where "word of keystroke" begins

September 11, 1997 -- The Social Web

Transcript of the live chat session that took place Thursday, September 11, 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

Blair Anderson from New Zealand

Anthony Camero TCamero from Iowa

Sam Dickerman


Miki Dzugan from Minnesota

Sudha Jamthe (Home Page) from Boston

JBF11235 (Home Page)

MSBDF from Russia

Andy Andy Morrison from Iowa

Bjoern Negelmann bjoern (Home Page) from Germany

Panamax (Home)

Roland from Boston

Richard (Home) from Boston

Rastislav Skultety (Home Page) from Slovakia

Bob Zwick (Home Page) from Texas


Richard Seltzer -- We'll be starting at 12 noon (Eastern Daylight Time) -- in about 12 minutes. Today we plan to focus on the "Social Web" and its business implications. When you connect please introduce yourself and let us know about your interests.

Rastislav -- Hi, I am Rastislav Skultety /17 years old/. Webmaster of and http:////

Sudha -- Hi, Richard: How are you doing?

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Rastislav and Sudha. Glad you could make it.

Richard Seltzer -- Sudha -- Doing fine, and you? Just got back from Oak Ridge National Labs in Tennessee. It was interesting seeing how well the concept of "Social Web" played to an audience of researchers and scientists, who want and need to connect to others of similar interest.

Panamax -- Hello All....

Roland -- Hi all, This is my first chat session. I'm an instructional designer and interested in experiencing chat technology.

Sam -- Hello Richard and Friends. Sam Dickerman, Internet Consultant, First-time visitor.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Roland, Panamax, Andy, and Sam Dickerson, please introduce yourselves and let us know your interests. That will help us get the discussion going quickly.

Andy -- Good morning/afternoon. My name is Andy Morrison, Project Analyst, I am doing research on various e-commerce packages

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Andy, where do you work? And do the ecommerce packages you are interested in have interactive/social components?

Andy -- I work at Integrated Network Solutions in Cedar Rapids, IA The commerce packages I have been looking at have some interactive components, such as dynamic, personalized catalog content for end-users, depending on their customer profiles

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome Bob@Cottage (from Texas) and Bjoern (from Germany). Please introduce yourselves. Looks like we're getting a group together today.

bjoern -- Hi, my name is bjoern. still from Germany and still working on my thesis about online chats. bjoern -- Well, I am a student at the university of erlangen/nuernberg working on a thesis with the subject: 'online chats as a tool for relationship marketing' -- Hello all -- I am an independent consultant/developer in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area who provides Internet Services. I have been in the computer industry since the 60's and DBA Cottage Micro Services since 1987.

TCamero -- Good Morning. My name is Anthony Camero and I thank you for inviting me!...Hmm smells like coffee!

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Anthony Camero. From your address it looks like your in Iowa. What's your main area of interest?

TCamero -- Community is the basis of commerce. I'm into e-commerce. Blair -- Hi from down under.. Sudha -- Hi Blair. Welcome to the discussion.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Blair from New Zealand. We've been talking about Tripod and Geocities as interesting web-host-based variations on trying to build business around the social aspects of the Web. 

The Social Web -- Tripod and Geocities

Richard Seltzer -- All -- I'd like to continue our discussion of the "Social Web" today. The basic concept is that the Internet is so immense -- millions of Web pages, tens of millions of users, etc. -- that we see unintended consequences: uses that the developers never intended. In particular, the Web, which was designed to connect people to documents and documents to other documents has now become a social environment. I'd like to explore how that is happening, the social ways the Web is being used and the business implications.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- Kathleen Gilroy, who I hope will be able to join us today, pointed me at two important "social" sites -- and Have any of you had dealings with either of those outfits?

Richard Seltzer -- While the first attempts at "community" on the Web seemed to try to imitate the old Well kind of model -- based primarily on threaded discussions and often failing to generate the levels of interest and loyalty needed to sustain a business -- the Tripod and Geocities models are based on personal Web pages. It's a very interesting twist.

Richard Seltzer -- I'll give you a quick sketch of what Tripod looks like. Please add what you know and point us to other interesting social business models. They offer 2 Mbytes of free Web space and charge $3 a month for 10 Mbytes. They don't seem to restrict what you do with the space. Purportedly they have 180,000 members as of today. While some ISPs offer WEb space as part of their offer to attract dial-up customers; this outfit seems to offer Web space alone (also email forwarding so you can keep the same email address even though you change ISPs). The free space gets tagged with banner ads (frames). But if you pay for your space you can ask that the ads go away.

