where "word of keystroke" begins

March 26, 1998 -- Building Business Communities

Transcript of the live chat session that took place Thursday, March 26, 1998. 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 -- Today, we plan to start a new topic and at the same time talk about how to launch a spin off chat program focused on distance education.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Ken and Bob -- please introduce yourselves for those who haven't "met" you before.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Hello, Bob - independent consultant / developer from Texas, USA

Ken Merwin -- Ken Merwin, Wisconsin, Distance Learning

Richard Seltzer -- All -- as you connect, please introduce yourselves and let us know your interests. That will help us get going quickly.

Rik Hall -- Rik here from eastern Canada - Director of Distance Education at the University of New Brunswick

tracy5 -- Tracy Marks here, Internet trainer Arlington, Mass. Haven't been here in awhile. Nice to be back.

Ken Merwin -- Greetings, Tracy - your web site on searches, etc. continues to be a valuable resource for me - good to "see" you back on this chat.
Ken - Wisconsin

Shane -- Hi I am shane.. From Raleigh NC!!

Tom Dadakis -- Tom Dadakis, web manager for learning technologies for a large investment bank in NYC

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Tom, Tracy, Rik, Shane. It looks like we're quickly reaching a quorum.

Richard Seltzer -- A.Y. Petrov -- Where are you located in Russia? How did you hear about this chat? What are your interests?

Richard Seltzer -- Groson -- Where in Romania are you located? Are you connected with the Polygon Society/RILW and the distance ed conference they are planning for this summer?

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome gmwcollard and niksyd and highend. Please introduce yourselves and join in. Petrov -- are you still there?

vikas -- hulllo all

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

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Rena and fergie, we're winding down right now. Only about five minutes left. But please introduce yourselves and let us know your interests. 

Spin-off chat focused on distance education?

Ken Merwin -- Richard - has anyone "stepped forward" on the separate DE chat?

Ken Merwin -- Richard - I happen to think this type of forum is invaluable, regardless of the level one's at in the DE "profession"; although I know some do not feel comfortable with "chat" some of them on the "Global Learn Day II" group!

Richard Seltzer -- Ken -- Christian Frosch from Globewide Network Academy was the first to step forward. I also heard from Marvin Muhammed, who is very interested, but has not participated much in these sessions in the past. And Sudha has mentioned that Janet Nichols, the training director for Web-net is very interested; but Janet has been ill and unable to respond for herself.

Ken Merwin -- Thanks Richard; I'd certainly be one to continue participating and help in any way I can but admit to my "newbie" status, too.

Richard Seltzer -- Rik -- do you have any interest in a spinoff distance ed chat? if so, what topics would you like to see discussed there?

Rik Hall -- Richard et al I would be happy to be a resource in a DE chat - but hosting a 1400 person listserv on web-based de keeps me pretty busy. I would expect to see specific topics - but digression is always part of the game. Rik

Richard Seltzer -- Rik -- What's your listserv? Can anyone participate? Anyway to tie that into the proposed chat? Do you archive the listserv messages on the Web? Tell us more, please.

Rik Hall -- My listserv is WWWDEV and is a listserv for anyone developing ourseware for delivery over the WWW and for people delivering courseware over the WWW. It is free - has about 1400 people from about 25 countries. It is from the WWWDEV listserv that I started the North America Web conferences - the NAWeb conferences are coming up to year four and information on the listserv and the conferences are at: Hope that helps.

tracy5 -- Rik- Thanks for sharing info about your listserv. Sounds excellent 

Building commercial communities (and tie-ins with distance ed)

Richard Seltzer -- The new topic I'd like to get to is "building commercial communities." But that's actually very closely related to the more immediate issue of if and how to start a spinoff chat program on distance ed. I believe that this program -- business on the WWW -- has been extremely successful. We need to know how to replicate such success. What are the essential ingredients? Can it be done with a team of leaders sharing responsibilities? From your experience here, what would you like to see in the spinoff that either imitates what we do here or aims at improvements? And who out there would like to play a major role in making it happen? (Keep in mind that this could and probably should take place here at the Web-net site. We aren't looking for system resources. Rather we need people willing to do the work on a regular basis.)

