Archive for July, 2010

Aliza Sherman

Aliza Sherman

Why did you first get online?

I first used an external modem to connect with a BBS in 1987 on my
Amstrad 1640 desktop computer. I had purchased the computer and a dot
matrix printer to type out my many stories that I had hand written
into spiral notebooks since I was in grade school. I had dreams of
publishing a book and felt that typing out manuscripts would be a good
first step.

At the time, I was living in Manhattan with my sister and two other
women who were very concerned about my computer usage which kept me
busy every evening and into the wee hours of the night. I, on the
other hand, was fascinated with words on the glowing screen and the
information I could access and post.

My favorite story about learning about the Internet is about being
logged into a BBS one night and some words flashed on the screen “Do
you want to talk?” I jumped out of my seat, ran to the window and
closed the blinds, thinking that someone was watching me or that my
computer was talking to me. Hey, I’d seen War Games. Eventually I
discovered that there were other people logged into the same BBS that
I was at the same time and that we could talk to one another through a
chat function. BTW, the person asking to chat with me that first time
was a 17 year old boy from Brooklyn.
When did you first get involved with digital and why?

My Internet hobby was growing, and I looked for every possible way to
bring my love of being online and onilne communications to my jobs. At
the time I purchased my first computer, I was in the music business
and over the years tried to get some of the bands I worked with such
as Metallica and Def Leppard online but my bosses resisted. Then when
I was running a nonprofit organization on domestic violence awareness,
I created the first online resources on domestic violence prevention
including a forum on a national BBS Women’s Wire, on America Online
and eventually on the Web.

Once I learned about the Web and took a $10 class on basic HTML, I was
hooked because of the incredible power for building and creating that
HTML afforded me – and anyone – and for the global reach. I began
getting emails from around the world thanking me for publishing
domestic violence research and safety information on the Web – a site
called SafetyNet that no longer exists.

Before the advent of the Web, around 1992, I began consulting clients
about email marketing and online focus groups using listservs as the
interactive platform. By 1995, I was building websites for clients
including launching the first online information about breast cancer
for Avon’s Breast Cancer Awareness Crusade. They were my first major
client for my Internet consultancy CGIM (Cybergrrl Internet Media
later renamed Cybergrrl, Inc.) although we initially launched them on
America Online, not the Web. I build their first website for $1200 and
consulted Avon Products, Inc.’s marketing and legal department about
the ins and outs of building a presence and community online.
How would you describe your work and professional interests in the
1990’s (or 80’s etc).

I was immersed in all things Internet but loved the Web. While we
built and communicated on a variety on commercial online services
(anyone remember eWorld?!?), the Web held so much fascination for me.
I built the first three websites for women, predating Women.com and
iVillage by over a year. The major difference between what we did with
Cybergrrl and our “competitors” is that we paved the way on a
shoestring, and they came into the space fully funded, using us as an
example of the viability – and opportunity – in reaching women online.

While working on the Web, I also began writing books for women
including “Cybergrrl: A Woman’s World Wide Web” and “Cybergrrl@Work.”
Speaking engagements followed, and I was lucky enough to be flown
around the world to speak at corporations, conferences, and to
governments about the issues surround women and the Internet and
nonprofits and the Internet. I lived and breathed the digital world
and loved being able to bring complex and confusing technical
information to women and girls so they could learn and benefit from
technology.
What do think the future will hold internet/digital?

Every day, there is something new, some new way to create, connect,
communicate. I’m amazed at how far we’ve come but also how far we
haven’t. I’m still irked that so many technology companies are led by
men, hire mostly men and are funded by men, particularly in
programming. And that the presence of women in any power positions or
the upper echelons of tech is still comparable or often in worse shape
than it was in the 90s. One step forward, two steps back, and the same
barriers- and sexism – we faced back then exist today. We have all
learned how to navigate around the barriers to find our successes, but
the fact they still exist is pathetic. But onward and upward.

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