BUSINESS ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB: where "word of keystroke" begins

September 4, 1997 -- The Social Web

Transcript of the live chat session that took place Thursday, September 4, 1997. These sessions are normally scheduled for 12 noon-1 PM Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -4) every Thursday.

These sessions are hosted by Richard Seltzer. If you would like to receive email reminders of our chat sessions, simply send a blank email message to or go to and sign up there.

For transcripts of previous sessions and a list of future topics, click here .

For an article on how to make "business chat" work (based on this experience), click here .

Since the chat itself happens at a rapid pace, it's often difficult to note interesting facts in particular URLs as they appear on-line. 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.

Threads (reconstructed after the fact):

Today's participants

Connected too early (4 AM)

Timothy Jonck -- Good Day to everyone on the net. If there is any information required about South Africa about any kind of business email me at All of you on the net are invited to visit our site at


Richard Seltzer -- We'll be starting in about 40 minutes. Today we'll be talking about the "Social Web". If you are early, you might want to take a few minutes to look at last week's transcript In any case, as you connect here, please introduce yourselves and let us know your interests. That will help us to get the discussion going quickly. See you in 40 minutes. (I'm going to grab some lunch.)

Richard Seltzer -- We're ready to begin. As you connect, please introduce yourselves.

Kathleen Gilroy -- Hi everybody.

Richard Seltzer -- Hi, Kathleen, glad you could join us.

Richard Seltzer -- The basic premise that I'd like to discuss today is that the Web has evolved from a focus on documents to a social environment. This didn't happen by anyone's intent, just by a combination of circumstances, such as older social-type apps like email and newsgroups and chat becoming accessible from browsers, like the proliferation of personal Web pages and the creation of full-text search engines that make everything in those personal pages findable. The result is a Web that is very different from 3-4 years ago. And the consequences for business are potentially very interesting.

tony -- Hello everyone, my name is Anthony Alvarez and i am the webmaster at

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Tony from Acunet.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Tom, fred, gj and Bob, please introduce yourselves and tell us about your interests.

Tom Dadakis -- Hi, Tom Dadakis here. It's been awhile since the last time Iw as able to particpate in Richard's Thursday chat. Currently developing global online learning intiative for major financial institution.

Richard Seltzer -- Tom -- you might want to get in touch with Kathleen Gilroy, who is here for this chat session. Her business is distance education and setting up learning/training programs.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Hello - ALL, I am an independent consultant in the Dallas Fort Worth, Texas area. I am trying to focus the internet services I provide to our local businesses.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome Blair Anderson, Bob Fleischer, and Miki Dzugan, please introduce yourselves.

Miki Dzugan -- Greetings, all. Sorry I'm late.

Miki Dzugan -- Richard, I am doing Internet marketing consulting in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota.

Blair Anderson -- Hi Folks.. hailing in from way down under.. consulting in content to the collaborative desktop! [Hi Richard!]

Bob Fleischer -- I'm an engineer with DIGITAL's System Integration group -- I work in web application design and development, and mostly with text retrieval and "groupware" applications.

Richard Seltzer -- gj -- where are you? what's you line of business and area of interest?

gj -- sorry--i had my refresh rate set at 30 seconds, and didn't have time to key replies. i'm a "software editor" and work for an educational publisher.

Richard Seltzer -- gj -- is the educational publisher you work for using the Internet 1) to market 2) to provide samples of books 3) to recruit writers 4) to build some kind of proto-community to generate future business?

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Todd and powermac. It's getting a bit late. But please introduce yourselves and let us know your interests. 

Asian Indian community in New England

Richard Seltzer -- Tony -- Last week you mentioned that Acunet was building a community of folks in Masschusetts of Asian/Indian descent. How is that going? What's the level of activity? What kind of content do you have? How are you building that? How are you letting people know that the community exists? and what's the URL?

tony -- The level of activity for Sounds of India website is great. It recieves about 600-1000 daily.

