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--by Billy Barron

The Internet guru is a hard person to define. No test exists to qualify a person as an Internet guru. It is not always obvious who is and is not a guru. Often, I am talking to some novices and they mention that someone is an "Internet guru." When I meet this person, it is frequently the case that the supposed guru is giving out wrong and misleading information. Therefore, the first criteria of being an Internet guru is that other Internet gurus must be able to respect your Internet knowledge.

If you watch Internet gurus in action, they usually show extremely strong feelings about the Internet. Almost all, if not all, find the Internet to be an exciting and fun place. This interest is a critical part of any Internet guru. The Internet is so large and changing so fast that without a strong passion, a guru will become a nonguru within a couple of years.

An Internet guru knows that the Internet only works due to information sharing that is mostly for free. The guru, therefore, must give something back to the Internet to improve the network. It might be a piece of software, documentation, frequently answering posts on Usenet constructively, or even just having a useful Gopher or Web server.

The guru knows that he or she does not and cannot know everything about the Internet. Therefore, this books offers a great deal, even to the guru. For example, while I was reading this book, I learned quite a bit about a subject that I knew nothing about, like programming muds. The guru, though, has many tools and an ability to learn that compensates for gaps in knowledge. Related to this, the Internet guru has contacts and/or friendships with other gurus that provide invaluable information.

Every guru is different in knowledge, background, career, and personality. This is important to remember. Some are not even computer professionals and instead are librarians, scientists, artists, musicians, or students. Basically, they can be from any place and any walk of life. For a brief sampling of Internet gurus, consider a few of the authors who wrote parts of this book. In many ways, I may be one of the most typical of Internet gurus. I am very strong in end-user Internet services (WWW, Gopher, OPACs, FTP sites, and so on) and can even manage routers, but I know very little about network management or muds. Another one of the authors, Kevin Mullet, is one of the people who holds Internet connectivity together within Texas--he knows network management inside and out (among other aspects of the Internet). Kenny Greenberg is also an Internet guru, even though he is first and foremost an artist. The other authors all come from different backgrounds.

Now that you may have a vague idea of what an Internet guru is, you may want to become one yourself. Fortunately, it is much easier to define the steps in becoming a guru than defining what a guru is. The steps I recommend:

  1. Become a proficient Internet user. Many books and training sessions are available to help you get to this state.

  2. Learn about the society and politics of the Internet. Books, such as The Internet Unleashed (Sams Publishing: Indianapolis, 1994), will help with this. However, nothing substitutes for some time spent on mailing lists and Usenet news.

  3. Decide which parts of the Internet excite you. Concentrate on learning these. As I said earlier, nobody knows everything about the Internet.

  4. Do some background reading. This book will definitely help you here, but reading some network documents such as RFCs is also important.

  5. Try out what you have learned--as long as it is legal and ethical. No Internet guru exists without spending a lot of hands-on time on the network itself.

  6. When your experiments fail (and they sometimes will), either go back to Step 4 or ask on mailing lists or newsgroups, and then try again. The urge to give up may be strong at times, but don't give in!

Good Luck on becoming an Internet guru. Also, make sure you have fun while reading Tricks of the Internet Gurus, or you have been missing the point.

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