where "word of keystroke" begins

October 2, 1997 -- The Social Web: varieties of "community" experience

Transcript of the live chat session that took place Thursday, October 2, 1997. These sessions are normally scheduled for 12 noon-1 PM Eastern Time (GMT -5) 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


Richard Seltzer -- All -- We'll be starting in about an hour, at 12 noon Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -4). If you connect early, please check last week's transcript. There are some excellent followup messages that I just added this morning, with links to sites and articles that could help you get warmed up for today's topic.

The URL for last week's chat is You can get to all the back transcripts at

Richard Seltzer -- All -- we'll be starting in about 5 minutes. As you connect, please introduce yourselves and let us know your interests.

Richard Seltzer -- Hello, Dan Jones and Kathleen Gilroy, glad you could make it. Please introduce yourselves.

Kathleen Gilroy -- Hi, I am the President of OTTER (Online Training Technical and Educational Resources)--a distance learning company.

Dan Jones -- Hello, I am the president Of Internet Pro's which is an online retailer of computer software. I am also the director of sales for WWW.YOUR-SITE.COM which is a virtual server provider.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Hello - I'm an independant consultant in Texas, USA.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Bob Zwick (@Cottage), glad you could make it.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- we're expecting Chris Locke and Howard Rheingold to join us shortly (barring all the unexpected circumstances that might come up). Their both community/Web-social gurus, and I'm looking forward to learning from them.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Andy Morrison, please introduce yourself.

Andy Morrison -- Good Morning/Afternoon, Andy Morrison Project Analyst for a VAR in Cedar Rapids, IA.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- we had several interesting followup messages to our last session (when you get a chance please check the transcript at In particular, Tracy Marks sent a message with a link to a very rich, large list of community hyperlinks. I haven't had time to check them all, but want to.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Tony Alvarez, please introduce yourself.

Howard Rheingold -- Hi! Just got here!

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Howard. I'm a long-time fan of your. Loved your book on Virtual Community.

Richard Seltzer -- Howard -- you'll note, that as in all live chat sessions the questions and answers will fly back and forth at rapid clip and only in the order that folks happen to post. Afterwards, I will edit the raw transcript to try to sort out the threads and make it more readable. Many more people see the transcript that can come live.

Todd Moyer -- Hello, I'm a developer at DIGITAL and a web fanatic.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Todd. Howard Rheingold, author of Virtual Community and founder of Electric Minds is with us now. We're still hoping that Chris Locke will be able to join us.

Blair Anderson -- Hi Folks.. jumping in a tad late.. very slow link..

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Blair from New Zealand (do you ever sleep?)

Richard Seltzer -- Blair -- just imagining you there in New Zealand at about 1 AM tomorrow, perhaps in a comfortable recliner with a laptop perched on your knees... seems like a very social Web environment.

Blair Anderson -- "perhaps in a comfortable recliner with a laptop perched on your knees..." Ah'wish....

tom dadakis -- Hi Tom Dadakis here joining late. I am developing some online learning intiatives which will use chat and community functions as alternatives to classrooms. I'm just catching to gist of this discussion for now.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Tom, glad you could make it.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Chandler, please introduce yourself and let us know your interests.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Marianne. Please introduce yourself and let us know your interests.

Sudha Jamthe -- Hi Richard. Sorry I am late. Looks like you have many interesting threads going on.

Christopher Locke -- oh damn, I have this dyslexic sort of thing wrt to time zones. 1000 pardons...

Richard Seltzer -- Chris -- Welcome, glad you could make it. Maybe we'll try to stay connected a little longer than usual today to take advantage of the fact that you and Howard are both here (if you can do it).

Greg Sherwin -- Hi -- Greg Sherwin, net dinosaur here.

Tracy -- Hello all. I'm afraid I missed almost all of the chat...could only just get here. Am very impressed with Electric Minds, Howard. 


Richard Seltzer -- Dan -- what is a "virtual server provider"? Do you mean you do Web hosting? Any unusual value-added services? Any "social" type things to build loyalty for your retail business or your virtual server provider business?

Dan Jones -- Richard -- Yes, we are a web hosting company. We have not really done a value added services as I just took over the company about one month ago.

Richard Seltzer -- Dan -- any interest in growing the route of Geocities or Tripod? using Web hosting as a basis for community?

Electric Minds

Richard Seltzer -- Howard, I'm very curious about your Electric Minds site How it works. What's happening. What you're trying to make happen. What works and what doesn't.

