where "word of keystroke" begins

April 2, 1998 -- Building Business Communities

Transcript of the live chat session that took place Thursday, April 2, 1998. These sessions are normally scheduled for 12 noon-1 PM Eastern Time every Thursday. Please note that the US goes on Daylight Savings Time this weekend. So next Thursday we'll be on at GMT -4 instead of GMT -5.

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 10 minutes (noon Eastern Time). As you connect, please introduce yourselves and let us know your interests.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Dave and Elaine. Please introduce yourselves and let us know your interests. That will help us get off to a fast start.

David Burby -- Greetings, my name is David Burby, I work for Durand Communications, a software dev. co. in Santa Barbara, CA. We have an online service called, CommunityWare which allows anyone to create interactive environments: online communities for living, learning and working together, found at, also home to Howard Rheingolds, Electric Minds We also have a distance learning service called the Pangaea Network,, which plans to marry the worlds of distance learning and virtual communities. Nice to be here, although I can't stay the whole hour.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- today we want to continue our discussion about how to build business communities, and we also want to resolve the question of whether and how to spin off a separate chat program devoted to distance education.

Ken Merwin -- Hello, Ken Merwin with \Global Learn Day II here...

Rik -- Hi all Rik Hall here

Ken Merwin -- Greetings, Rik; I've seen some reference to you regarding Global Learn Day...John Hibbs.

Marshall Wick -- Hi, I just wanted to let you know that I have not forgotten this valuable chat service, it is just that I have had meetings on Thursdays at noon the past few weeks and have one today so cannot stay. I hope to join later in progress though. Cheers to you all and may your chat be productive.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Rik and Karl and Marshall Wick and D. Hamill and Ken and Bob (everybody walked in the door at once; where will I put all the coats :-)

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome Tim Horgan (from CIO Magazine), glad you could make it. What's your particular area of interest?

thorgan -- My name is Tim Horgan, and I manage our web site, CIO.COM. One of our current interests is creating a community environment for our readers (senior IT execs) to talk to and learn from each other.

Sudha Jamthe -- Hi Richard: I am Su, I lead Web-Net USer group where we network to learn the latest in web industry.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome CCperry and Jim Severns. All -- please introduce yourselves as you connect, and let us know your area of interest.

CCperry -- Hello Richard, I'ts. Clemmiie Perry from Nova Southeastern Univeristy. Dr. Duchastel from NSU asked me to join today and observe for a make up assignment in Instructional Technology and Distance Education.

Ken Merwin -- Greetings, Clemmie: Jump in...I'm taking a grad. course as well. This chat should be a part of most curriculums...

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Clemmie. Glad you could make it. If you see a thread of discussion that interests you, just grab hold and start typing your ideas. You're likely to see several different threads happening simultaneously (interwoven). You'll get used to that after a while. (And after it's over I'll edit the transcript to try to reconstruct the threads and make it more intelligible.

Sudha Jamthe -- Clemmie: Welcome. I think of this chat as a virtual party where we get to meet interesting meeting - some we know already, amke some new friends and share new ideas. I find it hard to predict everyday what the experience this Thursday is going to be before I come here. 

CommunityWare and Pangaea

Richard Seltzer -- David -- I'd like to hear more about both CommunityWare and Pangaea. Do you sell the CommunityWare software or is it only available as a service at your site? And are any companies using it to build communities centered around technology and products? Also, what is included in your distance learning service? What do you offer? What does it cost? And how do you forsee the "marriage" of distance ed and communities? (an intriguing concept).

Ken Merwin -- David - I've seen Pangaea noted on DEOS; is it a collaboration environment?

David Burby -- CommunityWare is currently free for personal and educational use. We are working on a business strategy to allow small/medium/large businesses to create communities around products, services, projects, events, trade shows, etc. 

Real Education and Pace University from World Trade Institute

Ken Merwin -- BTW - just see a news release regarding RealEducation & Pace University joining forces for a World Trade Institute to have courses on-line; Ken

Richard Seltzer -- Ken -- I'm unfamiilar with Pace University and RealEducation. Can you tell us a little about them please? where are they? how big are they? what do they intend to do? how likely is this to have a major impact?

