The York/Habitat Networking Initiative,
The Native Computer Communications Network Project,
The Native Computer Communications Network Project,
A Report on a Major Project
Carried out in partial fulfillment of the requirements for
the Masters in Environmental Studies Degree Program
Faculty of Environmental Studies
TABLE OF CONTENTS
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ii
NETWORKING AND COMPUTER NETWORKING 2
Computer Networking 4
YORK/HABITAT NETWORKING INITIATIVE (Y/HNI) 6
Official Opening of the Habitat Office 7
Mass Mailout of Survey Questionnaire 8
IYSH Conference 9
Constituency Meetings 11
FES students 12
Local academics 13
FES faculty 15
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) 16
Private sector and government 18
Contacts Database 18
Graduate Assistant Projects 19
Lessons Learned From Y/HNI 20
Co-ordination Resources 20
Participant Commitments 20
THE NATIVE COMPUTER COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK (NCCN) PROJECT 22
Project Phases 22
Development Phase 23
Features of the NCCN 23
Users contacted 24
Hardware acquired 24
Software acquired 25
Database established 27
Conference 'priming' information gathered 27
Pilot Phase 28
Installation of equipment 28
Training of users 31
Online Interaction 32
Skills transfer 32
Lessons Learned From The NCCN 34
Technical Development 34
Establish A 'Critical Mass' 34
Dialup Access 35
Network Development Strategy 36
COMPARISON OF THE Y/HNI AND THE NCCN 37
Equipment and Access to Web 40
Contacts Database 41
Constituency Meetings 42
Newsletter Articles 43
Personal Interviews 43
Presentation at York University 44
Online Interaction 44
Habnet Conferences on Web 44
'Chat' Feature 48
File Transfer 48
Demise of Habnet 49
Lessons Learned From Habnet 51
Getting Organizations Online 51
Network Interconnections 52
Miscellaneous Lessons 53
Promoting System Usage 55
Online Interactions 56
Creating Bonds 56
'Bandwagon' Effect 57
COMPUTER COMMUNICATIONS 64
Types of Computer-mediated Communications 65
Important Items in an Online Environment 67
The Benefits of Computer Conferencing 69
Managing Computer Conferencing 72
Online Conference Moderation 76
NATIVE COMPUTER COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK PROJECT 83
Recommendations Regarding NCCN 84
A Proposal To Create Habnet 90
Web Overview 91
Work Done For Habnet 95
Historical Overview of Major Networks 98
Personal Networking 104
Business Aspects of Computer Networking 106
Factors In Use of Computer Communications 108
Between 1986 and 1989, I was involved as a graduate student in two on-going research initiatives in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University in Toronto: the Native Computer Communications Network Project and the York/Habitat Networking Initiative. Though they were quite different in their approaches, they shared the common goal of network building for the purpose of social change.
Out of these involvements came a desire on my part to combine the two approaches in the form of Habnet, a computer network for the human settlements field. Between April 1988 and May 1989, I facilitated a small group of core members of the York/Habitat Networking Initiative in using the capabilities of Web, the computer communications system which hosted Habnet, to allow them to exchange information via electronic mail, file transfer and computer conferencing. I also attempted to increase the size and improve the effectiveness of Habnet by promoting it to other people with an interest in human settlement issues.
This document is a review of these three projects as well as a discussion of the lessons derived from each. Insofar as I would like others to learn from our mistakes, this paper generally moves from the descriptive to the prescriptive. Three bibliographies and numerous appendices are also included to provide those who follow in my footsteps with further information and resources.
I wish to thank all of the people with whom I worked on the three projects during those three years: the NCCN - Mary Bernard, Mike Clarkson, Paul Shields, Kenn Pitawanakwat, Leslie MacGregor, Bob Holota and Sandy Lockhart; the York/Habitat Initiative and Habnet - David Morley, Yvo DeBoer, Phyllis Eleazar, James Stark, Shirley Lewchuk, and Dwaine Plaza; and Web - Michael Jensen and Kirk Roberts. I would also like to thank two of my mentors - Jerry Durlak, for his willingness to impart his visions of the new technology and to involve me in them, and Dallas Smythe, for making me feel the struggle is worthwhile. Gerry Carrothers and Jack Craig, my faculty advisors, rank high in my esteem, too, for the good advice they have given me. I also must mention my appreciation of the members of the Electronic Networking Association and the APC for their dedicated and excellent work in the advancement of computer networking for the betterment of the world.
I especially would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my good friend Lynne Nagata, for her support and forbearance. Without her, it wouldn't have been half as much fun ;-).
Humans interact with other humans in patterned ways. The web of affiliations may be loose or strong, widespread or concentrated, bound by conventional social structures or voluntarily formed. One of the ways such interaction patterns have been studied is through the metaphor of networks.
Networks have generally been described in terms of certain characteristics of individuals or groups, such as kinship, status, political affiliation, employment, and so on. Recently, however, the process by which networks form is being increasingly focused on. Those who wish to create positive changes, both at the personal and societal levels, have been acquiring skills in networking.
One of the ways networking is being facilitated these days is through computer communications. In the past fifteen years, global networks of linked computers have sprung up, bringing into play a powerful new medium for social discourse and the diffusion of innovations. Many social change activists are starting to make use of computer networking to help in the grassroots empowerment of social movements, the medium having significantly reduced the resources needed to effectively network large numbers of people across great distances.
Between 1986 and 1989, there were two projects that were being concurrently implemented by members of the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University in Toronto, Canada. Both projects had the aim of bringing about positive social change through the establishment of active networks of people.
The Native Computer Communications Network (NCCN) Project focused on using the latest innovations in computer communications technology to link Native organizations together, while the York/Habitat Networking Initiative (Y/HNI) used the more traditional networking technique of face-to-face interaction to link people involved in the field of human settlements.
A third project was an offshoot of the Y/HNI that incorporated the technological aspects of the NCCN. This was a project to create Habnet, a computer network for the human settlements field. Its aim was to enhance communication through the use of electronic mail, file transfer and computer conferencing among the network of contacts created by the Y/HNI.
This paper describes these projects and provides an analysis of their results. In the discussion following the recounting of each project, there is an attempt to make explicit the lessons learned. This is to provide the reader with a greater awareness of the factors and processes that must be taken into account in using computer communications as a networking tool.
The York/Habitat Networking Initiative (Y/HNI)
In 1986, the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) relocated its Information Office for North America and the Caribbean to the Faculty of Environmental Studies. In an attempt to promote new methods of dealing with global issues, York/Habitat scheduled a series of meetings to bring together the various constituencies presently concerned with human settlements. These included: academics, NGOs, private sector organizations, government bodies, and funding agencies.
An expected outcome of these meetings was the creation of a multi-disciplinary working group whose main purpose was to raise awareness of the nature of global problems, conduct research, develop joint projects, and share information and resources.
Another aspect involved the individual projects of the four graduate assistants associated with the project. These included: researching and creating institutional linkages between individuals, organizations, and programs involved with community development and urban management in Canada; researching and creating a database of human settlements projects in the Caribbean; exploring the potential use of video case studies of development projects as an educational tool; and the creation of Habnet, a computer communications network for the human settlements field.
The Initiative made use of a number of traditional networking techniques including: inviting people to special events; a mass mailout survey questionnaire; developing a listing of contacts; attending conferences; and face-to-face group meetings.
The goal of establishing a multi-disciplinary working group of people involved in human settlements was not achieved. This was primarily due to the fact that projects that would ensure active, ongoing collaboration among the participants were not established. The networking process did succeed in bringing together people, who might not have otherwise had contact with one another, to reaffirm that the integrated approach was a good ideal. It also allowed them to come up with a number of ideas for future collaborative activities, which presumably could have been implemented once the resources were found.
The Native Computer Communications Network (NCCN) Project
The Native Computer Communications Network (NCCN) Project was begun in December 1986 by the Native/Canadian Relations Theme Area of the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. It was designed to test the feasibility of creating a Canada-wide computer network linking together microcomputers in the offices of native Canadian organizations.
The network created was decentralized, with people at each site having the full capability of accessing, adding, and deleting items from the information base that was commonly stored on the computers at each site. This was in accordance with the 'native way' of political interaction.
