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Lynda Weinman, Founder, Lynda.com

Lynda WeinmanLynda Weinman's pivotal moment for training arrived in 1984 when her boyfriend brought a Mac home from his travels abroad.

Just like the now-famous commercials of a runner breaking through a wall of PC drones to reveal a new kind of computer, there it was in front of her: Apple's Macintosh.

She picked up the manual and became intrigued with the possibilities. Before long, she was performing circles around him, and slurping up as much knowledge as she could.

This was back in the days of Wordstar. When PC computer jocks in the office loved to ridicule that little boxy Mac. After peeking over her shoulder at the desktop publishing features she came up with, they got quiet.

Folks started asking her for help on their desktop publishing stuff. They told a few of their friends, who told their friends, and then their friends.

Today, Lynda.com is a multi-million dollar corporation with 30 full-time employees, 50 contractors and millions of students across the world accessing its tutorials for Web designers, computer graphics specialists, digital media users and computer owners.

She recently spoke to internetnews.com about her take on computing and the Web, then and now.

Q: So you're playing around with the Mac, and friends are seeking you out for training on desktop publishing. But this was still before the rise of the Web, right?

We all know what happened to desktop publishing. It became the killer app of the day. I thought I was just getting away with murder, to be paid to do computer work, paid to do your hobby.

As I evolved, and became a teacher and a writer. I relied on my early roots. People kept coming back to me, asking me to speak at conferences, and write articles. I was in the right place at the right time.

By 1995, I had just had my daughter and I had gotten my book written. The book went on to become a best seller, but the publisher didn't have a site, so I used Lynda.com as the address.

The book took off and catapulted me from being known in the industry to being recognized worldwide. I never intended it to be a business. It just kind of evolved.

Q: So people started coming to Lynda.com. Can you share some perspective on what you knew then, compared to how the Web has evolved?

I had always embraced the idea of a collective intelligence, of a world bigger than my own. When things become popular, that choice is important.

I'm just happy to see [the Web] widely adopted. It confirmed my instincts that this is life-changing. It just grew a lot faster than I expected it to.

Q: What's the hot-seller for tutorials these days?

From a product perspective, it's still Flash, Dreamweaver, and Flex [Adobe's products it bought from Macromedia]. We do a lot of Photoshop training, and in After Effects and Final Cut [for video]. Also, CSS  titles sell well.

The interest changes all the time, and it's interesting to watch. But typically, those are always our best sellers.

Q: As someone who was "there" when the Web first came about, how do you explain the term Web 2.0? What does it mean to you? Or is it silly jargon?

I don't think Web 2.0 is a silly term, but it's definitely a nebulous one. To me, it's Web sites that leverage their users, leverage data, and leverage a high degree of interaction.

In the early days before Web sites were data driven, and things like social networking hadn't yet caught on, the Web was a lot like print -- you made the page once, it rarely changed, and you couldn't really interact with others -- only with the information.

Q: But why the need to dub it 2.0, as in a second phase? Is it really that big a change? And how does the Semantic Web play a role in this?

I remember when the word "new wave" came out for music. It was new for a bit, now it's "classic 80's"! Anything that calls itself "new" or "2" or "next" is bound to get outdated.

Yes, the Web has definitely gone through a huge change in the past five years -- search, social networks, data-driven, user interaction -- those all came as second-generation standouts. The Semantic Web plays a big part in this as establishing a means, structure and standard for data exchange.

Q: With the rise of AJAX and the progression of powerful application developer tools, seems we're all developers now. Not to mention the explosion of tutorials on the Web. In a sea of self-taught Webizens, how do you differentiate your educational offerings?

A few ways. Quality would have to be at the forefront. We hand-choose trainers who are experienced not only in the software but as teachers.

Everyone knows the difference between learning from a good versus a bad teacher. We work with these trainers to break apart the scope of their work so it's approachable and more easily digested by our audience.

We are a company run and founded by educators and knowledge leaders, so we have great BS detectors and high standards.

We use professional recording equipment, and the quality of the video matches pixel for pixel what you'd see on your screen when you are working in a software application, and the voice quality is as if someone was there with you.

We have also hit a critical mass to offer a knowledge library of content that is unparalleled. Over 200 courses -- some very deep dives. For example, over 25 courses on Photoshop alone.

We'll approach a topic from many sides. One course will go from A to Z, another will show how an incredible project was created from scratch. Another might go into one nichey subject, such as masking, database integration, video in interactive applications, etc.

We're not just an aggregator. We actually produce this content ourselves and have rigid standards that are not found elsewhere.

Q: What are the three things that you are most excited to see on the Web today?

Podcasting, photo and video sharing, search/wikipedias. I love seeing what's going on in the world when it's not coming from a few new sources.