Howard Rheingold -- Electric Minds is an example of how the Web can be used as a social medium. In particular, a place for knowledgeable people to have intelligent conversation about technology.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Welcome Howard - I visited your site and was curious about the OS that is mentioned. Is that a client program that must be installed on an end user PC ?

Howard Rheingold -- No you don't need a client program. Just a Web browser.

Richard Seltzer -- Howard -- Can you tell us something about CommunityWare? What it is and how you use it? And what constitutes a user-initiated community at http://www.minds.com

Howard Rheingold -- CommunityWare is the platform provided by Durand Communications, which acquired Electric Minds. It's a place where anybody can start a community.

Howard Rheingold -- For $3/month, you can set up your own webconferences and chat room and use instant messaging and email services. It's a way to outsource your Intranet or build your own community, without having to create or license expensive technology.

Richard Seltzer -- Howard -- What constitues a "community" at Electric Minds? What are the pieces of it? I believe that hosted personal pages and the opportunity for forum/bulletin board and chat discussions are part of it. Can you explain what the pieces are and how they fit together -- why it is referred to as a "social operating system"?

Dan Jones -- Howard -- Is Durand Communications the same people who developed the WIP protocol?

Richard Seltzer -- Howard -- One thing I noted that may be slowing down the social aspect of your site is that people have to enter with a password. This means that only your introductory pages get indexed at AltaVista and the other major search engines. And (I believe) the personal pages that people have at your site don't get indexed at all. (I tried at AltaVista and there were only three pages from your site in the index). I think of search engines as THE major driver of Web traffic today. You might want to find a work-around for that.

Richard Seltzer -- Howard -- you mention that "It's a way to outsource your Intranet or build your own community..." But isn't there a disk space limitation? One that feels much more appropriate for individuals than for companies. Do you have a different kind of offer for companies?

Howard Rheingold -- There is no disk space limitation, only a nominal charge.

Richard Seltzer -- Howard -- do I understand you correctly that for $3/month you offer "unlimited" Web space? That doesn't seem practical. How can you do that? Do you have companies that have taken you up on that?

Howard Rheingold -- There is an additional surcharge for web storage over a certain number of megs. But I am not a representative of Durand. Electric Minds is my baby.

Richard Seltzer -- Howard -- when a person or company gets Web space at Electric Minds, can they have a virtual address? And can visitors get to their pages without going through the Electric Minds password process? Hence do their pages get indexed by the search engines?

Richard Seltzer -- Howard -- I'm still trying to sort out what you offer at Electric Minds. It sounds too good to be true. Are you telling me that for $3/month a company or individual could have unlimited Web space at your site plus the ability to set up chat sessions and forums plus some special instant message system? Please clarify. That just doesn't compute. There has to be a catch (or how could you ever hope to make money doing this?)

Todd Moyer -- Howard: what is the business model of Electric Minds? That is, how do you make money with it?

Howard Rheingold -- Electric Minds is a community that runs on the CommunityWare platform. CW does indeed offer all those services at that price -- the price goes up for larger communities. But I am not an employee of Durand. I consult for them, and help them run the social side of the operation.

Howard Rheingold -- Electric Minds was acquired by Durand Communications. Their business model is to be THE place to outsource Intranet and virtual community services. They hope to have hundreds of thousands of customers.

Howard Rheingold -- One of the things I am doing for Durand is providing a place where people can learn the social nuances of designing, launching, and maintaining good communities -- a kind of Host University. So in addition to the tools, Durand offers a number of ways to learn how to use them.

Richard Seltzer -- Howard -- excellent. It's a long-standing gripe of mine that software doesn't do it all -- especially when it comes to "community" and "social-type" activities at a Web site. There's a huge need for consulting, moderating, etc. Peopleware. You're saying that Durand has that to offer?

Richard Seltzer -- Howard -- So the "intranet" type community would be something for Durand. What are the limits on the low-cost communities that people can build at Electric Minds?

Richard Seltzer -- Howard -- as a test case, consider Kathleen's business -- Otter, a distance learning company. Could she set up a $3/month account at Electric Mind and have all kinds of student support and student community activities running there? Or at what point is the size of the site or the volume of the activity such that a new pricing algorithm is triggered and you deal directly with Durand rather than Electric Minds?

Howard Rheingold -- Again, Electric Minds is one of many communities. It's the showcase community. CommunityWare is the platform. Anybody can join Electric Minds, but only our hosts can create conferences. If you want your own conference, you start your own community. There really aren't any limits on the communities you can build as long as they are legal.

Howard Rheingold -- Yes, Kathleen could have a community on CommunityWare running this afternoon. I am sorry, but as I said, I am not an employee of Durand and am not conversant with all their pricing policies. You can email for info.