TCamero -- Wow! That't great stuff Richard... Are you saying that Geocities and Tripod are building communities by giving away free home pages?

Richard Seltzer -- TCamero -- Yes, they are building something resembling communities using free Web pages. At Tripod, for instance, they have lots of info and events geared for the very kind of audience that they have attracted with the free Web pages. They also make it very easy to search for anything at their site -- for instance anything in member pages. By default (rather than intent), the vast majority of the pages there are not indexed by AltaVista or the other major search engines, because a site hosting over 180,000 separate Web sites looks to any crawler like some kind of spamming engine. So the inclination would be for users to search for one another right there at Tripod, and hence build some kind of loyalty and social threads.

Andy -- So is Tripod creating a more "normal" community on the WWW, while for the most part WWW communities are different from communities in the real world?

Richard Seltzer -- Andy -- I think that what Tripod and Geocities are doing is unique and interesting. I don't think that they will be able to establish Well-style bonds, given the range of choices. But on the other hand, it's the closest to "community" that I can see out there.

Richard Seltzer -- By the way, Geocities offers 2 Mbytes of free Web space, $4.95 per month for 10 Mbytes. For the free stuff, they restrict you from doing anything commercial. they also tack a Geocities ad on the bottom of every one of your pages,a nd prohibit you from running anyone else's ads. It looks more open if you pay for your space. You select what "neighborhood" you want to be in. And each of their many neighborhoods seems to have an advertiser/owner. They claim to have over 935,000 members. As with Tripod, a very small percentage of their pages are indexed by the main search engines, but you can do local searches with geocities' search software.

Richard Seltzer -- Regarding chat -- at Tripod, if you are a paying member, you also get to create and use your own chat space at no additional cost. It will be interesting to see how that evolves. bjoern -- in my opinion Geocities has nothing to do with online communities. Though the surrounding seems to be like that. It is only a way to market internet accounts for the grand public. Sudha -- bjoern: About geocities: I beg to differ. I think geocities started out to build online communities. Its a great concept to group people of similar interest by making them choose their place in the community. But, somewhere down the line, they changed their business model to make it a web hosting service. Maybe they decided to make money faster that way. But their community concept would have been more sustainable if they had worked to bond the community with a common identity first.

Richard Seltzer -- Sudha and Bjoern -- Geocities and Tripod both offer free Web hosting and low cost Web hosting. Business-model-wise, Geocities seems more dependent on advertising. It does do some social kinds of things, simply by the grouping of the nearly million different user sites, by theme/interest. Tripod is much more overtly community-oriented with the inclusion of content designed for their users, with chat sessions scheduled to meet their interests, and with letting users set up their own chat rooms. It's an interesting direction.

Why "community" doesn't seem to work -- Richard - Did a little testing since the last chat. I visited many "community/subject" chat areas that were listed on Yahoo's net happenings. I was disappointed in several ways: Just my .02

Richard Seltzer -- Bob@Cottage -- your experience matches mine. Many chat rooms are empty or filled with random flirtation, insults, etc. Regarding "community" -- my contention is that the traditional Well-style community does not work on today's Web, because of the multipicity of choices. You can simply go in so many different directions to do similar kinds of things that it is very difficult to build the kind of loyalty and identity that the old community business model depends on. On the other hand, at the same time, the Web has become far more social, and there's a multitude of things that you can do to serve your audience and to try to become a site where people link to people -- arriving at business models that are quite viable though they don't really match the "community" definition (people feel no more loyal to them than their usual gas station, rather than the fierce sense of belonging of a church congregation or Elks Club).

TCamero -- So what will bind these "communities" if not loyalty?

Richard Seltzer -- TCamero -- We're trying to learn what can and should lead to varying degrees of loyalty. I think of it as threads. I think of trying to make a site a "nexus" -- a place where many social threads cross, where it is easy and convenient to link up with other people of similar interest. "Community" in the sense of the Well had boundaries and barriers; like AOL before it became more integrated with the Internet; where members have no choice but to associate with other members. The Web by definition is far looser. You cannot take for granted that your "members" feel that they are your "members"; they might just as well go somewhere else tomorrow.