Richard Seltzer -- Tony -- with the title "Sounds" of India, do you use lots of audio? perhaps RealAudio? Just for music? Or is there any way that community members can record their own messages and post them?

tony -- The most favorite content @sounds of india web is real audio. There seems to be a lot of net users who appreciate listening to Hindi Ethnic music via Real Audio.

Richard Seltzer -- Tony -- Just curious -- where do you get recordings of Hindi Ethnic music? Do you perhaps have ties with a radio station in India?

tony -- For the Sounds of India site, Acunet simply used commercially available Compact Discs to create the real audio files.

tony -- Sounds of India traffic increased tremendously from Usenet posting. A special mailing list will be available soon.

Richard Seltzer -- Tony -- what led Acunet to focus on Asian Indian for a trial community? are there people who work there who have a strong personal interest in that direction? and is it just an experiment or do you have specific long-term business goals for it?

tony -- Acunet is constantly trying to develop a market niche and focus for our marketing/sales effort. The General Mgr is a Hindi and has close ties to the New England Indian community. 

Distance education -- the Otter Group

Richard Seltzer -- Kathleen -- do you have a Web site at this point? or do you have plans to create a new one to support your distance education business?

Kathleen Gilroy -- Richard --we don't have a web site yet, but are planning to integrate the web into all aspects of the new business. Our site will support all student/student and student/teacher interaction.

Richard Seltzer -- Kathleen -- do you have some courses in the pipeline now? or is this long-range planning? and are you using non-Web Internet activities -- like listservs or a newsletter or newsgroups -- to prepare the way?

Kathleen Gilroy -- Richard-we are planning beta tests of short courses in 1998 with two or three partners. We plan to license the interface from UMASS/Boston. They've done a really nice job in putting it together.

Richard Seltzer -- Kathleen -- Are you planning to promote those courses mainly through traditional media? Or are there Internet-based activities you have in mind? do the courses in beta have anything in common in terms of content? and would you be trying to create an on-line social bond with folks interested in that kind of content?

Kathleen Gilroy -- Richard, we plan to install electronic classrooms in our customer's locations so that the courses can be received via satellite and with an internet hookup for interaction. This is a direct selling effort.

gj -- Kathleen i think i missed something. are you providing course content? or are you providing the medium.

Kathleen Gilroy -- Richard--we will partner with universities who provide faculty and content and we will provide marketing and distribution, billing, management, support.

Richard Seltzer -- Kathleen -- it sounds like your main focus is on traditional business methods for building relationships. you want to partner with schools and companies. I suspect there might be Web-based ways to try to get this going. yes, the Internet is great for adding interactivity to the course delivery, but there are also ways for getting in touch with and staying in touch with potential course takers and helping them to stay in touch with one another.

Kathleen Gilroy -- Richard--I'm always thinking about how to use the web to build relationships. We need a vital forum for discussion and these issues.

Richard Seltzer -- Kathleen -- I'd guess that your challenge is that the source of your revenue is the relationships with schools and companies, and by nature, today, those relationships need to be built by traditional means. But the end-user of the courseware -- the students at a distance -- are probably Internet-centric; and it would be possible to build relationships with them independent of, in parallel with your business relationships. That would, however, depend on the subject matter.

Kathleen Gilroy -- Richard--we want our site to be a place where the students want to go to do all sorts of things. 

International Web hosting and selecting a hosting partner from a great distance

Richard Seltzer -- Tony -- Have you considered promoting your Web hosting service to businesses in India who want to reach the US market? On a recent trip to South America, I found that many companies down there have their pages hosted in the US, because Internet lines are too slow locally and their main target audience is in the US. I suspect that the same would be the case in India.

tony -- Acunet has business partners in India, China and Japan. The street prices for webhosting in Japan are 10x the price Acunet charges. Acunet is actively looking for additional business partners especially abroad.

Blair Anderson -- Richard.. in terms of content delivery options, I recommend "hosting services", and have a couple of very good options especially well suited to "offshore members".. Offshore users require a relationship with "strength" in commercial relationships as well as technical delivery... My servers are based in Penn State, but operated remotely.. such utility is imperative to effective "social computing options" simply because of access to the backbone and the "shortening of ping times"..