Electric Minds is one of many communities. Come there to have intelligent discussions about technology, the future, and the media. If you want to talk about other things, there are other communities.

Kathleen Gilroy -- Howard, do you feel that CommunityWare is the best platform for these activities? I tried to log on and found the process terribly slow.

Sudha Jamthe -- Howard: Are the communities in Electric Mind built on loyalty? My question is what makes them a community?

Richard Seltzer -- Howard -- I'm still confused. I understand that Durand provides you with the CommunityWare software. I understand that Electric Minds is a showcase of how this software can work. But I don't understand the limits and the costs. If I would like "unlimited" Web space, the ability to create chat sessions easily and quickly, the ability to create conferences, etc. are you saying that all I have to do is join Electric Minds for $3/month? And -- very important -- will my content be accessible to the world without a password/signin barrier and hence be indexable by search engines?

Howard Rheingold -- Since merging Electric Minds, CommunityWare has been in need of a redesign. Try it again in a month, Kathleen, when we have completely integrated the different components. I am confident that when the redesign is completed, this will be the best way for people to set up communities. Where else can you get conferencing, chat, instant messages, newsletters, and web-page hosting, complete with help on the social aspects?

One other thing: Jennifer Stone Gonzalez, whose book on "The 21st Century Intranet" will be published next month, is running an "Intranet Institute" for Intranet champions to learn the social side of installing and running successful intranets.

Durand has all the elements, but now those elements must be put together in a way that makes it easy for any person to use it.

Richard Seltzer -- Howard -- Does CommunityWare only run on Durand's machines? Or are they selling the software as well?

Howard Rheingold -- Durand is not selling the software now. It only runs on their machines. Theey are beefing up their hardware and bandwidth right now.

tom dadakis -- Howard - Who keeps the discussion on track? Could they degrade to the level of AOL with time?

Kathleen Gilroy -- I'd love to be able to find something that would faciliate all of these activities for a global audience of students. The human component is still critical in how effective these tools are...without Richard, I'm sure these discussions would not be so vibrant and interesting. This is a new set of skills for the future that we think about building into our staff--running thoughtful, engaging short-term communities.

Howard Rheingold -- Kathleen, I have just started a "community of hosts" to talk about the social nuances of hosting communities, dealing with both conferencing and chat.

Kathleen Gilroy -- My bias is to use chat in an educational setting, but I would be interested in joining such a community.

Howard Rheingold -- One of the reasons I started Electric Minds is my belief that knowing how to design, stimulate, maintain, nurture, grow online conversations that can establish relationships that can grow into communities is a key skill. You don't just put some people and software together and expect good things to happen automatically. 

Long-term, sustainable relationships or short-term fluid communities?

Kathleen Gilroy -- I have been playing the Luddite in these discussions. My feeling is that the web is not good for long-term, sustainable relationships, but superb for short-term, fluid communities. Any comments?

Richard Seltzer -- Kathleen -- I agree that the Web is excellent for fluid, fast-changing "communities" and that sustainable relationships are hard to find.

Howard Rheingold -- One must be careful about generalizing about online relationships -- there is such a wide spectrum of conversations and types of social committment.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Kathleen - I agree that since the Net is so new and so unorganized in it's infancy stage, that relationships are short term now. However, I think that the Net will augment if not compete with the telephone which is currently the most prevalent "community" ( family & business ) tool in the world.

Dan Jones -- Bob -- I don't think that the net will be like the telephone is today for some time. Even though I love to chat on the net I still find a direct telephone call much more productive.

Howard Rheingold -- Can you pick up the telephone and ask to be connected with a group of Alzheimer's caregivers or people who are trying to debug a LAN or people in Atlanta who like Italian cooking?

Kathleen Gilroy -- Yes, it will compete with the telephone--it may become the telephone or merge with it (with a videoconferencing component added in.) Given the ephemeral nature of communication on the web, should we try and build long-term communities, and invest in what it takes to build and sustain them?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Kathleen - I believe that communities will evolve on there own. We should at least provide a means to congeal people into communities. The investment, at first, could be minimal.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob -- interesting way to put it "community tool". Yes, the telephone is a tool for facilitating community and social activity, but it is not itself a "community". Likewise a Web site is a means of facilitating such relationships and not a community itself. (Perhaps). Relationships might start there, or might be carried farther along there, but they exist outside of the site itself. Does this ring true to you?

