This is the website for John Coate

"John is the guy who made the WELL into a community"
-Howard Rheingold

Podcasts uploaded October 2015:
In 2014 I gave a lengthy interview to Martina Gross of German Public Radio where I talked about my experiences at The WELL and the beginning of online community and my earlier life at the Farm and before that led directly to it.

Part 1: I Join The WELL

Part 2: Early WELL Days

Part 3: Using The WELL

Part 4: Joining the Counterculture

Part 5: Living on a Bus

Part 6: The Farm and Beyond

Origins of Online Community, a .mov video of my keynote to the 2013 SWARM Conference in Sydney, Australia.

Resume | Send me email | "Building Online Community" | "The New Me" - Porchlight transcript | Farm Stories | Facebook |

   John_9-07.jpg  John Coate  John Coate

I have spent twenty-nine years developing and managing innovative new media projects (as well as some old media too), most notably the WELL, and SF Gate.

My work is about strengthening community, developing culture, advancing public knowledge and helping people use communication technology for personal empowerment.

I was employee #2 at the WELL from 1986-1991. I was instrumental in creating the online community that Wired! magazine called, "the world's most influential." I am the first person to work as an "Online Community Manager," although that wasn't my title at the time. Because of this work, I was on the cover of the May 1997 issue of Wired!. I'm the one on the left. The others are Larry Brilliant, Stewart Brand and Cliff Figallo.

This cover story was later published as a book: The WELL: A Story of Love, Death and Real Life in the Seminal Online Community by Katie Hafner. I am also prominent in Howard Rheingold's classic, The Virtual Community. And I am profiled (with a full page picture of Cliff and me) in Fred Turner's 2006 book, From Counterculture to Cyberculture.

 Wired Cover 1997 The Virtual Community From Counterculture to Cyberculture  WELL Book

Here is a photo of Cliff Figallo and me taken in 1987 at the WELL office in Sausalito. This picture appeared in the New York Times. And here is another from that same day that appeared as a full page photo in the Fred Turner book. (Both photos by Kevin Kelly)

In my last year at The WELL, I wrote a seminal essay to share what I had learned. Some of the details are dated, but the principles and higher concepts are as valid now as they were then. This essay was the first use of the now-common phrase "building online community." Building Online Community.

Follow this link to a photo of the first ever commercial use of the phrase "Online Community." It's a poster I made in early 1986 for a booth at the West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco.

I was, along with a few other people, the founder of SF Gate and was its General Manager from January 1995 through January 2001. SF Gate was my attempt to help professional journalism maintain its relevance as the digital peer-to-peer revolution advances. SF Gate was the first big city news website in the world. While there my crew and I pioneered a number of innovations, some of which are now standard features at most news web sites.

In 2002-3 I was the Development Director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In 2004 and 2005, I set up the US edition of Habbo Hotel, where I was "brojo."

From August 2008 until July 2015 I was the Executive Director of Mendocino County Public Broadcasting and General Manager of FM radio station KZYX and KZYZ, a community-supported public radio station for Mendocino and neighboring counties in northern CA. To encourage listeners to contribute, I home recorded this "Pledge Drive Song" (with apologies to Wilson Pickett).

Before I got involved with networked computing and new media I was a carpenter, an auto mechanic, an interstate trucker, and a farmer. I also played in a few rock and roll bands. I came to the online world through working and living in various communities, most notably the Farm in Tennessee. The Farm was a unique and unforgettable experience. Back in 1987 I wrote some stories about my experiences there. Excerpts of these stories were printed in Whole Earth Review magazine.

From 1978 through most of 1982 I lived with my family in an urban version of the Farm collective in a big house in Washington DC. This was a very successful urban commune. I also lived for a time in the south Bronx as part of a group that started a free ambulance service as part of the Farm's Plenty organization. My daughter Jennifer was born in that house, which is now a halfway house for unwed mothers.

Here are a couple of pictures from the old Farm days:

Playing in the Homegrown Band in 1972 when I was 21.

With the Farm Motor Pool, in about 1974. We called ourselves the Golden Bolts. I'm in the middle holding the cowboy hat. That hat is how the whole Tex thing got started.

Here is a drawing that was used in an article about the Farm and the WELL from a 1988 issue of Whole Earth Review. I'm the guy on the right, age 23. I had just started up the first truck motor I rebuilt.

Next is a picture of the "Sausalito Bus," my home for much of 1970-72. We were part of the bus Caravan that later went to Tennessee and founded the Farm. As many as ten people at a time lived on this great old 1946 Aerocoach. An incredible odyssey that took us to New England and back before its final parking place in Summertown, TN.

Sausalito Bus 1946 Aerocoach

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