Richard Seltzer -- Blair -- located in New Zealand, how did you find out about and get tied into servers based in Penn State? it must be rather difficult finding the right hosting partner from such a distance and building the necessary level of trust.

Blair Anderson -- Valid point.. I commenced by investing considerable time in locating one with a good "user group".. (the BBS experience.. look for who "rally" can perform before a motley bunch of peers..) Having done that, I then explored the technical performance issues, culminating in face to face dialog.. traditional slog, but essential.. in that way I can justify the added-value of my services.. not to press the point.. $$

One of the issues in all the "touchy feely" social constructions, is at the end of the day, you generaly get what you pay for.. with so much info on hte net being very USA centric, it is often difficult for non-USA to comprehend what the issues are for those "off" the backbone, and down the end of small pipes... there is no escaping the speed of light/propogation delay contribution to ping times.. 

Forum software

Richard Seltzer -- Bob Fleischer -- with the groupware -- is that mainly Digital's Altavista Forum software for forums and chats? if so, what direction is that stuff heading in? (Do you work with David Marques on that?)

Bob Fleischer -- I haven't done that much groupware work lately -- more in search -- and I haven't been following AltaVista forum lately. The last time I (as an outsider -- David Marques would bring a lot to this chat!) looked they were definitely headed towards major community and coordination features in Forum. One of the big problems/opportunities in system integration work is to integrate existing systems and systems from multiple vendors into a group environment.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob Fleischer -- Yes, I can imagine it is difficult tying together a variety of systems into a group environment. What's the biggest such challenge that you have faced? And what was the outcome? Anything with possible broad application?

Todd Moyer -- We use AltaVista Forum for our development work here at DIGITAL, and it works well for that. It's kind of like a threaded newsreader in that it's hierarchical. But it's less temporal in that the volume of postings is generally lower and it's kept indefinitely. It has advantages over a chat in that everyone involved participates whenever convenient for them. 

Buddy (AOL's instant messaging), ICQ, and Firefly

Richard Seltzer -- One of the things I'd like to accomplish today is to gather info on interesting social-type apps that are out there but that may not be well known. For istance, Alfred Thompson sent me email mentioning AOL's Buddy List and Instant Message software. It lets you register a screen name and create a list of screen names of friends. When a friend listed (who need not be an AOL user but must run the AOL buddy list S/W) logs on to the Internet you are informed. You can then send an instant message (something like a one on one chat) to them. He notes that that sort of thing may have some interesting ramifications in the future. A group could like to each other and chat randomly when ever two or more show up at the same time. It would be more private then a normal chat room or MUD.

gj -- the buddy list sounds a lot like icq, which i had trouble with and finally uninstalled.

Richard Seltzer -- gj -- What is icq? who offers it? URL? what does it do?

gj -- it is offered by mirabilis. possibly

gj -- icq allows you to set up a list of contacts and lets you know if they are on line. if they are, you can "call" them to chat.

Richard Seltzer -- gj -- yes, icq does sound like the AOL buddy. Is the "call" and "chat" strictly text? or is there some fancy audio component?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- ICQ also has an interface to all chat, phone & video/phone apps and lets to activate them in a one on one or GROUP conference.
It also has a paging system that let's anyone send an email-page to you which will set off an alarm if you have ICQ running. I use that to allow people to page me from my home page and give me a phone number to contact them immediately. Great for sales and support.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob@Cottage -- I'll have to check that ICQ stuff. Sounds quite interesting. Any way to tie that into something like Firefly? In other words have a group that is people of common interest who may not have ever had direct contact with one another?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Richard - I am not familiar with Firefly. ICQ has set up a "dynamic" list of special interest groups where people register their ID # and find others with similair intrests. You can even create your own special intrest area. It's different from usenet or IRC in that you obtain specific contacts and communicate one-on-one or in groups.