Kathleen Gilroy -- I feel that the web is an amazing way to start relationships. We are in the process of completing negotations with a woman in Kuala Lumpur who will become our distributor in Southeast Asia, whom we met through the web. I describe this as the 1990s equivalent of being discovered at the counter at Schwab's drug store.

Richard Seltzer -- Howard -- What is your experience in this regard? Not the Well, which really got started quite a few years before the Web. Today -- what are you finding in your community work at Electric Minds? How do you cope with all the enormous choices that draw your audience away elsewhere?

Howard Rheingold -- Sustainable relationships are hard to find EVERYWHERE, and you certainly can't expect ephemeral online conversations to be the basis of deep relationships. However, OVER TIME, people do build strong relationships -- under the right circumstances -- online.

Howard Rheingold -- We cope with all the distractions by offering something that isn't easy to find elsewhere: civil, intelligent conversations by knowledgeable people, sustained over time.

Richard Seltzer -- Howard -- while strong relationships can be built on-line, it feels like the link is among the individuals who meet on-line, and they have enormous range of choices for how to continue the relationship that need not be linked to a particular Web site. Hence the medium is very social, but we see little in the way of true communities build around Web sites. Unless your combination of software is taking your members to experiences they've never had before -- an ease and richness of communication that they can't get in other ways.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Exactly, Richard. Relationships begin at various places on the internet, then they will adjourn to community social centers that are provided, either by the particpants or by businesses providing a public service. ( with business interests of course ).

Howard Rheingold -- You don't build a community in a day or a month. And decent conferencing software for the Web is only about a year old. I think it's way too early to make any judgements about social communications on the Web.

Howard Rheingold -- Which brings me to the MAIN problem in any discussion that connects the Internet and business: the need for results and profits NOW NOW NOW. It's a murderous way to deal with innovation.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob and Kathleen -- yes, I believe we get this mix of long-term relationships started on-line and transitory relationships at particular Web sites. We're using all the capabilities of today's Web -- including instant messaging and email and chat and forums and personal web pages and search engines -- to find and connect with one another. But can a site like Howard's add a new dimension by putting these social tools all together in one place and making them so easy to use that you would be inclined to carry on your relationships there rather than by other means?

Kathleen Gilroy -- If the technology is quick and easy to use, there are many, many applications to my business that could be facilitated by these types of tools. For example, students and teachers can hold conferences, office hours, work on team-based assignments. These are all tools that we have built into our business model. But we still will maintain satellite connections for high quality video and audio for the main course distribution. 

"Web of trust"

Blair Anderson -- One of the limits that i can foresee with online communities is the function of "trust" and "validation".. I have just been entering the data at eminds.. and wonder how "private" the data is (in terms of all those confounded MLM'ers who have a "deal for me".. [perhaps hiding behind a password is a good thing Richard].. and of course, the impersonation risks.. any plans to implement a web of trust within the eminds concept.. ??

Howard Rheingold -- The management at Durand is very sensitive to privacy concerns, and one of the terms of the acquisition of Electric Minds was that they had the right to send one message -- no more -- to the 70,000 people who had registered for Electric Minds in our first six months of operation.

Kathleen Gilroy -- The big six accounting firms see the "assurance" aspect of the web as a very big business opportunity.

Howard Rheingold -- One of the longest-running and most heated conversations in Electric Minds is the "Psychographic Privacy?" topic. 

Email and community

Todd Moyer -- For some exchanges I find e-mail to be the best way to keep in contact. I have a group of old friends that I rarely communicate with outside of e-mail. Without e-mail, we would only trade x-mas cards, if that. The e-mail is better than the phone because we write when we are in the mood and have something to write about. You also write ideas/feelings that are uncomfortable to say. So while I haven't made new friends on the net, I'm finding it indespensable for keeping old ones.

Dan Jones -- Todd -- Do you feel that the ability to say in email what you would not say directly could become a bad thing? I mean sometimes we don't say things because they are best not said.

Howard Rheingold -- Todd, You could use CommunityWare to build a private or public conferencing system, complete with chatroom, email newsletter, instant messages, and web page hosting, for that group of friends.

Todd Moyer -- Dan - there are things that I don't write in e-mail, but have never regretted anything I have written. It's like a letter, except more convenient.

Merits of "push"

Blair Anderson -- Aha.. coincides nicely with my late night jam sessions.. just home.. birds are singing the morning chorus (grin)

Donna Hoffman has just released an interesting URL discussion the merits and marketing of push technologies that may be of interest to the group (Vanderbilt-Nashville) This URL is one of the must reads.. IMHO (aside from some of the other quality stuff Prof Sunil Gupta and his team have put out.. ) See

Hi Howard.. read your book.. well parts of it.. it was a well thumbed copy.