Richard Seltzer -- All -- to my mind, the connection between building commercial communities and spinning off a new chat program is that we need to better understand how to make this kind of thing work. It's one thing to point to our transcripts and have people join in to see what the experience is like. But it's a totally different challenge to try to encourage and coach others to replicate the experience. If I'm going to try to help Digital create "communities" based around technologies and sets of products, I need a better sense of what it is that makes this tick, what kind of experience and skills the people who run it need to be successful; how to "train" or at least advise others in doing this.

tracy5 -- Despite being motivated mostly by altruistic values, my interest in distance ed and online communities right now is mostly in regard to how to make it lucrative. I can't afford to do any more unpaid work than I'm already doing...and am hesitant to get into the distance ed field until I'm sure it can be a source of income...How does one compete with Zdnet's $5 classes after all? []

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- tracy5 - I believe that ZDU's $5 classes are a result of the shear number of members they have and all of the unpaid content they delivered first. It's a catch 22 situation where you have to ask yourself if this is the niche' you want to devote your personal resources to.

Richard Seltzer -- Tracy -- I understand you don't have time to "volunteer" for this stuff. But you probably have strong motivation for learning what elements are necessary to make business communities work -- so you could try to build them for clients. And, of course, distance ed could/should be a component of a business-based community. (NB -- I'm making a distinction between communities that are based around personal interests and ones that are centered around business interests -- such as the technology and products you need/use for your job).

Richard Seltzer -- Tracy -- Also, regarding ZDU, I heard from someone who works for Ziff-Davis that they don't make any money from the $4.95 subscriptions. Rather their profit comes from selling the text books for the classes. But, aside from that, I suspect that their is a potential large and lucrative market for helping companies to set up distance ed types experiences for their customers and potential customrs. The courses might be charged for or might be offered for free as a way to build relationships and future sales of products.

tracy5 -- I hear you, Richard. Sounds like what you're saying is that the tie-in between the courses and the products/manuals/services is the key appeal to businesses.

Richard Seltzer -- Tracy -- Yes, the term "distance ed" covers a wide range of stuff. At one end of the spectrum, we're talking about colleges and high schools offering courses for credit. At the other end of the spectrum there's the low-cost continuing ed stuff offered by entrepreneurs, like ZDU. And off in another direction, but related to both, you have the on-line interaction among customers and with experts, orchestrated by company that has products to sell. Some of the interaction might be "user group" and "sales support" and "product support." But other elements could and should be training that directly relates to the business -- either free or for fee. I suspect that the business communities and their related training might help pioneer some of what everybody else in distance ed wants and needs: e.g., how to manage large numbers of people on-line, and how to integrate the latest high-tech multi-media capabilities in a way that enhances the learning experience (instead of just glitz for its own sake).

Richard Seltzer -- Tracy -- Basically, I believe that companies are soon going to move beyond wanting consultants to help them build Web sites, and are rather going to look for help building Web communities. Chat is one of the building blocks. What are the essential elements for making that piece work? Can we use a spinoff chat on distance ed as a real-life experiment to learn that? 

Skills needed?

tracy5 -- Richard - in regard to skills for building online communities and distance ed...wouldn't you say there are a number of sets of skills --- content (knowledge), interpersonal (moderating etc.) and technical? What would you say are the primary categories?

Ken Merwin -- There is a lot of discussion about the role of the teacher/leader; obviously someone has to run the chat and has to be flexible as all get out, particularly with a chat like this where the group dynamics seem to change each time! I think Marshall Wick could offer some good observations; see he's not with us today. 

How to attract an audience?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Richard - to build a community you need ways to attract your audience. What are the ways you have used and how much time and resources did they take to become effective. Which ways work and which don't?

tracy5 Some useful urls for chat events drawing crowds...