Ken Merwin -- Richard: The RealEducation person (name escapes me) posts a bit to DEOS; I believe they offer to place courses on line, much like an outsourcing developer. I'm not familiar with Pace; I just saw the press release come across my Yahoo investing digest. I can toss up the link if you'd like. Ken

Ken Merwin -- 

Spin-off distance ed chat?

Richard Seltzer -- Marshall and Rik, what are your feelings about a chat devoted to distance ed? You both were very active in discussions on that topic here. Guidance, suggestions, wish list -- all welcome.

Rik -- Richard, I would be involved in a discussion on de - time is the biggest problem. But yes - I would be involved.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Sudha. Have you been able to talk to Janet Nichols about the spin-off chat on distance ed? Is she seriously interested? We need a commitment to plan the launch. I'm hoping that Christian Frosch, who was also very interested, will join us today (from Germany).

Ken Merwin -- Richard: I just saw a post regarding a DE "chat" on one of the IRC channels but have not been able to visit that yet. I will be glad to post for the post-chat archives with the particulars once I visit it. Ken

Sudha Jamthe -- Ken: Thanks. I'll be happy to talk to you offline about how you want to participate in the DE chat. Richard has generated lots of interest in this area in the past few months. Now when we talk about organizing a separate chat for it, we are back to the basics of what the roles involved and defining how to make it happen. Its very exciting. I believe we'll learn a lot more just about what is making this chat work. Increasingly, I am understanding the amount of time and interest Richard has vested in this.

Ken Merwin -- Sudha/Richard - yes, we should meet; it looks like there's enough "energy" here to move the DE chat to help Richard's need to move on... You want to do an e-mail exchange first...

Sudha Jamthe -- Richard: I heard from Janet. She is very interested in the DE chat but can't commit to be the prime contact for now. She wants to be a moderator and can give more time commitment in June. I think the key validation is whether this topic warrants a regular chat by itself and so far by the enthusiasm we've seen the answer is yes. Next step, we need to decide on the team and get going. As for hosting it at web-net, I've checked some back-end stuff and it seems all feasible. Its going to be an interesting experience for the team to operate as a virtual team. How about if we set a test chat and workout the logistics there? This was we can track who is interested and their comments instead of a train of emails. What do you think?

Ken Merwin -- Sudha - Exciting information - I would like to join in; I have a lot to learn re: the "Richard" function but I think this type of chat offers so much potential (as does good list serv) so I have a desire to learn as much as I can. Agree with the e-mail hassles; let me know when....assume you'd link it out of the web site much as Richard does.

Rik -- "Its going to be an interesting experience for the team to operate as a virtual team." This is another concept with which I have had some experience. With my WWWDEV (www courseware developers listserv) we also have an international conference. I am the conference chair - the program chair is 3000 miles away in another country, the NAWeb Awards chair is 1000 miles away, my co-chair is in Australia - and yet we have come up with a good, face-to-face, international conference three years in a row (and hope to make it four in a row this year). So -virtual teams can and do work.
Richard Seltzer -- Rik -- It's interesting to see virtual teams work at a distance, arriving at a common goal of an annual conference. But did your team have a clear leader? And do you believe that that model could work for an event that recurs once a week (or even once a month?)

Rik -- There HAS to be a "richard" if the distance education string if it is going to survive. With my conference - it is still me that wakes up at 3am worrying if some aspect of the conference has been taken care of!

Richard Seltzer -- Rik -- That's what I mean -- for virtual collaboration to work, one person has to feel totally responsible.

Ken Merwin -- Rik: I agree with the need for a "Richard"; we are not using "chat" for Global Learn Day but it, too, has a far-flung group with John Hibbs as "Captain", using a very much nautical theme, 5-masts for the call for papers, etc. They look to me as the chat "guru" but I'm not a "Richard" or a "Rik" just yet...

Ken Merwin -- Sudha...we should talk about the DE; perhaps co-host if that's possible...

