The first online version of 253 gave readers the chance to write the sequel.
Another One Along in a Minute was to be set in the train stuck in a tunnel BEHIND this one. There would be 300 characters, each described in 300 words.
I cheerfully opened up for submissions from anybody who wanted to join in.
I did get a character from future bestseller Jenny Colgan. Hers was lovely. Most submissions were unusable and not just because nobody stuck to 300 words.
Many of them were vile.
Typically a character would be sitting on the train contemplating a mass murder or a revenge rape. One pleaded for understanding of the art of serial killing. It was the mid-1990s and I had no idea that the internet could be a vehicle for the very worst in human nature. That wasn't something I wanted to know. I was making my living from new media at the time.
I was heading the web team at the Central Office of Information, a UK government agency. This newly relaunched version of 253 is dedicated to a member of that team, Tim Levy, who was our contracted technical expert. We did the first British Monarchy website and Tim and I briefed Her Majesty on the designs for the site. We were full of the democratic potential of the new media. Her Majesty was unimpressed. 'They'll still know there's a hidden agenda, won't they?' she said.
And that too, turned out to be a warning.