Sudha -- Hi Richard: Sorry, I got bumped as my PC crashed. Looks like your are focusing on online communities in existent today. What do you think is the main cause for an online community to grow? ie What builds that loyalty to come to the same community? Can a business interest bind a community together?

Richard Seltzer -- Sudha -- I think that one key factor is allowing the users to interact with one another and to contribute content to a site, by way of personal pages, or chat (with transcripts), or forums, or simply posting letters to the editor. The visitors to a site need to feel that they (not the site itself) are the community -- they need to feel a bond toward one another. That need not come entirely from on-line interaction -- there can be face-to-face meetings as well. When you approach the point when these folks willingly/gladly share information with one another and go out of their way to help one another -- that starts to feel like community. You want to make it easy for that community activity to happen at your site, but it won't be limited to there (as was the case with old-time communities). If the people want to do business with one another that binds a community together. If they just want to do business with your company -- that isn't a community -- then they come and buy once or twice and go away. You need a continuing set of mutually complementary relationships among the visitors. 

"Communities" formed around products -- low-involvement goods and high-involvement ones

bjoern -- bob. in my research for my thesis I have argued on a very theoretical way concerning the relationship involvement - content of a message. If you take a low-involvement good it might be useful using socializating communities. And on the other hand, with high involvement goods, its is good to have a qualitative forum. bjoern -- how do you all think about the involvement categorization of goods as key factor for content or concept of the online chat community?

Richard Seltzer -- bjoern -- please explain "with high involvement goods, it is good to have a qualitative forum" I'm not sure what a "qualitative forum" is. Also please clarify the difference between low involvement and high involvement goods.

Sudha -- bjoern: What do you mean by involvement categorization? -- bjoern - I think that areas of interest i.e. sport, travel, education are better suited than goods. Goods will then come into play inside the areas of interest

Sudha -- Bob: Very good point. People will come together with a common interest like sports or books rather than a brand loyalty to a specific good or service. But there's got to be a way to bring these together. For example: Wall street journal solicits a discussion on a specific news item that one reads and try to build a forum around it. The common bond would be to meet and chat about a topic but a user can be drawn into a specifc brand or goods area of discussion. What do you think?

bjoern -- well. low involvement goods are convenience goods; goods we buy everyday. An German example is the site, a site for sparkling wine with a flirt forum

Blair -- Hi All, I just arrived home (4:30am!) I have had a quick scan on the messages so far.. Sparkling Wine + Flirt.. someone knows how to sell wine on hte net!

bjoern -- the strategy of Freixenet is to build up emotional cues to their brand. bjoern -- on the other hand, you'll find the microsoft advantage club. i don't know whether it exists also in the US. The advantage club offers memberships to registered costumers. With your membership you have access to an restricted area on the ms site where you find a member forum. they have what i call "qualitative chat areas". people talk about the products other ms related topics

Sudha -- Richard: Are you saying that a third party who bring many interests together can only form a community while a single company with their own product cannot retain a community?

Richard Seltzer -- Sudha -- I think that a simple company with their own product can at best get an on-line user group going. Yes, that has benefits for the company and for the visitors. But it probably doesn't generate the same kind of inter-personal loyalty that a vendor-independent site could, where discussion could be less constrained.

bjoern-- Well, I agree with you if you say virtual communities are set up by common interest. but aren't needs that are satisfied by a product a good interest to join?

bjoern -- Richard - "same kind of inter-personal loyalty that a vendor-independent site could" I disagree... go and visit and you will find a very inter-personal loyality!

Richard Seltzer -- Bjoern, Thanks for the pointer. I will take a look at that site.

bjoern -- Richard - well, it's German.... :) Community, "relationship marketing," and users groups

Richard Seltzer -- Bjoern -- that's interesting about MSN and product-related discussions. sounds a bit like user groups. Maybe I shouldn't underplay the value of that kind of interaction. If I'm a total Microsoft junky/consultant that may be exactly where I want to go. Lots of AOL's chats are product focused. And lots of Digital's old Notesfiles were too. It just seems to have a different flavor (I shouldn't put a valuation connotation on it).

Andy -- What do you think about a Mac site. They have a community based on a product (in my opinion) If they could do it other vendor sites could as well.