The computers communicated with each other via public telephone lines and allowed computer conferencing, electronic mail, and file transfer. An additional goal of the project was the creation of a database containing abstracts of the 5,000 articles in the Native/Canadian Relations Theme Area's Resource Library.
The work was divided into two phases: the Development Phase and the Pilot Phase. In the Development Phase (December 1986 to September 1987), the conceptualization of the network was established, potential users of the network (including those to be in the Pilot Phase) contacted and consulted, appropriate hardware and software found and tested, abstracts created and put into the database, and information gathered on a number of conferencing topics. In the Pilot Phase (October 1987 to March 1988), selected sites in Southern Ontario were supplied with computers, the personnel there trained in network management, the manuals written, and the promotion of the network carried out.
Though technically successful in that the computer communication technology was developed and the network of computers functioned fairly well, the project did not succeed in creating an interactive, purposeful network of people. The main reason for this was that the major application of resources went towards creating the technology and its peripheral enhancements. The work done on establishing interpersonal networks was both sporadic and diffused among too many disparate groups. It was another case of the people not having any concrete interactive activities around which to communicate. There was little reason to form an interpersonal network on the basis of the sharing of new technology.
Comparison of the Y/HNI and the NCCN
The Y/HNI and the NCCN were both attempts to create new networks of people for the purpose of facilitating positive social change. The former used the networking technique of loosely structured face-to-face meetings while the latter focused on developing the new technology of computer communications.
In both cases, the participants were very busy with their own activities. Though there was interest in the idea of the potential network, there wasn't a strong enough incentive for them to become actively involved on an on-going basis.
The Y/HNI process could not sustain the pace of interaction necessary to form a working multi-disciplinary network, nor were there the resources there to carry out joint projects. The NCCN concentrated primarily on the technology and overestimated its effectiveness at stimulating interaction.
Habnet was an attempt to merge the new technological advantages offered by the NCCN with the traditional networking techniques of the Y/HNI. Its goal was to create an 'online' interactive network of human settlements people, with the rationale that computer communications would alleviate some of the logistical problems faced by the Y/HNI of having to bring many busy people together to the same place at the same time on a regular basis.
To avoid the NCCN's maintenance problems of a distributed network, it was decided that Web, a centralized national computer communications system for the non-profit sector, would be the 'host' of an online conference called 'habnet'. Habnet was to be the means whereby those whom the Y/HNI were making contact with could maintain ongoing communications.
The experiment succeeded in getting most of the core members of the Y/HNI project team using e-mail, file transfer, and computer conferencing, but there were not enough resources to expand its membership to the point where it became viable. After a year of gradually decreasing use, it ceased operation.
Many lessons were learned from this project. Some of the main ones were the same as those of the previous, related initiatives. The perceived benefit wasn't sufficient to induce people to join, especially if they were large organizations facing the major hurdle of acquiring the needed technology and learning to use it.
If unrealistically high expectations of ease of use and potential ability to make contacts were given to new members of the online network, they became more easily frustrated and discouraged when faced with the inevitable limitations and difficulties associated with the development of new technologies. Another lesson was that it is important for one's computer network to have interconnections with other such networks, in order to maintain links with colleagues.
The York/Habitat Networking Initiative showed that traditional networking techniques of face to face meetings require a great deal of resources to deal with distance and time barriers, especially in the creation of trans-disciplinary networks. The Native Computer Communications Project developed a communication technology, in the form of a computer network, that could help minimize the resources needed to overcome such barriers, but this in itself did not ensure the formation of a network of people.
Habnet tried to combine the accomplishments of the Y/HNI and the NCCN with the expectation that the new technology would make it easier for the forming Human Settlements network to develop. This expectation wasn't realized because there were not enough resources or available expertise to ensure Habnet's continued growth. Habnet did, however, provide an opportunity to explore the dynamics of 'online' interaction.
Computer networking is still in its infancy. Over the next decade, many more people will start using computers to communicate. This new medium's capabilities will make it increasingly easy for widely dispersed, large numbers of people to form new, socially-active networks.
This paper is a report on a major project conducted primarily between April and September 1988. The goal of the project was to create Habnet, a computer network for the human settlements field. The idea for Habnet had its origins in two other projects conducted at the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University, both of which were carried out concurrently between 1986 and 1989.
One of these projects was the York/Habitat Networking Initiative (Y/HNI), the aim of which was to establish a multi-disciplinary network of people in the field of human settlements. It made extensive use of the traditional networking technique of face-to-face meetings. The other was the Native Computer Communications Network (NCCN) Project, which had the mandate to test the feasibility of creating a computer network to link native organizations.
The report begins with a brief overview of the concepts of networking and computer networking. After providing an analysis and comparison of the Y/HNI and NCCN projects, making note of the lessons learned, it then describes and evaluates the Habnet project. A discussion follows in which recommendations are made regarding future attempts to network using computer communications technology.
A lengthy set of appendices have been attached to this report in order to provide the reader with a wider knowledge of the projects and the newly-emergent field of computer networking.
NETWORKING AND COMPUTER NETWORKING
Networks have been a part of human society since time immemorial. Anthropologists have studied interaction patterns on the basis of kinship networks, political scientists on the basis of alliances and ideologies, sociologists on status levels and employment, and organizational researchers on the basis of communication links.
For the most part, such study has focused on understanding the relationships between the people involved. Networks have been looked at as static entities for the sake of theoretical modelling, or used to describe or explain social movements. The networks that sprang up in the modern practice of business and politics seem to have been studied more for their patterns and effects than the actual methods of creating them.
The concept of networks has only recently evolved into a more active one, with much more focus on the processes whereby the individual or group actually establishes interactive linkages in order to obtain a desired end. The noun 'network' has been transformed into the verb 'to network'.
The primary form of communication is face-to-face interaction. Social change processes are a good example of how networking is used as an excellent method of interaction. Networking is a way of forging links between individuals and groups that is all the more powerful in its effects because it is a voluntary act, one that is intrinsically rewarding. People share responsibility for task accomplishment, with each person contributing what they can. Even within rigid, hierarchical organizations, informal networks of people are often found to be the 'glue' holding the enterprise together.
Many of the individuals and groups involved in social movements, especially in the past few decades, have turned to networking as a means of eliciting action when official routes to change have been blocked or too slow. The civil rights and women's movement, anti-Vietnam War protesters, anti-nuclear activists, and environmental groups have used this technique.
It is becoming more common in traditional areas as well. Political parties have always networked to solicit support but the European Green parties have raised it to a high art. Academics are beginning to network more seriously as their work shifts from theory to application. They need to stay in touch with many others whose work impinges on theirs, even though the respective disciplines may be different. As international development work changes from the large-scale to small, networking has become a primary instrument in the work of most non-governmental and community-based organizations. Such initiatives have adopted networking as a way of promoting involvement of the stakeholders in the change process. This empowerment is necessary for ensuring flexibility of innovation through willing and informed participation. Concern can thus be turned into action.
Networking is important to organizing social change. The participants must become acquainted with each other in order to understand how they might all work together to set and reach common goals. Networks can be the means by which those involved develop an action-oriented identity and are provided with the support and information needed to pursue their role in the collectively designed activities.
Lipnack and Stamps, in The Networking Book (1986), suggest that networks have three essential qualities that differentiate them from hierarchical, bureaucratic social institutions such as business, church, school, or the military:
Networking has a number of advantages due to its value-based, loosely-coupled, weblike and non-hierarchical structure. It can encourage the full utilization of innovation, minimize the consequences of failure, promote the sharing of information across socio-economic barriers while preserving ethnic and vernacular values, maintain flexibility and adaptability in the face of new situations and developments, and emphasize egalitarian rather than authoritarian roles and relationships.
Computer networking offers an interesting new approach to networking insofar as it allows the interactions of the participants to continue independent of time and space. Though face-to-face meetings still have an important part to play in establishing common goals and strategies for those attempting to define and solve problems, computer networks can facilitate the daily organizational communications needed to sustain optimal progress. Feedback on activities and options for future endeavours can be discussed by any and all involved. As part of a larger effort to create networks that are change-oriented, computers have an important role to play.
In the mid-1970s, the capability for one computer to exchange data with another computer using telephone lines was established. The United States Department of Defense created ARPANET, a network of mainframe computers located at various universities that allowed the sharing of information and data processing between members of the Advanced Research Projects Agency.
