Internet time


In early 1997, it was announced that Wizards of the Coast (WotC), publisher of the Magic: The Gathering card game, had signed a letter of agreement with TSR Inc., the publisher of Dungeons & Dragons. WotC was planning to acquire TSR. This seemed like wonderful news to me, because TSR was on the verge of bankruptcy and hadn’t shipped any products to its distributors for over six months.

But on rec.games.frp.dnd, the D&D newsgroup, some participants reacted with hysteria, predictions of doom, and conspiracy theories. People wailed that WotC was buying TSR to liquidate it and eliminate the competition, or that WotC was going to make all sorts of changes that would ruin D&D. The newsgroup was filled with speculation and rumors, almost none of it based on any shred of factual knowledge.

In an attempt to stem the tide of paranoid drivel, I compiled a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list and posted it to the newsgroup.

A week later, I wrote the following essay.


June 6, 1997
8:58 a.m.

From time to time, I’ve seen statements in computer magazines that one year of real time equals some larger number of Internet years. The implication, I suppose, is that things happen much faster on the Net than they do in real life. It was never clear to me why this should be the case, but I can tell you now that it’s absolutely true.

One week ago, I got fed up with all the rumors and confusion about the TSR-WotC buyout and decided to do something about it. I quickly threw together a FAQ List about it, using only statements posted to the Net by TSR or WotC employees. I got them all from rec.games.frp.dnd and the TSR Web site. After maybe an hour of editing and formatting, I posted the result to rec.games.frp.dnd. That was on Friday, May 30.

On Monday, June 2, I learned of an interview with the WotC president that provided some new information. I updated the FAQ and posted it again.

On Tuesday, WotC and TSR announced the completion of the buyout. This required major changes to the FAQ. I updated and posted it again.

On Wednesday, I started receiving e-mail comments about the FAQ, which provided some new information. I also decided that it would be fairly easy to put it on the Web, so I added minimal HTML coding and uploaded it to my server space. By the end of the day, it was already linked to by at least one other Web page (and maybe more that I don’t know about).

On Thursday, I received a one-line note from Adam Conus of WotC Customer Service that read: “I just wanted to say that your unofficial FAQ is fabulous.” E-mail about the FAQ began to arrive from places like Italy. As new information came in, I updated the Web FAQ several times.

Today is Friday, and the Unofficial Buyout FAQ is one week old. I woke up this morning to find a note from a gentleman in Moscow who has translated the FAQ into Russian, and would like for me to put the translation on my Web site. And the day is still young.

I think I understand the concept of Internet time now.

3 thoughts on “Internet time

  1. Obviously it is only of historic interest now, but does that FAQ still exist? I’d like to read it, especially in light of everything we’ve come to know about the acquisition (and WotC’s custodianship of D&D) in the years since.

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