You know the sites.
So dead they're funny.

'Forgive them, for they know not what they do.'

1996 Vanity Publisher of the year

Let's start by acknowledging that the Web is the biggest vanity press of all time. If you wanted to knock out a few personal poems of angst or love, or a treatise on alien anti-gravity machines then you once had little option other than privately publishing. Small run or 'vanity' presses love that kind of stuff, they take your money and give you enough copies to pass on to friends and the lover who spurned you. In later years you can give them away, with witty handwritten dedications, to anyone you think will be impressed by your being a 'published' author.
(I'm assuming here that you fall into the area of immense but largely unrecognised talent and that you've been ignored by those insensitive bastards who run the conventional media.)

The Web changed all that. Now you can reach an audience of millions (if they can only find your URL) and that changes the formula. Instead of being laughed at by the few you once called friends, you can now be laughed at by thousands. The Internet is also an ideal promotional vehicle for your ideas or creative brilliance: using e-mail you can reach dozens of influential journalists in a minute. Post to a newsgroup or two and you can be sure that your unique ideas will get a reaction.

After intensive investigation, and tips from someone we can only call Deep Cellular Throat, Dead on the Web is pleased to offer an example of what epitomises high vanity web publishing. Direct from the Nation's capital, (maybe even the War Room in the Nation's capital, who knows.....)

Tom Worthington,
this is your 15 minutes of flame.


Born on the 3 February 1957, in Brisbane, Australia, Tom Worthington in just forty years, has risen to be listed by Information Age magazine (as he modestly informs us himself) as one of the 50 most influential IT&T people in Australia for 1996. In understanding the path of this successful rise, we have only to look to the documents provided for us by Tom. It's all there on the Web.

In fact there was so much material on Tom's Web pages (we gave up counting after over 120 documents and we are still discovering links to exciting new ones). Any attempt to summarise them like this has been a mammoth task. Months in investigation and planning, at times this seemed all too daunting but we knew someone had to attempt it. If we've gone on too long, believe us that we tried to cut it down. If you follow all the links here, this could take you days to read. At times those grey backgrounds seemed overwhelming, and then we'd scroll down and reassuringly, there it was, the inevitable cheery link to ...

Tom Worthington's Home Page .

It is the only place to start our journey through the life of this remarkable man. Situated on the Web at
it offers its most stunning revelation after a just a few lines.

Tom Worthington's pages display an emotional detachment many will envy.

For Tom, it comes naturally. He able to talk about himself with ease in the third person. This he knows gives his pages a special authoritative air, as if an impartial observer and not Tom is writing. "Tom Worthington said..." is the most common phrase after - "ACS President, Tom Worthington, said ...", and all this on pages that Tom has crafted himself, spell-checked
(sometimes - but never proof-read) in Microsoft Word.

Even the ACS press releases that arrive each week in email from ACS publicist Caroline New, have Tom's Special Voice. This has lead some cynical media journalists asking to be taken off the list.
(Shame on you, we know who you are! How can you purport to cover a dynamic industry without having weekly access to the insight of ACS President Tom Worthington).
Note to Web Builders

Tom's page was recently updated from grey to a tasteful coloured background (BGCOLOR= "#ddddfff" nice choice Tom!), and was created in Internet Assistant for Word 1.0Z, Tom's favoured HTML editor.

Tom WorthingtonTom's home page has a clever use of a high / low source image (a Web design technique that Tom favours and has used on other pages). If the page loads quickly, or relaods from the cache, you could miss it, so we've created an animated GIF to show you the effect. We're sure Tom won't mind but we improved the quality a bit for our discerning MM readers (using one of the high res images provided on Tom's photographs page taken by noted Canberra photographer Heide Smith). These two pictures are obviously favourites of Tom's and charmingly appear on almost every page he creates.


See a brief summary of Tom's educational history
and his career from 1979 to 1997 here.

Enlightening? You could expect that the grueling work pressure and the strain of coding so many Web pages has to take its toll. Even someone with such high standards, 'years of database experience' and 'graphic design, video production, marketing and media training' must slip up somewhere. Many are asking will Tom Worthington snap? We don't think so.

It seems that Tom will just go on adding pages to his website forever. Throwing up pages with breathtaking speed from
trains, buses and balloons. Who cares about spelling mistakes or going back and correcting old pages on the Web? No-one. Tom knows from years of Internet experience that you don't let the spell checker step between you and your thousands of Web readers. Immediacy is the web, and immediacy rules.

The earliest example we have of Tom's Web work is from March 1993, when he was Director of the Community Affairs Board of the ACS. Using a classic font he makes clever use of the browser's ability to scroll sideways to read lines that seem to go on forever, involving the reader in a virtual ASCII chase.

Don't miss Tom's Three Rules For Web Design excerpted here from a longer article.

He quickly became proficient with software that gave him greater control and started the process of Web mastery. That there is only one flamboyant example of the use of a background GIF, points to how clever Tom is at picking up what works or doesn't work graphically. From then on, he stuck to to the default settings, grey background, blue links, borders on for images.

Late in 1996, Tom mastered coloured backgrounds, applying the knowledge to his
home page (#DDDDFF) and to the Defence Web (#C0DCC0).

For Australia Day, multimedia in the form of Real Audio, hit Tom's Home page.
A solo violin rendition of Advance Australia Fair, performed by Dr. Melville Da Cruz, Kings College, Cambridge.