In the following decade, a number of networks came into being: the ARPANET hived off CSNET, MILNET, and NSFnet, and this collectivity became known as the ARPA Internet; universities not wishing to be involved in defense research formed BITNET (initially using the technology of VNET, which IBM set up to link its world-wide operations); UUCP protocols allowed computers with UNIX operating systems to hook up to one another, allowing for the creation of USENET, the first computer conferencing network; and when personal computers hit the market in the early 1980s, it wasn't long before FidoNet was allowing local Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) to communicate with one another across several continents.
These networks gave the people who had access to them the capability of transferring software programs and sending and receiving electronic mail. Later this evolved into mass interactive exchanges, involving hundreds or thousands of participants, through the creation of computer conferences and e-mail lists on single topics. Such new powers meant that the rate of diffusion of innovations, previously hampered by barriers of distance, time and expensive communication media, could proceed at a much faster pace.
A good example of the ascendency of this new medium is the fact that the USENET, with almost 200 conferences devoted to a wide variety of computer-related topics, has now become the primary source of information on new developments in the field of computing, far surpassing the slower media of research journals or trade magazines. This is because the USENET was originally created to link researchers in computer research institutes, most of whom are fully aware of the advantages of synergistic interactions on the net. The result is that ideas are conceived and placed in an online conference where they can be evaluated and refined by other members of that conference. There is a strong sense of mutual support among the users, allowing advice to be requested by, and given to, anyone having difficulties in their work. The USENET is the place to find the latest information because it has become the public 'workshop' of the computing industry.
Social change activists have also been developing computer networks of their own to enhance their own ability to cooperate with others who share their commitments. PeaceNet emerged in 1985 in the United States to link peace groups together. Later EcoNet did the same for environmentalists. Web was created two years ago to provide computer communications to the non-profit sector in Canada. Similarly focused networks now also exist in Britain, Sweden, Brazil, Nicaragua, and Australia.
YORK/HABITAT NETWORKING INITIATIVE (Y/HNI)
The York/Habitat Networking Initiative was part of a larger 'Project on Human Settlements' carried out by the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) at York University in Toronto, between 1986 and 1989. The United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), which relocated its Information Office for North America and the Caribbean to the faculty in 1986 also participated. The project was sponsored by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a crown corporation of the federal government, whose focus is on improving housing and shelter conditions.
The Project on Human Settlements was a multi-faceted one, with four main elements:
There was a great deal of overlap among these four areas of responsibility, since all of them provided a knowledge of the national and international human settlements environment, as well as a large number of contacts, to those working on the networking initiative.
The focus on networking was meant to enhance the role of the Habitat Information Office so that it would become more than a distributor of information. In partnership with FES, it would also become a catalyst and active participant in the process of problem-framing, research, policy making and project development. The end result would be the promotion of a more integrated, holistic approach to deal more effectively with settlements issues, both locally and globally, by those individuals and organizations with interests and activities in this area.
This was to be brought about through the provision of settings to bring together key members of various constituencies immediately involved in the field of human settlements. These constituencies included: academics, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector, government, and international agencies.
The implementation of the networking initiative was primarily carried out by a core team nicknamed the 'Habgroup'. It consisted primarily of the FES/York Project Co-ordinator, four graduate student assistants, and the Habitat Information Officer and his Executive Assistant.
The main activities undertaken by the Habgroup included: the official opening of the Habitat office, a mailout survey, participation in an international conference on homelessness, a series of constituency meetings, establishing a contacts database, and individual networking projects by each student assistant. These activities will be briefly described in the following pages.
Official Opening of the Habitat Office
The first opportunity to begin actively networking within the field came in March 1987 at a gathering of over 100 people invited to FES for the formal opening of the Habitat Information Office. In preparation for this event, the Habgroup met several times to draw up a list of potential invitees, in order to ensure adequate representation from each of the involved constituencies. It turned out that the only sector that was under-represented at the opening was the private sector and this was primarily because of the organizing team's lack of contacts in that area.
It was a day-long affair with an agenda carefully designed to provide participants with opportunities to speak to one another. In addition to speeches by government officials and a panel discussion by experts emphasizing the need for innovative approaches of a more holistic, trans-disciplinary nature, there were a number of breaks for coffee, lunch and cocktails. These breaks enabled the invitees to get to know one another and share information on their activities.
The opening was judged to be very successful by those in attendance. It raised the profile of the office and the faculty in a positive manner and allowed the participants to experience a wider sense of community based on the integrating concept of human settlements rather than just their constituency operations.
Though the occasion provided an opportunity to make a number of personal contacts locally, there were no attendees from outside of Canada and few from outside of Toronto. This may have been because the event was relatively short and largely ceremonial.
Interaction at a personal level enabled individuals to be evaluated for a variety of factors, of which perhaps the most important were:
- their knowledge base
- their contacts
- the nature of their organization and their role within it
- their present and planned activities
- their resources
- their personality and style of interaction
- their beliefs and values
- their willingness and ability for further collaboration.
Mass Mailout of Survey Questionnaire
During April and May, research was done to compile a list of people throughout North America who might be interested in joining the expanding network of contacts. There were three avenues of this research:
1. the Information Office's membership list for the Habitat News periodical, which is mailed quarterly to over 1500 members;
2. indexes of the various universities with programs in urban geography and international development, found in the reference section of the university library;
3. phone calls to individuals in umbrella organizations in fields related to human settlements and international development, for advice on who might be worthwhile contacts.
Finally, fifty individuals and organizations were chosen on the basis of their anticipated interest in the York/Habitat Initiative to be recipients of a mail-out survey questionnaire. The questionnaire was designed to gather information about these people, their activities, and their interest level in actively participating in the network.
The results were disappointing. Only one questionnaire was returned. The Habgroup later came to the conclusion that the paucity of returns may have been due to the following factors:
many of the survey packages were addressed to university departments, thereby not giving any particular person responsibility for responding; Habitat was not well-known; the concept of human settlements was too general to promote a close identification among more specialized researchers.
The United Nations proclaimed 1987 as the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless (IYSH), with the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS / Habitat) being given primary responsibility for promoting it. One of the main activities that took place in Canada was a national IYSH conference from September 13 - 16 in Ottawa whose theme was "New Partnerships - Building for the Future". It was to reflect the necessity for innovative co-operation between the various sectors involved in housing and social development. The sponsors were the Canadian Association of Housing and Renewal Officials (CAHRO) and the International Council on Social Welfare - Canada (ICSW).
The Habitat Information Office set up and staffed a display booth there on behalf of UNCHS. The Habgroup and a number of FES faculty and students were there to attend the seminars and workshops as well as meet various people in the field of human settlements, including the Executive Director of UNCHS, who delivered the keynote address.
On the whole, the formal sessions did not seem very constructive, with many of the presentations only re-iterating what most in the audience already knew. The informal activities seemed much more interesting and useful because of the opportunity there was for interpersonal networking.
Informal socializing, during coffee breaks, meals and other lulls in conference proceedings, seems to break down the constraints imposed by more formal situations. People can talk about anything they want, rather than feeling a need to confine their discussion to a single topic. Participants ask questions, express opinions and provide information on items of concern. Finding points of mutual interest, sharing experiential anecdotes, and relating present activities are the normal topics of conversation.
Strangers meet best in small groups of three or four, from which it is easier to extricate oneself should the company not be to one's liking. Groups of two or three appear conducive to more in-depth discussion on a topic. Personality convergence is as important to good networking as mutual interests, so a good networker will generally also be an empathetic, sociable person. It helps to have a number of personal 'business' cards to hand out to those you meet, as well as a pocket notepad for getting names, telephone numbers, and detailed information.
There were three informal occasions at the conference that offered the chance to make contacts: the Innovative Shelter Exposition, the special breakfast for the executive director of UNCHS, and the wine and cheese cocktail hours.
The Shelter Exposition featured about sixty information booths with exhibitors from the UN, government departments, and organizations and industry representatives active in innovative housing and social development. It was very easy to make contact with people in this setting. The arrangement of the tables was conducive to lengthy, relaxed conversations and the display materials acted as good icebreakers. Nametags came in very handy - the names and organizational affiliations could be read at a distance, simplifying the identification of new contacts.
