e-mail, did you?" problem.

I think it may be a U.K.-wide issue. At the Uni I work at in Minnesota, EVERYTHING is web-based, and like the U of M (Minnesota) you'd probably fail out if you didn't check your e-mail eight times a day.

- T

Gary said...

"So, anyone can see your pictures?"

Yes, yes, yes ... I get this all the time. As well as

"What do you find so interesting on that computer?"

What? Apart from thousands upon thousands of articles, essays, jokes, features, news items, music etc etc

Robert Humphries said...

Some will undoubtedly disagree, but I believe what the Rhithfro lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. I have, in those rare moments when I have the luxury of boredom, clicked from blog to blog on the blogger "next" button, only to find page after page of utterly boring mental droppings hopped up on anime-inspired flash animations and theme tunes that recall an amplified Casio digital watch alarm circa 1985.
I admit I'm biased, but I think the Welsh-language blogosphere is on the whole, a bit more mature. We may blog less, but maybe that's because we think more about what we have to say. Or maybe not.

bryan torre said...

My ex-father-in-law's people are from Wales, and he's one of the most brilliant people I ever met. He's also like 75 yrs old and he can still kick my ass, so yes, absolutely the Welsh rock...

I also get that "what's so interesting about that computer?" and "what's a blog, again?" and I live in Seattle for pete's sake...

Ray Diota said...

Oi, Cope you cheeky bastard! I'd have no problem with this post... if it wasn't for the fact that I've sent you at least 5 unanswered e-mail invitations to the pub, you cock!! ;-)

I've been getting serious hassle about my blog recently... mainly because I've been trying to use it to pull girls.

There is a disdain for blogging, I agree - it's that suspicion... people think you'r blowing your own trumpet...

I had someone tell me once: "If you think you can write, show the judges at the Eisteddfod, don't show the whole fucking world!" Which I thought was a classic Welsh quote...

so, when are you coming to the pub you e-mail phobic yank? :-)

mona said...

they sound like the French..

heatherfeather said...

what i liked about PINE was when you went to delete an email it asked "do you want this message to be permanently expunged?"

there's a word that's underused these days...

Ynot said...

Ok...I am not anti Welsh in any way, but, I wouldn't say the Welsh developed the equal sign. A Welsh person did (though I have read somewhere it was actually in use in Italy around the 13th century). So...saying "the Welsh" sounds like they all got together one day somewhere, had a meeting and decided to develop a sign for "equal". And so they toiled for months (all of Wales at once) and finally they developed it. Hurrah the Welsh!
But no, the Welsh did not develop it. A Welshman did.
And I remember (but only after reading your blog because the word was buried deep, way deep, in my psyche) Pine. I guess I'm that old. In fact, I just realised that last July 2006 is my 1st ever email tenth anniversary. I was in Birmigham, Alabama, and a friend gave me a crash course on emails, chat rooms, and the internet. I came back to Britain a changed man. Never looked back.

Ray Diota said...

I'd never hear that the equal sign was a welsh masterpiece before... I was told, however, that if you americans raised all your railtracks and looked underneath, a large percentage of them would be stamped with 'Merthyr Tudful'. Cool.

Chris Cope said...

Ray -- Yeah, but's that's just the work of vandals.

a. fortis said...

Good lord, not only do I remember Pine, I also remember Elm. I too am elderly. I remember when Eudora was freakin' awesome fancy shit. I remember having to telnet places. I remember being at this guy's house when I was in high school and oohing and ahing over the fact that he had Prodigy.

Liz said...

And Jack Daniels!

Sara said...

oh yes PINE. such a strange creature. i remember that my college didn't even HAVE email when i started -it was "in the works" or somesuch. so i had a mac and joined "iVillage" and used an old fashioned modem that made the cool noise. with a dial up number. but then they got PINE email. which some Bard kids never ever used, like the Welsh.

what was the system through which you could sign on and then "finger" another user and they'd get a message if they were logged on that so and so was "fingering" them? and who decided on that terminology? and i was so young i didn't even make dirty jokes about it then. so whoever you "fingered" could "finger" you back and you'd accept and then voila you'd get a split screen and the earlier version of online chatting that i ever saw. i'd get really impatient cause you were the slowest typist ever.

my goodness some of our fiercest fights and arguments originated in all the things that can get misconstrued in poorly thought out garbled chat comments.

J. Parsons said...

Maybe Wales is one of the last bastions of something resembling sense in this increasingly wired world?