Todd Westover was the Art Director. We created
a web site kind of a bare bones, but kind of
showing where to go, there was this demonstration
in New York for General Media for electronic
presence for all the magazines they owned. Steve
Cohn showed up with a CD ROM. They put it in
a CD drive and it showed on some big, massive
big screen and Power Point presentation and
Steve tells me, "You got a standing ovation
from people who know nothing about drag racing."
Guccione owned many magazines and many milieus
and the automotive group was like a fringe,
but that was the one that got the standing O,
so I thought, "Okay great, now what do we do?"
And he says we have to wait for approval from
various channels I was twiddling my thumbs for
three or four months after that. I wanted to
start archiving this stuff, I wanted to go live,
and we were shuttled to the back of the pack.
I get very frustrated. I said to myself, "OK,
I've learned HTML, I learned code, I'm going
to do it myself." That's when I started Nitronic
Research out of frustration from a corporate
presence that big things move slow -- that is
just a basic law of physics. Well, I was dealing
with a big thing, he moves slow, I'm a small
thing, I can move fast, and I had the enthusiasm.
That was the motivation for Nitronic.com.
DRO: What year
CC: As a historian,
I'm not real great with years but I'd say '94
DRO: Did it evolve
into a way for racers to exchange their stories?
CC: Yeah, originally
there was a Letters to the Editor section, so
people would send me an email commenting about
one of the stories on the web site. I'd get
one about every three days or something like
that, so I would just post it, like the typical
Letters to the Editor. Then I just came to the
conclusion about taking me out of the loop;
how about people don't have to write me, how
about people can just write the web site and
it just shows up and it doesn't need a filter
and it doesn't need approval and it doesn't
need some sardonic reply from me. And so that's
when I came up with the concept of Header Flames,
which was kind of a play on words - flaming
was something that happened on the internet
and various news groups - or email lists or
whatever and you flame somebody out of the room.
You just hold up a blowtorch. A header is like
a subject header, so header flames; so fire
off on these people.
Again, I didn't really anticipate how literal
people would take that. It was really like John
Wayne and a blowtorch and the Green Berets or
something, just out of control. It was its greatest
attribute and greatest detriment, and people
were just left hanging out for anybody to see.
Nobody pulled any punches so, again, just depending
on what mood you're in, it was just great or
DRO: There came
an effort to control it a little more through
CC: The problem
is it was a really great exercise in sort of
social libertarianism, which is basically my
politics, you know. I don't feel people need
approval for what they're doing;
do what you do. As Big Daddy Roth said, "Hell,
if a guy wants to go let him go." That's a direct
quote from Roth.
So, that ethos was applied to the Internet,
but there were certain issues that had to be
dealt with in the real world, which are things
such as libel and slander, and I had to think
about who's going to show up in court. Not this
anonymous nut case from New Jersey who's talking
about the sexual peccadilloes of a certain pin-up
queen, you know drag racing pin-up queen, and
I'll leave it to your readers to pick up the
subtext on that, who that might be. But that
was just one reality that I really had to acknowledge.
It wasn't that there were attempts to tone it
down. I felt that anyone could say whatever
they wanted to say as long as it was acknowledged
who it was. If it was anonymous or pseudo-anonymous
it gets weird. Who's accountable? I am and I
didn't even say it. So, that was really why
we wanted accountability and that was the password
system which was a bigger nightmare than not
having a password system because nobody could
remember their passwords, so all of a sudden
I'm back in the loop again, people emailing
me, "What's my password?"