A special breakfast, to which about two dozen key people had been invited, was prepared for the Habitat director. It was an excellent opportunity to note how carefully the invitees had been selected. In any field, there is always a group of people who, by virtue of their office, their work, or their writings, help shape the identity of the field as a whole. They provide the leadership and direction, and often the resources, for the activities in that field to be carried out. Though, as any Washington socialite hosting a cocktail party knows, it is very useful to bring such people together, it is very difficult to do so. Schedules of busy people are notoriously hard to synchronize, even for an early-morning breakfast hour. In this case, a basic list of people who would contribute to, and benefit most from interaction in, such an 'enriched' environment was drawn up with the 60% rule in mind. This rule states that of those personally invited, even including those who have confirmed they would be there, only 60% actually will come.
The occasion proved to be very successful, with a great number of ideas and business cards exchanged. Interaction was aided by the conscious effort made by Habgroup members in attendance to introduce people to one another and facilitate the beginning of conversations. A smaller room had been chosen for the event so that the social distance between conversants was cut down, leading to a more intimate atmosphere.
The wine and cheese parties at the conference were good places to go to meet people. Here was where participants were at their most relaxed, no doubt helped by a glass or two of wine. The personality factor in networking seems to come into play in these circumstances much more so than in other informal situations. One has the opportunity to circulate in an unhurried way among a generally large crowd of people, most of whom are receptive to meeting strangers. The lack of time pressure, the 'party' nature of the event, and the need to relieve the stress built up during a long day of conference attendance, all contribute to an impetus to seek out those whom one can enjoy oneself with. Often it means gravitating toward those one knows already, but frequently it allows one to make contact with new people whose personalities are synchronized with one's own. Potential bonds of friendship are there, sometimes leading to commitments of further interaction after the conference is over. This kind of networking is a very natural one and contacts made on this basis can be quite fruitful.
The Habgroup met on numerous occasions to plan and coordinate the York/Habitat networking initiative. The purpose was to involve as many people in the field of human settlements as possible in on-going, action-oriented, collaborative endeavours with each other, Habitat, and York University. Such an approach, it was assumed, would be more successful in dealing with the multi-disciplinary nature of settlement problems than previous approaches involving academics almost exclusively.
The Habgroup thought it best to divide the potential participants into various constituencies and invite them to York in a series of meetings. These constituencies were: Academics, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Private Sector, and Government. Besides these categories, it was felt that, due to the nature of the Faculty of Environmental Studies and its proximity to the York/Habitat initiative, meetings of both the students and faculty in FES should also be arranged.
The purpose of the meetings was to define issues and develop a process by which these issues may be addressed. In particular, feedback on the role of the Habitat Information Office as a catalyst or facilitator of such a process was sought. The initiative would serve to develop a trans-sectoral 'working group' of dedicated people who would apply themselves to advancing the emergent network. It would also apply itself to identifying and implementing projects that would not otherwise be possible.
The choice of who to invite to these meetings was not an easy one. It was decided that those who were thought to be good networkers would be good choices. They would bring with them: contacts, fresh and broad perspectives, and experience in designing processes of this nature. A wide range of interests were to be included: geographers, planners, civil administrators, housing specialists, community human service workers, self-help organizers, educators, communications experts, specialists in environmental issues, among others. Again, as in the case of the official opening of the Habitat office, most of those invited were local to Toronto and personal contacts of Habgroup members.
The meetings generally lasted about 3 hours and had the same agenda format. The general schedule was:
- a social meal (luncheon or snack foods) [45 minutes]
- background given on the York/Habitat Initiative [15 minutes]
- self-introduction by participants, explaining their involvement in the field of human settlements [20-30 minutes]
- discussion on the goals and approaches of the 'network' to be formed as a result of the Initiative [30 minutes]
- discussion of needs and potential collaboration with Habitat office [45 minutes]
- presentation of projects being undertaken by the Graduate Assistant members of the Habgroup [20 minutes]
On November 5 1987, a meeting was called to discuss the topic of Human Settlements and the potential role of the FES/UNCHS (Habitat) connection. All students in the Faculty were invited to come and contribute ideas. It was expected that many would take advantage of this opportunity to appraise an area that is multi-disciplinary, indicative of the global problematique, and directly pertinent to their local realm of activity.
Why only ten students actually showed up may have had less to do
with conflicting schedules (a demonstration for peace in Latin America took place at that time) than with the way the subject was perceived. It was surmised that: human settlements, perhaps because of its all-encompassing nature, was not an easily focused-on, 'sexy' topic; that people saw it primarily in terms of Third World rural development and therefore not applicable to their study interests in the Canadian context; and that both the UNCHS organization and its FES Habitat Information office had not developed a high enough profile to capture people's attention and elicit involvement, especially at a busy time in the term.
While the turnout to the meeting was much less than hoped for, the students who did show up provided an interesting discussion of the topic of Human Settlements and how it might relate to their studies at FES which included: community development, pathology of urbanization, tourism, suburbanization, film/video documentaries, co-operative development strategies, rural development, international law and ecologically-sustainable development, processes in development, and computer networking.
The suggestion that received the most interest was the proposal to hold workshops attended by people knowledgeable in the field of human settlements. This would not only allow for information exchange and learning, but would have the practical benefit of giving FES students connection to potential employers, partners and colleagues.
Ten academics from York, University of Toronto and Ryerson Polytechnical Institute met with Habgroup members at FES in November 1987. Their fields included anthropology, politics, education, planning, urban history, geography and environmental studies.
After an informal luncheon, they discussed human settlements issues, their interests and activities, and the potential liaison between themselves and Habitat. The following, excerpted from a followup letter to attendees, are the main items suggested as important roles and activities for the Habitat Information Office and those who wished to involve themselves with it.
"The current role of the information office to disseminate information upon request as well as maintain a basic library of international journals and U.N. materials should be continued. What is needed, however, is both a horizontal and vertical development of this existing resource. Its nature should reflect an expanded concept of Human Settlements, i.e., a wider variety of materials as well as a more comprehensive approach to each individual area. This resulting resource would provide a valuable asset to those conducting research in the human settlements area...
A research and development network could be established to provide a sharing of information on research being conducted in developing countries. This sharing could be between the constituencies themselves and could facilitate the development of resource bases in developing countries. The information could be disseminated through a computer network, journal or newsletter...
...the possibility of creating a working group that would approach the human settlements area in an expanded wholistic sense. The group could take on projects such as a newsletter or journal and begin to promote human settlements as the focus for international development.
The issue of funding of the group's activities and its relationship to other institutions would have to be explored. The working group would be a vehicle for drawing in participants in a broad range of human settlements activity and operate as a forum for the exchange of ideas and information in addition to the development of potential projects...
...a high-quality academic journal be established as a collaborative effort involving Habitat. This journal would feature articles relating to Human Settlements written from a multi-disciplinary perspective, a perspective that current journals do not seem to have. The aim of the publication would be to 're-frame' the issues to promote a wholistic approach...
...members of the proposed advisory group, and any others interested in human settlements, (could) maintain on-going communication via computer conferencing. A locally-based computer network called Web could provide this service relatively inexpensively..."
This January lunchtime meeting was called to give the teaching faculty of FES an opportunity to get an update on the activities of the York/Habitat collaboration and to discuss how they might become involved. About 20 people came to ask questions and to offer suggestions.
The Initiative Co-ordinator gave an overview of the strategy to build a network of contacts in various constituencies: NGOs, governments, private sector, and academics. The Habitat Assistant explained the traditional role of the information office.
Suggestions from the discussion included:
1. Developing links with others
- mailout questionnaires didn't work when tried last personal connections needed, with tangible results
- link human settlement research in Canada with that in other countries
- establish contact with other universities doing human settlements research - Berkeley, Harvard, MIT
- Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (conference in Buffalo, Nov. '88) should be invited to Toronto for a meeting with us - some FES faculty are members
- re: twinning of cities - InterMet in early 1970's had the notion of a global network of urban centres - we need a workshop to integrate this office with other organizations with similar foci, once a year
2. Use information technology
- need a comparative database for research, e.g., many 3rd World researchers expressed interest in women's involvement in grassroots development in 8 Canadian cities
- continue move into expanding communications - proposal to create a computer conferencing link between contacts - video and education project
3. Seek out resources
- office should try to seek funding for projects in collaboration with FES faculty
- MIT offers fellowships for space research on human settlements
- CMHC may make some funds available for research
- Habitat internships and assistantships can be solicited for research work
There seemed to be a few good ideas that came out of this meeting, though there was little followup to them by the people invited. This may have been an indication that interest had not been cultivated enough. In view of the fact that the Habitat information officer had not yet been appointed (he arrived five months later), it would have been difficult to make any real decisions to begin any collaborative activities, anyway.