Success criteria for a scheduled chat program

Rik -- Re this chat and why it works: I think there are a number of reasons Ken Merwin -- Rik: Excellent points - is the success of Richard's chats a function of Richard? I frankly don't feel I could lead at his level but have learned so much just from trying to study the chats; also the post-chat archiving. Not to back-pat Richard but it begs the question as to how critical is the leader for sustained chat vs. chat that dies a slow death.

Richard Seltzer -- Ken -- I'm seriously interested in trying to get an answer to that question. I would like to be able to describe clearly what it takes to make one of these work, so others can replicate it. (I'm hoping that it can be translated too into a corporate environment, that others from Digital will be able to do it.) Some months back I tried to summarize my view of what it takes in an article on how to make business chat work I was hoping that others reading it would pick up the ball and try running in that directions. But I'm not aware of other chats that operate this way (a key ingredient being the edited transcripts and indexing at search sites).

Rik -- I feel very strongly that the success of any chat / conference / listserv is a function of both the leader / instigator and the people involved. For "work" I participate in a number of listservs and some are more focused than others. For pleasure - I particpate in a couple of listservs and two newsgroups - because of the group of people involved - the XXX is not a problem and "spamming" is fairly infrequent. But, I also know how much work it is to ride herd on 1400 people in an un-moderated listserv - but it can be done and it can stay on focus.

Richard Seltzer -- Sudha -- The one element we are missing is the leader -- the number one person who feels totally responsible for making it happen. There seem to be a lot of people who would like to participate and even to take very active roles, but I have yet to hear from someone who sounds like he/she will pick it up and run with it. Christian Frosch (from Globewide Network Academy) has come the closest to sounding like he wants to do that. But 1) he is in Germany and 2) he wasn't able to connect here last week, and doesn't seem to be here again this week. It's great to have a "team" to share tasks; but someone has to feel totally personally responsible (at least that's my take on it). That person can delegate galore, but without a clear leader, important pieces get left undone.

Ken Merwin -- Richard, you show just enough curiosity/don't always comment as the expert; I can see why your model works well. People can freely toss out ideas and not feel they are dominated by "the expert".
Grad. student/global distance learning.

How to get people to participate in collaborative environments?

D Hamill -- My name is Deborah Hamill, and one of the problems we are working on at Analog Devices is how to get people to participate in collaborative environments. Specifically, it is very hard to get people to use newsgroups. Does anyone else have experience with that, and ideas to share?

Rik -- How to get people to participate in collaborative environments? Unless you are in some kind of organization where there is a benevolent dictator - then it might be close to impossible to "get them to collaborate".

Richard Seltzer -- Deborah Hamill -- We grappling with the same questions at Digital. We want to establish communities based around the major technologies that we deal with (NT, VMS, UNIX, etc.) and also smaller closed (members only) communities for each of our major customers. That's the concept. We're trying to figure out what is likely to work, what is likely to provide the most benefit, and how to proceed.
I'd guess that newsgroups are on a downward slope. They reached a critical/crisis size in terms of numbers of groups and numbers of users, and it became unmanageable even for many of the addicts. I still use them some (mainly using AltaVista to find what I want). But if I were trying to get some on-line collaboration/community going, I'd be more inclined to use listservs, forums, and chat (with postings of edited transcripts, as I do here.)

thorgan -- One of the things we are doing are discussion groups. We have learned that these work well when they are focused on a specific topic, have experts who visit them and join the discussion on a regular basis (we sign these folks up to do this beforehand), and there is a limit to how long the discussion lives (e.g. we usually do 2-4 weeks for a topic).

David Burby -- thorgan, there are some excellent virtual "host" practices discussed in a virtual community created by Howard Rheingold, author of Virtual Community. The name of this virtual community is, appropriately enough, Community of Hosts found at There you will find a wealth of information regarding best practices for moderating and directing conversation and collaborations online.

Rik -- In the course I teach on the web we have a section where there are multiple "conferences" available to the students - and each conference is VERY specific - that seems to keep them on topic.