Mutual help in figuring out how to build communities

Richard Seltzer -- All -- there is also a "mutual help" element to trying to get a spinoff chat going and also to trying to start commercial communities. In email, Heather Duggan pointed me to "Host University" a discussion area at Durand where people trying to create communities can share their experiences. Are there other such discussions -- either Web-based or listserv?

tracy5 -- The GNA Virtual Community list might a source of information and networking in regard to these topics. (You can join this group by sending the message "sub GNA-VC your name" to ) Also Electric Minds bulletin boards... []

tracy5 -- BTW, Feel free to use my chat resource pages (for my Chat/conferencing class at the Cambridge Center) beginning at

Business community examples?

Richard Seltzer -- All -- do any of you know of anything today that approximates the kind of business-based community experience I'm talking about?

tracy5 -- Richard, check out Online graphics community. Every time I post in their conferences someone finds me on ICQ to continue the discussion. Very successful site, with helpful conferences.

Richard Seltzer -- Tracy -- Thanks for the pointer. Who runs that community? Is it an industry association, an individual, or an on-line graphics company?

Shane -- Wow.. That is really cool.. Having used to work with artists they would flip over this site.. I think one of the most important aspects that would have to be is to segment the communities but group them together.. Sort of like the one that was specified about the graphics.. They are focused on graphics but it is fragmented to further detail... Reminds me kind of Knowledge Management

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Richard -- Some of the "extra-nets" being set up business to business where company data, product data, newsletters, etc. are exchanged on demand may fit into the "communities" you are thinking about. One type in particular is that between distributors and vars.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob -- yes those "extranets" could fit the model, but the problem is that they are hidden from public view. Do you know of any that are visible so we could check them out? 

Text-based vs. multi-media

Ken Merwin -- Richard/Tracy - I participated in a NODE group a month ago; general consensus about chat was as you suggested, Tracy. Although some really hate it...preferring a list serv. One person raved about ICQ; another about something called "Palace" with avatars & stuff. I prefer the simple, text-based stuff; the "Web" has become way too glitzy and I hear way too many educators, etc. speak in terms of DE can only be glitzy, 2-way video, etc. Try that approach in many developing countries & see how many can participate.

Richard Seltzer -- Ken -- As you know, I'm an avid fan of low-tech approaches to distance ed. I love the text-based stuff, both because more people can participate and also because that makes it possible to post transcripts so all can share the info and to get the transcripts indexed at search engines like AltaVista so all interested parties can find it. But at the same time, we need to be open to new possibilities and to experiment to see how we can retain the values of the low-tech environment, while reaping whatever benefit may be had from the latest-and-greatest.

Ken Merwin --So true; there is certainly the need for those of us who are more "global" in perspective to keep calling for the more "baseline" approaches; I also will admit to a fascination with the latest & greatest, like videoconferencing, etc. 

Lecture/auditorium-style vs. small peer-to-peer chats

tracy5 -- Richard - you asked what helps to make chat work.... I find for business/educational purposes, it often requires a moderator who knows how to keep things on focus. In some cases, even rules for who can respond and when.... There's also an important difference between chats with a lecturer(e.g. audience submits questions) and ones like this that are less hierarchical and more spontaneously interactive...

Richard Seltzer -- Tracy -- yes, this one is definitely of the peer-to-peer spontaneous variety. My inclination is that the distance ed one should also follow that format. But that is not necessarily the direction it will take. Whoever takes charge and leads it might want to go with a more structured approach, with invited "speakers". Also, the number of participants also affects the style/format. We typically get between a dozen and two dozen active participants here. If the number was higher (and I'm not sure where the ceiling lies) some different format might be necessary (perhaps different software as well.)

tracy5 -- Richard - What some of the large entertainment chat auditoriums do
is have a speaker answering questions from the audience divided into about 30 or more rooms of 10-12 each. People talk with others in their room. After the chat, other rooms are open for continuing informal dialogue. Often a chat room is set asides for ongoing participation sparked by the original chat....