Sudha -- Richard: I think I would be part of a community and visit a site regularly if I get some value out of it. The Microsoft membership example that bjoern gave is an example of a single vendor community. Many of us from BGS are part of the community and chats there because its an easy place to learn about neat features and compatabilities of developing software using MS products that we cannot find any where else. In a sense its like a MS user group on the Web. We soon learn who gives reliable answers and in what areas. Isn't that a community. MS is not interested in targeted ads there but they save on support calls from us for sure. -- Sudha - Exactly, I first establish rapport thru discussion then I respect the recommendations and suggestions of those I trust.

Richard Seltzer -- Bjoern -- as far as "needs that are satisfied by a product", I guess the question is how complex and all-encompassing is the product. If that product is basically "Microsoft", that covers a lot of ground and could intererst a fair number of computer devotees. But product in a narrower sense if far less compelling.

bjoern -- Suddha - what you are talking about is relationship marketing. bjoern I guess it is always the same with this kind of discussion. The various factors act in a multidimensional way, and we cannot really explain everything in one word.

Sudha -- Richard: We have started a whole new discussion on who can make a successful community. I believe it need not be a single vendor, but yes, people will expect more value out if it and hence its easier for a vendor independent third party to build a community faster. One way of doing this is for a group of vendors with complementary products to get together to for a network and build a community around their product/services. This was people will get more value and stay. What do you think?

Richard Seltzer -- Sudha -- I like that idea of a vendor-independent third party trying to operate community-style on the Web. Sounds like an interesting business model. Sudha -- bjoern: Yes, I guess so, I believe online communities can grow only by the relationship formed among its members. SIG (in Boston) practises relationshop marketing and setsup web sites for the same. Does anyone know of a SIG client site?

Blair -- I'm not sure if relationship marketing is an accurate term.. Many sites fail to recognise the potential of community in marketing models.. its the common thread of experience and desire that is associated with niche products.. ie: reads Rod&Gun, not likely to own a dog under 12lbs.. has an open fire, but doesnt buy fat free yoghurt.. etc that makes a group somewhat "in common".. -- Richard - I think the "COMMUNITY" concept needs to be broken down and then we could focus on one area at a time. For example what does community mean to:

See what I mean ? 

Distance education

Roland -- I know chat technology is frequently integrated into online classroom environments. Have any of you had experience with this? Is it typically used for classmate socialization or collaborative learning? How successful is it? What makes it successful? -- Roland -- you might want to take a look at University of Phoenix On-Line Degree Programs as an example.

Richard Seltzer -- Roland (by the way, where are you? and what are your main interests?) -- have you tried They offer free discussion space (forum/notes style) for education. They are funded as a non-profit. It's a good place to test our that kind of software for free. As for on-line environments, our resident expert on that Kathleen could answer that better than I. I'm hoping she'll join us today. She has a distance education company, the Otter Group, in Cambridge, MA. What's your email address? And I'll try to get you in touch with her. 

B&R Samizdat mirror site in Slovakia

Richard Seltzer -- Rastislav, I appear your mirroring my pages in Slovakia. Do you get much traffic to those pages? And how are you so fortunate to have so much disk space to spare?

Rastislav -- Richard: I've just did the statistics of your mirror in my site. 240 hits /14.March - 11.Sept/.

Richard Seltzer -- Rastislav -- is that total for all the pages or just for the home page? in any case, is your site indexed at AltaVista, Hotbot, and Excite?

Rastislav -- Richard: Yes. The total number. I think that the site is well indexed (Log file proves it). Don't know why is it so low number. My site generates 100hits/day and generates 50.

[Richard Seltzer -- I checked at AltaVista after the chat, using the command url: and determined that none of the Samizdat mirror pages were in the index; and then checked using the command and determined that the home page and nothing else was in the index. I emailed Rastislav suggesting that he use ADD URL at AltaVista to make sure all his pages are included. All the pages at my site are indexed. As a result, I get an average of 1000 hits per day, only 13% of which go by way of the home page.]

Rastislav-- Richard: I've got 50MB quota. It costs me nothing at all. BTW: Why do you use absolute hyperlinks on your pages ?

Richard Seltzer -- Rastislav -- sorry about the absolute links. I started that way and it's hard to change. Since I have a virtual name -- -- it doesn't matter when I move from one ISP to another, the links still work fine. But it must create headaches for a mirror.