Some meetings appear to be important for political purposes. Colleagues like to be kept informed about local goings-on. The meetings also serve to indicate the local attitude toward specific activities, and hence the likelihood of support and collaboration.
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
There was a poor turnout to the NGO constituency meeting held in March. Of the 15 people invited, only 4 came. The focus of the organizations they represented included adult education worldwide, community economic development in Ontario, and civic infrastructure projects in the Third World.
The following suggestions were made:
It was thought that integration is a good idea but too complex to implement easily. More connections between NGOs and academia are needed but since communication/information must be active don't focus on documents in the information office, focus on money to influence human settlements policy in the world.
Students could do evaluative field studies of NGO field work - CIDA's evaluations are not very useful and often are not made available.
A conference might be organized to collect and disseminate information on projects, research, and actors involved in alternate economic development in Ontario.
York/Habitat must be careful of issues of "turf" when applying for project funds. Joint projects with NGOs must be mutually beneficial.
There seemed to be three main reasons postulated by those in attendance as to why people did not come to the NGO constituency meeting:
1. They were very busy and their schedules wouldn't allow them to participate. This is a very common and important limitation to face-to-face meetings. Perhaps having the option of computer conferencing, which is asynchronous and aspatial, could alleviate this problem.
2. They didn't think it was worth their time. They weren't convinced of the importance of either the subject matter or the multidisciplinary nature of the process. They were not given sufficient expectation of tangible rewards to themselves for participating. The Habitat organization wasn't well-known enough to be seen as an enticing opportunity.
3. Their organizations were more inclined to compete with other NGOs than cooperate with them. This meant it was unlikely that they would know any of the others invited. Their personal and organizational networks would not have extended to groups that might be rivals for funds.
Private sector and government
The next meeting involved both the private sector (mostly members of a realtor's association) and the government (representatives of various municipal, provincial and federal departments). It centred around the topic of 'integrated urban management'. It proceeded much in the same vein as the previous meetings, with similar results. There was a good discussion about the nature of the problems demanding integrated solutions, and many ideas as to what were particular strategies to follow to implement such solutions. There were, however, no concrete, on-going, purposive collaborations that arose following the event.
There were other gatherings in the Faculty involving Habitat. In mid-December of 1987, eight experts in the human settlements field in Canada met at FES to provide CIDA with feedback on its Human Settlements position paper. The Habgroup organized and facilitated this two-day meeting. A month later, another expert session was held there to assist in the writing of the Human Settlements Strategy document of the Canadian government that was presented at the UNCHS Commission conference in New Delhi in April 1988. Both gatherings produced an insight into the content area of the field as well as the process of policy-making. Knowing who the experts in a particular field are enables an organization to bring them together to create policy documents for the benefit of other fields. This also reinforces their being regarded as 'experts' in the future.
A database of contacts that the York/Habitat Networking Initiative had made over the past year was compiled. The software used was a program in the WordPerfect Library called Notebook. It was designed to give a listing of names, organizations, and telephone numbers as well as separate records with more detailed information on each person and organization. The database could hold up to 2,000 records and allowed for various types of searches. It was started in early February 1988 and various members of the Habgroup added to it on an ongoing basis.
Having a record of the members of a network is very important. It not only is useful as a reference for those immediately involved but also for those who may become involved at a future date. Having one location for telephone numbers and addresses saves a lot of time and trouble, especially when many people have to be phoned or sent mail to. A drawback to this kind of system is that the information on new contacts must be entered soon after they are made, with periodic updates. Computerizing a contact listing such as this makes it very fast and easy to do searches in order to get sublistings of people who share some common characteristics, e.g., live in a certain city or have the same interests.
Graduate Assistant Projects
The four graduate assistants involved in the York/Habitat Networking Initiative each began working on their own individual projects in the Spring of 1988. These exploratory projects were related to human settlements and provided an opportunity to broaden the emerging 'network' of contacts.
One assistant did a workterm in Kingston, Jamaica. He worked with the local UNCHS representative to document project work being done in the Caribbean. He also became involved with grassroots organizations, especially in the health sector, to determine the feasibility of establishing a micro-computer based network throughout the region.
Another visited governmental organizations and NGOs in Ontario to tell them about the Habitat office and to assess their potential involvement with his development of the use of video as a human settlements project management tool. He travelled to Indonesia and did a Video Case Study of a project there.
The third explored needs and identified approaches related to international urban management initiatives currently being developed in Ontario and to began to identify ways of establishing links between central and local agencies as well as government, commercial and community sectors. Contacts and individual meetings were made with key people at local, provincial, federal, and international levels in Ontario.
The fourth student (the author of this paper) explored the potential for using a computer network as a means of enhancing communications among those involved in the human settlements field in Canada. He created Habnet on the Web network and tried to get people to join and use it.
These graduate students' projects greatly expanded theInitiative's network of contacts. They also raised the profile of both York University and the Habitat Information Office. By promoting the concept of a new 'integrated' approach to solving human settlements problems, they perhaps influenced their contacts to be more amenable to pursuing further inter-disciplinary efforts in the future. Their work also offered them invaluable insight into the social dynamics of networking among individuals, organizations and institutions.
Lessons Learned From Y/HNI
It appears that there are limitations to using a series of face-to-face meetings as a method of creating new, interdisciplinary networks. This is especially true, it seems, if the meetings involve different participants each time. The facilitator's ability to keep up the pace of interaction over time, including the mailing out to participants of both invitations to the meetings, telephone confirmation of attendance, and updates on the progress made, will depend on the time and resources allocated to the task. For a network to become action-oriented, good co-ordination is essential. Facilitators should be aware of this and ensure that they make the necessary efforts to fulfill this function.
After the initial statement of ideas for collaboration, there should be a follow-though with a consensual decision on which ideas are do-able by the members of the group within a given timeframe. Then task allocations must be made. A lack of stated commitments that would ensure immediate and sustained collaboration will mean that it is not yet a working network.
Opportunity costs for accommodating new involvements must therefore be considered by participants. They have to decide what they have to change in their present activities in order to take responsibility for any new commitments made.
Face-to-face meetings seem to be a good way to develop a closely knit network of people with shared interests. What is important, though, is that they not only find their "common ground", but that they renew their contact on a frequent enough basis to sustain their participation in the network. There seems to be two main factors in sustaining the connections: extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.
The extrinsic refers to the rewards of participation - the people must feel they come out ahead in the trade-off between their time and what they get out of the meeting. If they come away from the gathering feeling they could have made better use of their time elsewhere, they are not likely to continue coming to subsequent meetings of that group. This means that, for each member, the resources expended on the network must not exceed in value the products of the network.
The intrinsic refers to the feelings induced by the process of networking. Participation may be continued longer in the absence of identifiable rewards if the process of communicating with other members is enjoyed as an end in itself.
Good interpersonal contacts often are the result of mutual back-scratching. Identifying common goals and sharing resources to meet them are good ways to strengthen bonds between members of a network. Doing favours for people without any immediate recompense can lead to reciprocal offers of assistance at a later date. Regardless of whether one eventually gets a favour returned or not, one of the best ways to build a supportive network is for each member to be as helpful to the others as possible. This means paying consideration to more than just one's own needs, and actively increasing one's awareness of the other members' situations and requirements.
THE NATIVE COMPUTER COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK (NCCN) PROJECT
The Native Computer Communications Network Project had its roots in some information-gathering surveys conducted between 1984 and 1987. These included surveys done on native education and native business in Canada. The respondents stated a need for improved communication in these areas across the country. In early 1986, a questionnaire was developed by the Native Canadian Relations Centre (located in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University) to determine the extent to which native people used computers and computerized communications as well as their attitudes toward them. The questionnaire was sent to every band council and native organization in Canada. Though only two percent were returned (27 replies), the great majority expressed a positive interest in the idea of creating a computer-based communications network to link native communities together.