Sudha Jamthe -- Richard: Have you covered 'push' aspect of reaching community members? I mean, mailing lists which create many online communities.

Christopher Locke -- as to push: EGR is a website, but I take subscriptions so I can send ASCII versions of new stuff. This occasional touch has kept things alive I think, whereas a plain old web page might get buried in the ol' bookmarks file.

Richard Seltzer -- Sudha -- indeed, we depend on mailing lists to keep this chat going -- the chatreminder list I've built over time, the web-net list, the isig list (left over from the Boston Computer Society), etc. I tend to distinguish between push for distributing information and push for distributing reminders. (Also, of course, your Coola! service for letting people subscribe easily to receive the transcripts by email.)

Sudha Jamthe -- Chris: Have you seen Richard's transcripts come by Coo!a? Its my service to send online magazines/sites as HTML mail. If you'd lie I can include EGR in there. Take a look at Also by push, I am thinking about mailing lists. I consider myself an 'online citizen', if I may say so, primarily because of the zillion mailing lists I am on.

Richard Seltzer -- Push-wise, I also do a not-so-regular newsletter, free, Internet-on-a-Disk, about Internet trends and directions. I have built a list of over 10,000 direct subscribers (believe it or not, I handle that list by hand), and send it out by email to them, and also post the issues at my Web site. You need a mix of methods to reach people.

Tracy -- My experience is that mailing lists CAN create very strong community. I've been on a few mailing list "support group" or "online group therapy" experiments that have really been powerful. Case in point is a current offshoot mailing list support group run by the NetPsy list...

Christopher Locke -- tracy -- I agree about mailing lists. yes. not as sexy as some of the interactive stuff, but you have more time to consider what's flowing by -- often without having to read it all, which is also important.

Chris Locke and Entropy Gradient Reversals

Todd Moyer -- Chris - I took a quick look at your "pitch" page. Very interesting. I'm interested in your views on web publishing. What experience are you drawing on in forming your views?

Richard Seltzer -- Chris -- Just dive in and say your say. Tell us about your community experiences. What has worked and what hasn't and why. And what you're up to these days.

Christopher Locke -- experience for EGR: working for several buttheaded Fortune 50 companies for starters... seeing how clueless Korporate Amerika has been about the whole net phenomenon...

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Welcome Christopher - I read your article pointer that Richard sent. I have to compare your to a sports caster in Dallas who calls his commentary "No Whimp Sports" He tells it like it is and doesn't try to be politically correct. You come across as a "NO WHIMP" Internet discussion person.

Christopher Locke -- I tried using a conferencing system on the zine site, but actually ended up taking it down for multiple and complex reasons. we could discuss that...

Richard Seltzer -- Chris -- seeing your site and the kinds of things you do, it would seem natural for you to join in at Electric Minds and maybe start a community over there. (I'm tempted myself. I tend to do all the "social" things at my site simply by brute force and sweat -- entering "letters to the editor" and "followup" notices rather than using an special conferencing software.)

Christopher Locke -- I used the WELL a lot in 92 -- was a host of a conf on collaboration. more recently though, I found that online discussion did not lend itself to extended explication (or the kind of ranting I've grown so fond of).

Christopher Locke -- too many threads end up being "yeah, what she said" kinds of things.

Richard Seltzer -- Chris -- My inclination is to set up a "modular distributed Web site" -- fancy term for just doing the different pieces of you site at different places and linking them together. Hence I run my personal Web site at Acunet (in Marlboro, MA), and I also host these chat sessions at the Web-net server (which happens to be physically in Maryland). And I could conceivably add a conference/forum at Electric Minds. That way I don't have to mess with the software. And I get to do interesting things at low cost.

Christopher Locke -- an interesting and very unexpected effect emerged within the EGR readership. I generally mistreat and malign readers -- it's a "branding thing" ;-) plus, it's a one-way street for the most part; I write, they read. finally, there is ZERO buy-in to any notion of community. yet some very strong bonds have been forged behind the scenes. i find this fascinating...

Sudha Jamthe -- Chris: I am back. Had to leave and missed some good discussion. Just saw your EGR page and hope to find out more about what you do (For intros:I manage web-net where this chat is hosted)

Christopher Locke -- always happy to talk about EGR. it's sort of the DON'T EXAMPLE of all the best online "rules" -- but something about it works. even Microsoft thought so.