Richard Seltzer -- Tracy -- I've seen the model you describe for entertainment chats. But I've never seen it for distance ed or for business-oriented discussions, never seen the use of edited transcripts in that large-scale mode. Have you?

tracy5 -- Richard - I haven't seen that model used for business-oriented chats but I think it has possibilities... A combination of the hierarchical/structured and spontaneously interactive...

tracy5 -- The lecturer/auditorium chat often draws large crowd....especially if a site can bring in well-known people and visitors can submit questions in advance. Some of the entertainment sites are drawing thousands to their chats... (The LaFemme Nikita tv show stars are doing chats almost weekly now, with large crowds arriving. It's the submit questions variety. Afterwards, the person who asks the best questions gets a prize (I actually won one!)

Richard Seltzer -- tracy -- Nikita? My wife's a big fan of that. I'll have to connect her to those chats. What's the URL? Also, I need to learn more about the options for lecturer/auditorium style. Our experiment with last fall was interesting but inconclusive. I feel that these pieces need to be combined -- Webcast or auditorium style followed by text-chat; or lecture in auditorium followed by smaller text-based discussion sessions and also perhaps scheduled chat-style "office hours" with the "lecturer." ... 


Richard Seltzer -- All -- there are a few folks who I wish were here for this discussion -- including Christian Frosch and Marvin Muhammad and Janel Nichols. We really need the people who say they want to run a spinoff to join in the discussion of what that spinoff should be. I also miss Marshall Wicks, who was so active is many of our distance ed discussions. Let's continue this next week -- and I'll try to do a better job of motivating folks like that to join us. Does that make sense to you? If so, please help spread the word.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- as usual, I'll post an edited (threaded) transcript of today's session in the next few days. Please check

Richard Seltzer -- All -- please, before you sign off, post your email and URL addresses so we can keep in touch. Also please send me email at with your followup thoughts for possible inclusion with the transcript.

Ken Merwin -- Gotta leave - Ken Merwin

tracy5 --Tracy Marks Windweaver Web Resources
Internet Class Guide

Rik Hall -- Bye all

Richard Seltzer -- I'm still very interested in hearing from you all about future topics as well as about a distance ed spin off. We need volunteers, who have the time and the motivation if the spin off is going to happen and succeed.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- thanks very much for joining us today. Hope you can come back again next week. Please spread the word. And if you have topics you want us to cover in the future, please let me know. 


Distance ed spin-off chat -- the Web-net perspective

From: Sudha Jamthe <> Date: Tue, 24 Mar 1998 01:24:35 -0500

I think it's a wonderful idea to start a chat on distance ed. You all can bring your experience from the real world. It will be an interesting experience to form a team that spreads across the globe, or atleast national. This way apart from the chat itself, we can practice the implementation of distance education concept ourselves.

Moderation, transcripts, emails , maintaining contact list are required skills. We also need someone with technical skills to serve as a backup at the chat. I'll run this by in our web-net meeting and see who we can find. Richard can you post a separate section on your site to find volunteers.

Janet's email is She was talking about adding a chat to our online classes as a guest speaker session.

I believe we can host the chat in web-net. I'll be more comfortable to have a backup support volunteer and also try to host it on another web-net server to reduce the load on the system.

We should plan ahead on getting to know our interests, backgrounds, what we can offer, what we are eager to learn in this process and how we can make it fun for all of us. How about if we setup a chat room where we can discuss this instead of sending emails. I can be at a chat on any weekday noon or at night after 9.30pm EST. What time is good for you?

Appreciate your feedback, comments etc.