Todd Moyer -- Bob - Firefly lets you list interests, hobbies, favorites (books, movies, etc.) and find people with similar interests. Four-One-One ( is primarily a people-finder, but it offers similar social features. They don't seemed to have reached critical mass on this yet. 

Wireless instant messaging and email with pagers

tony -- Concerning AOL Instant messaging software, i have been doing the same sort of thing for at least a year using a alphanumeric pager. Using a pager i can recieve a wireless message from any Net user via a web form or email.

Richard Seltzer -- Tony -- what's the software that let's you do that with your pager? who offers it? what's the URL? (sounds like the kind of thing we were talking about with Internet telephony). Is this a combination of software and service? does the paging company offer the service? or is it something you sign up for with an ISP?

tony -- After i recieve the message on my pager, i typically meet my party at a chat area or UNIX talk. The sending party can send me a full alpha message. Now i am trying to
lower my costs and develop a web/email gateway to digital numeric pagers instead of using the more expensive alphanumeric pagers.

tony -- I find the internet pager gateway more robust compared to internet telephony. Both the sender and recieve do not need to install, configure and learn to use any
"special" software. Please see >>

tony -- For a list of major pager service providers who offer "instant wireless messaging (email) from the internet", please refer to >>

tony -- To set up a instant wireless messaging system, simply get a alphanumeric pager from a major player like: mobilecomm, pagenet, sprint, mci or att. Then build a webform at your website to route messages to the pager service providers server. Its
easy and no special "client" software is needed!

tony -- Of course, i cannot chat on an alpha pager. I often get messages from associates in CHina or Japan requesting that i meet them on a know IRC channel or UNIX talk.

Richard Seltzer -- Tony -- sounds interesting. but where does one get instrucitons for how to "build a webform at your website to route messages to the pager service provider's server"? Or do/could ISPs set that up for you (make it trivially easy)?

tony -- I set up those web to pager forms all the time and would be glad to show you how to do it. There seems to be no instructions available on the net that i am aware of.
I know how do it because i am familiar with CGI.

Blair Anderson --tony: a synopsis of method would be appreciated. Any URL?

tony -- In addition to "Instant messaging", a Pagers can also become a wireless email box. Important or sensitive email can be recieved on it too.

tony -- Internet paging software, like AOL's, is not wireless. At least pagers can be leveraged and used for other purposes when i am not surfing the net. 

Need for training for chat/forum

Richard Seltzer -- Bob Fleischer -- in your experience in developing and using groupware, what do you think it takes to get robust discussions going? I feel that the potential is far greater than today's reality, and keep puzzling over what is the missing element?

Bob Fleischer -- As far as getting robust discussions going -- I have to admit that the majority of attempts I've observed to get (asynchronous) discussions going have failed. However, there have been some spectacular successes as well. There probably is a special type of group dynamics involved. Critical mass is essential. A (relatively) few people seem to contribute most of the input. I'd guess that it's really not that different from the interaction patterns in a face to face meeting. Because of the different medium, however, the people who feel comfortable and confident online will be different people from those who feel comfortable face-to-face.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob Fleischer -- interesting observation about the fact that few people seem to contribute most of the input. that being the case, and on-line interaction being important, it seems that that could represent a training opportunity. do you think it might be possible to train people to feel more comfortable and confident on-line and open up more? I'd certainly like to see such training offered.

Bob Fleischer -- Different people will require different training -- for one thing, some people wouldn't even be comfortable with the keyboard! Motivation is important -- people will get comfortable by doing.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob Fleischer -- yes the keyboard is important (today, probably not so much in 5 to 10 years). it would be interesting to brainstorm on what you should/could include in a training session to better prepare people for on-line discussion/interaction. It might make a good background or pre-requisite for distance education (Kathleen?)

Bob Fleischer -- I could imagine a non-threatening training scenario -- making a gaffe in front of colleagues/peers can be quite traumatic! 

Keyboard vs. voice

Blair Anderson -- Bob/Richard.. I see the keyboard as being a primary input medium for sometime to come.. voice is still a "variable".. (you guys'n'gals dont really need to hear whats on my TV at 5:00 in the morning...)