Richard Seltzer -- Chris -- speaking of your newsletter (EGR) and search engines, I checked at AltaVista and saw that only six of your pages were indexed there. You might want to go to AltaVista and do an ADD/URL for the rest. It could drive more traffic to your site. (I get about 500 visitors a day at my little no-graphics sandbox, and all but about 10% of it seems to come by way of search engines.) 

Conferences/forums and search engines

Richard Seltzer -- Howard -- Sorry, I seem to harp on the notion of indexing at search engines. I just find it extremely important for driving traffic to a site. Electric Minds is behind a password barrier. What about the rest of Durand? If one sets up a Durand CommunityWare community, is that space open to one and all (including the bots of search engines)?

Howard Rheingold -- Richard, People in Electric Minds objected to letting search engines index conversations for two reasons:

They want their conversations to be available to those people who come to this specific site and show enough commitment to register.

Many people said it really is a disservice to the Net to muck up searches with hundreds of thousands of postings that might have no more than a word or two in common with the subject of a search.

I happen to agree that it's a great way to market the community and draw in new people -- but you can't expect to make decisions dictatorially and have a vibrant community. I have to honor the wishes of the eMinders.

Blair Anderson -- I concur with Howard on the search engine "relevancy" issue. Some things just dont lend themselves to searching.. which is why we should be looking to virtual communities.. once the relationships are forming (do they ever mature), much can be unsaid.. relevent only to the participants, and where the "here and now", fails to encapsulate the "there and then" which is only known to the participants. (>Yammy3 dialog to any AI buffs reading this)

Kathleen Gilroy -- Richard, this should be the subject of your next book.

Greg Sherwin -- I think search engines are a nice, automated tool for finding things. But to rely on them heavily for the publicity and promotions for online communities or content is rather short-sighted, don't you think? One of the problems with the Web now is that the majority of sites are for PR, and yet very few know or practice PR basics. They leave it to search engine indexing. They think that PR is just something anyone can do without any guidance or training.

Richard Seltzer -- Howard -- when you get a chance take a look at the intro to my new book The Social Web It explains the principle of "flypaper" which is key to driving traffic to a Web site. I wouldn't want to index random chatter. But I would hope that someone there takes the time to edit the raw transcript of conversations to make them more generally useful. That should be indexed.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Richard - your concern with search engines is valid, but don't always count on BOTs. There are programs that publicize protected sites with with phantom URLs that work great for getting into specific engines ( or all engines ).
We have to put the effort in to get the results we want instead of letting the big boys control our destinies.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob@Cottage -- I don't depend on the bots finding my pages. But I do make sure that they can get to my pages, and then I submit each one by hand with ADD URL. As for the tricky methods of using phantom URLS, the folks who run the Web sites really don't like that and are developing techniques to sniff that out and eliminate all that material from their indexes. The folks at AltaVista call that approach "spam" and they have a major effort underway now to eliminate it form their index. Keep an eye out. They want to make sure that the content at a specific URL is the content that their index says is there.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Richard - the phantom pages I mentioned are "real" and point to the actual sites. I don't believe it is spam if they exist.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob -- you're right -- if they are real pages, that's a smart way to operate. I misunderstood you. There are a number of sites that have tried a bait and switch technique, trying to be indexed as having one kind of content and actually offering something else.

Greg Sherwin -- Given that I have worked closely with Barry Rubinson and have discussed these issues at length, it became pretty obvious that he felt -- at least at one time -- that one of Alta Vista's top priorities was to "punish" the spammers. They only serve to diminish the value of the service.

Richard Seltzer -- Greg -- as Bob pointed out, it's sometimes difficult to define "spam". Some perfectly reasonable practices that are actually in the best interests of users can be misinterpreted and "punished." It's tricky. Might be worth a future topic for chat.

Tracy -- On the searching issue....people should be informed at any site if a search engine can access what they write...Sometimes forums etc. can get very personal, and one may not want to know that what one writes will show up in search engines.....

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Spam and the Net is definitely a good topic. It will have an effect on the future of communications on the Internet.

Richard Seltzer -- Tracy -- I agree that for conferences/forums/chats it should be clear up-front what is going to be indexed and what not. With robot exclusion, it is a relatively simple matter to allow the bots to certain directories and documents and not to others. It isn't a one-size-fits-all situation.

Greg Sherwin -- Richard -- there is definitely a delicate balance between when something in a header or META tag is of benefit to those seeking the resource ... and when it's used deceptively. But on the subject of search engine indexing of online communities, I don't see search engines as an entirely helpful applciations. Web page content and community content can be very different in its breadth, edited focus (as someone else had mentioned), and even timeliness. While it might make sense to have a search engine crawl some overall, useful information that can be targeted to someone seeking the community, what goes on inside the community is rough and voluminous at best, off-subject and stale at worst.

