where "word of keystroke" begins

April 16, 1998 -- Building business communities

Transcript of the live chat session that took place Thursday, April 16, 1998. These sessions are normally scheduled for 12 noon-1 PM Eastern Time every Thursday. Please note that the US is now on Daylight Savings Time. So in international terms, we are 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 half an hour (noon US Eastern Time = GMT -4 [we just switched to Daylight Savings Time]). As you connect, please introduce yourselves and let us know your interests.

Yazid -- Hi Richard ! It's nice to come back for the second time !

Richard Seltzer -- Ken and Yazid -- glad to "see" you.

NICOLAE Grosan -- Hi everybody from Romania !

Yazid -- Hi NICOALE !

NICOLAE Grosan -- Hi Yazid ! How are you today ? i was visiting your Homepage right now !Looks good.

Yazid -- Well, thank you and you ? Where do you work ?

NICOLAE Grosan -- Yazid, I am working in Arad Chamber of Commerce. Arad is located 12 km to Hungarian border. Richard--thank you for the information about LISTSERV [from April 9 chat].I am starting to "learn" about the topics.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome Ratislav and Nicolae and KingKong and Bob --
Looks like we have a good group. Please introduce yourselves (for the benefit of all). We're going to be talking today about building business communities and related matters. Also, we want to announce that the spin-off distance ed chat is ready to start (public dress rehearsal) next Tuesday.

Rastislav Skultety -- Hi Richard, I took a look at the statistics of the mirror [in Slovakia of]. Now it seems that a couple of guys are using it. (about 250 hits a day) Majority comes from search engines.

Richard Seltzer -- Ratislav -- Glad to hear that traffic is up. (All -- Ratislav is a student in Slovakia who mirrors my samizdat Web site. He was not getting much traffic, so I suggested that he ADD URL for all his pages at AltaVista, and let the content do the work of promotion. Apparently, that is working.)

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Hello all Bob Zwick - independent consultant from Texas

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Madeline. I want to wait another minute or so for people to connect before diving in to a summary on our progress with a spin-off distance ed chat program. All -- please introduce yourselves as you connect.

Madeleine Butschler -- Hello, everyone. This is my first time actually leaping in and participating in the Chat. I look forward to ongoing contact with everyone.

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Bill Dunlap, Denise, Larry Augustus, Bill Mason --
please introduce yourselves. Bill, glad to see you back. What is happening with Euromarketing? What kinds of services do you provide these days? Anything directly related to building international business communities? Are you able to take advantage of the free translation service at the AltaVista search site?

Bill Dunlap -- Hi everyone, Bill Dunlap here from Euro-Marketing in San Francisco. Quite interested in building business communities online.

Yazid -- Bill, what kind of business communities are you related to ?

Tim Horgan -- Hi, all. Tim Horgan, web manager for CIO Magazine here.

Downes -- Hiya folks, just joined: Stephen Downes, Assiniboine Community College, Brandon, manitoba, Canada

Dave Griffin -- Hi. Dave Griffin, engineer on AltaVista Forum.

Larry Augustus -- Larry Augustus - Digital - AltaVista Forum Engineering

Phil Grove -- Good afternoon. Phil Grove from Digital -- Internet Marketing 

Greetings from Slovakia

Rastislav Skultety -- I am 18 years old webmaster from Slovakia. I have created couple of very interesting web sites.

Richard Seltzer -- Ratislav -- What are the URLs of those "interesting" web sites?

NICOLAE Grosan -- Ratislav--where are you located in Slovakia ?

Rastislav Skultety -- I'm from Kosice - the 2nd biggest city in Slovakia. Take a look at these sites: , , ,,

NICOLAE Grosan -- Ratislav--we do have good contacts with Trencin Chamber of Commerce. You are not far from me ! 

Spin-off distance ed chat will launch Tuesday, April 21, noon to 1 PM Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -4)

Richard Seltzer -- All -- a half dozen people who indicated they wanted to help run a new distance ed chat program gathered in a chat room at Web-net a couple days ago. It was an amazingly efficient and effective meeting. The transcript is available at

Ken Merwin -- Richard - thanks for the help with transcript [of the distance ed chat organization meeting]; I'll be a lurker today as my keyboarding is a problem; will need to keep Bob, etc. advised on this situation.

Richard Seltzer -- Quick summary of distance ed meeting -- Bob Zwick (Bob@Cottagemicro) will be the moderator/leader. It will take place Tuesdays from noon to 1 PM US Eastern Time, here at Web-net. Some setup work still needs to be done before next Tuesday to make the chat room easy to find here. Also, Bob has set up a distance ed page at his site that will be the home for the transcripts. (Once again, that's under construction). Please take a look and send Bob your comments and suggestions

Richard Seltzer --

That makes for a very dispersed group (Bob = Texas, Ken = Wisconsin, Christian = Germany, Sudha = Massachusetts).

