Molly Holzschlag: WWW Matriarch and Fairy Godmother

Molly Holzschlag, the fairy godmother of the World Wide Web, the Web standards queen and Web matriarch, discusses her long and storied career as a Web pioneer and thought leader.
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Molly Holzschlag

Web Standards Queen and Web Matriarch

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Web By Design

Early roots of web accessibility

Iteration and adaptive technology

The Web Standards Project


IVAN STEGIC: Hey everyone! You’re listening to The TEN7 Podcast, where we get together every fortnight to talk about technology, business and the humans in it. I’m your host Ivan Stegic. In this episode of the podcast, I’m chatting with Molly Holzschlag. Molly has been involved with the web since its very beginning. She’s been described as the fairy godmother of the World Wide Web, as a web standards queen, I’ve heard the word matriarch used as well. She’s an author, a teacher, an open web evangelist, her book Web by Design was one of the reasons why I personally became interested in building for the web. Molly it’s a great pleasure to welcome you to our podcast.

MOLLY HOLZSCHLAG: Ivan and Jonathan, thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here.

IVAN: I’m a little giddy, so.

MOLLY: Don’t be so silly.

IVAN: I don’t know. This book was seminal in my desire to build for the web and TEN7 started, like 10 years later, so the reason why this company exists is kind of traced back to Web by Design.

MOLLY: That’s a very profound thing to hear. I hear that from people sometimes. What is more gratifying to a human being than knowing the work you did helped people. I mean, right? I’m really happy to hear that, so thank you. I’m the one who’s honored.

IVAN: Well it was certainly the beginning of something and it was wonderful. You know, with my little ZX Spectrum when I started coding even before that I never knew I’d be starting a business, so we’re lucky to have done that. I want to go back and start with your initial involvement in the web. I read that you wrote a tiny little thesis that was called “A Brave New World Wide Web?”

MOLLY: This is true. Yeah.

IVAN: What motived you to write that?

MOLLY: Well, I was studying media studies at The New School for social research. It was an online program and I was with Dr. Paul Levinson who is known as the father of online education in terms of originating technical education in the digital format pre-web. So this is even pre-web, using BBSes and any kind of internet technology. An amazing time of life to be alive right? So it just so happened that my interest intersected in that moment that the web rose and I was doing my thesis on a BBS, right? This, of course, I don’t know if you know about The New School. This school is quite famous. It’s the umbrella school where Parson School of Design, Emerson College, different colleges, excuse me Parson School of Design, yeah, and Emerson I think is an economic school. They have a lot of different schools. And the media studies department there for the Master’s program is typically known as a feeder program for the MIT media lab. So it was a natural kind of course, but nobody knew what the web was going to be or going to become. So I was just in the right place at the right time and with the right set of interests and it seemed to just coalesce and then of course, there were quite a few books before Web by Design. That was by no means my first book, but it was the first book I think that brought a lot of the, you know, you could go back to that book and while you would still have to throw out some of the HTML because we’ve advanced or some of the techniques, because we’ve advanced so much, there’s fundamental knowledge in there that will always remain true. So I feel very proud of that particular book and so it makes me especially happy, knowing not only did you find it and it helped you, but you found it in Johannesburg, no less and it’s truly the World Wide Web. We really do live in that kind of a situation.

IVAN: Yeah, it’s amazing that it had that kind of reach. And it was truly a holistic book as well. I was looking through it again this weekend, and there are mentions of accessibility in it. It's almost as if we designed websites and interfaces that, by design, we had to use text back then. But they were more accessible, right?

MOLLY: So for me the challenge always has been that I came out of a linguistics background, media studies, computational sciences, so everything I was looking at was like “What is the meaning of things?” Right? And I think that that was natural to the web. We were not interested in spinning globes and fiery skulls and you know at that point in the history, although that’s what began to happen, the more power we got, the more speed we got, the more fun we have had the more exploration has gone on. Of course, you’ve made a big mess in all that kerfuffle, but I think when we go back that’s the point of all of this. That there was an agenda. And there is a clear separation as well as integration. It’s both a separate and integrated construct and I think we have to remind ourselves that all the time and we’re not really doing a good job at that, in my opinion, in the industry right now. Especially where you get a lot of people just coming out, just doing JavaScript to generate HTML and not thinking about that extra step of accessibility for example or having to do it after they’ve already built the application or the website and tacking it on and it being a big kerfuffle. So, ideologically it proves that we already were on a path that made sense and now we kind of got off the beaten path because we were playing in the sandbox and that was necessary I think. If that makes sense.