Richard Seltzer -- Greg -- that all depends on the community. Case in point, this chat session. There's lots of good content here, contributed by folks like yourself, from all over the world. As soon as I edit (for threads and continuity) and post the transcript, I ADD URL at AltaVista. Because of that anyone searching for anything related to business on the WWW is likely to get matches from chat transcripts at my site. Since the end of May, when I moved to Acunet in Marlboro and began benefitting from their excellent statistics, some of the old transcripts have had as many as 1000 visitors each -- almost all from search engines.

Greg Sherwin -- Richard -- I think you touched exactly on my point. The fact that you carefully take the trouble to edit the content makes it valuable to outside search engines. Otherwise, I'm sure you know how much B-roll and interview footage ends up on the cutting room floor (or in the trash can on their Avid for that matter) because the spontenaiety of conversationalism doesn't lend well for viewing as a whole. That is a great success story re: your transcripts however. Do you follow the traditional search engine submitting tips before you ADD URL (e.g., META tags, word choice and placement, etc.)?

Howard Rheingold -- Good human editors are expensive, we discovered. I would love nothing more than to pay a good editor to index the stuff worth indexing. But there is a point of diminishing returns when the conversation volume grows large enough.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Richard - I noticed you always mention AltaVista. Do you also regularly post to other engines i.e. HotBot, Excite, YaHoo ? Seems like search engines are personal preference and you may not reach all of the audience you want to.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob -- I only add URL at AltaVista. I make sure that everything is there. And I have links from my site to make it easy for users to use AltaVista as an index of my site. I also check my logs for traffic from other search engines. (Excite seems to hit all of my pages about once every 3-4 weeks.) If this were a commercial operation, I probably would add URL for each page at the top 3-5 sites. But not having time for that, I go for my favorite and the one I know best -- AltaVista.

Tracy -- Richard, one of the things I'm finding frustrating is that I've been putting up notes for all my Internet classes and my bookmarks on my geocities site, to avoid traffic charges, and the search engines won't accept my pages...

Richard Seltzer -- Tracy, -- I spoke to the AltaVista folks just a couple days ago about problems with Geocities pages. Apparently, there are some folks hosted there who have attempted some very nasty spamming tricks with AltaVista, and the spam-resistant software just shut down all submissions from Geocities. They are working on making the software more discriminating so only the those who are behaving badly are punished. Meanwhile you might try duplicating or moving your pages to Tripod, which has a similar free space service. Pages there are indexed.

Tracy -- Thanks, Richard. It occurred to me that I could put up an entry page on my Windweaver site which leads to Geocities...could also try Tripod. 

On-line training/education

Sudha Jamthe -- Tracy: Noticed on your site that you do training. Do you do online classes? If so, I'd like to hear your experience. We started with online classes at web-net and there's lots of interest. In fact our next meeting on Oct. 14th is focuing on online communities, especially with focus on online education.

Tracy -- Sudha - I haven't done an online class yet though I am offering a four session class on Internet chat and conferencing and IRC in November...Am struggling with the time involved in online appears to be about five times as much work and time as f2f....don't know how to make that cost-effective....

Sudha Jamthe -- Tracy: We are learning about online classes too. I think it's time consuming to offer class notes, keeping them current to net speed as compared to regular classes. Then, we setup a chat room which we use as a class room where the teacher lectures and students come with questions after woring on a pre-assignment and this seems to be working fine.

Tracy -- Sudha and others, I recommend the online course on Teaching Online at http://www.cybercorp net. However there, as in other online classes and groups I've been on, communication is 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and everyone expects and hopes for immediate responses from the teacher or moderator... Would like to hear more about what you're doing, Sudha.

Sudha Jamthe -- Tracy: Thanks. I'll check Cybercorp. As for what I do: I work doing Intranet architecture and management (real job). I manage web-net, where thsi chat is hosted where we try to find out where teh web industry is going in terms of new technology, services and companies. Most of our initiatives are volunteer driven, revolve around using the internet and keep us going. Online classes is one of them. We have real meetings with speakers at MIT Sloan once a month. We are looking to suuplement it with online meetings using Placeware audi. Its fascinating how we wor as teams with people who we've never met and who are at different time zones across the globe. Thats what I call a community. 

Good articles on community

Tracy -- BTW, just discovered some good articles on community in the archives of Computer Mediated Communication magazine at
and Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication at The current issue of the latter is on Designing Presence in Online Environments and Communities.... 

What builds community?