As a result of the perceived need, the management of the Native Canadian Relations Centre at York University submitted a proposal to the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission (CEIC) to test the feasibility of establishing a computer network to facilitate cross-Canada communications among aboriginal people.
The project was divided into two phases: the Development Phase and the Pilot Phase. In the Development Phase (December 1986 to September 1987), the conceptualization of the network was established, potential users of the network (including those to be in the Pilot Phase) contacted and consulted, appropriate hardware and software found and tested, abstracts of documentary materials created and input into a database, and information gathered on a number of conferencing topics.
In the Pilot Phase (October 1987 to November 1987), eight selected sites in Ontario were supplied with the computers and trained in network management. The automatic networking function of the distributed system was established in a progression of site additions and its performance monitored. The network was promoted across the country and the potential 'market' assessed. Manuals for operation of the system were developed and refined.
The project began in December 1986 with a mandate to establish a centralized, "bulletin board" type of network, with the information residing at, and managed by, one particular site. It was quickly realized that a decentralized network would be much more politically acceptable to native people, who are traditionally averse to centralized authority. The decision to create a decentralized network meant that a personal computer at each participant's site would maintain the information base common to the network, with additions, in the form of files and messages, being passed along from site to site on a daily basis.
Features of the NCCN
It was decided early on in the project that the network be able to supply a number of features: computer conferencing, electronic mail and a resource database. The idea that a file transfer feature was also needed came later.
The main feature of the NCCN was computer conferencing. This is a means of structuring 'online' conversations centring on specific topics, much like the workshops and seminars held at face-to-face conferences. A significant difference is that with computers the communication is asynchronous, i.e., the users do not have to be online at the same time, they can read messages and respond at their leisure. Computer conferences, therefore, can continue for many months, or even years, given sufficient interest. The general conference topics which the network was to begin with were: System (about the network itself), Education, Economics, Social/Culture, and Social/Political. Within these categories a number of sub-categories were to be developed as the network grew.
The features of electronic mail (e-mail) and file transfer allow for private communication between users. E-mail, like the messages 'posted' to computer conferences, was stored at its original site until the middle of the night (when telephone rates and traffic are lowest) at which time it was forwarded to its destination. On the other hand, file transfer, which is often used for long text files such as reports, could take place at any time.
The database feature was originally intended to be an integral part of the network, with frequent updates being supplied online by users. After studying the software technology, however, it was decided that this was unfeasible. The database was to be managed by the Native/ Canadian Relations Centre, with updates being mailed out (either by file transfer or on floppy disks) every couple of months. It was to include short abstracts of documents (reports, articles, essays, books, and magazines) that pertain to native people. A 'scanner', which is a device that scans printed material and converts it into a computer text file, was to be purchased by the Centre and used to enable any requested documents to be sent out by file transfer.
Communication with native organizations was extensive, though most of it one-way, with various national and provincial groups being kept informed about the development of the project. Attempts to actively involve the organizations was not very successful. What is interesting, though, is that the need for computer communications had been realized by about three national agencies who were attempting to establish computer networks, albeit on a much more limited scale. These concurrent projects have not been successfully implemented.
The organizations who eventually participated in the NCCN project were contacted because of their affiliation in a micro-computer users' support group. This group consisted of representatives from eight band council offices in Southern Ontario, each of which had just recently been computerized. Three of these band council offices and the office of the group's leader volunteered to become pilot phase test sites for the NCCN.
The project team learned of two native-run businesses involving computer sales and training. One was located in Ottawa, the other in Belleville. These were contacted and agreed to participate. The sixth organization to join the NCCN was a Toronto-based native political umbrella group, whose offices were fully computerized.
The hardware used were IBM XT clones, with 2400 baud internal modems. The development system and central network 'server' was an IBM AT clone. Three computer distributing companies were approached, each one lending their equipment out for a week or so for evaluation. Technical problems occurred with equipment from two, so the third was given the contract for 4 XTs and one AT. Later, in the Pilot Phase, 3 more XTs were purchased.
After the initial decision to make NCCN a distributed network had been made, it was necessary to consider which software would be needed and how to obtain it. There were four kinds of software looked for: message structuring and manipulation; network transfer; user interface (menu); and database. In addition, other software was sought for general office usage, i.e., word processing, printout specification, and contact information file-keeping.
As the user costs were to be kept as low as possible, an attempt was made to either use public domain (freely distributable) software or to develop the software in-house and place it in the public domain. When these options were not available, the best priced commercial software programs were bought after careful research.
Since the concept of NCCN as a decentralized, distributed network was derived from the Usenet, it was considered a good idea to use Usenet message structuring and manipulation software. The added bonus was that it was all public domain. The drawback was that it had never been set up to run on a personal computer (PC) that used MicroSoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS), which is what most of the native organizations had in their offices. This meant that the project programmers would have to rewrite it's many pieces: netnews, mail, and file transfer.
The programmers gained first-hand experience in the Programmer's Rule: "The first 90% of a job takes 10% of the time, while the remaining 10% takes 90% of the time". What had originally been estimated as taking only two months to complete had yet to be finished over a year later. Why this happened tells us more perhaps about estimating than about software development. The main programmer, at the outset, had little idea how to assess his time commitments to other aspects of his work. There were also many other demands on his time: training the other staff; handling equipment purchases, set-up, installation, and testing; attending team meetings; learning, writing, evaluating and testing the many kinds of software needed for the project; and, later, doing presentations and training classes for users.
The following is a quick review of some of the main software programs used:
Xenix, a version of Unix that runs on personal computers, was chosen as the operating system for the network. Xenix is multi-tasking software that allows many programs, and users, to operate at the same time. It is more expensive than MS-DOS, but much more powerful.
MicroEmacs is a full-screen text editor (ASCII format only). It is a very good public-domain program, with good documentation, online help, and an online tutorial. It requires learning about twenty different keystrokes for average text formatting. The one drawback is that it is not good for remote usage by dialup users who have only 1200 baud modems. This is because it must redraw the entire screen every time a new line is added to the body of text when editing, which could be a time-consuming process. For short messages it is fine. The NCCN provides vi (a line editor) as the default in mail, with the option of converting the entire message to the MicroEmacs editor for easier editing of the full text. Lengthy messages are best created on the user's own system then uploaded into the NCCN computer.
Notebook is a file system from the WordPerfect Library that keeps a list of contact groups and individuals as well as pertinent information about them all. It was not used very much but still is the easiest means of getting information about people. It works with MailMerge for quick and comprehensive mailouts. It also has the capability of having automatic dialout when connected to a telephone, making it easy to call many people in a short period of time. Notes can be taken and added to the database while on the phone. Like any database, the drawback is that it must reside on a single system for maintaining data integrity. It has a lot of online and documented help on how to use it, but very little on how to set it up for your own purposes.
Kermit is a public domain communications software program with an error-checking protocol. It has been 'ported' to (configured to run on) many different makes of computer. This means it has become a 'standard' and won't become obsolete. It has extensive written documentation but very little online help, making it somewhat difficult to learn to use. It doesn't have a very good user interface and is little better than addressing the modem directly. Another drawback is that both the host machine and the machine calling in must have it on their systems.
Procomm is communications software that includes more than half a dozen different protocols, including Kermit. It is very good, with good online help and documentation. It has an excellent user interface. It is public domain shareware for testing purposes. It allows multiple dialup listings that can be called with only a few keystrokes.
The database of abstracts of all documents contained in the Native Canadian Relations Resource Centre was started by doing an inventory of the materials, after which abstracts were written on each item and entered into the database. This took quite a lot of staff time to do.
The database software was difficult to develop. Several consultants had to be hired to write the 'front end', i.e., the user interface. Eventually the database was finished and was available to be mailed via 'floppy disk' to any interested party requesting it.
Though a scanner had been obtained for evaluative purposes, it did not meet the requirements of the project. As a result, the idea to make the full documents available electronically via e-mail was scrapped.
