where "word of keystroke" begins

February 22, 2001 -- What free stuff is left and why?

Transcript of the live chat session that took place Thursday, February 22, 2001. These sessions are normally scheduled for 12 noon-1 PM US Eastern Time (GMT -5 when Standard Time, GMT -4 when Daylight Savings Time) on Thursdays.

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Since the chat itself happens at a rapid pace, it's often difficult to note interesting facts and URLs as they appear live. Here's a place to take a more leisurely look. I've rearranged some of the pieces to try to capture the various threads of discussion (which sometimes get lost in the rush of live chat).

Please send email with your follow-on questions and comments, and suggestions for topics we should focus on in future sessions. So long as the volume of email responses is manageable, I'll post the most pertinent ones here for all to see.

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Threads (reconstructed after the fact):

Today's Participants


Richard Seltzer -- We'll be starting in about half an hour, at noon Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5). When you connect, please introduce yourself and let us know your interests. That will help us get off to a quick start.

HibbsPC -- I'm john hibbs, interested in all things that make communication faster, cheaper, better

Dan Kalikow -- Hi -- just got back online after being offline a couple weeks...

Richard Seltzer -- Yes, welcome Dan. How are you doing? Have you used SiteScape muchlately? And how is your job hunt going? Have you been trying any of the distance ed companies? I'dthink that would be right up your alley from all your pioneeringwork in online interaction/discussion.

Dan Kalikow -- Hunt's really only now gonna get started. Been sponging off my kids in CA :-) ... no, haven't used SiteScape in many moons.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- it's now noon, so I guess we have officially "started." The topic for today is official -- free stuff on the Web. But anything goes.


HibbsPC -- On the subject of free stuff, multicity message boards ( are veryhandy. I wqould recommend that Richard start one where all the book marks could be listed...easier than transcripts

Richard Seltzer -- I'll certainly take a look and try it. But keep in mind that the transcripts generate traffic for my site and lead people to take a look at my other stuff. The typical transcript gets about 1000 visitors over the course of a year.

HibbsPC -- If you put a page up on your site with the link to the message board, they still come to your site. you might view how we have done this at

Richard Seltzer -- It's text that drives traffic to a site. The more text the better -- search-engine stuff...

HibbsPC -- The board is a nice way to thread any single topic, but for me, personally, a good place to store stuff as well as on my hard drive.


Dan Kalikow -- I have an interesting free service I've been consulting with... . web conferencing hybridized with email, plus a really innovative add-on... (more later)

Richard Seltzer-- How does quicktopic differ from services like Delphi and egroups (Yahoo) etc.?Is it a general purpose discussion space? Or are they aiming at a particular niche?

Dan Kalikow -- QT (abbrev for QuickTopic) has a whole lot simpler UI than eGroups."Preposterously easy" is the tagline of its developer...

Recent addition to QT is a "Document Review" service wherein author can upload a work-in-progress and ask a group of distributed people on the web to give general or specific comments. Everyone can see everyone else's comments. I don't believe it's available anywhere else. Getting great reviews in BYTE, Yahoo Internet Life, etc.(disclaimer: I'm a consultant for it, hence my obvious bias<G>)

Richard Seltzer -- You should take a look at MangoMind, from MangoSoft. Don Gaubatz (former Digital VP) is in charge of marketing. File sharing on the Web with an interface that makes everything feel like you are using Windows on your PC. There might be partnership possibilities...But MangoMind is not free. It's actually quite expensive, aimed ata corporate audience, where security is critical.

Dan Kalikow -- Academic relatives of mine are very excited about QT Doc Review's potential in distance education (particularly in creative writing, scholarly work, screenwriting...)

Richard Seltzer -- Interesting. Are you using it yourself for your own writings?

Dan Kalikow -- I'm not doing much writing at the moment (collaborative writing, that is). Been proselytizing amongst authors in my family & friends, getting good reception there!

Dan Kalikow -- QuickTopic offers co-branding, btw. Groups are self-moderating, if the Topic moderator allows...