Richard Seltzer -- I was just giving a quick summary of the on-line business meeting chat that half a dozen of us held on Tuesday to organize the new distance ed chat program. I believe that our experience with that could be very valuable to anyone trying to set up a new chat program. Do check the transcript It reads like an outline on what you should do for such a launch.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- Something else that I learned from that Tuesday meeting -- Chat is very very effective for meetings. We started at the dot of 12 and finished right at 1 and took care of everything. And everything we said and agreed to was captured for easy future reference (on-like in a face-to-face or audio meeting).

Yazid -- I wonder if I could be of any help for this new distance ed chat program ?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Yazid - thanks, I'll put your name on the list and be in contact with you.

Madeleine Butschler -- Regarding the new distance education chat line, I may be able to offer an extra pair of hands for editing transcripts. I was an associate editor with the Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education and have had plenty of other experience with editing.

Richard Seltzer -- Madeleine -- terrific. We really need volunteers to help with the transcripts. (I have my hands full doing this program.) Please get in touch with Ken Merwin (who is with us today). He should be coordinating that.

ken m. -- Madeline - excellent offer - not sure how long my "problem" with hand will last; also have my grad. paper facing me so am typing about 1/2 speed... 

Optimum size for business community?

Dave Griffin -- I was wondering if anyone thought about the question I posed last week: is there a "sweet spot" for the size of these business communities. If you have too few people, there's not "critical mass" for a compelling reason to stay. But when too many people join in, it gets noisy or exceeds the ability of the moderator to keep up with the traffic. Any thoughts?

Phil Grove -- What techniques are people using to draw in people to a business-to-business community?

Phil Grove -- Community size depends on involvement more than size.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Dave, I suggest a "seating is limited" in the chat area and all others can view only.

ChristianF -- Usually at conference sites there is a lecturer and a moderator. In addition there is a 'queueing' system that queues the questions of the auditorium. The moderator then processes one question at a time. Usually you can handle about 10-15 people at once in a text based chat. With more people you need a queue system.

Richard Seltzer -- Dave -- Yes, that's an excellent question -- I tried to highlight in the transcript. And I'd love to get some answers. I suspect that the optimum size depends in part on the software (how easy it is to manage crowds and to partition/segment/spinoff discussions) and in part on the business purpose. It would be good to get some concrete examples of communities that feel like they are the right size and also of communities that seem to be failing because they have too few or too many participants.

Richard Seltzer -- Dave -- Also, regarding "critical mass" -- I tend to think of that in terms of quantity/quality of content rather than number of people. I think you need lots of good stuff to get an interesting conversation going and that posting edited transcripts from live chat is a great way to seed a threaded forum-style discussion. That's why I am excited about the prospect of closely tying chat and forum. Also the content (if fully indexable by public search engines) can drive traffic to your site (for free) -- as Ratislav has discovered with his site in Slovakia (and as of course I do with my Samizdat site).

Phil Grove -- Richard, I think that software is a limitation factor and would dictate the largest manageable size, not the natural critical mass. One also has to consider the economics. Lurkers may help 'pay' for a community, but not make it 'dynamic'.

ChristianF -- Re 'critical mass', it mostly depends on the people and the topic. You can get a good discussion going with 3-6 people when these people are really dedicated to the topic, their enthusiasm can then attract more people to leave the lurk mode.

Richard Seltzer -- Phil -- Yes, you bring up another important point -- what does it mean to be part of community? My sense is that there are at least four different levels of participation -- 1) random visitor 2) regular lurker 3) regular participant 4) leader. I also believe that unless there are other factors coming into play (such as a boss or teacher insisting that certain individuals attend and participate), there tends to be an order of magnitude of difference from one level to another. So you can calculate backwards. If you have 10 participants, you'll probably find one leader in their midst. And to get 10 participants, you'll have to attract 100 regular lurkers; and to get 100 regular lurkers you may need 1000 random visitors. That's very rough. Does it match your experience and expectations?

Phil Grove -- Christian, I agree. But that is a definition limited to the 'now.' That needs to be expanded into a continuous measure for an ongoing community. If you think about it, this here CHAT is executed once every week. Therefore, it is limited to 1 hour every seven days. What about wednesday afternoon? Do you need 3-6 good people every hour for every day or 10hr/day*7=70 active people and 70*10=700 for lurkers. Therefore you need 770 people to have a thriving community!

