24 Hours in Democracy Begins


Henry Huang

A couple of days ago, I sent Richard a short, flippant post about
this project.  At the time, I wasn't really impressed by the idea
-- mostly because I didn't understand what they were doing, or
what the point was.

Well, after visiting the site again last night and being completely
blown away by some of the entries, I've decided it's time to write
an apology -- AND to urge all of you to hop on the bandwagon!

(See it yourself: http://www.hotwired.com/userland/24/)


The idea behind the project is simple: for the past few months,
many of us have spent all our time in a (futile?) attempt to protect
our freedoms -- in particular, our freedom of expression in Cyberspace.
What we've failed to do -- and what the Religious Right has done so
well, is to demonstrate *WHY* this is so important to us.

Ideals are nice, but actual examples will get you everywhere.
Even if (well, ESPECIALLY if) they scare people.  Just ask Marty

In any case, somebody finally realized this, and decided to do
something about it.  Instead of sitting around whining about losing
our freedoms, why not USE them to show people why the Internet is so
important to us?  Instead of mourning, why not celebrate the things
which we hold so dearly?

Hence, the creation of the 24 Hours of Democracy project.


The idea is simple.  You write (or draw, or even speak) what the
Internet, and freedom in general means to you, and you post it to
the Web.  This doesn't necessarily mean writing long involved
expositions about the theory of freedom (like I will ;) -- it just
means SHOWING why it's so important to you.  The Web being what it
is, you can do just about ANYTHING that you want -- I've even heard
of a service which will let you call in and record a RealAudio snippet
for other people to listen to (URL: http://www.fireisland.com/24/tele.htm)

The important thing (according to the organizers) is to be POSITIVE.
This is a DISPLAY of all the things that are important to us -- not
a protest.  This is not Black Web Pages Part Deux.  It's a way to show
people that the Net is not about porn and pipe bombs and evil -- that
free and "indecent" speech is NOT pornography and is NOT a tool for
the suppression of women and children (or whatever the hell the anti-
porn folks say it is).  It's a way to communicate with other people,
and to show them that positive things can and WILL come of the Internet

Anyone can participate.  Even though it's a Web-based event, you don't
have to have an Web-enabled account or even a Web browser to contribute.
(I'll tell you how, later.)  Until 11:59 Pacific Standard Time, you
can write essays, create art, record soundbites, and register your
creations with the 24 Hours project.

Every person who registers a Web page will be asked to place "Prev"
and "Next" links on their page -- pointing to (you guessed it) other
people's entries.

At 12:01 a.m., the server will stop taking submissions, and a search
engine will index the pages that were sent in.

The idea is that people will be able to use either the search engine,
or the "Prev" and "Next" links to read other people's essays.  Although
the latter is an incredibly fragile way of doing things, it also allows
for decentralization -- so that people can read other entries without
having to go through a centralized search engine.


Why am I making a big deal of this?  Because I believe that the fight
for free speech means more than just winning court cases.  My personal
(and admittedly cynical) belief is that if people actually understood
and CARED about their freedoms, we would not be in this position.
I may well be wrong (after all, you and I didn't vote on the CDA or
the Telecom Bill), but it's always been my perception that people
are more comfortable ASSUMING they'll have their freedoms, than
trying to defend (or even use) them.  Assuming that a right will last
forever is the first step to losing it; the next is forgetting to
exercise it.  24 Hours of Democracy is an ideal opportunity for all
of us to get out there and exercise our freedoms.  It's incredibly
idealistic and hopeful, and if that seems naive -- well, freedom
was always an idealistic proposition.  Idealism and necessity do NOT
have to be mutually exclusive.


How to join:

Until 11:59 P.M. (PST), you can join the project in the following

If you have a Web Page:

Make a new page for the project.  Write an essay, or create a piece of
art -- whatever you're most comfortable with.  Check out the template
at http://www.hotwired.com/staff/userland/24/template.html for an
example of how you can do your page.  Make the page as fancy or as
plain as you want -- I've seen plenty of examples of both (including a
gorgeous Netscape 2.0 page using frames).  Just remember to include a
"24 Hours" logo, and the "Prev" "Next" and "Index" links (which will
be placeholders until the server mails you URL's).

When you're finished, put the page on your server, and send a message to:


In the Subject line, type 24REG.
In the body of the message, put the URL for your "24 Hours" page.

You will get a reply back with the URL's for the "Next", "Prev", and
"Index" links.  Paste them into your page.

That's it!

If you DON'T have a Web Page, or Can't Write One:

You have several different options:

1.) You can post your essay by Web.  Use the form at:

2.) You can E-mail an essay to one of the many Page Storage Servers,
    which will create a page for you AND automatically register your
    essay.  Some sites will even let you mail HTML and supporting files,
    and post the page for you.

    See: http://www.hotwired.com/staff/userland/24/pagestorageservers.html
    for a complete listing.

3.) One site is offering a voice essay service, geared towards overseas
    users.  The idea is that you can record anything you want, in whatever
    language you wish, and have it posted to the Web in RealAudio format
    on this site.

    The numbers to know are: (914) 723-4004, or 1-800-528-4537


Finally, visit the 24 Hours of Democracy home page often:

That is all.  Have fun, and be positive!


(who thinks he will probably get flamed for suggesting that people
 should actually be HAPPY, IDEALISTIC, and POSITIVE for once ... ;)