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Life Begins at 80...on the Internet
(Casting the Net from Au to Za)

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To paraphrase and update a couplet from Gray's Elegy:

Full many a scribe is born to blush and fret
And waste his fragrance on the internet.

Back in 1994, Professor Gene Ziegler, an educator at New York's Cornell University who is now Dean of the American Graduate School of Management, an online business school in Nashville Tennessee, wrote a long and witty poem containing these ludicrous lilting lines:

If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port,
and the bus is interrupted as a very last resort,
and the address of the memory makes your floppy disk abort
then the socket packet pocket has an error to report!

He says he composed it in an hour, after his four year old grandson and the boy's older brother had "significantly rearranged" the resources on his Macintosh.

"This poem has probably received more attention and circulation than anything I have ever written," he says.

"It was originally a gift to internet friends and was passed from person to person, and posted on newsgroups and web sites in several countries. It has since been published in NetGuide Magazine, March 95, and in the Seattle Times, August 13, 1995, and has generated more than 1000 fan messages and requests to post.

"Unfortunately, the internet being what it is, some scoundrel whose editing skills exceeded his or her ethical standards edited the poem, reduced it by half, removed my name, and recirculated it under the title If Dr. Seuss were a Technical Writer, attributed to the ever prolific 'Anonymous.'"

Dr. Zseuss, the real Dr. Seuss impersonator (Ziegler's alter ego) responded with Hang the Information Highwayman!, a poetic appeal for respect for another's written words. It's as clever and amusing as the original poem, and should be brought to the notice of all webmasters.

Writing programs and teachers' groups around the world often quote the two poems to teach internet publishing ethics.

Ziegler told us: "The original poem has been set to music twice, once by a rapper and in the second case made into a Gilbert & Sullivan-like opera by a music teacher in Bangkok, who had his students sing it at graduation.

"It's been made into a brass plaque and sold in a gift shop in Dallas, recited on an Australian talk show (recently) and for the closing moments of a Vancouver TV show, Data's Cafe."

A search of the internet shows that despite all that publicity, Ziegler has good reason to feel cranky and forgotten. When we googled his memorable phrase "socket packet pocket" we found about 3410 references. We checked out some of the websites. In nearly every case, the original poem had been cut in half, and posted without the author's name.

Gene Ziegler is Dean of the American Graduate School of Management, an online business school in Nashville Tennessee, and has been an active eLearning consultant for colleges and business schools. Anyone over 50 should read his article, You're Never Too Old, by clicking HERE.




Copyright 2004

Eric Shackle

Story first posted February 2004

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