Conference 'priming' information gathered
A researcher was hired to write brief articles on topics related to the online conference categories. This was to ensure that some useful information was periodically put into the conferences to keep participants interest high and to give them a sense that the conference was not 'dead'. Though over 80 articles were eventually written, few were used. It was thought that because many of them were derived from newsclippings, they were outdated by the time the network got established and users had been trained. It was also surmised that while the information would be interesting, it would not be conducive to interaction and merely reinforce a passive, 'read-only' expectation in the new user.
Installation of equipment
Computers were installed at the various sites during a 3 month period. Eventually there were operative machines in the following locations: York, the system programmer's home, 3 band council offices in Southern Ontario, the office of a provincial native political organization, and a native business. Two other native business offices, one in Ottawa and one in Belleville, supplied their own computers but were set up with the network software.
Though there were many technical difficulties encountered, these did not present too many long-term problems. There was one exception - it was discovered that XTs were unable to initiate dialout to other systems under the Xenix operating system. This meant that the computer at York (the AT) had to become the 'central server', calling up all the other sites and feeding them the nightly updates. Had ATs been used at all the sites, the network would have been truly decentralized.
One of the interesting features allowed by the network configuration was the capability of the York-based programmer to dial up any computer on the network, run diagnostics tests, and make 'fixes' to that site's software, all from a distance.
Promotion was given a high priority in the project. As early as February 1987 there were visits to native organizations to inform them of the project's existence and to solicit their opinions on what they would like the network to be. It was assumed that, since the network would utilize computers and software already existing in most native offices and use ordinary phone lines, it would be very attractive to native organizations and relatively easy to have them join as full sites. It seemed reasonable at the time for the project team to think that soon the NCCN would be technically ready and they would be able to set systems up all over the country. Though this proved not to be the case, promotion still went on, especially after December 1987 when the network was judged to be fully operational from a technical point of view.
Perhaps the main impetus of trying hard to "pitch" so many potential sites was the perception that a 'critical mass' of users was needed to facilitate on-line interaction. Without a certain number (50 was often mentioned) of sites, there wouldn't be enough 'action' on the system to keep people interested.
Another reason had to do with the team's perception of the potential usefulness of the medium. It was seen as a tool for promoting grass-roots empowerment through shared information and co-operative activities. The more sites on the network, the better. The faster they came on-line, the better.
There were various kinds of promotion: formal presentations, visits to select organizations, demonstrations, press releases and media interviews, materials made available at conferences, brochures and business cards, and a mass mailing to most native organizations in Canada.
Visits to various native organizations took place in Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto, with five or six organizations contacted in each. Political organizations seemed, for the most part, quite wary of the new technology, while those of an educational nature seemed the most enthusiastic.
In general, it was found best to have called well in advance to set up the meetings. When this was not done, it sometimes occurred that the 'right' people, i.e., the decision-makers, weren't present. Calling beforehand also gave the advantage of learning of other important contacts to make while there, thus saving time and effort.
Both the presentations and orientations were enhanced by using a set of large laminated placards as a visual aid. These cards had the main concepts of the NCCN written on them as well as pictorial representations of both the network linkages and the structure of the conferences.
For large audiences, the best way to present the NCCN was to use the portable Compaq AT, which emulated a full site, in conjunction with a technical attachment that allowed for overhead projection of the computer screen onto a large wall screen. In this way, a live demonstration of the network's capabilities could be given to twenty of more people at the same time.
Conferences were of benefit in disseminating information. Written materials explaining NCCN were inserted in each information package given to the 150 attendees at the All-Ontario Chiefs meeting in July 1987. An NCCN table was set up at the March 1988 Urban Native Conference which allowed for some valuable interpersonal contacts to be made.
The brochure also proved to be a useful way to convey information about the NCCN. It was an attractive and handy reference for those not present at the site orientations. Designed to be part of a mass mailing to over 3,000 native organizations in Canada, it had a section that could be detached and mailed back to the project team to indicate an interest in joining the network. Over seventy replies were received in this manner soon after the project ended in March 1988.
Although much preparation was put into the formal presentation of the NCCN to the public and the media on March 22, 1988, it did not elicit the turnout expected. A press release was drafted and sent out along with an invitation to dozens of native and non-native journalists representing television, radio, and newspapers. In addition, over 700 personal invitations were mailed to native or native-affiliated organizations, and faculty, staff and students of York University. Aside from the project team, there were only about twenty-five people who attended the event, of whom two were journalists. The presentation was quite well-received, however, despite the low turnout. Though an article on the NCCN appeared in both the York University student newspaper and the faculty newsletter, there was no other media coverage. As the CBC radio reporter put it, "Potential isn't news. I'll wait until it's actually being used for something."
Manuals are very important for successful implementation of innovative technology. As a highly sophisticated technical system, the NCCN had to have an exceptionally good manual to meet the demands of a relatively technically unsophisticated client population. The manual that was created succeeded in conveying the complexities of network concepts and usage in a simple and informative manner. This was probably a result of the time and effort that went into it.
Work on the manual began in July 1987. It was written primarily by the project co-ordinator, a non-technical person, with assistance on technical passages from one of the programmers. This was to ensure that the language used would be as free from technical jargon as possible. Examples were generally given with each explanation. An effort was made to make these examples relevant to the clients' culture and situation. A glossary of jargon terms was also provided for quick reference.
Because of the differing information needs of the various types of users (regular users, system administrators, system propagators, and system developers), there were actually many manuals. One was a very short quick-reference guide for the occasional user who just wants to do a few basic things. Another was the more complete Network User's Guide with directions for using all the features of the NCCN. It was written with the assumption that the user would be a complete novice to computers (it even begins with instructions on how to turn on the machines). Besides a chapter on guidelines for interaction ('netiquette'), there was also a chapter on system maintenance for the system administrators. The Network Utilities Reference provided technical reference material for the file transfer and text editing utilities. The last manual was the highly technical Network NetNews Reference that contained the documentation on the NCCN conferencing software.
There was a 'Help' option in almost every menu section available to the on-line user. While the main menu's 'help' provided short explanations on a number of topics, the other 'help' options were merely on-line versions of the relevant chapters of the printed manual. Because the messages were lengthy and it was often tedious to read the entire section when looking for a specific answer, this aspect could have been simplified. It was mainly done this way to meet the needs of first-time users who did not have a printed manual.
One of the drawbacks to writing manuals for a network development project is that the changing requirements of the system mean constant changes to the manual. This is what occurred with the NCCN. The fact that the network operated on both Xenix and MS-DOS meant that there was enough difference to warrant separate manuals. Every time there was a slight change to the user-interface (menus), the manual had to be updated. This became very expensive, considering the printing and distribution costs as well as the person-hours spent on it.
Training of users
Training actually began at the initial site visit. Orientation sessions were scheduled for as many potential users at that site as possible. At these sessions, a live demonstration of the systems was given, if possible, or at least the concepts described to the audience.
The project trainer set up a series of site visits and concentrated mainly on training the person responsible for administering the system there, though others were welcome to be trained too. The initial visit was for assessing skills and experience, and giving an overview of the online environment.
Training sessions were about 2 hours each and conducted four or five times over a 2-3 month period. Lessons progressed from the simpler aspects to the more complex, e.g., reading mail to posting items in conferences. A relationship of camaraderie was built up between the trainer and the trainees, with extensive support being given via e-mail and telephone. Users were also encouraged to make extensive use of the manual and give feedback for its refinement.
Most of the interaction that took place online was in electronic mail between members of the project team. Hundreds of messages were exchanged as a means of keeping informed about the rapid developments of the project. Trouble-shooting and 'bug fixes' required a lot of testing and feedback at different locations and at all hours of the day and night.
The new users at the various sites, with minor exceptions, used e-mail to correspond with the network trainer only. They did not have much interaction with people at the other sites because they did not know very many of them. Those few who did know each other used the telephone to communicate.
There were two conferencing areas, one consisting of five conferences relating to native issues, the other made up of over 75 USENET conferences. There was very little interaction in the former, with the project team members posting almost all the articles, and none at all in the latter since, to avoid offending USENET site administrators with novice errors, they were made read-only conferences.
Very little use was made of the file transfer feature of the NCCN by the users who weren't part of the project team.
About halfway through the first phase of the project, it had become apparent that the success of the network would depend on locating and training those organizations who would be willing and able to offer technical support to maintain the hardware and software as well as provide training to system administrators. Such support was seen as being necessary to for the continued propagation of the network. The project team was able to provide this service only for the limited time that project funds were available.