IVAN: It does make sense and I think you hit on a very important point. You described the afterthought that accessibility is or the line item that it seems to be these days, and that’s now how I think of it. It’s not how TEN7 likes to approach things. I feel very strongly that it should be everyone’s task, everyone’s responsibility on the team—our clients, our writers, our designers, our developers—to be thinking about accessibility as a natural part of our process.

MOLLY: I couldn’t agree with you more. You’re giving me goosebumps. Seriously, because what is more simple than saying build and architect properly with your tools? I mean we didn’t have those tools, and then we also put barriers in front of those tools with browsers and made it even harder. So, for a moment when the web was just a text-based world, I had a lot of blind friends who were able to interact for the first time with the internet and network, and then suddenly WHAM two years later you’ve got spinning backgrounds and nobody can get to, you know, in that particular demographic, could get to what they had opened up. So it’s very frustrating for a person who also came to the web because of health issues and needing that adaptive, it was there and it was also adaptive to my life and my life’s needs which were to work from home a lot, due to medical circumstances. So that gave me the opportunity to be involved in this really cool thing and when I got better and better years, was able to come on out and meet people and travel the world and then have the World Wide Web experience as a person moving through the people of the World Wide Web, and so I feel fortunate and I wish that sometimes I could just teach a master class on that original concept from Web by Design of where you have these individual parts and you have to respect them as individual parts but you also have to understand that like human beings, just a hand is not a head and you know, one is not the other. And how that cascades and we look at our various interacting technology, how the CSS works with the markup, works with the content, works with the scripting. All of that has to be taken into account and the accessibility is simply part of a good quality user experience. End of story.

IVAN: Period.

MOLLY: Yes. So if you want to make quality software, quality applications, quality websites, that has to be part of the process. It isn’t something you slap on afterwards. That’s like ramshackle house building.

IVAN: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. It’s like forgetting that the people that are using your software are actually humans and that they have certain kinds of issues.

MOLLY: It goes worse than that. I’ll one up you on it. It assumes that they have no lives and nobody in their lives that they want to buy things for or care about or use, or make trips, or do the things that everyday people do.

IVAN: Exactly.

MOLLY: It’s the dehumanization of an entire population. Very upsetting to me.

IVAN: Very upsetting to me as well.

MOLLY: Because the World Wide Web is supposed to be a unification, not this division.

IVAN: Now you mentioned you used some adaptive technologies early on that your initial interaction was when you were ill. Now, what was that adaptive technology like back then? Is it similar or different? How’s it changed?

MOLLY: Well adaptive technology itself, I mean this is a very, very big ocean to swim in, because we have all kinds of mechanical adaptations and we also have physical adaptations, and we also have adaptations we can add to the browser or to our markup or in our, you know, with Aria, with language. So there are so many ways to come at what an adaptive technology means that it’s a very big complicated area. But for me personally it was that I was isolated and it gave me a door to the world and that kept me interested, engaged and I was able... in fact, getting my Masters online was because I was unable to leave the house. So there I was getting a Masters in basically artificial intelligence and intentional intelligence and getting ready to move toward that MIT media lab kind of model that I was after I guess in my own plan. You write the plan and then life goes its own way.

IVAN: You iterate right? That’s what you have to do.

MOLLY: You have to be adaptive. Adaptation is everything. So I think that that’s really where I got those values because I lived through it and I saw what benefits opened up for me, what benefits opened up for friends. Like I was just saying, you know, my blind, I have a—I mean he was a blind professor for, I forget what university in upstate New York, a very good university and he was way advanced in IT. He was teaching IT for heaven’s sake and it’s like when the web came along he was able to do so many things he couldn’t have done before, but it was because it was text and it involved just a simple speech reader. So there was a mechanical device, and that would interpret the screen.

IVAN: I see.

MOLLY: But now the screen has become so abstract and this is why that holistic—that word holistic, which is kind of a little new age for these days I would say—but it does touch on what you are saying about that original ideology and how you build your company, to address and acknowledge all signs of the quality of assurance of a product or a project.

IVAN: So, I think of you as an author, but I think of you as a teacher as well. You’ve written millions, zillions, countless books. I know you’ve had a series. You feel like an educator, you feel like someone who’s a proponent of knowledge in open technologies. Why did you become a teacher?

