Interview with Jamaican Website Pioneer

Mike Pawka is the operator of the Jammin Reggae Archives, which is one of the first Jamaican related websites to go online. He is president of Nice Up Enterprises which has operated this as a nonprofit organization devoted to the principle that reggae music is a powerful force that can unite people of all walks of life. In addition to operating the Jammin Reggae Archives, he also hosts a Virtual Reggae radio show broadcast on the Internet, writes for such publications as Dub Missive, is an active participant in the organization Reggae Ambassadors Worldwide (RAW) and helps reggae artists and fans however he can. He is truly a Jamaican website pioneer, having a presence online since the early stages of the World Wide Web. Read our interview with Mike and check out the Jammin Reggae Archives.

Q: Did you ever think you would be an Internet pioneer in the area
of Jamaican sites?
A: Never in a million years.

Q: What inspired you to start this site?
A: I created the newsgroup and someone suggested we needed a place to store frequently asked questions (FAQ), pictures, lyrics and so forth. I had some computers at work that were under utilized, so I set one up as an FTP site. Later I changed it to a web site.

Q: What were the challenges you faced launching your site?
A: The main thing was that my employer wasn’t thrilled with non-work related sites, they eventually banned them. Another problem was finding time.

Q: How did you choose your content?
A: I tried to include anything related to reggae music.

Q: What is the weirdest Jamaican related question you have ever
been asked from a visitor to your site?
A: Not really a question but once a Jamaican severely chastised me for running a reggae site and not being a Jamaican. When I explained how long I had been a reggae fan, that I had been to Jamaica many times and how I was just trying to spread the music and message, he apologized.

Q: How were you able to sustain the costs it takes to run a website?
A: Banner advertising covers the costs.

Q: Have you ever contemplated shutting down the site?
A: No.

Q: What sites did you like when you got online?
A: Depends on what you mean by “got online”. Since my employer was one of the first nodes on the Internet, there was no such thing as the web then. If you mean when the site first “got online”, I guess it would be “Reggae Down Babylon” which was a web based interface to my FTP site and the inspiration to create this site.

Q: Today there are many tools for creating web sites, what were the
tools you used back then?
A: A text editor and an HTML guide. Plus I copied a lot of code from other sites.

Q: During the time you just got online were there many Jamaicans
A: Only a few at UWI Mona. I remember setting up a program that would allow them to read and post to but only a few signed up for the service.

Q: What keeps you going with the site?
A: Many things, the positive feedback I get from visitors, the 300 or so CDs I receive per year, free tickets to concerts. Also since I am now retired, it helps fill the days.

Q: Did you find any other Jamaican sites online?
A: Not when I started.

Q: What are your future plans and where do you see this site going?
A: No real plans, maybe get into streaming video …

Q: What is your favorite Jamaican site?
A: of course!! 🙂