Rastislav -- Richard: You can easily turn the absolute hyperlinks to relative (using e.g. filefind from NU). If you change your ISP, it doesn't make any difference, works well.

Richard Seltzer -- Ratislav -- please send me email with details about filefind (URL to get it etc.) Thanks. 

Unanswered request for help

JBF11235 -- Have a service webpage for several months and it's getting hits, but I've yet to see any business. HELP! 


Richard Seltzer -- By the way, the Social Web is a much broader topic than we have covered today. Consider, for instance, the implications of people having multi-tasking operating systems like Win95. That means that while I'm engaged at a chat at one site, I can be looking at pages at another, or doing email, etc. That dilutes my attention/loyalty, but at the same time makes my time on the Web far more social.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- time is starting to run out (already). I feel that we're just getting warmed up, and I'd like to continue this discussion next week. What's the consensus? Want to continue this? Or what other topics would you suggest?

Richard Seltzer -- All -- as usual, I'll post an edited transcript of today's session in the next day or two. Please check and send me email with your followup comments and questions for possible inclusion with the transcript.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- Please before you sign off, post your email and URL addresses (don't count on the software to have caught it).

Andy --

Sudha -- Sudha Jamthe, Thanks Richard. See you all next week.

Miki Dzugan -- Richard, stopped by for a few minutes with a class to see your excellent use of chat. Thanks for the opportunity!

Richard Seltzer -- Miki -- hope you can join us again next time, and encourage your students to speak up. -- Enjoyed it ! Bob Zwick, Cottage Micro Services 103 Vinyard Drive, Waxahachie, TX 75167, PH/FX: (972) 435-2446, * Web Hosting * Design * Outsourcing * Contract Programming *

TCamero -- Anthony Camero-Quiksilver Commerce, 515-472-9799

bjoern -- it was an interesting discussion today!

Richard Seltzer -- Thanks to all. Please join us again next Thursday and spread the word. Send followup email to me at

Sudha-- See you all next week. Bye. Blair -- Cheers. folks.. Sorry to hear Clinton and his National Security cronies.. voted down SAFE! Another SIG that has no experience with the web eh! See ya awll.... 


Virtual-work environments

From: heinrich schwarz Date: Mon, 08 Sep 97 09:57:44 EDT

Richard -- (I received your email address through a professor of mine who got it from Kathleen Gilroy). I am a PhD student at MIT and planning to do my dissertation research on virtual work environments. Now, I am trying to determine where there are any such systems (or prototypes) in place.

By 'virtual work environments' I mean either text-based or graphical online environments in the way of MUDs or online virtual worlds that are, however, designed and used for work and business purposes (in a wider sense also for educational ones).

You were described as someone who knows of "any virtual work environment that was actually being used at the moment". Wonderful.

I would appreciate if you were willing to share any information about this. (I know about PlaceWare, which only partly counts as virtual work environment at the moment, and Chiat/Day's Oxygen which is not in use, unfortunately)

thank you very much for listening.

heinrich schwarz, program in science, technology, society, m.i.t.,

REPLY: I don't know of any true virtual work environment in place today. (I don't consider simply sending a sales force home to save office space and letting them connect to the internal network from home as a true "virtual work environment"). But developments like that can happen very fast and without much fanfare. So there might actually be some good example lurking out there. We tried discussing this topic about a year ago in my weekly chat session about Business on the WWW. You might want to check the transcripts -- and

You also might want to contact Bruce Damer He's with the Contact Consortium, a non-profit focused on all sorts of on-line virtual environments. (You might also want to check their Web site, which I'm sure you could find from AltaVista).

You might also want to check with the folks at SGI. They are betting a lot on VRML and have to be looking for a killer business app for that technology, and might be able to point you to a customer. You also might want to contact Harris Sussman (in Boston), an expert in human resources issues. Harris Sussman

And, of course, you are welcome to join our chat sessions and pose yourquestions and test your ideas there -- Thursdays, 12 noon to 1 PM, at

