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Mitch Ratcliffe

The 21st century holds the promise of rich multimedia across the web. Mitch was blazing this trail in the 20th century. From code to finance.

About you

What did you do before the Web?

I used the command line, starting in 1988 on The WELL. Then Lynx came along and screwed up that elegant textual space a little bit. Then browsers appeared and suddenly my 19.2 Kbps modem was no good anymore. Damn that Mark Andreesson and his Mosaic.

I was an editor at MacWEEK and editor-in-chief of Digital Media, a newsletter that described a lot of what the Web, and other stuff, would be pretty accurately.

Before that, there were all those years in prison. Freelance writing, writing newsletters for high companies in the Bay Area. Then, I killed Mitch Ratcliffe, assumed his identity and here I am. He will not be missed.

How did you find the web?

It grew up around me. I launched my first Web site in 1994. In 1995 and 1996, I was doing venture investing in Web companies for SoftBank, my employer at the time. I wrote the business plan for a failed software component marketplace that became the foundation of the computershopper.com Web site. Then, I struck out on my own and started a company called Internet/Media Strategies Inc., a consulting firm, where I managed to kill Digital Media and did a lot of work with startup companies, like EarthWeb, Audible, Personify and my old employers at SoftBank. I built and ran two Web sites in the ZD Net network and then helped to start ON24, which was the first streaming news network -- at one point, we were producing 28 hours of news a day and breaking it all down into "personalized" webcasts.

About that time, in 2001, I realized things had changed and I was not longer using a command-line based network interface. I'm a little slow on the uptake, so I went into investment banking for a couple years and now I am doing business consulting with Audible, starting a production company, commercializing my blog and leading the editorial efforts at a startup research company. It's fun, like 1995 all over again, but without the stupid money all over the place.

Why are you here?

Well, I don't believe in a personal deity with specific intentions for each of us, so I would say it's an accident. I'm constantly astonished at my good fortune.

Methods of production

What do you use to create your sites?

Personally: StudioMX, coding by hand, PhotoShop, various audio tools, Premiere, Discreet Cleaner Pro, treacle and the barnacles ground into a fine paste. I'm a total amateur at this stuff and barely scratch the capabilities of these tools.

More importantly, a lot of other people do a lot of great work that I get to take to clients and partners.

About the Web

What do you see as the greatest strengths of the web?

It's broad and immediate reach to a vast audience.

What do you see as the greatest dangers?

It's broad and immediate reach to a vast audience. It amplifies both the best and the worst in the people at the edge and in the center of the network.

What would you say to folks who want to work the web?

It's really hard to drive and hold a cup of coffee on an IP network, because it's all stop for a millisecond, go for a millisecond, turn at this router, cache in that switch....

Really, though, they should demand synchronous bandwidth in the home. See my posting today about the future of the digital cottage -- we should be able to work anywhere, whenever we want, using our creativity, but that is impossible if the "broadband" networks are designed only to deliver content to the home.

Study the world, don't just pay attention to the technology, in order to succeed.

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Mitch Ratcliffe
Mitch Ratcliffe

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