From the Ether

SAN MATEO (03/13/2000) - Marshall McLuhan famously said, "The medium is the message." I recall hearing this from McLuhan himself, as he was waiting in line for a movie with Woody Allen, in Allen's 1977 movie, Annie Hall.

Actually, after a bit of reading at, I now know the guru first wrote that signature profundity in his book, Understanding Media. That was 1964, the year I graduated from Bay Shore High School, the year IBM Corp. introduced the 360 mainframe, and five years before the birth of the Internet.

Today, the Internet is rapidly becoming a McLuhanesque medium of mass communication. And I, a computer network plumber turned technology pundit, am privileged to write, speak, and organize conferences about it.

Starting next week, I'll be transforming this column, From the Ether, into a weekly Webcast, called Live From the Ether. I'll be opining more about the Internet via the Internet. The medium will be the message will be the medium.

Each week this column appears first on Saturday morning via the Internet at There you will also find an archive of past columns.

Then on Monday, From the Ether appears in 375,000 printed copies of InfoWorld.

There it is read by (at last report) 500,000 of the 1 million IT professionals among whom InfoWorld is passed.

Because of increasing weekly readership, InfoWorld's editors just moved From the Ether to the top of the publication's last page. Funny, but people who disagree with my columns often accuse me of writing to attract a large audience ... and I plead guilty.

From the Ether is syndicated internationally by a few of the 290 magazines that InfoWorld's parent company, International Data Group (, publishes to 90 million people in 80 countries. I know this only because I receive periodic bursts of e-mail in languages other than English.

On Tuesdays, my column is sent by e-mail to (at last report) 50,000 people who've requested it. My e-mail peaks on Tuesday nights -- and it sometimes reaches 500 messages, especially if I've attacked Linux or Microsoft.

Starting on Wednesday, March 22, at 1 p.m. Eastern Time, From the Ether will broadcast on the Web live. The weekly Webcast will begin with commentary on that week's column. We'll enhance the story with interviews, including video when available. We'll answer interesting e-mail. And we'll take live telephone calls and e-mail from registered listeners. The formats will, of course, evolve based on audience feedback.

You will find Live From the Ether at is IDG's new Web network.

My Webcast is an experiment to answer at least the following four questions.

First, can I cut back on attending conferences around the world, stay at home, and use the Internet to reach my heretofore-growing audience?

Second, is Webcasting technology good enough to carry rich multimedia to large audiences? I'll be watching my own Webcast from Maine using Netscape on a Macintosh connected at 56Kbps. Most of you will use Internet Explorer on Windows via Ethernet. Will "streaming" multimedia stream?

Third, can my punditry attract a large enough weekly audience, live, on the Internet, despite all the Linux, Microsoft, and telopoly enthusiasts who keep canceling their subscriptions?

And fourth, can a Webcast to this audience be profitable through some combination of subscriptions and advertising? Webcast Editor Lisa Lavery will help enhance my columns with messages that are appropriate to the new medium. And Event Producer Lisa Boles will push the limits of streaming multimedia.

So you are cordially invited to read From the Ether each week and then tune in Wednesdays at 1 p.m. Eastern Time for a live discussion at Don't worry if you miss a Live From the Ether Webcast -- it will be available on demand shortly thereafter.

Technology pundit Bob Metcalfe is trying again to compile a book of his columns -- Internet Collapses and Other InfoWorld Punditry by Bob Metcalfe with rebuttals by ... start saving toward taking delivery in May. You can reach him at

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