Sudha Jamthe -- Richard: I am still trying to find answers for what actually builts a community. But, after a community is formed, push techniques keep it going.

Christopher Locke -- what builds community. I think we have at least 16 versions of what people mean by that term, which makes answers difficult at best.

Christopher Locke -- I think many begin by expecting too much. communities evolve. I don't trust "planned communities" very much. they seem so. . . planned!

Tracy -- About what builds community: A compelling common purpose, and a sense that the people at a given place can meet one's needs...share valuable information or moving personal statements....and help make it safe for one to express oneself openly....Stimulating discussion on subjects of deep interest, and a welcoming stance of members. Making it easy for newcomers to participate and oldtimers to deepen relationships and continue to learn and grow...

Richard Seltzer -- Tracy -- No fair -- you come up with these seminal stimulating observations just as everyone is leaving :^) At least I'll be able to catch it in the transcript, but I'd like people to be able to react live... 


Richard Seltzer -- All -- we're nearing the end of our official hour. If you must go, please post your email and URL addresses before you leave (don't count on the software to have caught that.) Those who can, please stayed tuned. We can keep talking for a while. (And since I'll be away for three weeks, I hate to stop the discussion in mid-stream).

Howard Rheingold -- I gotta go. I'm and Electric Minds is It's been fun. Thanks, Richard and the rest of you!

Christopher Locke -- bye Howard, sorry I missed most of it.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Richard -sure would be nice if you had a substitute host while you are away.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob -- I tried a "substitute host" about a year ago, when I had to be away for a couple weeks. But it didn't go too well. I need to stay open-minded however. I'm hoping that when I return with can get a fresh start with fresh enthusiasm and new topics. Suggestions welcome.

Christopher Locke -- I'm sticking around if anyone wants to talk about less lofty stuff.

tom dadakis -- Tom Dadakis

Kathleen Gilroy -- Bye everybody. It's been fun. Thank you Richard.

Tracy -- Tracy Marks Hope to catch up with what I missed via the transcript.

Todd Moyer -- Great chat, but I have to cut out. Hopefully Howard, Chris and the other newcomers (to this chat) will come back when we pick up in a few weeks.,,

Richard Seltzer -- All -- who is still here? And how would you like to continue?

Tracy -- I'm here...and just wish I didn't miss it all!

Richard Seltzer -- Tracy -- glad you could make it. Sorry you connected so late. Can you stick around a few more minutes? I believe that Chris Locke is still on (he too joined late).

Tracy -- I can stay....

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- I'm here and staying for a while.

Blair Anderson -- Richard: I'm happy to stay on.. still half a pot of coffee left!

Sudha Jamthe -- Richard: Hope to catch up on the transcripts. Would like to stay on.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- I see that it's almost 1:30. We should probably wrap this up. Please post your email and URL addresses before leaving. Chris -- is there any chance you could join us again on Thursday Oct. 30? (We're going to have to miss three weeks as I go on a speaking trek for Digital Equipment. I'll be in Vienna and Moscow. Never been there before and looking forward to it.)

Christopher Locke -- yes, I could come back. I really do aplologize for being late.

Richard Seltzer -- Lots of good stuff today. (It's going to take some time to edit this one.) Look for the transcript at

And all the things that you meant to say but didn't get around to, please send me in email at for inclusion in the transcript as followup notes.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Thanks Richard - Have a good trip. Bob@CottageMicro.Com
Cottage Micro Services, 103 Vinyard Drive, Waxahachie, TX 75167,

Tracy -- Good trip, Richard....Sorry I missed most of it but at least I finally did get here!

Greg Sherwin -- I'll definitely have to check in earlier in the morning on the left coast here for this next time. Thanks, Richard. Greg Sherwin (But more often known for my day job the past couple of years:,,, etc.)

Tracy -- Will do my best to get here earlier another time....time management problems. Nice to meet all of you....

Blair Anderson -- Richard: Enjoy Moscow et all.. Bye all.. Thanks to Howard and Chris.. Cheers

Christopher Locke -- ditto on the thanks and good wishes. send mail if you feel like it. seems like a great bunch!

Tracy -- For the record my cybercommunity bookmarks are up at ...And my primary site is Windweaver

Sudha Jamthe -- Thanks Richard. Will you resume the chat back on Oct 30th or 23rd? Sudha Jamthe Bye folks: 'See' you online again.

Richard Seltzer -- Sudha -- It will have to be Oct. 30. My plane won't get back from Moscow until the morning of Oct. 23, and I'm not likely to be too coherent at that point. 

Previous transcripts and schedule of upcoming chats --

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