Tom proudly lists the pages that he is 'Web page designer' for.
Duke of Edinburgh's Award in Australia (ACT Division)
National Press Club - IM Forum
Canberra Tourism
Australian Information Industry Association

Tom knows that in a wired world where millions have access to your pages, you need to offer a way for readers to supply feedback, to correct mistakes and warn of broken links.
Tom Worthington's Feedback Form does the job for Tom, a simple form, probably part of Tom's HTML self education, it offers a mail form, this elegant drop down menu...
I thought your home page was:

...and of course Tom's email addresses, are there for all to respond to.

Tom applied his multimedia expertise to his now famous lunch-time speech in Canberra at the National Press Club in December 1996. This should have been Tom's finest hour of the year. A roomful of the nation's top journalists, riveted to every mouse-click of the large screen projection from Tom's laptop computer, linked by modem and GSM mobile live to
Tom's Home Pages on the Web. Then there were the eyes of millions of Australians who would be watching the ABC broadcast of the speech, that always goes with the presentation by the famous Press Club guests.

For weeks before, the web was buzzing with messages from Tom. There were postings by Tom to Newsgroups, a public web page on his site that allowed us to see how he was developing his concepts before the event, and more email from the mysterious 'Caroline New'.

It must have been a depressing blow when the ABC didn't broadcast the speech. Tom has obviously been so disappointed that he's left all the references to the telecast on his pages as consolation for what might have been. When we inquired by email afterward as to why it didn't happen, Tom's short reply gives no hint at how he must have felt.

"The National Press Club has advised me that broadcasts for the year have finished".

Then there was the audience on the day, full of pre-Christmas cheer and obviously ready to learn from Tom's experience as the following transcript tells.

Tom: "Who has used the World Wide Web? (Most of the audience raised their hands.) Just about everybody.

Who has checked their email today? (Most of the audience raised their hands.) Just about everybody.

Who has designed a Web page and put it on the Internet in the last week? (Three quarters of the audience raised their hands). Goodness. I might as well go home, you know all this already".

(There was one other experiment with a background in August 1996, so maybe we can look to Tom for more daring work. This page also has one of our favourite uses of creative spelling .)

(You'll know all about Dr. Da Cruz, who looks like a nice bloke, from Tom's enthralling account of his U.K. visit, Cambridge live from a Double Decker Bus.)

You must visit these to really understand Tom's extensive Web design skills.

* NOTE: This will be the first "multimedia" presentation at the National Press Club. Mr. Worthington will illustrate his speech with material downloaded from the Internet live on-screen during the presentation.
from Press Release

See Tom's Newsgroup style here and a reply nominating him for the coveted 1996 Gareth Powell Award.

If only they could have told him earlier! Even the pages Tom presented on the big screen projector on the day, mention the broadcast. To cancel at such short notice without allowing him time to open Internet Assistant and delete the reference, is most un-professional.

Tom didn't go home of course, he's always a trouper.
The full transcript is here, on a National Press Club page designed by ... Tom Worthington.

Few personal moments resonate so strongly on Tom's many pages.

There is little there to tell how he feels or about his life outside of work. (Or if he has one. Is there a Mrs. Worthington? A friend? We have no way to tell from these home pages, although Tom says....

"Every year I am dragged off somewhere overseas for a "holiday". I am a stay-at-home computer nerd and proud of it. On each trip I try to see as much hi-tech and see as little scenery as possible. If possible I try and do some work (and get some free lunches)."

Along the way this 'stay-at-home computer nerd' offers us scraps of personal information, a short 'Recipe for Dried Tomatoes and Capsicum in Oil by Tom Worthington', a few brief words about an interest in Landscape Design, of theatre going (in 1995), trips by train, modern sculpture, digital photography. The 1995 pages 'From Arcadia to Zeus: my first year on the Web' is the most personal we have. Through all the pages of travels of this 'sensitive high-tech tourist' there are no pictures of a companion, no hint of any personal feelings but lots of descriptions of his mobile phone troubles, and hassles collecting email overseas. All of which he shares with us, unselfishly for many pages. We also have lots of digital photo's thoughtfully provided as good Web etiquette dictates, as thumbnails with links to larger fuzzy JPEG's, of Tom With Someone Quite Important or Tom With His Mobile Phone.

"I had the mobile phone clipped to my belt as usual (the carrying case for my phone has a hole in the bottom to allow the data adapter to be attached)."

After those 120 pages of Tom Worthington's life do we feel that we know him better? From those portrait photographs of him, in varying resolutions, available on his pages ....

Very low: 78 x 95 pixels 64 colours 2 Kbytes
Uncropped full (24 bit) colour JPEG compressed:
1.Low: 128 x 192 pixels 6 Kbytes
2.Medium: 448 x 671 pixels 45 Kbytes
3.High: 870 x 1354 pixels 158 Kbytes
4.Very High: 1864 x 2728 pixels 596 Kbytes

.....can we gain an insight into his personality? From re-reading on his home pages every press release he's sent out, every speech he's ever made, every public document his word processor formats and files, do we get closer to understanding what drives the man behind them?

Yep, and that's why we present you, Tom Worthington, with our ultimate award, the full four Spidey's, in one resolution only.

1996 Vanity Publisher of the Year
and we wouldn't be surprised for 1997
, '98...

for the
Tom Worthington - Home Page at
and all that links from it.


We've stored the most significant Worthington Files mentioned above in our Archives. Not so we can look at them with nostalgia when Tom gets famous enough to afford a personal webmaster to administer the gigabytes of data on, but as a vital part of what Tom calls 'our cultural landscape'.


Back to Kitchen, to MM Contents

In previous installments of Dead on the Web we looked at
Dead (and Smelly) Sites, and Wanna-be Web Designers.