Like most people here, I’m a voracious consumer of Internet information. Without it, I’d be completely at sea these days. So first, a big shout-out to those countless souls who put information out there for the rest of us to use. Their motives may not be disinterested, but still they make the effort, usually without pay, for the benefit of the rest of us.
But the fact that they do so makes me feel a little bad, because I’m not reciprocating. I’m a parasite, in a way. I’ve begun to think I should put something up – more or less anything – just to balance the equation a little. Anyone else feel this way?
I’d love to have a cool bog thingy, like The Sneeze, that I just update with humerous anecdotes and silly things that I do, but I have almost no HTML skills at all, and even less skills in any other web programming language, and I don’t want to pay to have someone design a site for me, and any one of the “pre-fab” templates I might be able to find for free all generally look like crap.
Being here is giving back at least it is for me. I have answered a hell of a lot of questions and some of them have had practical value. I have a website too but it is just personal stuff. It isn’t like you have to write most of the internet yourself. That would suck.
An easy way to give back is to post the answer to a really obscure problem somewhere that gets indexed by search engines. That has saved me countless times with computer issues. Some good person posted the exact registry key to change or something and now everyone can find the answer.
Start adding that up over a billion people or so and you get some real knowledge consolidation.
These are some good points. Just a by-the-way on the computer stuff – it’s often true that someone has posted the exact solution to your problem, but it’s also true that a thousand people have posted their wrongheaded guess as to the solution to your problem.
Back in the early days of the internet (when most folks were using unix machines) I put a bunch of technical specs about how most of the popular computer busses worked, which was my way of giving back for all of the technical info that I managed to find for free on the net. Those articles proved to be amazingly popular, and have now been copied to hundreds of web sites all over the internet. Sure, it’s only useful for geeks, but at least I did my part.
I wouldn’t say I give back to “the Internet” but I do answer questions in GQ when I can, and occasionally at Answerbag. Wikipedia pretty much knows everything I do, so I can’t help much there, but I do go over there and fix typos when I’m bored.
Speaking as someone who used to have a website with content, but who does so no longer, I would say the best thing you can do is to send thank-you emails to webmasters: thanks for this content, your site is awesome, I love you guys, etc.
The most common type of email I got was “why don’t you update? I want more content!” The mythical, non-existent email was an unqualified “thank you for making this available.”
That would be giving back enough to satisfy the likes of me. (That it never happened, and that the “why don’t you update? why didn’t you do the HTML this way? why don’t you organize the content in the way that I prefer?” emails only increased, is why I have a website no longer.)