MOLLY: That’s a really good question. I think it’s because I’m a lifelong learner and it’s more fun like if I learn something, and I get to share it with the next kid in the sandbox and they get to share their tricks with me, and then we have more tricks. It’s just a natural curiosity and extraversion. I also come from a long line of teachers, so there are a lot of educators in my family. There’s a great value for education. I used to joke—my mother would measure life by degrees—that was my joke. I’d be like how many degrees do they have? If they have enough degrees then they’re a human being. She’s like “Why don’t you have your PhD?” I’m like “There’s no PhD for web development.” So, I think it’s pretty much part of the personality and the way in which I was raised and the sincere desire to really make a difference with the technology that is fundamentally human and created as a declarative language to make it accessible. And I don’t mean this in the A11Y accessibility sense, but accessible to all human beings.

IVAN: Available.

MOLLY: Yes, available. Right. No boundaries. No borders. No BS in the way between me and the thing I want to do. And of course we see that being co-opted now in our time with the Netflix and the digital media. So it becomes a big political thing and you end up with this whole neutrality and we end up in a time where we’re dealing with those middle men trying to now come in because we’ve got critical mass of people and money utilizing those facilities, so of course the middle men want in, in the capitalist mentality. They want their piece of the pie. So, we’re in a political time too, that has disrupted the way that a developer works, and accessibility often gets lost in that because of the push to make it all visual. Because of the push to make it like TV and it’s like, you know, it can be used that way, why can’t we do both? It is all those things.

IVAN: It is. What I struggle to understand is if you frame the discussion from a capitalist mentality where people are developing and going toward the markets where it's visual and where you’re relying on the graphic nature of the web and you’re relying on the commerce that results from the web, why aren’t those capitalists being reminded that 20% of that web isn’t going to see any of that. That one-fifth of the population simply isn’t going to be able to access that information that you’re trying to sell. Why wouldn’t you use that as a motivator? It doesn’t feel like that’s been talked about.

MOLLY: I have definitely... working on the web standards project and with, a tremendous group moving and educating, constantly educating on this very, very subject, both technically as well as socially, so definitely for listeners I would totally recommend if they haven’t checked out Knowbility with I used to work there and they’re a nonprofit out of Austin and that’s part of the agenda, is really to try and work with anybody, whether small, independent or very large companies like Netflix or what have you, to remind them of this and to remind them of the reality that this is part of quality and it isn’t about a percentage that doesn’t matter to their demographic, which is an insult and totally dehumanizing. I have a real problem with it, you know. So I think that we tried. We definitely have made efforts and some companies have shown flex, a great, there’s a bad pun in there but I’m going to leave it alone. The one company I see really taking that forward I think is Microsoft. Their accessibility group has really woken up. They got the message. We did great work with web standards project, with people inside Microsoft itself, it was a concerted effort. It was one of the most amazing and scary times of my life, you know, going through this whole Bill Gates thing and everything and working with people who were really cutthroat. It was a war room. When you say war room at the computer lab, that was a war room. There was a war going on, and we made great strides. So in some cases we have to say, like Gates got it in the end, which is pretty amazing. And Apple to its credit has always had at least if it hasn’t done much in terms of contributions to the broad spectrum of technology on the web of course, the World Wide Web Consortium, Apple is there and involved in making standards. So they are participatory. So there are ways in.

IVAN: So, what’s fascinated me is this 180 degree that Microsoft has taken and how focused they were on proprietary technology but yet still they use the web. You were involved there as a Community Manager I think...

MOLLY: I have a long history with jobs at Microsoft, yeah, but I left it with two meetings with Bill Gates, mix'n'mash, they would basically invite thought leaders from the various parts of the industry, and for guidance for the content of their upcoming Mix conferences which they don’t do anymore. The Mix conference was really during the rise of a lot of the .NET technologies when they moved out of ASP and into .NET and all that. So that became really important and then we had the IE6 problem. So the IE6 problem became the big fight of my career and getting to Bill Gates and being invited back again to argue through that, that took a huge amount of internal, you can only imagine what’s going on behind the scenes, in order to have opened up somebody’s mind, a leader’s mind like that. To even open up the possibility to other technologists and Open activists to come in and talk to him. I think that made a big difference and Jonathan Snook was there... a lot of people. You take a look at those two meetings and there were a lot of influential people from very different parts of the web and web media and technical world. I think along with that there were people whispering in his ear to do the right thing. So, he got it. He transformed, and he transformed his company, I think.