ChristianF -- Phil, 3-6 applied for a community either based on a mailing list or virtual meeting place with fixed meeting times. Larger communities would definitely need more people, not necessarily 770 ;-). But for example, with most MOO systems, ppl just connect to the system any time during the time to see whether somebody they know is there. I frequently connect to two different systems just to see whether somebody I know is there or to possibly meet some new people.

Phil Grove -- Christian, I agree. I was just trying to scope a robust, hopping 'town common' or 'street cafe' kind of community. 

Coffeehouse-style chats and communities

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- I believe a community should be like a coffee house. Regularly scheduled live events and other times visitors mingling and conversing.

ChristianF -- Bob, I agree with you. Also a place where people can 'leave' virtual stuff or notices.

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Yes, Christian, and a place to catch up on what they missed while they were gone.

ChristianF -- Another definition or requirement for a web based /virtual community is some sort of regular meeting and a place to 'hang out' together. Thus, a place where people can meet in between or just stay and wait for somebody to come by.

Richard Seltzer -- Christian -- that capability in AltaVista Forum to create (on the fly) a chat session in the middle of a threaded discussion would be very good for meetings between regular sessions. 

AltaVista Forum -- a tool for building business communities

Richard Seltzer -- Tim -- Did the folks from AltaVista Forum finally get back to you? Does it look like you might be able to help with your project?

Tim Horgan -- Richard, thank you for your help. Yes, we have heard from people at Digital and hope to work something out. We're running AltaVista Forum on a Sparcstation at our ISP, which creates a support "challenge".

Yazid -- Tim, for what purpose do you use AltaVista Forum ?

Tim Horgan -- Yazid, we use AltaVista Forum for several discussion groups at CIO.COM (see for the list)

Downes -- Heh, we run a digital server with digital unix, & would sure love a chat engine for our online classes. If digital has anything free (or dirt cheap - we don't have much money) let me know. :)

Richard Seltzer -- Downes -- AltaVista Forum can probably do everything you want. It is Web-based. But they now have a version of chat that is built right into the Forum part and that doesn't use IRC, so there are no firewall barriers to participation. I believe you can download a trial version at

Richard Seltzer -- Phil -- AltaVista Forum has at its base the typical threaded asynchronous discussion (a la bulletin boards and notes). In addition it has a spiffy high functionality IRC-based chat which is designed for teams and collaboration on intranets. What the developers recently added is an HTML chat which can take place inside the forum area -- you are in the middle of a threaded discussion and open a chat, the text of which immediately becomes part of that discussion.

Also, the email alert capability could be readily modified to tie a forum into a listserv, so users could read and contribute in the mode that they found most comfortable for them.

Also, they had some ideas on how to make chat itself threaded -- making it possible to move beyond the physical limitations of this style of chat (max of about two dozen participants) without having to go all the way to submission of messages by way of a moderator.

Phil Grove -- Richard, I guess that AltaVista Forum has come a long way. Good to know. Are these functions in the '98 version?

ChristianF -- Phil, we are using a InterMOO feature at the Globewide Network Academy. This InterMOO channel connects 20 MOO systems around the world.

Downes -- Suggestion: put forms content info *below* the actual form (ie., if you want someone to enter their name, put it just below) - so people can tab through forms pages to fill them.

Phil Grove -- I know we have talked about chat/forum blends. Are there any examples of highly integrated blends. Like being able to read a forum, see another in the same topic section and then start an immediate chat all assisted by the software?

Richard Seltzer -- Phil -- Those questions about the "blends" are exactly the kind of thing I would hope to get answered next week. (Description don't do it. We need to be able to touch and feel and use; and at the same time be able to "talk" to the folks who developed it.) 

AltaVista Forum -- demo as part of our chat session next Thursday

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Dave Griffin. All -- Dave and Peter Hurley on the engineering team at AltaVista Forum (at Digital) yesterday gave me a demo of the latest and greatest version of that product and some add-on capabilities they've been working on. Many things that had been on my wishlist (and others) are now readily doable. That includes email alerts of postings to forums, combining Forum and Chat, with a chat that avoids the IRC firewall problem, etc.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- For next week, I'd like to try an experiment (please let me know how this sounds to you.) I'd like to meet in our regular chat room here, but have everyone open a second browser window where we would connect to a copy of AltaVista Forum. Dave and/or Peter from the AltaVista Forum development team could then use this chat to step us through a demo of what that product can do, can talk about what's in the works and what can be customized; and we could give them feedback on what we really need for our business purposes and how closely what's there matches or doesn't match. We often talk about what it would be neat to be able to do -- with this kind of set up we could get a clearer idea of what is already possible and influence folks who are in a position to make our other dreams become reality.

