Barlow on a new mode of building bridges

I've been spending a good part of the last few days meditating on Hossein Derakhshan's three metaphors for blogs: windows, bridges and cafés.

John Perry Barlow, who takes life in great big gulps online, as well as in the “real” world, has a wonderful story of a way that Skype can be a bridge technology. He's been getting random phonecalls from young women in Asia who want to talk to him, because his name is “John”, which implies that he speaks English, and they're hoping to practice their English skills.

Suspicious at first that this was a complex scam, or a conversation that was going to quickly lead to a request for marriage for a green card, Barlow has concluded that he's simply been lucky enough to encounter people from China and Vietnam who want to be friends.

Those of us in the US remember that AT&T used to want us to “reach out and touch someone”. Skype makes it possible to reach out and touch someone you've never met… for free.

I'd never thought of looking for people in countries I'm fascinated by and calling them up on Skype. But perhaps this is a new strategy for building bridges between people in different nations. If only my first name were John…


  • I’m happy to hear you guys in the US get some of the heat too. The number of people waiting for a chat is really killing. Last year I started a small test at to see whether I was able to build up a network of English-speaking internet users all over China. After weeks of chatting I silently put it on ice: it can effectively stop you from making a living.

  • Hi, Fons.

    Try the Skype Me option; you can search for people with this switch on, essentially opening yourself up to random callers trying out Skype, playing pranks, or just wanting to talk to someone in your town. Adding a callto:evanwolf link on my blog makes it one-click-easy to call me. Even at 3 in the morning.

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