IVAN: And I think it’s transformed in a positive way and for the benefit of the greater population. Now, whether or not that can happen with other companies, currently in our discourse that have closed systems that have proprietary technologies that have been taking advantage of data of humans. Can it happen with Facebook, for example? Are they able to make a 180?

MOLLY: I don’t know. They shouldn’t have had to. I mean their reason for being still has relevance. I go on Facebook to have conversations with friends and people of both like-minded and not like-mindedness because I’m interested in the world and it’s truly a social interface for me. So I still use it as that. But there are other people using it and co-opting Facebook and Twitter and obviously our Twitter has been co-opted and features... this is what drives me nuts... they’re adding features like specifically for a certain Tweeter, whose name I shall not mention. This is like you don’t serve the one, you serve the many.

IVAN: The many, yeah. I agree.

MOLLY: I mean come on. We’re nerds. We know this stuff. It’s our creed, right? It’s not for the one or the few, only for the many. I think the problem is we’re also seeing a lot of people come into the industry that have no clue that that was its reason for being. So that’s part of the problem too, is that they just see another utility to take advantage of economically.

IVAN: Exactly. And the only way we can change that is by education. We have to remind people what the web was, what the web originally was supposed to be, remind people what the experiences are that others in the industry have had. I was a student in a University on the Southern tip of Africa, and I had access to the internet, just like everybody else had in the United States and in Europe, and I was able to download Red Hat and play with Linux.

MOLLY: Yeah, and learn real source code.

IVAN: Exactly.

MOLLY: And you’re probably pretty young doing this too I bet?

IVAN: I was pretty young. So, one of the things I struggle with is how do I reconcile the open source aspirations that TEN7 has. For example, we build on Drupal, we support our open source community, we do everything so that our clients can be empowered. How do I reconcile that with my own use of macOS and of iOS and Facebook and Twitter?

MOLLY: Now what a wonderful question! I have the same chronic ruminations about it because I’m sitting here with a Macintosh. I’ve got a Linux box in the other room, and I’ve got a Windows box over there, but it’s like the reality is the MacBook Pro specifically was the best choice for the job I needed to get done. So I think we have to look at it like this: we as humans tend to look only within our lives and only what’s right in front of us, and I think we have to get very meta on life’s ass. Basically what you’ve got to do is really see beyond that and understand that nothing comes without a tinge of evil. It’s like when you go to buy a car. I thought Ok, well, I don’t want to contribute to the legacy of, let’s say Mercedes Benz and those who contributed to building ovens in the holocaust, right? That was an ethic I grew up with. But now you’ve got so many crossovers and mashups of companies you don’t know who’s involved.

IVAN: There’s almost zero purity in the ownership.

MOLLY: Or we see this in the behavior of people. Look at how many of our idols are being accused of groping and inappropriate behavior and they’re acting like children. When I thought that was just my right and nobody else was allowed to do that. I mean we see this ridiculousness of what’s supposed to be leadership and adulthood, and it’s not happening for us as a race. So I think we have to just kind of remember it's like a Woody Allen situation. It’s like just because he was a sleazebag, does that mean he wasn’t funny?

IVAN: He was funny.

MOLLY: He was funny. He also played the saxophone. He’s a talented man. Does it mean he’s not talented? So you have to be inclusive. I think this is a level of inclusivity. We have to recognize that people are weird and strange. And the more we open that up the more weaker and strange stuff comes out. In a way maybe that’s a good thing for society. In a way maybe this pendulum swinging toward such divisive, nationalistic rise across the world, is a part of the last gasp of the generation, if we look beyond that... if we survive it.

IVAN: Yeah, maybe it is. It feels like the whole world is...

MOLLY: You’ve got a president tweeting every thought. It’s amazing to me. That’s a powerful value for people, so let’s use that.

IVAN: Yeah, it feels like the whole world has become anti-globalization, almost as if it’s against itself and it feels like the pendulum has swung so far that it’s either going to continue to swing and it’s going to go right around and we won’t make it or it’ll start swinging back and it’ll be the last time it gets that far.

MOLLY: I don’t know. I mean at this point in my life I have to sit and think and I wonder, will humans socially evolve beyond this point because we do, day to day, get along. I live in a senior rehabilitation center because, again, long-term life medical problems, and it’s real interesting because we have an exact split of African-American, so anti-current regime and pro current regime. So you’ve got an exact split, like with just a little bit of diversity on the edges. What’s fascinating is it’s very peaceful. Nobody argues with each other. We have barbecues, and they do things socially and you just don’t talk about it.