Richard Seltzer -- I'm also thinking that that experimental format -- using two browser windows (with a version of chat that we're all familiar with and the other with new stuff) could be very useful for doing on-line product demos and also for distance ed -- admittedly a low-tech solution, but possibly very useful. How does that sound to you?

Madeleine Butschler -- Your idea of the demo sounds very useful. It would add another dimension to this chat format.

Tim Horgan -- Richard, great idea.

Yazid -- It seems interesting, Richard.

NICOLAE Grosan -- Richard--I am not so good at soft, but I will talk tomorrow with my folks about your idea.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- yes, I'd like to be able to sometimes get more of a hands-on feel for the kinds of capabilities we talk about here. Last fall we did a special demo speech with But that was difficult for most folks to connect to -- it was on the high tech end. So I'm looking for low-tech ways to get a hands-on effect. And I'd much rather talk to development engineers -- especially ones with creative vision -- than with marketing managers (personal prejudice.)

Richard Seltzer -- Dave Griffin and Larry Augustus -- in the demo I saw yesterday, you had -- for the fun of it -- created a simple and slick way to submit orders for pizza and subs. Afterwards, it occurred to me that you could use that same functionality and basic format to set up a course registration system or to help a customer order products that had a cascading series of options. Sort of a very low-tech and easy to implement supplement to distance ed and/or electronic commerce. (And not at all related to the original intent of the software product.)

Larry Augustus -- Richard - that's an interesting idea. One of the things we're hoping to do with forum is to get VARs and customers to develop some applications along with the ones that we are developing. Those sound like good candidates.

Dave Griffin -- What we'd like people to do next week is visit our site and have an opportunity to both play and do a show-and-tell on some new ideas. Pre-registering will make next week move briskly, so please feel free to stop in anytime between now and then and "check in". (Please note that the chat feature Richard mentioned isn't there yet.)
The URL is:

Dave Griffin -- We'll be in the "AltaVista Forum Prototype Showcase" forum next week. There's a little bit of a welcome there.

Richard Seltzer -- Dave -- Is there anyway you could make that chat feature available for next week? That was very, very interesting. Admittedly, you're still working on it; but it's very good; and I'd like to stimulate imaginations about what could be done with it.

Richard Seltzer -- Dave -- Also, is there any way you can set that demo area up so registration is optional next Thursday? That would make it easier for folks to just dive in. (As I conceive of the situation, you and/or others on your team would be providing info and answering questions in this chat room of ours, guiding us through what we can do and how in the demo area, which we would all have open in a second browser window. Those with large screens would be seeing both windows at once. Those with smaller screens would probably maximize the one and minimize the other and move back and forth.

Dave Griffin -- The Chat feature will be available next week. Re: menus and other stuff -- I think most people here would agree that when you are dealing with communities of people for a directed interest (like customer service), you want a combination of "structured " and "unstructured" data. What we're trying to do with AVF is make it easy to add simple "structured" data to the conversation, make it searchable, but keep the flexibility of what people expect in things like chat and threaded discussions.

Richard Seltzer -- Dave and Larry -- If you have other URLs or info that you would like to convey -- to properly set expectations and get people primed, please send me email and I'll include that in my transcript (and perhaps some in my reminder message). 

MOO demo? = topic for future chat session

Richard Seltzer -- Christian -- if the two-window approach works (as I hope it will), would it be possible for us to get a MOO demo at a future session, using that same technique?

ChristianF -- Richard, yes, that would be possible.

Phil Grove -- Regrets, What is MOO?

ChristianF -- MOO == Mud Object Oriented, it basically works like a MUD but users can create their own rooms and can stuff them with their own objects like, tapes, recorders and slide projectors (all in virtual mode of course). Meanwhile MOO can also handle VRML1.0 and VRML2.0 is currently implemented at most sites.

Phil Grove --Thx for the MOO description

Richard Seltzer -- Christian -- It sound like many things are possible with MOO, but it also sound like a capability that I'd really need a demo in to catch on to. Would it be possible for you to set up a MOO environment/room that you could invite us into and show us around (using the 2 window approach) in a future chat session?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Christian, I'd also like a demo on what a moo is/does.

ChristianF -- Richard, yes a demo of the MOO system and the forum would be possible, no problem. Since the systems are up and running we can basically do it anytime. 