Blair Anderson -- Despite a well intentioned "foray" into voice based computing and voice to dictation with OS/2 WARP (merlin) its lacks any finess.. is prone to background noise ( a recent interview on the TV-BBC deleted a file!! before my
eyes.. ) Given the technical multitasking in OS/2 being superior to alternates.. I cannot see "hands off" dialog happening at the user interface.. until there is more than just "more grunt" in the hardware.. the use of the internet for "voice chat" still remains half-duplex.. again the pingtime issue is a factor.. although I remain hopeful that we will see true asynch full duplex voice very soon.. ISDN+ speeds are essential today.. but disparate platforms and software technologies across different platforms remains an imediment to "free and easy" internet phone. 


Tom Dadakis -- Sorry got called into a meeting. I'll catch the archive.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- time is getting short. as usual, I'll post an edited threaded version of the transcript. check and please send followup messages for inclusion with the transcript.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- be sure to post your email address and URL before signing off (don't count on the software catching it).

Richard Seltzer -- All -- I'm inclined to give this topic another week. I'll be speaking at Web Week at the Oak Ridge Labs in Tennessee on Monday, bouncing around some of these ideas there. Please let me know if you want to continue this topic or send suggestions for other future topics.

Miki Dzugan -- Richard, I will be doing a class next Thursday on Marketing on the Internet at the University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis. If our schedule allows, I thought we might join this group for a few minutes to give the class an idea of what a well-run chat group is like. Your summaries are also an excellent example. Although this is a regular classroom session, my "overheads" are in HTML and link to various examples on-line. Hope to talk to you next Thursday.

Richard Seltzer -- Miki -- It would be great if your class could join us next week.

Kathleen Gilroy -- Kathleen Gilroy:

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Thanks all fo a stimulating session. This has been quite a brain storm. I can't wait to act on some of the ideas I have come up with from this discussion. Cottage Micro Services, 103 Vinyard Drive, Waxahachie, TX 75167 PH: 972-435-2446 FAX: 972-435-2446

Miki Dzugan -- Bye to everyone!

Todd Moyer -- (w) (h)

Richard Seltzer -- Thanks to all for joining us this week. Hope you can make it again next week. And please spread the word. And be sure to send me followup email with all the things you meant to say but never got a chance to type in.

Bob Fleischer --

tony -- ard i am really impressed with this CGI chat application.
anthony alvarez, webmaster

Blair Anderson -- Cheers All... 


Reactions to Preface and Intro of the book

From: Alfred C Thompson II <> Date: Thu, 28 Aug 1997 23:18:46 -0400

Thanks for sending the preface and introduction to your book. While I was reading it I was remembering when you first told me about your looking into the Internet. At the time you were in the process of getting an account on Gatekeeper so you could get outside the firewall. I remember thinking, at the time, that you wouldn't get very far. I realize now that that was projection on my part. I was projecting my own inability to find time to do the same thing on you. Obviously I was very wrong. And I'm glad I was wrong.

I've had some interesting experiences relating to things you talked about in the intro. For one, my flypaper page has not been very successful. That's a disappointment but not a concern. I think I know ways to make it better but I also believe that I'm looking for people who are probably not networked at this time.

On the other hand, I have gotten job offeres which I believe came from AltaVista searches. None I'm interested in but it's still nice to approached.

The religion department is looking at a new text book because the author found on of our religion teachers using a search engine. He was looking for secondary school religion teachers. I've built a directory of students, alumni and faculty email addresses at the school site. BTW, 28% of the visits to the schools site involve viewing the connections directory page. Schools, and perhaps other organizations, should not ignore that as an opportunity to build community.

As you know, my essays page has been successful beyond my expectations. People find it using search engines and some of my essays have hundreds of hits. I could never get this audience any other way. I've also had email conversations about some of them. I wish everyone had a home page. (I've been mulling an essay on that topic - I'll send it to you if/when I do.)

