A long time ago in an age before everyone owned a cell phone, in a time where computers were still big enough to fill a room and the World Wide Web was in its infancy, Queen’s had its own social network. In fact, we had two: Graffiti and Soapbox.
These social networks were available to anyone with a Queen’s userid, and could be accessed using a “dumb terminal” available in public sites or offices.
Graffiti was for sharing technical information; a place where you could ask for information on a new program, or for recommendations on which one would be best for a particular need; a place to get help when you encountered a problem. Graffiti was monitored by ITServices, then known as Computing and Communications Services. Although the technical support people and programmers often provided responses to the Graffiti question, it was also widely contributed to by faculty, staff, and students of the University – always willing to share their knowledge with others.
Graffiti became so popular that people started using it for more personal things, like arranging social outings. The decision was made to clone Graffiti and Soapbox was born.
On Soapbox you could find everything from comments about the latest episode of a TV program, to information on the newest games, people planning to go to the show, students looking for a ride home, lost and found, yard sales, housemates wanted and items for sale – whatever happened to be on someone’s mind!
When using the social networks, you could use a screen name of your choosing. This further enhanced the social network by allowing people to protect their identities while leaving personal messages for each other, like Happy Birthday. Graffiti and Soapbox stayed active at Queen’s for many years, but these social networks had one major drawback – they were restricted to people at Queen’s.
As the Internet grew, as email became a widely used form of communication, and as personal computers became popular, people started going beyond Queen’s. Email was used to keep in touch with family members; many people were using social networking programs like ICQ and Instant Messenger to talk with friends and meet new friends. The time for Graffiti and Soapbox had passed, but as people read this I expect there will be some who say “Oh yes! I remember…”.
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