Three-window model

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Richard - re: your 2 window model, I am working on a 3 window model. 1) video presentation, 2) text/forum 3) chat. I have a beta written, but it is still crude.

Yazid -- Bob, what kind of development environment do you use (Java, C++, )?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Yazid - Java, Perl, HTML all together.

ChristianF -- Bob, you might want to check out They are providing an interactive conference forum with chat on one side and slides on the other. Could also be used for video.

Phil Grove -- Bob, I am interested to see your 3 window model. Can you send us a note when we can check it out?

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- Phil - I'll get back to you offline. 

Infoseek getting into the community business

ken m. -- Saw a news release regarding Infoseek purchasing some co. into community on the 'net. Here's URL on InfoSeek press release if anyone interested: ("Infoseek Builds Strong Online Community Presence With Acquisition of WBS.NET. Infoseek to Acquire One of the Largest Online Communities with the Fastest Growing Segment of Online Viewers.")


Richard Seltzer -- All -- time has run out already. As usual, I'll post the transcript in a couple days. Check Please send email to me with your follow-up comments and questions for inclusion with the transcript.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- please remember that the distance ed chat will start next Tuesday at noon US Eastern Time at the same WEb-net site. (The intro area should be edited by then to make it easier for you to find the right chat room -- not this one). Meanwhile check Bob Zwick's site for more detail (and there's a pointer from there to the transcript from last Tuesday's meeting).

Madeleine Butschler -- Thanks for an enlightening discussion.

Richard Seltzer -- All, as usual, before you log off, please post your email and URL addresses so we can keep in touch (don't count on the software to have caught that).

Richard Seltzer -- All -- please join us next Thursday here for our 2-window experiment and demo of AltaVista Forum, with the development engineers. and please spread the word.

Phil Grove -- Over already?! Great chat, I was just getting going. Thanks Richard.
Signing off. Phil Grove, 508-467-2269,

Yazid -- Ok, Richard, I'll try to be here next Tuesday. Bye everyone !. A. Yazid

NICOLAE Grosan -- All--Good bye from Nicolae Arad-RO

Larry Augustus -- Signing off. Larry Augustus

Madeleine Butschler -- Madeleine Butschler, 604-899-4414,

ChristianF -- See you next time or on Tuesday. Christian Frosch, Secretary, Globewide Network Academy

Bob@CottageMicro.Com -- As usual, it's been a fun learning experience. See you all next week. You're invited to the DE Chat next Tuesday 12to1 EST(GMT-4) Bob Zwick Cottage Micro Services 103 Vinyard Drive, Waxahachie, TX 75167 PH/FX: (972) 435-2446

Dave Griffin -- Thanks all for the great exchanges. ttfn Dave Griffin, AltaVista Forum Product Team,, 

Followup messages

Building Community for Future Generations - Announcement

From: The Simple Society <> Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998 11:36:01 -0400

Richard, I should have sent this to you earlier. I suspect it will interest you.

John Watkins


An Online Collaboration

April 15 to May 14, 1998

Hosted in cyberspace by The University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL) Program in Studies of the Future and Planet-TECH Associates in conjunction with the annual UHCL professional (face-to-face) futures forum The Evolving Faces of Future Communities April 23-25, 1998, Houston, Texas


Online Community Ecological Restoration

Future Democracy Alternative Education

Cyber-Districts Urban Empowerment

Strategic Planning New Economics

Strategic Partnering Resource Development


Rick Smyre, President, Center for Communities of the Future, Hosting Forum on: Building Capacities for Community Transformation - a new model to help local communities prepare for the 21st century

Andrew Cohill, Director, Blacksburg Electronic Village and Initial Director, New Democracy Center. Hosting Forum on: Designing 21st Century Democracy - New Avenues for Citizen Participation in an Electronic Republic

John Michitson, City Counselor, Haverhill, MA, Director Footwear-to-Software task force Hosting Forum on: Haverhill Online Community and Cyber-District - Case Study in Municipal Online Community Building and Downtown Economic Revitalization


Online Collaboration

Seth J. Itzkan,, (978) 456-2702

Varieties of virtual meetings

From: Heather Duggan <> Date: Sat, 18 Apr 1998 21:35:56 -0700

I got caught up in a phone call and missed most of the chat on Thursday, but was very interested in the bits I caught.

I've been exploring different kinds of virtual meeting spaces (MOOs, graphical chats, groupware, and so on) for the past six months or so (some summaries are up at <>.

I would be very interested in participating in any demo chats like the one suggested at GNAcademy.

Thanks for providing a pocket of interesting conversation on the net,


Previous transcripts and schedule of upcoming chats --

To connect to the chat room, go to

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