Richard Seltzer -- Are there any showcase customers/users? And do they use those showcases to catch the attention of potential customers and/or to prompt them with ideas of effective ways to use the service?

Dan Kalikow -- Pardon my QT-fixation, but I promised some more info aboutprivate-label Quick Topic areas. I just remembered that Keith Dawson's use of QT is for an internal, by-invitation-only group, sogiving out the URL's inappropriate. There's another private label QT, I'll run down info on it if I can.

I would really be interested in anyone here who's writing something and would like reviewers' comments to look into QT Document Review. I worked on the UI and some advanced functionality in it, and would be happy to serve as a reviewer if invited. For the purpose of ensuring that the tool "fits your hand," so to speak. QT is a free, no-advertising service, done as an experiment in groupware. See the FAQ, Acknowledgements and "What they're saying" pages for more info.

HibbspcExplorer -- I signed up for qucktopic and will see how it works. I have always thought that quick emailgroping would be as good as chat??

David Weinberger's book

Dan Kalikow -- Speaking of free services, well this isn't a service strictly speaking, but David Weinberger (of ClueTrain Manifesto fame) is putting up a new book for public review. See pointer at his website (q.v., future posting, brainfaulting now). He's not using QuickTopic, but hey pobody's nerfeck. Fascinating to see an author's thought process in the act of creation! Hibbs, I don't know of anyone making a living this way (yet<G>)

Dan Kalikow -- Weinberger's at . Check out the main QuickTopic website, you can start your own Topics in 20 sec. Keith Dawson's TBTF newsletter often uses QT, privately-branded. More details later. Tracy, QT can imho serve as an excellent ad-hoc newsgroups, though Deja's newsgroup searching/posting is not on the cards.

Richard Seltzer -- Thanks for the link. I love ClueTrain. (My reviews are at and 

Sean -- Hi Richard, Sean here from . We've been providing free Web services since 9/96.

Susan E. Race -- Hello, Sean; Susan Race here. How does one access your service?

Sean -- Strictly over the Web-

Richard Seltzer -- What kind of free Web services do you provide?

Sean -- We also host mailing lists. So you can receive our service via email as well.

Richard Seltzer -- My impression is that we're now seeing a proliferation of very specialized and powerful services -- as opposed to general purpose ones. E.g., not just email, but email with encryption. Not just file transfer, but transfer of huge files. Not just discussion space, but space configured for distance ed, etc.

Sean -- Richard- To answer your question, yes, we're still dependent on ad revenue. We've always offered ad-free subscriptions, but few people are willing to pay.

Richard Seltzer -- Sean -- how do you differentiate yourselves? Do you focus on certain kinds of uses of your service? And how many users do you have?

Sean -- Richard- Not to brag, but we were one of the first companies to offer free mailing lists, message boards, calendars, etc. Over the past two years many competitors have jumped into our space.

Dan Kalikow -- Sean, pointers to those interesting-sounding services? How do you make $$s from 'em, also?

Richard Seltzer -- Yes, there do seem to be many competitors now. Are you doing anything special to differentiate yourselves now? E.g., doing a little bit of customizing to make those services more attractive for distance ed and/or other market niches? Or are you encouraging influencers/leaders to use your services in very visible ways? And have you considered offering paid custom services to help folks use your free stuff more effectively? (e.g., adding branding, or moderation, etc.)

Sean -- We're different in that we offer a suite of services and we're very efficient. We've been profitable while many of our competitors have folded or are on the verge of doing so.

All of our services are on We've been making money primarily from ads.

Richard Seltzer -- With ad revenues declining, are you looking at other alternatives? It's great that you have survived while others have gone other. But I don't expect the ad revenue trend to turn around...

Sean -- Richard- We're waiting to see how this Internet depression plays out. You don't want to partner with someone who might be out of business in a few weeks!

Business models based on "free service"

HibbspcExplorer -- Is anyone making any money in all these free service?

Richard Seltzer -- In the early days, companies offered free services because they expected to make money selling advertising to the audience they won. Now that has largely gone away. I see manyinstances of the free being just the introductory, base level, with the "professional" level being fee-based. Other models?