Richard Seltzer -- Rik -- The word "conference" can mean chat area (for real-time, synchronous discussion) or it can mean a forum/bulletin board/notes file area for asynchronous posting of messages and threaded replies. Which do you use? Also, it's been my experience with forum-style discussions that they rarely get off the ground, that there is some critical mass of discussion, content that has to be there to draw people back. On the other hand, perhaps participation in your conferences is required as part of the courses. In that case, the dynamics would be quite different.

Rik -- Richard - I use the forum/bulletin board/notes file area for asynchronous posting of messages. I have students from five different areas of the province - and asynchronous is the only way they can work it.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Deborah, are you talking about "USENET" newsgroups or personal BBS type newsgroups ?

Ken Merwin -- Re: Newsgroups Every other post, it seems, is XXX this, XXX that. I don't even look at them any more.

Richard Seltzer -- Deborah -- One of the challenges in trying to get a real business community going (regardless of the technology you may choose) is how to provide the right incentives for participation. This isn't like a situation where a teacher or a manager can basically order people to participate. They have to clearly see the benefit. And the benefit could be what they are likely to learn, how much easier it might be for them to get specific answers to questions that are important for them, also recognition (within their company and in the broader world of their profession).

Richard Seltzer -- Deborah -- It feels like there are several levels of involvement in on-line communities. Random visitor, regular lurker, participant, and leader. My guess is that there's an order of magnitude of difference from one level to another. (If 1000 random visitors, 100 regular lurkers, 10 participants, and 1 leader). So how do you draw the broad audience of visitors (the right folks for the content and discussions), and how do you provide incentives for them to move up the hierarchy toward participant and even leader?

D. Hamill -- Richard -- I think you're right about people needing to see the benefit. The problem is creating that first critical mass. thorgan's ideas about specific topics, experts who respond, and short time frames seem like good ones. 

How to start a business-based community?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- I am curious. How would you start to build a community, with no original participants i.e. students, employees. What would be the first step you would take ?

Richard Seltzer -- Bob@Cottage -- Most companies already have the rudiments in place. At Digital, there are many isolated, unofficial and often closed on-line discussions on topics that would be of value to customers and partners, as well as to a wider audience inside Digital. Our first step will be to identify potential communities and the hot topics and key passionate articulate people who are motivated to run discussions on those topics. Then we want to make the discussions sanctioned, support and public (though at first they will still probably be isolated). Over time, we will try to organize and coordinate the pieces, and foster the development of sub-communities, with links to one another. Eventually, we would hope to have a complete set (filling in obvious gaps) with links among communities and to the company as a whole. It's likely to be a long journey. But we hope to hold a couple of events to launch the first two community efforts in the next month or so.

D. Hamill -- For people trying to build a community, especially with no manager or teacher forcing the issue, see the article Katie Hafner wrote for Wired on The Well. Excellent discussion on how online communities are built, and some of the issues. Also fascinating gossip about the Well.

David Burby -- Bob -- to create a virtual community, one first needs a virtual platform. For example, CommunityWare, allows anyone to create a public or private community, or virtual "intranet" (network) for its members. The platform must include communications tools or groupware like chat, conferencing (asychronous discussions), newsletters, member profiling, groupemail, etc. Invite features allow you to notify potential members and participants of your "community". It doesn't stop there though, you need to learn how to direct conversations, keep your members interested, get them involved. Depending on the purpose, this job is difficult or less difficult of course. Again, a great source of information to learn about virtual communities is Howard Rhiengold's, Community of Hosts found at


Ken Merwin -- Richard: I commented to Sudha; I noticed Christian (Germany) was mentioning the MOO's option; I've seen some negatives on DEOS, etc. on the Moo's but am, of course, willing to study that medium as well as "Chat". I recall Marshall Wick's favorable comments re: chat in earlier meetings.

Ken Merwin -- Hi Sudha: Your post to last week's archives - excellent. I want to study it more after today's chat. I would like to help with the DE chat; I like what you suggest. I am not in favor of the MOO environment; I see many negatives on that platform.

CCperry -- Richard, Can you please clarify for me what is a MOO? Ken made reference to this acronym. I'm not familiar with that term.

