I know this site isn't slick - but it's fast.
"John is the guy who made the WELL into a community"
"In his quiet way John was one of the most influential persons in the counterculture"
-Fred Turner, author of "From Counterculture to Cyberculture"
"John Coate, godfather of social media"
-The Economist, February 12, 2022 page 76
I coined the term "online community" in 1986.
This photo of a poster I made in early 1986 for a booth at the West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco shows the earliest public use of the term "online community."
Building Online Community My seminal 1991 essay that was the first to explore the field and practice of online community management.
Online Community Toolkit, a nine page document I wrote as part of an Edgeryders-World Bank contract during October 2017 that will help anyone create, build or improve an online community (PDF). Edgeryders is: edgeryders.eu
Intro to Home Free Home by John Coate, October 2016 - A short introductory essay I wrote for Home Free Home, edited by Ramon Sender, about the seminal open land communities of Sonoma Country in the 1960s.
My eulogy to my friend and SF Gate partner George Shirk, at Chapel of the Chimes, Oakland, Feb. 2, 2017 (mp4 audio)
Farm Stories. In 1998 Cliff FIgallo and I wrote about our experiences at The Farm in TN in the 1970s that were published in the Whole Earth Review. With some illustrations.
1969 Ramparts Magazine Story about a famous SF murder trial where I was an important witness. A white cop shot and killed a black man. I pointed out how the SF Police Department systematically lied to get him off, smearing my friend and me in the process. For this I got my picture on the front page of both SF newspapers. This image is from the SF Examiner.
An 8 minute video of the legendary Woopy Ball rave in 1992, where I demonstrated the French Minitel and introduced to the people there online chatting. Not great quality, but it was 1992, before good video was commonly available. The video is in .mov and mp4 formats.
| Send me email | "Building Online Community" | Farm Stories |
I have spent more than thirty years developing and managing innovative new media projects (as well as some old media too), most notably The WELL and SF Gate.
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 was the first person to work professionally 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 prominent in Howard Rheingold's classic, The Virtual Community.
I am profiled (with a full page picture of Cliff and me) in Fred Turner's 2006 book, From Counterculture to Cyberculture.
Most recently, I am featured prominently in the Cyberspace chapter of The Quiet Before: the Unexpected Origins of Radical Ideas by Gal Beckerman.
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 an essay to share some of what I had learned in my six years as the world's first online community manager. Some details
might be 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.
I was, along with a few other people, the founder of SF
Gate and was its General Manager from January 1995 through
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, many of which are now standard features on 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.
From 2016-2021 I was an advisor to a European consulting group, Edgeryders.
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
Back in 1987 Cliff Figallo and I wrote some stories about our 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.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.