Sean -- We were profitable for '98, '99 and 2000. Currently, we are breaking even until the online ad market improves.

Richard Seltzer -- Are you still dependent on ad revenues? Or have you added other revenue streams?

Dan Kalikow -- Good question about P2P (path to profitability). Good services tend to get glommed by profit-making enterprises (e.g., eGroups by Yahoo)...

Dan Kalikow -- How would free telephony get profitable? Bought by a popular portal or by a Telco fearful of competition, perhaps?

HibbspcExplorer -- in answer to dan's question, most of these use the free service to get hooked on the PRO version, which costs

Sean -- Richard- most of the experts agree that the online ad market will pick up in the second half of this year. 1.) Many publishers are going out of business which dries up the inventory, 2.) Traditionaladvertisers will be taking the place of the dot-com companies which spent a lot of money last year.

Richard Seltzer --Yes, those things will happen. But the underlying problem is the nature of banner ads. It's a deadend approach. "Advertising" might thrive, but it will have to be creative and useful stuff, not annoying, irrelevant banners... Along those lines, I like javapuzzlecards (they are currently in inhibernation while they move to a new server, but it's good stuff.) What's you email address?

HibbspcExplorer -- IMHO on line ads arent half as effective as very targeted emails, especially via news groups, thought they take a lot of time and effort...which is costly as well...but, since Im not making money, who am I to offer advice?

Sean -- We have yet to run an ad for Coke or Tide. I'm looking forward to it!

Dan Kalikow -- I like the hopeful note about web ads, Sean! I just was RIF'ed out of Engage -- their web ad biz tanked bigtime. Of course, they deserved it :)

Richard Seltzer -- See my article "Banner ads are dead, long live online advertising" at

Sean -- Richard, we try to keeps the ads low-key- we only run one banner ad per page. My email is .

Sean -- Dan- Yeah. a lot of ad reps weren't very smart about how they did business. We're trying to identify the smart ones.

Sean -- I find that the subscription services go out of business faster than the free ones. Proxicom folded early, for example.

Richard Seltzer -- Free is definitely important -- you need to get a lot of people used to using what you offer and coming up with creative uses. But somewhere (these days) you need a revenue model that doesn't depend entirely on banner ads (at least that's my take).

Sean -- Lotus tried to sell a subscription version of Notes over the web years ago.

Dan Kalikow -- Apropos subscription services and ASPs, I've been encouraging QuickTopic to move into an installed-behind-the-firewall, corporate-type collab system. It'd be an ideal lightweightfront-end to a full-blown KM system (whatEVER that is), imho. Lotsa corporate types like QT a whole lot, but not as an ASP; they wantit behind their firewalls.

Richard Seltzer -- It will be interesting to see how these business models evolve. Lots of players now in the discussion/collaboration space. I suspect that having some custom niche-specific features would be important for survival at this stage...

Resources for distance education

HibbspcExplorer -- richard, do you think you have the best portal for all the free stuff useable in distance education? It would seem a whole page should be created and re-created with commens such as this...if not reinventing the wheel that is.

Richard Seltzer -- I don't have that now. But would like to. I'd gladly build such a page (and link to it from free.html). The more the merrier.

Dan Kalikow -- I really resonate to a "portal" (i.e., compendium) of distance ed sites. Did you say you have such a beastie already, Richard?

Richard Seltzer -- Not yet. I have lots of related stuff, but need to organize it in useful ways. Perhaps I should hold a chat or two focused on services that distance ed can and should take advantage of...

Dan Kalikow -- That'd be interesting (not least, for a job search in that area<G>)Well, I'm going to be looking for something in collaboration, a distance ed list would be real helpful

Richard Seltzer -- You should take a look at Bob Zwick's distance ed area.

Dan Kalikow -- Sure will -- TNX!!

Bob Zwick -- Please look at my new teacher intanet at is the best free service I have come acros ever.