[Richard Seltzer -- Check the article Let Plain Text Take You to a Different World -- the Potential of MUD in my newsletter Internet-on-a-Disk. MUDs and MOOs are similar.]

Community efforts at CIO Magazine

Sudha Jamthe -- Tim: Good to 'see' you online. You should be able to share your experience with CIP discussion forums. Do you see it as building an online community?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- CIO - are you trying to build a reader to reader community ?

thorgan -- We are trying to build a reader to reader community. We realize that this is actually many reader-to-reader communities as people have different areas of interest. What we hear from our readers is they would love to be able to talk to their peers more frequently, something we should be able to broker.

Richard Seltzer -- Tim Horgan -- Have you run/do you plan any articles recently about companies building on-line communities for their customers to talk with one another and with experts about technology and products? Have you heard of any instances of major companies beginning to use on-line events as a way to supplement or even replace formal customer visits/presentations?

thorgan-- Richard, as to whether we are going to run articles about community - I think it's safe to say that we will. It's on the minds of many of our reader. We also have a working group (the xNet Consortium ( where we are discussing this - and some of the members companies (one being a very large bank) see the value of creating communities, and have started work here. I believe we will be writing about them in one of our summer issues.

Ken Merwin -- thorgan: I will send your URL to my daughter; a very talented IS person (just 4 years out of college) with Dayton-Hudson in Mpls.; she may get a lot out of seeing your group's efforts. Thanks for joining & sharing. Ken - Wisconsin

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- CIO - that sounds like a natural for a community. Do you have live chats with authors ?

thorgan -- at CIO we are working on creating a community. Our first thoughts were that an online community would work just fine, but we now believe that to get people to really share information they need to trust one another, and it's hard to trust people you have never met. Given that we started a real-world community (xNet), with the goal of having this become the core for that online community (because we can't have all 125,000 of our readers come together in real space).

Richard Seltzer -- Tim -- I'm unfamiliar with xNet. Is that a serious of face-to-face meetings/conferences? Is that the same as the reader community you mentioned in your other note. I'd like to hear more about where you stand in the development of communities, what tools you are using, and what challenges you are facing. As for a reader community, it would seem to be a natural to have a high-end version of that that evolves into a learning community/distance education for a fee.

Tim Horgan -- xNet started as a real world community, and we will be moving part of it to the web later this year - a way to continue talking to each other between meetings. We use AltaVista Forum for our general, open discussions, and are using a tool from Involv for a closed community area for xNet members.

Tim Horgan -- The other aspect of xNet is that it is not a standard conference, but rather a meeting of peers in which the attendees do most of the work, i.e. they lead the discussions, decide what topics to discuss next time. We have invited speakers (Clement Mok in March), but the attendees are *very* involved.

Tim Horgan -- We have a hard time getting authors to commit the time needed for live chats, and are skeptical that we could get our readers to remember to get online at a specific time. But it is something we should try - especially since it works for Richard et al.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Tim - have you consider compensating the authors just as you would for writing an article. A monthly chat should be part of their contract if you want the community to grow. Discussing an article with other readers is one thing, but having the authors live input and the discussion tread posted would be great !

Tim Horgan -- Great idea, Bob! We had not considered it. I guess we aren't sure how much interest there would be.

Richard Seltzer -- Bob -- yes, the idea of paying authors is a great one :-)

Richard Seltzer -- Tim -- Check that article of my on how to make business chat work (maybe you might want to publish it :-) I believe that continuity is very important. A chat should have a regular recurring time slot, so people come to count on discussions of a certain kind taking place then all the time. And withing the broad topic umbrella (business on the WWW here), you need to rotate subtopics -- like how to build business communities. And those subtopics should last for at least three weeks, and sometimes longer, to give word of mouth a chance to build, and to let participants have time between sessions to come up with new ideas and share them (as email to be added to transcripts or in forums). Also, I believe it works best if there is one continuing personality -- someone who isn't an expert in all the subjects, but is curious and wants to learn about them. IF you invite authors to come and talk, try to get them to commit to do several sessions in a row. Provide incentives, and also provide tie-ins between the print publication and the on-line one -- each promoting the other; and publishing in print interesting excerpts from the chat sessions, perhaps as an on-going column. Just a few thoughts...

