Allen Hammock Interview

In 1995 CompuServe, America Online and Prodigy started providing dial-up Internet access and people started getting online. In April some tech folks from the University of Missouri came to our offices in Jefferson City and gave us a demo of the “World Wide Web” and our first look at Netscape Navigator. I can’t speak for the others in the meeting but I was mightily impressed.

I knew a bit about the Internet but nothing about how to create a website or register a domain, so I contacted Mike McKean, a professor at the J-School at the University of Missouri, and asked if he could put me in touch with a student who knew how to do this stuff. He introduced me to Dan Arnall, a senior journalism major. Dan was technically adept but he brought along Allen Hammock who was majoring in computer science. Dan and Allen were high school classmates in Springfield, Missouri, and were in members of a student leadership organization at Mizzou.

In this 12 minute interview, Allen shares some of his recollections of the exciting three years that followed.

Wayback Machine: Learfield.com

My little history project took me to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine where I got a look at some of the websites I helped create and maintain during the early days of the Internet. The first sites we created were for our two news networks, Radio Iowa and The Missourinet, but we felt like we needed one for our corporate site and Learfield.com went up in 1997. It was designed and built by Dan Arnall and Allen Hammock. (The story is in the link above)

I’m pretty sure I’m responsible for the look of the page in 1999 and 2000. I had zero design training or skills and I also didn’t have a budget for those talents, so I took a whack at it. We did have some professional help eventually but today they all look, let’s just say, dated.

A “home page” on the Internet was a brand new thing in 1997. They became the public face of a company or organization and in those early days, little more than brochures. Everyone was trying to figure out how to make them useful. “Look and feel” was way more important than usability back then. We loaded our pages with text because space was not an issue. Or so we thought.

Images tended to be tiny because big ones too a long time to load on slow dial-up connections. As we added more and more pages to our sites, “navigation” became important. We gave our page links clever names that meant nothing to the people visiting our sites.

Looking at these are almost painful. Like looking at photos from your senior year in high school. Want more? Missourinet and Radio Iowa.

Derry Brownfield Show: World Wide Web

The Internet has become so much a part of our lives it feels strange to say/write the word. Hard to remember a time when it was new and strange. The interview segment below is from 1996 and is a tiny time capsule from those early days of the “world wide web.”

On September 11, 1996, Allen Hammock was the guest on Derry Brownfield’s radio show to talk about the Internet and the “World Wide Web.” Allen and his partner, Dan Arnall, had recently joined Learfield Communications to “explore opportunities” on this new thing called the Internet. Allen and Dan were recent graduates of the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO. They created the first websites for our company and worked with our IT department to stream audio for our various radio networks and programs, including The Derry Brownfield Show. This 13 minute segment (edited from an hour-long show) touches on: Personal Communication, Privacy and Security, computer viruses, and getting “on” and “off” the Internet.

On November 22, 1996, Derry did a follow-up show featuring Solveig Bernstein, talking about privacy (and other topics) on the Internet (still newish at the time). Ms. Bernstein was the Assistant Director of Telecommunications and Technology Studies for the Cato Institute.

Relaunching news websites

Learfield NetworksOne of the first Learfield networks to have a website was Radio Iowa, our state news network in Iowa. That must have been around 1996 and it was created (using Frontpage) by Dan Arnall and Allen Hammock, a couple college guys we hired to help us figure out “this Internet thing.”

Dan and Allen went on to pursue new adventures a long time ago. And we’ve added lots of websites –for our company and for clients– since those early days.

This week we relaunched RadioIowa.com. We relaunched WRN.com a about a month back and we’ll be putting up the new Missourinet.com in a couple of weeks.

Our news networks are pretty narrow in focus. We cover the legislature, state government and –with the help of our affiliates– news from throughout our respective states.

Our websites reflect that focus. State news and sports, with an emphasis on the sounds of the news. We are, first and foremost, radio networks. Our websites are designed to complement them. They are not high-traffic, destination sites. Time will tell if this strategy is the correct one. The next couple of years should be interesting.

Our new sites are very blog-like. At WRN.com, we blog the sports and our news director maintains a blog. At Radio Iowa, News Director O. Kay Henderson is generating a real following for her political blog.