Distance ed spin-off chat -- GNA perspective

From: "frosc000@goofy" <> Date: Tue, 31 Mar 98 01:23:46 --0100

I'm interested in participating in the organisation of such a chat. With respect to building a DE community, we will probably have to extend the chat forum into a place where people could also meet during "off-chat hours". A place to virtually 'hang-out' and meet other people sharing the same interests. I would like to point you the GNA Forum Which is a virtual room that links 20 MOO systems around the world. This room or a similar one could be used for the DE community to meet any time they like. Thus, we would have a more 'formal' organisation/forum like the regular chat and an informal meeting room. What do you think?

I can help to serve as backup and to do transcripts and announcements, so count me in for this.

> We should plan ahead on getting to know our interests, backgrounds, what we can offer, what we are eager to learn in this process and how we can make it fun for all of us. How about if we setup a chat room where we can discuss this instead of sending emails. I can be at a chat on any weekday noon or at night after 9.30pm EST. What time is good for you?

Well, 9.30pm EST is bad for me since this translates to 3.30am my time :-) [Germany] But of course, the meeting time would depend on the people and their physical location, I guess we could also attract people from other countries around the world as well. In my personal experience, times like 16:00 or 17:00 GMT usually work best for most ppl around the globe.

But here is a short introduction of mine:

I'm Christian Frosch, working as Secretary for the Globewide Network Academy. ( Besides my work for the GNA I'm also involved with the Internet Biologists platfom ( which offers virtual courses which are entirely based on the Internet.

I think we should decide where and when to set up the DE chat asap to keep the momentum that Richard has generated with his chats.

Christian Frosch

Distance ed spin-off chat -- another volunteer

From: Marvin Muhammad <> Date: Sun, 22 Mar 1998 11:42:57 -0500

Let me participate in some of your sessions for a short time just to get the swing of how one person does it and I would be ready to conduct one on dl soon afterwards. If that is ok let me know. Like you mentioned, there is so much to do we can make it happen providing there is understanding and sharing of common goals.

I am a retired professor having worked in colleges for over twenty years. I studied online teaching and learning and currently teaching my last term as a hired instructor at a local community college. My interests are now directed toward a segment of the population that has not made the transition from poverty to access to success. It can happen for them and their success leads to a greater success for the rest of us.


Distance ed spin-off chat -- interested in participating

From: Wayne Jacoby <> Date: Wed, 25 Mar 1998 11:55:41 -0500 (EST)

I want to be part of the chat discussions on long distance learning.


Chat as business tool

From: Sudha Jamthe <> Date: Tue, 24 Mar 1998 01:35:49 -0500

> At the airport in Chicago, I happened to hear a CNN Financial featurette today about chat on the Internet. Their point was that it is rapidly becoming an important business tool. They quoted some forecaster as saying that in a few years more than half the shopping sites will use chat... Richard Seltzer

There seems lots of demand, but it all seems evolving. Let's see how we can make the second chat happen. I am hoping we'll learn lots of new stuff about implementing and the serviceaspect with multiple chats.

Instant Messaging seems to be picking up. Microsoft just bought a company "flash" that makes instant messaging product to add to Netmeeting and Exchange.


Source of tips on running a business chat

From: Heather Duggan <> Date: Wed, 11 Mar 1998 07:27:36 -0800

I've attended several of your business chats on Thursdays and enjoyed the experience.

I'm hosting a discussion space called Host University over at Communityware (the same site that houses Electric Minds) and wondered if you'd be interested in participating in a discussion on how to host chats. The participants are all building virtual communities, either on Commuityware and elsewhere, and are interested in how to use chat to cement those communities.

If you want to look in, the URL is <>. If you've visited Electric Minds already, your login and password should be the same.


Business communities

From: David Burby <> Date: Mon, 30 Mar 1998 10:33:33 -0800

Sorry I missed the chat on Thursday, but I think you'll be interested in taking a look at CommunityWare (, a web-based community building platform that come complete with GroupWare tools such as chat, messaging, email, newsletter and more. You are welcome to create a community free and try it out. The tell-a-friend feature allows you to send detailed email invitations notifying 1 or 100+ people of your new community.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

David Burby, CommunityWare

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