Richard Seltzer -- Intranets seems to be a good example of what I've been mentioning -- instead of just offering discussion/collaboration space, they seem to have provided a customized tailored space for one or more niches -- like distance ed. Is that accurate?

Bob Zwick -- They also include third party free stuff instead of reinventing the wheel. i.e. Mail Server and Instant Messaging

HibbspcExplorer -- Dan, email me and I will follow up. We do some writing for technology magazines with a distance education focus

Internet telephony and voice chat

HibbspcExplorer -- I happen to be very impressed with a new telephony service, with the underliying technology provided by http://www.hearme.comTry

Dan Kalikow -- More detail, Hibbs? Sounds cool...

Richard Seltzer -- Please send all the suggestions you can come up with. I see a main list of general services, and an associated list with ones directly applicable for distance ed (with commentary on how they could and should be used, and also with links to examples -- not just the free site, but folks who are using it well and creatively).

Dan Kalikow -- I suppose you need a PC with a built-in mic and sound, plus what kind of bandwidth?

Richard Seltzer -- Sound stuff seems to work fine at about 28K. Video is a different proposition. Most PCs made in the last three years have a sound card build in. You just plug in a microphone. (Many PC games and education programs give away a free mic with the software).

Richard Seltzer -- Also services related to palm and wireless and cell phone. But once again, the challenge is how to set up your service to eventually make money...

HibbspcExplorer -- it seems to me we should expand these chats to free telephony..I like your cam and seeing you Richard, why not hear your voice as well?

HibbspcExplorer -- I think the text chat room is really neat for url's and quick questions but the elabobrations are better by audio. I think the audio encourages more visitors, as more is learned with the chat text serving as a framework. as I say, the very best one so far is, imho...I can email you all the dope...we can have a trial.

Richard Seltzer -- It gets tricky juggling many sources of input/output at the same time. Hey, but it's fun learning to do that stuff.

HibbspcExplorer -- of couse what I like to do best is have a combination of telephy and telephone room...we can do that pretty easily as well. all can talk either over phone, or over mike. shoot, all I do is put on the speaker phone near a mike and talk in to the phone, but therer are easier ways...I just cant handle trickery really a dunce!

HibbspcExplorer --use the speaker phone and put the mike next to it so the audio can come from either the mike, over the net, or from the telephone conference room, which best for keynoters who dont want to botherexcept to make a phone call. on their dime.

Newsgroups (after the demise of

tracymarks -- hello all. I don't want to interrupt but someone on the isig-boston list suggested I drop in here right now.....I'm looking for free web-based alternatives to newsgroups since shut down last week. you also might be interested in my page of free web design online resources at

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Tracy, glad you could make it. I thought that Deja was bought by Google and that Google intended to bring it back to life. What's happening? (Unfortunately, AltaVista killed their newsgroup search service.

Text chat and asynchronous (forum-style) discussion

HibbspcExplorer -- Is it o.k. o alk about text chat rooms? I am still looking for a text chat room where the visitors are all visible all the time, where I can view a profile, where a ulr can be clicked from thepage and where the transcripts are automatic and where you can have text translations to other languages like multi city does...any hope here Bob??

Richard Seltzer -- John, if participants register here, you can view their profile at any time. (not so for anonymous) you can click URLs from the page (and not lose your context) and the transcripts are automatic. But no translation...

Dan Kalikow -- I've never really grokked why text chat is so addictive. Young relatives of mine love Instant Messaging, etc. -- while I, and others weaned on DECnotes etc., love asynchronous threaded dialogs. Perhaps it's the feeling that JOE IS HERE WITH ME ONLINE that is good. Dunno.

Bob Zwick -- John - haven't seen a complete package like that yet. MultiCity is the only translation offering I know of. I haven't test the administrative features of their #30 /mo. package yet. It may havesome of the profiling features.

HibbspcExplorer -- what I think some of us could do to make money is offer a true alternative to the on line conferecing from others that is expensive, yet ours, in total are better...any takers?

Richard Seltzer -- It's probably a matter of packaging useful and generally free services to work smoothly together -- like voice chat and instant messaging and chat and forums and webcam... A friend of mine who now works for Panasonic like to play with that sort of thing and is very good at it. Anthony Alvarez.