IVAN: Yeah, avoidance.

MOLLY: If you do, you step out and you yell. We don’t have fist fights. Nobody’s hitting each other over here. We’re not taking out our 22’s and whatever and firing at each other. We’re living next door to each other like adults. That’s humanity. We can still choose to do that.

IVAN: I agree. That’s community. That’s being concerned about your fellow citizen and you get along on a day-to-day basis.

MOLLY: Yeah, even if you hate the platform they stand on, you don’t dehumanize them. They’re still people. So that’s democracy. That’s an open world. That’s a live and let live take on things and I think the World Wide Web, what we’ve done is, we’re starting to recognize the "World" in World Wide Web. We did a lot of work on the "Web" part. We don’t know much about the "Wide" yet, and that’s what I’m kind of getting at now, is we have to go real wide with our thinking and stop thinking just beyond—it’s not like when you build a website. It’s not like in nine months you ship the baby, right? That baby’s going to have to be fed and cared for and nourished for the rest of its life.

IVAN: And it changes and it evolves and we iterate it’s not something you deliver, it’s something you conceive...

MOLLY: Exactly. A lot of work involved. So you don’t just ship the baby in this digital world that we work in. You can’t do that and if you do think that way that is a very short minded way of thinking about a tool that has endless potential.

IVAN: Endless potential. Especially if there are standards around the potential and everybody can work with each other in the same language, because that’s really what we’re interested in, is talking to each other.

MOLLY: Yes, I would love to see that. I felt that we had that in our community at one time. There was a much stronger, but it was smaller... We’ve come to such a large, you know, the web development, web design and all of the various related specialties have become enormous. I mean the diversity of professions within the profession.

IVAN: Experts within the profession. Yes.

MOLLY: Yeah. So I mean it’s gotten very large, and I think that has taken away from a lot of the intimacy and now there are cliques. You get the clique thing happening like high school, with people gathering together in like mindedness and that’s ok. That’s a social construct that seems very natural for humans to do. As long as they don’t have to pick up a sword to make their point to the other clique. Just have a conversation.

IVAN: And the thing that joins us is perhaps the web. The ideal that the web connects us all and that we’re really just building for the web.

MOLLY: That’s what I want it to be. That’s what I think Tim Berners-Lee wanted it to be.

IVAN: Absolutely he did.

MOLLY: Most people who were, yes, it's about sharing of data which remember data does not mean information. Information does not mean knowledge and knowledge does not mean wisdom. We have to do stuff with that data to make information and knowledge and wisdom. So that’s our job.

IVAN: I agree.

MOLLY: We haven’t really gotten to that part.

IVAN: So you were the lead of the web standards project at one time...

MOLLY: During the IE6.

IVAN: During the IE6 ok. So I looked up the web standards project and I thought for sure it would still be around and there would be a new leader there and things are like, we’re still working towards web standards. I don’t feel like we’ve come to a place where the web standards are completely understood.

MOLLY: ... we’ve come to a real bad place we’re on the opposite side. We’re trying to undo the JavaScript first... I think JavaScript is an amazing language, but time and place for everything right? You have to know how, if you’re going to do JavaScript first development, you have to understand the component parts of the integrated holistic web. Going back to that Web by Design book originally, the accessibility pieces. You have to do your homework. You have to know your HTML5, your Aria. You can’t do JavaScript based development without those things if you want a quality product at the end full stop. So I think that education is a huge part of that. How to move that forward. With the web standards project, when I got up to the level where I was enjoying the attention of Microsoft and Bill Gates and getting the ear, where a lot of people were engaged, the entire group was very large at that point, we had a task force, we had people working with Adobe, trying to do exactly what you were talking about earlier, about getting to these companies and saying “Open it up a bit, come on, crack it open. Let’s have a conversation." We had a lot of teams, street teams, things were really happening and so many good people. I mean just a list of people... we’d be here for hours just listing names of incredible contributions from our community that went into that. It was no easy task to turn around an entire company's ethic. So, we did that. What happened then is at the point I challenged Gates. He basically hired me as a consultant at that point and then sent me around the world to teach his developers as well as other developers web standards. So I felt at that point I had to step down as lead because it would be conflict of interest. So I stepped down and there was a beautiful... they gave me flowers and a big speech at a Wasp meeting, at South by Southwest one year and I left. Aaron Gustafson and Kimberly Blessing took it over and it kind of lost its way and they felt they had come to a win. So they felt since that particular problem was resolved, that was the end and therefore their work was done and they closed the shop down. I would not have been on that side. I wanted to reignite it. I have always wanted to reignite it but I don’t think that standards are the issue anymore. I think it goes far beyond that. It goes into a broader idea of what standards means, just like a broader idea of what accessibility means. It also means we must have an ethical standard, a professional standard. There are other standards that we don’t have. Like you’re saying how you at your company always bring in everybody at that first meeting right? You’ve got all of the people on board from day one. Day one development kind of a process and that is a very strong process right? That way you’ve got the voices representing those areas of skillsets necessary. When you don’t have that you really end up having to do the patchwork and the patchwork never works. We all know that. Every industry has it. They say in studio music they’ll say “We’ll fix it in the mix.” In the movie industry they say “We’ll fix it in post” or “We’ll fix it in beta.” We never do! We’re human beings. We don’t do it! Let’s just accept the reality of our flaws and work with that.

