When we first decided to get a Newfoundland dog, we scoured the bookstores and quickly discovered that there were precious few quality books on the breed. The Internet was just starting to take off and the dot com boom was in full swing so we focused our energies trying to find quality information on-line. Our Internet searches uncovered an email list called Newf-L which was short for the Newfoundland Mailing List.
An Internet mailing list allowed one person to send email to “the list” by sending to a single email address. The email address was a server which then resent the email to everyone that had subscribed to the list. Forums were still in their infancy, and blogs did not yet exist because this was the still the dark ages of the late 90’s when people used dial-up modems. Back then, email lists were still a pretty common means of information sharing for on-line communities.
Newf-L was an awesome resource for Newfoundland information mostly because of the quality of information. A few veterinarians participated along with many breeders, a lot of owners, and a few serious troublemakers. In other words, it was a typical human community. We dove right in.
One of the problems that plagues mailing lists is that people constantly ask questions regarding the proper operation of the list. This tends to annoy longtime users because it fills everyone’s mailbox with questions that everyone is tired of reading and/or answering. To help alleviate the problem, I decided that I would write a Frequently Asked Questions document or FAQ (pronounced FACK or spelled out as “F-A-Q”) as a service to the community. This document outlined the basic operation of the list including how to subscribe, how to unsubscribe, and everything in-between. I wrote the FAQ and posted it on my then new GAD.net website. I added more and more content as I learned it including information about Newfoundland dogs, health, puppies, and so-on. The Newf-L FAQ became very popular and to this day I still get emails from all over the world asking for more information, though as time has progressed and email lists have fallen out of favor, the questions tend to be focused more on the breed than the technology.
Unfortunately, as time went on, I became disenchanted with Newf-L. The troublemakers had made polite discussions difficult, as is often the case on any online community, and with many such on-line groups, some of these troublemakers had become obnoxious causing other valued members to stop participating or leave altogether. Some of the vets left, as did some of the breeders, and what had started as an interesting and useful source of information had turned into watching people brawl in cyberspace. Sadly, Newf-L was no longer fun.
The fighting and nonsense got so bad that I no longer wanted to participate, but I still wanted a place where I could discuss and learn about Newfoundland dogs. I should point out that Newf-L had a rule, as did most email lists, that pictures could not be sent to the list. Digital images would clog people’s inboxes with stuff they might not want to see which was a huge problem because back then most people were still using modems that connected at a scorching 28.8 Kbps or 33.6 Kbps on a good day.
Having spent some time on other online forums, I decided to create my own in the name of Newfoundland dogs everywhere, calling it Newf.net, a domain I’ve continued to own since those early days of the Internet. The founding principles of Newf-Net were simple: Be nice and post all the pictures you want.
On January 14th, 2000, Newf Net was born, and the small group of original members had a lot of fun recruiting new members. We posted lots of pictures, helped new users learn how they could post their own pictures, and generally got along pretty well. Over time we would have disagreements, and I would have to add new rules, some of which would lead to more disagreements, but for the most part it was a wonderful place for Newfie people to come together.
Over time, Newf.net became a real community wherein people shared happiness, sorrow, joy, and many thousands of photos. The community grew and grew which led to real-world get-togethers and all sorts of unforeseen events and consequences that would reveal themselves in time.
Through Newf.net, thousands of people learned of Cozy’s antics and Daisy’s paper shredding. Newf.net became a way to document our dog’s lives and to share them with the world so, naturally, I posted often about both of them. I elected Daisy to be the Newf.net mascot, and her face has graced the upper left corner of every page ever since.
As Cozy and Daisy’s lives progressed, Newf.net would become a valuable source of information for not only the Newfoundland dog world, but for us as well. In fact, it would turn out to be a tremendous means of support for us in ways that we never anticipated.