HibbspcExplorer -- I dont know anyone that combines pots (plain ordinary telephone system), telephony, text chat and clue train as well as we do

tracymarks -- John, I was looking into the same (without translation) the past week (Richard's setup here is viable) and found that both talkcity and lycos chat have transcript capability if you use theirsoftware.

HibbspcExplorer -- the translation is not so important except for global learn day then it is wonderful, the key things are archive, profiles and viewing easily all the people in the room any time, plus urlclicking and stability and cross platform mac and p.c.

Bob Zwick -- The best group chat/ presentation offering I have found is a, Includes chat, video, pot callin, web page push, application sharing, white boarding, logging and more. but it's costly.

Richard Seltzer -- We need to get a better feel for the range of what's possible/available from the free through the expensive. Sometimes the free version isn't very useful. Sometimes a moderate pricedservice makes better sense than a free one, for the time it saves you and the additional things it lets you do.

Dan Kalikow -- I've seen webex. Very complete. Mucho buckos, as Bob says.

SiteScape (where this chat is being held)

HibbspcExplorer -- where do I register my profile? I have not seen? for example, how do I find Sean's profile? in matchmaker for example, you just click on the name of the chatter and it takes you to their profile, never leaving their site?

Richard Seltzer -- If Sean had registered (which I don't think he did), you could get to his profile from the entry page here. 

HibbspcExplorer -- I dont think I ever filled out a profile. We have a nice room (not multi city) where when you enter you are asked to give a url. matchmake asks for age, hair color and boob size. :)you then can click on the name and take them to the profile. really, really neat, especially when having a phone conversation and you want to moderate who should talk...if pope john comes in, everyone else shuts up.what I am especially hoping for is that first time visitors find it friendly and used in room; email, url, photo...sumpin like that -- bob?

Richard Seltzer -- I have set this space up to make it easy for any anonymous visitor to come in. But you can register if you like, adding a complete profile. From the entry page, click on Add, then Register, for starters. There are many features here that I simply have not turned on for this activity. E.g., I can set up groups of users with different access permissions for different pieces of this space. I can also send email to a group or an individual, and that email could be a posting from here. Lots more. I just haven't needed that stuff for what I was focusing on.

Bob Zwick -- Richard - Sitescape is a paid service, not free. Am I correct ?

Richard Seltzer -- Yes, SiteScape is not free. They allow me to do lots of good stuff for free -- but that's an exception. Their main business is for-a-fee.

Chat sites with transcripts

tracymarks -- Am just checking out multicity now. I don't see transcript capability for the free chats.

Bob Zwick -- Tracy - Transcripts and admin of users is only available in the paid version.

HibbspcExplorer -- no, they dont have that and it is their chief weakness.!!! we paid $500. for a chat room from Italy and forgot to see if they archived...bad thinking!

HibbspcExplorer -- thanks tracy, happy to know you can get transcripts from multi city even if paying

Why do you do this?

HibbspcExplorer -- why do you do it at all?, Richard

Richard Seltzer -- 1) I learn a lot from these discussions 2) I make important contacts 3) through the content in the edited transcripts (and search engines) I get lots of traffic, which leads to consultingand writing business.

HibbspcExplorer -- it sure takes dedication!


Richard Seltzer -- Please check for the editedtranscript. You can see the raw transcript by clicking Close here. Please end followup thoughts to me at Hope you all can come back next Thursday.

HibbspcExplorer -- ok times up. bye bye. see ya next thursday, god willing.

tracymarks -- Goodbye all. nice to see some of you again, if only briefly.

Dan Kalikow -- I really enjoyed eMeeting you all! Tnx Richard. As always.

Richard Seltzer -- Thanks to all. Hope to "see" you all again next Thursday.

Organized list of links to resources mentioned in this chat and the one held Feb. 15

Transcript of the Feb. 15 chat on the same subject

Previous transcripts and schedule of upcoming chats --

To connect to the chat room, go to

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