My Journey: Part 9. Wired In’s Early Online Presence

Development of a strong online presence was one of my key aims with Wired In (initially known as WIRED). With the help of website developer Ash Whitney, I launched Daily Dose, a drugs and alcohol news portal, in early 2001. This website was followed by—which contained sections for people suffering from substance use problems, practitioners, and members of the general public—and the news portal Drugs in Sport. We later built, which focused on the range of work that Wired In was conducting. (1,500 words)

I’ve often been asked why I came up with the name WIRED, the original name for Wired In. I could say that it was because I wanted to connect people, which I now consider the main ‘power’ of the name Wired In. In fact, the reason was that I initially saw WIRED as a way of providing people with information about drug and alcohol use problems, and how they could be overcome. WIRED was quite simply an acronym: Web-based Information REsource on Drugs—alcohol is, of course, a drug.

I had initially received funding from the Welsh Development Agency, which at the time was the economic development agency for Wales, to develop and maintain an online resource that would help people in Wales better understand the nature of drug and alcohol use problems and how they could be overcome. Use of illegal drugs, in particular heroin, and excessive drinking were major problems in parts of Wales, particularly in areas suffering economic and social problems such as in the Welsh valleys. These problems had increased as coal mines in the valleys closed. 

A technician in my university department, Neil Carter, suggested I approach a web-developer friend of his, Ash Whitney, to see if he would build my first website. I visited Ash in Cilfrew, which is close to Neath, late in 2000 and we hit it off immediately. Ash agreed to build a news portal focused on drugs and alcohol, that would allow us to provide links to key content posted on specialist and non-specialist (including the popular press) websites on a daily basis throughout the year. I hired Jim Young, a technician who had previously worked in my neuroscience laboratory, to help me run what Ash and I decided to call Daily Dose.

Late in 2000, I was awarded a Personal Chair (Professorship) in Psychology by my university. Personal Chairs are ‘awarded specifically to an individual in recognition of their high levels of achievements and standing in their particular area or discipline.’ (Wiki) It was a tradition at the university that anyone awarded a Personal Chair give an Inaugural Lecture about their research to members of the university and general public. The Vice Chancellor then hosted a dinner for family and friends of the new professor. I was due to give my Inaugural Lecture in December, but I had to cancel to attend an event that was far more important.

At the beginning of October 2000, it was announced that my former colleague and mentor in Sweden, Professor Arvid Carlsson, had been awarded the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his early research establishing dopamine as a key neurotransmitter and for first showing that l-Dopa would be an effective treatment for Parkinson’s disease. 

I remember hearing this wonderful news by telephone from Matt Galloway, a former neuroscience colleague from the US. I jumped up and screamed in delight. Arvid’s award was long overdue! 

The city of Göteborg (Gothenburg) decided to host a special dinner to celebrate Arvid’s achievement, to which I was invited, and members of the department decided to throw a party as well. There was no way I was going to miss such celebrations, so my Inaugural Lecture was postponed until 1 February 2001.

It was wonderful to be back in Göteborg after nearly 15 years away. Although I had met up with some of my old Swedish colleagues at international conferences, I had not seen others since finishing work in Arvid’s department. I had missed my good friends, as well the department and city. The celebratory parties were wonderful. 

Arvid had always been our hero and we were all thrilled for him. I was surprised that the department in Göteborg also celebrated the award of my Personal Chair and friends told me that they were thrilled by my personal achievement. I was deeply moved by the celebration and my former colleagues’ touching sentiments. However, I had to tell them that I was leaving the neuroscience field and I explained why. They understood and wished me well.  

During my Inaugural Lecture back in Swansea, I explained to my audience that I was changing ‘career’. I pointed out that I would now be solely working with humans, rather than rats, and that the questions with which I was particularly concerned, could only be answered by making this change. I explained that whilst I could currently tell a good story about brain mechanisms underlying drug addiction (which I had just done), I did not feel that I (nor any other neuroscientist) was actually helping anyone overcome their addiction. What had neuroscience taught us about recovery? 

As a psychologist, I was intrigued by addiction and I felt the only way that I could understand it and begin to help people (which is now what I wanted to do) was by talking with people who were affected by substance use problems and with practitioners working in the field. 

I also explained that whilst I had been very productive as a neuroscientist, generating over 60 peer-reviewed articles including a number of major reviews, my ‘audience’ was very small—other neuroscientists working in the field. In shifting field, my research and other activities would gain a much greater audience, one which would also be much more varied—people with a substance use problem and their families, practitioners, policy makers, academic researchers and members of the general public—particularly if I used the internet as a core tool for disseminating our content. 

I then told them that I was now going to officially launch our first website, the drug and alcohol news portal Daily Dose. The next moment Daily Dose became probably the largest website (at least physically) in the world as I revealed it on the large screen in the main lecture theatre in the university.  

Prior to the launch of Daily Dose, I had spent time with Jim talking about the sort of information that I wanted disseminating and showing him key websites. Initially, I did a trawl of newspaper websites before I went to work, passing on the key links to Jim, and he did the major trawl in the evening. It didn’t take long before Jim was doing all the trawling. He soon became well-versed in selecting key content and avoiding some of the rubbish which appeared in the popular press. His penchant for locating relevant information soon earned him the sobriquet Sniffer Dog.

In the early days, Daily Dose had a number of sections. The Daily Dose section contained links to new content found on that day. I posted what I considered to be the most important articles of the week (generally 24 taken from the week’s Daily Doses) in a Weekly Dose. The Professional Pick was a selection of 20 links to articles we considered to be of greatest value for professionals working in the field. As a new article was ‘professionally picked’, it replaced the last one on the current list. This section would eventually move to another of our websites. An Archive of all previous Daily and Weekly Doses was provided, along with an About Us page. 

Daily Dose later became the leading information portal on drugs and alcohol. It started to attract sponsorship, which was administered by our charity Wired International Ltd. The portal eventually attracted over 8,000 subscribers, was linked to by many major organisations in the world, and was top of many millions of listings on Google.

I developed another portal, Drugs in Sport, in 2002, for which Jim trawled the internet daily. This website closed in 2007 due to lack of sponsorship funding, and Daily Dose closed in 2010 for the same reason.

In 2002, Ash and I collaborated to build the main Wired In website,, which contained sections for people suffering from substance use problems (either directly or indirectly), practitioners, and members of the general public. There was also a Wales section, which included some of our Drug and Alcohol Treatment Fund evaluation reports. We later built, which offered a range of different sections focused on the range of work that Wired In was conducting (e.g. Personal Stories, Research, Education/Training). 

I loved working with Ash and we became close friends. We still are today, even though we live on different sides of the world.  These websites of yesteryear were rather crude compared to today, but web technology has advanced considerably since that time. Some of the pages of those websites are still available today on the Wayback Machine archive. I’ve enjoyed looking back through some of that work.

Ash built this Recovery Stories website for me in 2013. We will be developing a new version of the website in the coming months.