By the way, for me the true definition of a virtual work environment would not be based on technology, but rather would be based on the business model. I'd like to see an environment in which individuals and teams could readily join together and form a virtual company for the duration of a project, and in which these same individuals and teams could simultaneously be working as part of other virtual companies. I'd like it to be easy for these people and teams to find one another and work closely with one another when they need to. I'd like the legal, contractual, tax, and benefits piece to be clear and simple. And I'd like there to be some protection (enforceable) for workers in such an environment. (FYI -- I'll forward to you an email I got a few days ago from a university in the Urkaine, where there are hundreds of Ph.Ds will to work for about $2 an hour.) Best wishes. Richard Seltzer

Tripod and Geocities

From: Kathleen Gilroy Date: Wed, 10 Sep 1997 11:32:39 +0000

If I don't get to join you tomorrow, the two communities I have heard about, which are doing quite well are geocities and tripod. Geocities offers free web pages and groups them by affinity. Tripod is aimed at 24 to 35 year olds. You get a free web page and excellent content that is aimed at that demographic. Yesterday Christopher Lydon ran an excellent program on useful URL's and there was a good deal of discussion about communities on the web. You might be able to get an electronic transcript from WBUR for the program to add to your archives. I hope to see you tomorrow.

Kathleen Gilroy, 

Women's Connection chat area

From: Gary LaFever Date: Wed, 10 Sep 1997 13:09:56 -0700

I am on your email list and wanted to invite you to check out a live chat on our website at today, September 10th at 2:00 p.m Eastern Time featuring Ann Winblad, a leading venture capitalist, speaking to our audience of professional women and women business owners. I hope you can make it! Gary LaFever, Sr. VP, Women's Connection Online, Inc. 

Gowganda -- the ultimate "social Web" experience

[Bernadette Price from Portland, Oregon, wrote to me a while back to tell of her attempts to get together with old friends from her childhood home of Gowganda, in northern Ontario. She searched AltaVista for "Gowganda," and used the results as the beginning of a unique quest. AltaVista pointed her to "Auld Reekie Lodge," a Gowganda tourist spot. With that lead, she was able to get in touch with old friend Gertrude Trudel. Then together they used the Internet and every other means they could think of to put togther "the Great Gowganda Get-Together." Here's her followup note saying how the Labor Day weekend reunion went.]

From: Bernadette Price Date: Thu, 11 Sep 1997 14:19:15 -0700

Oh, Richard, it was wonderful, to say the least! I've been back a week now, and have been too busy catching up on work, etc., to update the Great Gowganda Get-Together home page, but will hopefully have time this weekend. The best part is that just about EVERYONE came "home" again -- it was amazing! So many of us hadn't seen each other since we were children, over three decades ago. We had close to 500 people come that weekend... and this is a town with a year-round population of under 100!

The Toronto Star was fabulous! They gave the story FRONT PAGE coverage on July 28, and then they arranged for a reporter to do a follow-up at the reunion, complete with a photo of me and my friend Gertie Trudel. That piece ran the next day, the Sunday of the Labor Day weekend. Gertie had done so much work from her end, and made about 200 phone calls, and so I arranged with Northern Telephone and the Telephone Pioneers of America group there to donate a used computer to her in thanks for all her community effort. Finally, Gertie will be online! It's been AWFUL trying to keep up on the planning with her through expensive phone calls and the oh-so-slow snail mail! She and her husband have no idea how wonderful computers and the Internet are (and wait until they're online and discover AltaVista! :-), so they haven't bothered looking into getting one before this. I bet they will wonder how it was possible to live without one before!

We got so much "local" coverage as well -- lots of those "dinky" little papers up in northern Ontario featured us on the front page as well -- the angle, of course, being on this "newfangled modern technology" bringing about the reunion. The press coverage isn't over, either... there's a piece that will run in Net-Life Magazine that goes out to 140,000 Internet subscribers in Canada who use Sympatico, and then I got a call from Toronto Computes! magazine and they are doing a piece for their October issue. So is Northern Telephone in their publication -- plus they are giving Gertie a one-year free Internet subscription to go with the used computer she got... I've been too busy to update the web page, but I have tons of photos and lots of text to recap the unbelievably great time we all had, and I hope to do so this weekend.

The Great Gowganda Get-Together home page is at

Thanks for your interest in how the reunion came out. I would have let you know in due course anyway, as soon as I got head above water! :-) Sheesh, one thing about vacations, is that you really need another one as soon as you get back!

Best regards,


Community and Distance Education

From: Kathleen Gilroy <> Date: Wed, 17 Sep 1997 11:52:31 +0000

I was just reviewing last week's chat--sorry I missed it.

