While working at SparkNet I had managed to pick up some very basic technical skills. Little did I know at the time that learning how to code in HTML and understanding the basics of database management would be of such great value later on in my career. The more I learned, the more I began to comprehend exactly how search engines worked. SparkNet was growing at a furious rate and its founder, Christopher Knight got into the list making business. An offshoot of forums and bulletin boards, SparkList was born and one of its more successful online conversations included the ISPLists.
I met a lot of wireless entrepreneurs during the heyday of the ISPLists and moderating the conversations was taking up more of my time than originally anticipated. Soon, it became and advertising venue as well as a great place for ISP operators to share their high-speed tricks of the trade. At its apex of activity, the ISPLists caught the eye of Boardwatch magazine and a burgeoning online entity known as Internet.com, the premier IT news an information publication then held by the enigmatic online publisher Alan Meckler. Eventually, the ISPLists and its members became an integral part of ISPCON, challenging the status of monolithic internet service providers like AOL, EarthLink and the like.
Things were about to get very interesting when the ISPLists were acquired by Meckler. As the editorial iron fist of the ISPLists, I was extended the opportunity to go along with the deal and work for Internet.com. Gus Venditto, then editor-in-chief of Internet.com, didn’t think that managing the ISPLists constituted a full time job. During my interview with Gus, he asked if I could write for the ISP News portion of Internet.com. I had to laugh a bit, because I had majored in Journalism at UW-Madison and I had performed as the fine arts editor and eventual managing editor of the Badger Herald while attending college, so I didn’t think that writing about the industry that was a critical focus of my fascination would be much of a stretch. I said “yes, I think I could do that,” and I unwittingly entered into the second major phase in growing my understanding of search engines and the role that content plays in getting found on the web.
All-in-all 1998 was a very good year. I was working in an industry I loved, learning more about the web that I could possibly explain to my family, and writing about it all was just the icing on the cake. Then I met Danny Sullivan and participated in his first ISP Boot Camp for Internet.com writers and editors. Now things were starting to get really interesting … But more on that later. With some technical skills in my tool box I was about to pack up my kit and move to Connecticut to continue my education in just how content impacts natural search engine optimization.