Time will tell if I have taken us in the right direction with these sites. If you like what you see, email me and I’ll put you in touch with Andy Waschick, the man behind all of Learfield’s websites. If you don’t… please don’t tell me.

Looking back at 2006

This blog is first and foremost a personal journal. A place for notes on what I’m reading, watching and thinking. I took a few minutes to click and scroll back through 2006:

I posted on podcasting with some regularity and tried my hand at it with Dr. Domke’s Living Healthy Podcast.

I am more fascinated with blogging than ever and persuaded our company to start a blog. I’d like to think I played a small, behind-the-scenes role in the launch of the best veterinarian blog on the net.

We did some interviews: Ben Brogdon (Original cast of Best Little Whore House in Texas); Dan Shelley (Executive Editor of Digital Media for WCBS-TV); Dan Arnall (Business Editor, ABC News) and Kevin O’Keefe (Lex Blog).

Kasie had a birthday and I (almost) had my first cigarette.

I was overcome with Mac Lust and bought my first Mac and became a “slider” (someone that slides back and forth between PC and Mac).

I read, wrote and thought about radio. I discovered that politics matters to me more than I thought.

Blogging and surfing cut into my reading time. I only read 24 books. I came up with a couple of good ideas for screenplays that had everything but the ending. Fortunately, Kay was able to provide those.

I discovered the formula for The Perfect Day; I came to grips with the reality that I am not a team player; I worried about how much I worry; I watched two good friends build a tree house and concluded that work is your real life.

I’m blessed with a few good friends; one great partner; two sweet pups; the best job in the world and high-apple-pie-in-the-sky hopes for 2007.

Interview: Dan Arnall, Business Editor, ABC News

Dan ArnallIn the mid-90’s (1996? 1995) I went searching for someone that could help our our company get online. Websites were a new thing and I didn’t have a clue where to start, so I called Mike McKean at the University of Missouri School of Journalism (not sure if he was a professor back then) and he said he had a student that was really sharp, had his own web page, and might be just what we were looking for.

I met with Dan who told me he and his best friend, Allen Hammock, had a company that could do just what we needed. I think the company was about 10 minutes old at that moment but we wound up hiring Dan and Allen (who became affectionately known as the Cyber Twins) to guide Learfield into the new digital age.

We got wet –like everybody else– when the Internet bubble burst and Dan and Allen moved on to pursue their careers. Dan, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, kicked around in Seattle and San Francisco for a bit and then went back to to get his masters degree at Columbia University.

We chatted for half and hour earlier this evening, talking about his duties at ABC; the changing world of journalism and media; living in Manhatten and Brushes with Near Greatness (John Lithgow and Tony Danza). (AUDIO: 30 min, 10 meg MP3)

Technical Note: After screwing the pooch on a couple of Skype interviews, I’m proud to report this sounds pretty good. I was a tad hot but I didn’t lose the interview.

Click. Click. Click.

David Wineberger says the Web is not a medium but, rather, a conversation. “Small Pieces, Loosely Joined.” I am endlessly fascinated by how the Web connects us. Last year Dan Arnall completed his master’s degree at Columbia University and is still living and working (part-time?) at CNN and MSNBC (or one of those cable channels). If anyone can be held responsible for my pathetic addiction to the Web, it’s Dan. We are loosely joined.

“Just the other day I read your blog entry (Cozy) and noticed that the model home you mentioned was just a few blocks away in Tribeca. I hopped the train after work, saw the damn thing and talked to the architect. I even went so far as to pass it along to CNNfns Housing/Real Estate reporter. She went out and shot a segment that will air in the next few weeks.

I don’t think blogging is about random voyeuristic pleasure. It’s an acknowledgement that there is value in almost every thought and experience of the everyman not just self-appointed pundits or editors. You may not know it, but someone might just find something they need in what you blog: a CNN segment, a moment of laughter, sometimes even a sense of connection with someone they’ve never met.”

Greeting Card of Note

Let’s face it, most holiday greeting cards are pretty lame. The Hallmark cards are lame… the “look at our darling kids/dogs” cards are lame. But we’ve received a few this year that deserve recognition. Dan Arnall was one of my first Web buddies. A very talented young man, currently working in New York. Turn a guy like Dan loose in the Big Apple with a camera and you’re gonna get a good card. [Larger version]