I get asked this a lot about people. Most recently when visiting the Fat Cat with Simon and his work mates this week, but often about the other Simon (who's my business partner as well as a long time friend).

The truth is a lot of the people I know I met first online, be it Fidonet (hello Pads, Peter, Simon and several others), Usenet (hello Ox.Net), mailing lists (hello ALUG) or IRC (hello, er, lots of people). I don't think I'm in any way unique here, but it can sometimes be awkward explaining this to people who preconceive internet friendships to be something seedy involving 40 year old fat man and 15 year old naive children. Or at least that's what they seem to be thinking when you say "Oh, we met online".

Let's give some examples.

I met Simon on Fidonet, back when we were both 17 or so. We were in a couple of echoes together and we did netmail a bit. When I came to England for university one of the echoes we were in had a meet up and so I decided to go. I ended up staying at Simon's (making his mother worry a bit; even back in 1997 people thought meeting online was freaky!) and that was the first time I met him. We've kept in good touch ever since and even gone into business together. Is this a lot odder than a chance meeting at a pub or through friends? I don't think so, but some people do.

Or take when I moved to Norwich. I had some friends who could help me load up the van in Harpenden (where I was moving from), but didn't know anyone in Norwich to help unload. I'd already joined the ALUG list, so I thought I'd ask there if anyone was prepared to help in exchange for beer and food afterwards. Adam and Edward Betts both turned up to help, not knowing anything about me. And were very helpful and we got everything unloaded. I still see Adam reasonably often, both online and in person (last night, for example). I haven't really kept in touch with Edward since he left UEA though. :(

There are many more examples like this of people who I see a reasonable amount in real life and yet if you asked me I'd have to admit I first knew online, sometimes for several years before actually physically meeting. And lots of people understand it these days, but please tell me I'm not alone in getting the funny looks sometimes. Please?