We're going to be doing two courses next year with UMASS/Boston which will use their web-based interface for student/teacher interaction. The interface is built around CU/CME for two-way video and audio interaction among students (students see the class via full motion video over cable or satellite). The interface includes a chat utility that allows the instructor to control the topics. Student's answers are organized in an outline form. Also, the interface contains a series of web pages on a pre-established menu and then allows the teacher to select a page for the web-based equivalent of a slide show.

One thought about online communities as they related to distance learning. These communities can be built for the duration of a course/semester when the students have a high degree of motivation to go online to complete assignments. It is the job of the faculty/teacher and/or his/her graduate students to act as the facilitator of these activities and design them into the curriculum.

Is this a community? Of a sort. Will it sustain itself after the class is over? Perhaps. It probably needs to be reinforced somehow.

Most online distance learning courses are the opposite of community--merely elevated correspondence courses. They trade off all of the social aspects of the educational experience and work only when students have very high degrees of motivation. (They experience high drop out rates and low retention rates--something people don't often write about because they have a vested interest in selling the online distance learning concept.)

Regards, Kathleen Gilroy. mailto://

ICQ and instant online access

From: Kaye Vivian <> Date: Wed, 17 Sep 1997 12:20:13 -0400

I saw your note about AOL's Instant Mail. I'm not on that system, but perhaps it's similar to a program I use continuously, which is ICQ by Mirabilis (

ICQ (I seek you) is an extremely useful program for instant communication with friends or business associates who are online. You can set the parameters so that it flashes a message to you when the person(s) comes online and any time the person is online you can send a message with a few keystrokes that will flash on their screen instantly, rather than going through your or their e-mail system. Also, you can make chat requests the same way...if you want to do a 2-person keyboard chat, you just right click on their name, click on "Chat" and it will send them a message asking them to talk...instantly. You can even have multiple users in the same chat, as long as you are all on each other's authorized list. It's as easy as dragging and dropping the person's name into the chat screen.

They now have 3 million users on system, and you can define a short list of people you are interested to receive auto-notification on (they must accept your request initially for you to be able to receive the notification in the future). I have a couple of friends I play online multiplayer games with, a couple of family members, and a couple of business associates on my notification list. It's really great...if you have a quick question, want to pass on something funny that just happened, or want a quick opinion on a project you are in the middle of, they are only seconds away! Best of all, it's a tiny little program that you can leave running continuously in the's not a system hog! If you haven't tried it I'd say download it right away! They have really put a lot of thought and attention to detail into this little program, and it's free. I haven't found a feature yet that I would like that it doesn't have. The newest version has even been specially designed to interface with Microsoft's NetMeeting, but you don't need NetMeeting or any other program to use ICQ. It is one of the best and neatest programs I have found in a long time. Give it a try. :)

Best regards, Kaye Vivian


From: "Dale, Steven" <> Date: Wed, 17 Sep 1997 13:57:59 -0400

This very minute I am trying to set-up the placeware client ( so that I can participate in a conference this afternoon (4pm Eastern) on web advertising. They have a really neat auditorium and conference metaphor that includes audio discussion!! It requires a plug-in. I am having problems with the firewall and allowing UDP (which is what audio uses) through.

You might want to check this out for your discussions or at least as an example for the discussion.

From: "Dale, Steven" <> Date: Wed, 17 Sep 1997 17:07:34 -0400

Well, I spent half the day trying to get the thing configured and because I was behind a firewall it was hopeless. I have not found out if they have developed any proxy capabilities. If they have, then maybe there is some hope. But if not, they really need to address the security issue. I am sure there are others who work for companies with strict firewall policies as well. Until they address that issue I don't think they will attract too much of a work crowd. And even after that, they will need the solution to be easily configurable (hopefully by individuals, not requiring MIS intervention).

I tried to watch a presentation (Robbin Zeff on Web Advertising) without the audio and it seemed quite slow and basic but who knows what was being said. In short, I get a lot more out of the Thursday chats with your group than I did from this interaction -- although I am very impressed with the UI and intended functionality. As with all great ideas (especially on the Internet), it needs that final 10% -- its easy to get 90% there, but the last 10% is where the true value differentiation is.

Previous transcripts and schedule of upcoming chats --

To connect to the chat room, go to

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