Meet C.J. Cooke

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WebTV....The Internet "Teacher?"
by C.J. Cooke

I drove quickly home from the store, spent a few minutes attaching the cables to my TV, and then I eagerly pressed the ON button on my keyboard, wondering what this "WebTV" box had in store for me.

Now, almost two years later, I'm amazed at the journey the box and I have taken together. It's been an amazing two years, with happiness, frustration, and every other emotion imaginable.

I used to wonder what compelled others to buy a WebTV....I even wondered and hesitated myself before finally making the purchase. But now, looking back, I'm fairly confident I know the why....because I've seen it myself dozens of times.

I manage a WebRing for WebTV users, and as of the writing of this article (September 4th) we have 185 members. That's a long way from where we started a year and a half ago. The most interesting aspect of the ring is watching the member pages evolve. Stroll through the ring, and you'll see everything from professional quality sites to the bare-bones basics.

I think it's great to have such a broad spectrum of tastes and abilities, but the site you should be watching isn't the flashy's the basic, flash-free site. Why? Because I've watched dozens of those evolve from almost nothing into something spectacular.

The site hosting this article is a great example. When "Dear B" joined the ring, I remember a good site with a lot of promise, and the payoff has come in watching this page evolve into pages, ideas, knowledge, and help for fellow users and internet surfers. This is one of the joys of the net, and no system slowdowns or lack of features can take away from this simple pleasure.

Other members in the ring are similar in story to Dear B. Some have hours to spend on their pages, others don't. The key is that many of them signed up with WebTV possessing little or no knowledge of the internet and HTML, and have yet managed to learn at least enough to build a basic page.   Many have even continued to grow and expand their abilities to turn their pages into amazing pieces of work.

I know about growth on WebTV, because I've experienced it first-hand. When I first logged on, I had surfed the net and used e-mail before, and my knowledge of computers could be categorized as basic to mid-level. My first weeks on WebTV were spent exploring and learning about the features. But then, one day, I had a thought:

"I want a web page."

This was a turning point in my internet life (and also my real time life as well.)

My page started off badly, as I knew nothing about HTML and was using the Tripod page builder to make my pages. I had no direction and a plethora of un-related junk on my page. As the days and weeks went on, I learned a tag or two of HTML, and continued to wonder how to do this or that. Eventually, I felt I had learned enough to move away from Tripod and onto my own page provider, writing my own code and continuing to learn new tricks every day.

There was another turning point, where I decided that it was time to "pay back" all of those who had helped me along the way. I always admired Paul Erickson and his tireless efforts to help WebTV users, and tried to help ease the burden on him and other helpers by responding to newbies in the WebTV users newsgroup.

Eventually, I built a series of pages to help those new to WebTV with their learning experience. On my WebTV help pages, I have a feedback form for people to ask questions.

These inquiries have ranged from general topics like "What is HTML" and "How do I listen to a sound" to more complex questions like "How do I build an IRC chat page."

These varying questions have compounded my thoughts on the varying level of knowledge among WebTV users, and emphasizes the fact that we all start at the basics and learn to do more as time goes on. I think that many of these "IRC" builders, for example, were asking the "HTML" question a few months before.

So, why do we "Watch WebTV?" Well, whether we know it or not, it's a learning experience. Personally I've learned enough that there are now several companies paying me to help develop their web pages, and this is something that two years ago I would have never imagined. But, thanks to WebTV and my learning experiences on the net, I'm better off than I was 700+ days ago, and I'm sure the same can be said for most, if not all, of the WebTV community.

Please feel free to visit my home page at or by clicking here or if you're a WebTV user with a hope page, please join my ring at or click here to be taken to the signup page.

Editor's Note: C.J. has one of the best web rings for WebTV users. You'll find it listed at this site entitled I Watch WebTV Web Ring and it is worth visiting and joining. C.J. distributes a monthly newsletter to all ring members and it always contains useful and interesting information. That may be why his web ring has been so successful. Stop by C.J.'s and get to know him will be worth the trip! See his disclaimer statement, if you do nothing else, located on his entrance page to the actual site itself. That kind of humor you rarely find on the internet and you can see it here!

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