I have one question about your book. Is it just on the web or the whole internet? There is a lot more to the Internet then the web as you know. [NB -- covered in chapter 1. Richard]

There is still quite a set of communities on newgroups and listservers. These communities tend to be a bit more isolated then web communities but they are strong and growing (or so it appears to me.)

FWIW, when I was at Digital I was a member of a private Notes conference. It was in fact the first non work related conference to move from Notes-11 to VAX Notes. Now most of us have left Digital. Either on our own or through layoff. We continue much the same discussions with much the same membership through a listserver. Given all the time zones involved, chat groups are just not practical for us. Web based forum systems are probably a bit high in resource use as well. Someone's Mac runs the listserver.

I'm also a member of an advisory committee doing an education resource for/with Microsoft (to be announced on or about Oct 1). We conduct most of our business over the internet. There is an FTP site to hold/pass large documents. We have a listserver for ongoing discussions. We also use MS Netmeeting to hold chats for sub groups and to act as a group wide "white board" during occasional teleconference calls. This is much as we did business at Digital using Notes conferences but moved outside the firewalls. Interestingly enough, the person who pays the bills (the Microsoft person) sometimes has trouble being a full participant because of firewalls. A pity we need them.

Sorry for the rambling brain dump. I'll make a second (and perhaps third) pass at what you've sent so far but I think you've got it down very well.

That is what comes of having the design of a book percolate so long.

Regards, Alfred

Alfred C Thompson II, Teacher, Hacker, Net Surfer,,

Reactions to Chapter 1

From: Alfred C Thompson II <> Date: Fri, 29 Aug 1997 23:45:51 -0400

During the Tianamen Square events the Notes conference on China (Hanzi.note) was very busy as you can imagine. The conference and it's owner/moderator (the late Simon Szeto) were based in Hong Kong. The activity though was mostly from the US and Europe. That's when I was recruited as an extra moderator. Time shifting the work. Things that appear on a computer in Hong Kong can get sensitive. We considered moving the file.

RE: Book people The efforts to save books on the Internet strikes me as so very similar to the book people in Faheirenheit 451 as I'm sure it does you as well. It makes me feel good too. Books are so important.

BTW, have you looked at AOL's Buddy List and Instant Message software? It lets you register a screen name and create a list of screen names of friends. When a friend listed (who need not be an AOL user but must run the AOL buddy list S/W) logs on to the Internet you are informed. You can then send an instant message (something like a one on one chat) to them. Just FYI. (My screen name on it is AlfredTwo if you try it out.) I suspect that sort of thing may have some interesting ramifications in the future. A group could like to each other and chat randomly when ever two or more show up at the same time. It would be more private then a

The Internet Non AOL member version is available from the main AOL Web site. I have the exact URL at home but there is a pointer to it from

Another reaction to the "Social Web" from Russia

From: "Termostal" <> Date: Tue, 2 Sep 1997 11:47:41 +0400

[responding to preface and introduction to The Social Web]

Your Social Web corresponds to my thoughts, needs, interests and to my whole internal nature so much that I feel something like resonant waves.

I want immediately to use your advises for development of our business and my researches. I have decided to conduct activity in two directions: a search of colleagues and adherents and also a representation of our firm using of your ideas about flypaper.

On the first direction I have made a few inquiries in AltaVista using names of the researchers which I know on their publications (nobody has found yet). But after the search on key words "heat treatment", "rolling" and "steel roll" I have found some useful sites on conferences and forum METAL where people transmit in their problems, application and advertisements.

Unfortunately, in August our charge-free access to Internet was finished and now I should do it more thoroughly and after a proper preparation. I have decided to make flypapers on the base of the main site presenting our firm on basic directions of our activity (I'll send you the project of the main site, but I'll not be in an insult, if you don't find time for its criticism).

Now in Petersburg a boom is flashed concerning Internet. We receive proposals on arrangement of our sites on various servers almost every day (yesterday it was the proposal from with 10000 users offering a system of payments by means of a bank letter of credit). I think it will be soon everything okay with business in Russian Internet.

With best regards

Natalia Nemzer

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