The Need for Continuing Education

Stephen Yagielowicz

In last week's Webmaster Poll, I asked "What Webmaster Education or Training Have You Had?" While I wasn't necessarily surprised by the results, they do concern me - let me explain...

Once upon a time, way back in the "good old days," just about anybody could slap together a simple Web page with 10 shitty pics ("gifs" more often than not!) stolen (er, "downloaded") from their favorite BBS, then pop a few banners on the page, and laugh all the way to the bank. For those new to this business and struggling to simply pay their bandwidth, such tales take on the aura of myth and legend, much the same as stories of "Noah's Ark" and the Great Flood: And just as with the Biblical account, scattered bits of tangible evidence may be found, but the tale is still greeted with much skepticism.

Well, rest assured, it used to be that easy - but those days are gone forever, and if you think that it's tough to make a buck in online porn today, then just wait until tomorrow. Things will only become more challenging, and those intrepid Webmaster's who focus on continuing their education, constantly learning new techniques and technologies at every opportunity, are the ones who will succeed.

While this all seems to be common sense, my latest poll results reveal that the vast majority of you are self-taught, and often that education proves inadequate to the task. Let's take a more detailed look at our latest poll results, and I'll tell you a little about how I learned what I know about the Internet:

Self-Taught: 80%
When I started building Web sites back in 1994, being "self taught" was really the only option, especially for me, as I lived in the Virgin Islands at the time - a beautiful place, but definitely a technological backwater where perhaps only a dozen people had even heard the word "Internet" - let alone had any access to it. "Mosaic" was the browser of choice once "PPP" became available (on my 11k dial-up!) and what I knew about the Web came almost entirely from NCSA.

Twice a year I would travel to the states, coming "home" for the summer and Christmas. One of the highlights of my trip would be a long day spent at Barnes & Noble, poring over their rapidly expanding collection of HTML writing and design manuals. Since this opportunity only presented itself twice a year, it was a sure chance that I'd drop a few hundred bucks and return to the Islands with a suitcase full of hardcover books.

[For the newbies who will ask: "Why didn't you just order your books online?" This was sooo long ago that "commerce" was NOT an option on the Internet, and anybody who (gasp!) tried to SELL something was likely flamed out of existence by academics struggling to preserve the "purity and integrity" of "their" Internet.]

Endless trial and error, reading as much as was humanly possible, discovering YNOT and the Condom Chronicles, and the wonderful world of adult Webmaster message boards helped my understanding of the biz as I moved into "adult" in 1998, and I have been going strong ever since.

Many of you must have stories of challenge and adversity related to your learning experiences, while the newer folks may not realize just how easy the process of self-education is today, with so much digital ink paving the way for you, with endless adult Web biz articles, resources, message boards, and more available at your fingertips. I have attended many seminars and workshops, and been a featured presenter at several as well.

Seminars & Workshops: 8%
This figure personally disappoints me. I have attended many seminars and workshops, and been a featured presenter at several as well. For example, I learned about CSS from Microsoft, digital video production from Avid, and photography from Nikon. I learned about merchant accounts and emerging e-commerce technologies from my ISP. Most of these programs were made available to me for free, even if it meant a drive into Boston to attend them.

I have been exposed to nearly every aspect of the adult Internet business at InterNext and CyberNet Expo, and wonder why so many attendees of these events skip the seminars in order to spend more time partying, or wandering the show floor wondering which of the new programs on display will make the difference in their bottom lines, when the reality is that increasing their knowledge by attending the seminars would be more profitable.

Formal Education: 8%
When I started out, we were all "students," and anyone who proclaimed themselves as "experts" and "teachers" were viewed with much suspicion. Finding a degree program was almost unheard of, and academia was ramping up for an expected demand for the type of educational services and curriculum needed to fuel the "New Economy." As time goes on, this figure should rise dramatically, as I foresee more and more "youngsters" seeking the competitive advantage that a "proper" education can provide, and their inevitable absorption into our Industry.

Corporate Training: 4%
The smallest percentage goes to those with corporate Internet training. These people learned the Net biz while at work, or at school, courtesy of their employers. I expect this figure to rise as more ex-dot com'ers enter the biz. I suspect that much of this group is made up of those with highly specialized, technical skills related to specific network and database management issues more so than basic HTML page construction. If I'm right, then you can expect a higher level of technical sophistication and more database-driven, interactive adult Web sites. Being able to play on this field is another reason to continue your education.

Self-education is still the way to learn the most about this business, but to be successful it is a process that never ends. A process that should definitely include attending as many seminars and workshops as possible, especially the adult-specific ones offered at CyberNet Expo and InterNext. Additionally, read all you can at this site and the other popular resources, participate in as many message board discussions as you can, and learn, learn, learn! Good luck! ~ Stephen