IVAN: Yeah it’s kind of technical debt for the world right? We’ll fix it tomorrow. No, we won’t.

MOLLY: Yeah. Fix it in the mix. Fix it in beta. It’s the mantra of humanity. So I think that it’s ok. That we shouldn’t be ashamed of that. It’s alright to embrace that and say “Ok, because human beings are like this, now let’s have a plan.” You know, so people who don’t make the mistake of letting that hole go, because then you let that hole go and the next hole goes and suddenly you have a Cambridge Analytica Facebook situation on your hands.

IVAN: Let’s not go down that road.

MOLLY: Right. How do you think one got to the other? Because of all the holes in security that we could’ve had and should’ve had the whole time. And it’s there. It’s not that the technology doesn’t exist, it’s that “We’ll put it there later.” “We’ll fix it in the mix.” “We’ll add it in beta.” You know. No! Fix it now.

IVAN: Fix it now. Now, earlier in the podcast you said that no one really knew what the web would become when we first worked with the web. Is there a technology you feel the same way about, right now?

MOLLY: The project itself is no longer active, but that would be the Human Genome Project I think was doing that. I think there’s analogy to be said for photography, especially for people doing not just digital anymore. People going back to older school styles and forms. There’s an analogy there. There are analogies, yes, but not a lot. We don’t realize the value we have for human evolutionary breakthrough with the web because the web enables us and empowers us as an assistive device, simply by holding information that we can then... the data that becomes the information that becomes the knowledge that can become human wisdom. Right? But we’re just not using it. We haven’t been taught. We don’t know. It’s a cart before the horse situation. That’s what I always use as a model, and until the horse gets in front of the cart and we kind of get involved in good communication with the horse, we’re not moving in the right direction.

IVAN: I see you on Twitter. I personally haven’t used Twitter as much as I did prior to the 2016 election. I have sort of stopped doing that.

MOLLY: People call it media dieting. I’m like I get it.

IVAN: Totally get it. Yeah. So I did see you tweet something that I wanted to ask you about and what you meant by “the web will never be interoperable unless we as humans are interoperable.”

MOLLY: It’s exactly what I meant by what I was saying how I live in a very divided community and yet we don’t fist fight each other every day. There’s not fights breaking out. People are adults here. They go about their life and they socialize together and they live together and they live side by side and there’s no violence and there’s no gunslinging when most of the population here owns a gun. So none of that goes on in a divisive population. Why can’t that scale? Why don’t we scale that? And I think that’s interoperability for humanity is that we accept the fact that we all are as we are. It’s like as you mentioned, globalism, which is a very dangerous word, and I try to avoid it so I use the word toward the more international relationship, because I just want to take the taint off of it. But I think that’s human interoperability—understanding how to work with each other and live with each other, despite our differences of ideas, of color, of creed, of class, all of that stuff. So, until we’re interoperable and willing to accept those divisions and differences, we’re not going to have a web like that, right? Our technology reflects us. Not the other way around.

IVAN: Yeah.

MOLLY: Well, it is the other way around too. It is.

IVAN: It’s a weird interplay isn’t it?