Tim Horgan -- Richard - thanks for the pointer. It's been bookmarked and is printing for some studying later tonight!

Ken Merwin -- Richard - I will take a closer look at your resource; we want to do a "chat" as a part of Global Learn Day II to try to involve "global" participants and I'm trying to design a session with some young participants from Africa so am looking for examples in Africa - US/Canada, etc. links with school-age children. After all, the kids will tap the technology quicker than us older people!

Richard Seltzer -- Tim -- Let me know if you might want me to help you get a chat like this launched. I'd be happy to brainstorm, and also could participate in a few opening sessions to try to help get it on track and help you get the right folks trained. (As I said before, I want to learn how this can be replicated.)

Instant messaging

Sudha Jamthe -- All: how many of you have tried an instant messaging systems? They are picking up fast in Yahoo, AOL, Excite etc. Its somewhere in between a chat and email. Do you like it? It works only when your friends are in the same network.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Sud - I am happy with ICQ instant messageing. I use it with associates, clients and on my web sites.

D. Hamill -- We have been using Instant Message from AOL in our family, because 2 people have AOL. It works quite well, but we have close ties and email each other or talk frequently.

Ken Merwin -- Sudha: I have AOL Netbuddy (came with Netscape 4.+); also ICQ; just saw an article on these chats; can post it to the archives or e-mail. I have heard about ICQ causing Windows95 registry problems so am a bit nervous using it. AOL Netbuddy seems stable but no where near the bells/whistles of ICQ. Also, the several products do not "talk" to each other. Both are available for Mac, Windows and Unix(?) use.

Ken Merwin -- AOL Netbuddy - you do not need to be a part of AOL to use it; it is available to non-AOL users; we're using it quite successfully in the Univ. of Northern Iowa class I'm taking and we're now "sharing" our Netbuddy screen names. I can post the URL to getting it, with instructions. A nice, clean tool.

Ken Merwin -- Sudha - Send me an e-mail or your Netbuddy/ICQ information

Credit cards over the Web

Rik -- Regarding Business on the web - how are those of you who are doing it dealing with credit cards and the web?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Rik - Re: credit cards, I use a local ISP who handles all transactions and clearing for products. There is no charge except when sales occur. Then they get a commission on sales. 

Book recommendation -- Net.wars

Sudha Jamthe -- I am reading a new book called Net.wars which gives a more real perspective of how the net is evolving. It has a section on the Well and development of communities in various sections - specific sites, AOL, newsgroups. The focus of the book is more about evolving standards on the Internet and the issues and people involved with each. But just wanted to share as I like it. 


Richard Seltzer -- All -- time is running short. As usual, I'll post the edited transcript in a few days. Check

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

Ken Merwin -- Great session - Richard.

Rik -- Rik Hall, HALL@UNB.CA,

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Bob Zwick -- Independent Consultant

Tim Horgan -- Tim Horgan - VP/Technology, CIO.COM

David Burby -- Thanks for an interesting discussion Durand Communications, Inc. http://www.pangaeanetwork.com

Sudha Jamthe -- I am back folks. I'll try to catch up with the transcripts.You can contact me at I hope Richard and I can get all of you interested in the new DE chat together to get it started soon. Bye.

Rik -- Rik Hall off Chat with you next week

Marshall Wick -- I'm back and read what you guys wrote.... sorry i couldn't be here for this session.

Richard Seltzer -- All please send me email with your followup thoughts for possible inclusion with the transcript Also, please let me know your thoughts on future topics. (I feel we are still just getting started on business communities; and I'm still looking for the "leader" for a distance ed chat.) 

Building on-line communities

From: Alfred C Thompson II <> Date: Thu, 26 Mar 1998 13:27:20 -0500

Great article on CNN's web site.

Pointer there to a prof at UCLA who is looking into on-line communities.

FYI - Interesting reading


PS --

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