MOLLY: Yes. It’s both ways. You caught me there. You just widened my web. You widened my world. But it's true. That’s a very good observation because it does come back and a lot of people are saying that the Twitter nonsense that we’ve seen since those elections and the reason many people have gotten off of there and run away, has a lot to do with the fact that it’s disruptive, it’s so disruptive it’s not a social haven anymore. It’s not the unified web that we had, a community that we once had when we were a lot smaller. The world really cracked open and we did that. And we knew we were disrupting. We knew this was disruptive technology. But who knew it was going to disrupt this much and how far it would go.

IVAN: Yeah.

MOLLY: We don’t know still.

IVAN: No. We don’t. We really don’t.

MOLLY: And I hope that that portion that you just brought up, the reflection back of all that negativity on humanity, I know that mental health workers here, that caseworkers, because I’m going to go through testing and whatever, I know that there is a great concern among the population that we are on a constant hypervigilance in the United States at least, and a lot of the parts of the world are beyond that. They’re already in active wars, but look at us, we don’t know when, where and how, any minute, any day, anywhere, somebody’s going to lose it and blow a bunch of people away. It happens every single day in this country. So you become hypervigilant or you become numb, and when that reflects back on the human being, then I'm very concerned for the future, because you create more sociopaths. I don’t want to create more sociopaths.

IVAN: No, we don’t.

MOLLY: I’m waiting for the world... for the heart to open.

IVAN: Well, I want that too and maybe one of those things that you could be doing is spending time away from technology to do that, right?

MOLLY: I think that’s very important. In fact, that’s part of my creed now, is walk away from the computer if you really want to learn computation. You know? If you really want to understand the World Wide Web, go live in the world.

IVAN: Go and do something. Yes.

MOLLY: Interoperate with another human being that is very different from you and then we’ll have interoperability. Does that make a little more sense?

IVAN: I think it does.

MOLLY: It’s a meta concept. It’s that we have to learn to interact with each other, yeah, and if we could do that then it would reflect back in the web, but it doesn’t because we can’t. We can’t even do it with ourselves. We wake up in the morning and fight with ourselves, right? We’re like No, I don’t want green. I'll take the blue shirt. We can't make up our own minds. Nobody's driving the bus.

IVAN: Nobody’s driving the bus. It’s like a horse in the hospital. I heard a description...

MOLLY: I never heard that one. That’s a good one too.

IVAN: If you look up John Mulaney, he’s a comedian. He described the current administration as “a horse loose in a hospital.”

MOLLY: A horse loose in a hospital... that is a wonderful analogy.

IVAN: Nobody asked for a horse in a hospital but we’ve got a horse in the hospital.

MOLLY: I feel like we’re insulting the horses.

IVAN: Molly, thank you so much for spending your precious time with me.

MOLLY: I have to thank you. I mean I’m beginning to start feeling like a, you know how, I don’t know, you’re too young yet, but when you start toward retirement and you’re in a situation where you’re looking back on a career, as opposed to looking forward or are in the middle of a career, it’s a very interesting perspective and to still be thought of and to still be sought after, is a great honor to me and to the work that I hopefully really did with good intent to human kind and for the web, for good, for humankind's good. The kindness in humans, and that’s the important message. I think that I hope will always live on about Molly.

IVAN: I think it will. It certainly resonated with me, and it’s created certainly longevity and certainly employment for numerous people associated with TEN7. So I thank you for that as well.

MOLLY: I thank you for that... for passing it along. That’s the whole point.

IVAN: That’s the point.

MOLLY: Well done my friend. Well done. And thank you again so much. It’s truly my honor to be recognized at this point in my career still and I really... hopefully, we’ll see where things go, but if I do get a little bit of a reprieve after some personal stuff, maybe I’ll come back and do a MasterClass like that for somebody. Or do one online or do something like that. I really wanted to do that for a long time. Just like things you need to know going in.

IVAN: I think you can do that. I think a MasterClass would be a great idea. I think it would be very well accepted. You should continue doing this.

MOLLY: I’ve also had a lot of thought. I’ve also talked with other people on contributions, because I only know my part, and there’s so much as we’ve said. But I think that would be a good direction. So, that’s my hope but it’s not a promise.

IVAN: Well, we’ll see you there. We’ll see you when it happens.

MOLLY: Well that’s great. Thank you so much Ivan. Thank you so much Jonathan. It was really nice to be here.

IVAN: Thank you. So, you're mholzschlag on Twitter. You’ve been listening to the TEN7 Podcast. Find us online at And if you have a second, do send us a message, we love hearing from you. Our email address is [email protected]. Until next time, this is Ivan Stegic. Thank you for listening.

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