The project team located three such organizations. All three had extensive experience with native computer users, selling and maintaining computer equipment and/or training people to use computers.
These businesses became full sites on the NCCN during the Pilot Phase and each made a person available to act as a system administrator. Though all pilot sites were invited to send a representative to York for a special two-day training session on network usage, maintenance and propagation, only one of the three managed to do so.
At the end of the project in March 1988, none of the three organizations were either willing or able to 'take over' the role of the project team in further propagation or support. There are a number of reasons why this proved to be the case.
All three were relatively new and expanding enterprises. This meant that their staff were very busy in activities that had immediate benefits (profits). Expanding NCCN might have been too risky to devote their resources to over the short term.
Their area of expertise lay in systems that used MS-DOS. The Xenix operating system is quite complex and difficult to learn. It seems reasonable to assume they were reticent to spend time learning a system that few of their clients use, especially without some guarantee that large numbers of their clients would switch to this system. The MS-DOS version of NCCN software installed at one had not been rigorously tested prior to its installation, nor was there time to finish it. As a result, that site received a $500 phone bill for the last month they were on the network. They decided the software was not suitable and ceased participating in the network.
Two of the businesses were already involved in their own computer communications projects. One was selling software and training to clients affiliated with the National Aboriginal Communications Association (whom project staff tried unsuccessfully to meet with on a number of occasions) to enable them to use a commercial electronic mail and database access service called iNet 2000. Another had been operating an electronic bulletin board for exchanging messages with their clientele, and later began a database service.
Lessons Learned From The NCCN
After going through the trials and errors of the NCCN Project, learning while doing, the following are some of the main recommendations to be made for those who may be attempting to set up similar distributed networks in the future.
The first thing to remember is that a software development project always takes more than twice as long as you think it will, so allow ample time for programming and testing.
'Technical interlock' was an important factor. When creating an interdependent, complex technological system using a variety of hardware and software, there is an interactive progression of key elements, all of which must progress 'in synch' or risk delaying the whole.
Establish A 'Critical Mass'
Computer networks are still networks of *people*, first and foremost. This perhaps was forgotten in the rush to set up and test the technology at the various sites. Sites were equated with users, with an implicit assumption that the establishment of a network machine would almost automatically produce dozens of users at that site in a very short period of time. This didn't happen.
Rule #1 in the computer network creator's handbook: GET A 'CRITICAL MASS' OF PEOPLE ONLINE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
The actual number of users to constitute a 'critical mass' depends on several factors. The first is the attractiveness of the network to each person on it. The more attractive the network, the more likely the user will use it, and the more likely the users will encourage their colleagues to use it.
Things that make a computer network attractive to a user include:
1. Low cost - especially true for organizations and individuals with small budgets
2. Having previous experience with computers - knowing how to type and word-process, and having a basic knowledge of the operating system and the concepts of computer networking
3. Simple instructions - a good basic manual for beginners and a 'user-friendly' interface
4. Right people online - knowing that there are people online that the user wants to communicate with
5. Right information online - knowing that there is information being put online that the user is interested in
6. Quick and easy technical support - having a real person to call on for help with hardware and software problems as well as confusions in accessing and using the system
7. Time saving - seeing that it doesn't take too much time out of one's day and that it actually saves time for many things
8. Proven applications - knowing how the network can do a lot of things you are doing now, only better, faster, and cheaper.
Other factors include: average time available the user has to spend on the system to learn how to use it; average need or willingness to send mail, transfer files, or contribute to the conferences.
Bringing users online "as quickly as possible" means applying the resources toward the most efficient technology. This implies setting up a single centralized machine to be the host to enough users to ensure enjoyable and fruitful interaction. Many more users can be brought online via dialup access than by setting up a multitude of single site machines. Dialup equipment and software are easier to support technically and are also less expensive to initiate and maintain. Ease of use is a factor here, too. Public domain communications software, such as ProComm and Kermit, is very easy to learn.
A major disadvantage to dialup is that each user must have their own computer or access to someone else's. The cost of the telephone connection to the central network server is cumulatively more expensive with many users from a single remote region calling in individually than it would be if there was a local site near them to call with no long distance charges. This, however, implies that enough remote users live in this region to justify the costs of maintaining a network site there.
Another consideration is the Canadian public data transmission network called Datapac. It is a value-added common carrier that is more usage-sensitive than distance-sensitive in its charges. This means that people pay for the time they spend online and the amount of data that is transferred more than for the distance covered by the connection. It is generally cheaper for all but the users closest to the network server to use this service over direct telephone dialup. The Datapac lines used are much 'cleaner' too (less 'noise' from electrical interference). Those users who live in most Canadian cities can access Datapac from their local telephone dialling area. Rural users, however, must call in long distance to the nearest city served by Datapac and pay for that connection on top of the Datapac charges.
Network Development Strategy
Perhaps a better way to develop a network of this nature (where there are multiple sites that share a common information base and updating procedure) is to go through a series of stages.
Set up a single machine to be used as the test site. Have a second machine set up beside it in the office to test the inter-system communication software and modems. Get the hardware, software, and manual developed and tested until the system can support new users.
Promote the network. Seek out individuals and groups with the potential to be keen networkers. Evaluate half a dozen groups for their capability to be pilot participants. Try to get groups that will each bring about 20 or more new users online quickly. Only work with groups in or near the city where the network server resides. Establish close working relationships with key individual members of the pilot groups, using a 'buddy' system and frequent usergroup meetings.
Assist the groups in getting online by telling them where they can purchase the necessary hardware and software and showing them how to install and use it. Provide them with plenty of manuals. Try to build up their ability to propagate the network on their own. Develop applications in cooperation with the users. Work on helping them to find ways to get funds for further applications and related projects.
When one of the groups feels it is has the resources, set it up as a full site by showing them how to install and maintain the system. Begin to promote dialup access to groups that are recommended by the users presently on the net. In particular, assist the new site to establish a base of its own dialup users. Continue doing this until all groups have their own site machines.
Provide training and assistance for those established sites who wish to propagate the network outside the city. Train the trainers. Continue doing research on applications.
COMPARISON OF THE Y/HNI AND THE NCCN
The Y/HNI and the NCCN were both attempts to create new networks of people for the purpose of facilitating positive social change.
The former used the more traditional technique of loosely structured face-to-face meetings among participants carefully selected for their shared appreciation of the goals of the initiative. The latter focused on developing the new technology of computer communications, with the people involved primarily as machine tenders (though this was not the desired outcome).
The main explanation why both failed to create dynamic, socially-active, collaborative networks of people lies mostly in the fact that in both cases the individuals involved were very busy with their own affairs. These affairs did not necessitate communicating on a regular, ongoing basis with any of the others drawn into the networking venture.
In the case of the Y/HNI, common ground was initially found in the voicing of potential areas of collaboration, but since this was never followed up with a process to find the resources needed to carry out these potential projects, there remained no reason for this loose association of people to become an interactive network.
The NCCN, because of its focus on the technology, chose participants on the basis of their having had previous experience with computers. None of the people involved were engaged in ongoing purposeful communication with one another. While it was hoped that the introduction of the new communications technology would produce an incentive to seek common reasons for collaboration, this did not happen.
The sets of participants in both cases obviously did not see enough benefit in the formative network or the networking process to involve themselves in anything more than a peripheral manner. This was the result of the failure of both projects to take into account the huge amount of time, effort and resources needed to break the bonds of the individual's current networks and create new ones. If the potential members of the new network are busy working in different disciplines, live in different locations or have different goals, new network evolution can be extremely difficult.
In very many respects, both the Y/HNI and the NCCN were successful in what they accomplished. The former produced a greater awareness of the Habitat office and its role, and provided forums for the informed discussion of the issues and ways to deal with them. It also allowed people to meet that might not otherwise have gotten to know one another. The latter not only developed new technologies, but their facilitative infrastructures as well. It was successful in showing that the barriers to establishing computer networks are not just technical ones.
The logistical difficulties of the York/Habitat Networking Initiative were considerable. A great deal of time, effort and money went into drawing dozens of people from different disciplines and locales to face-to-face meetings. In order for such meetings to be effective at producing active, working groups, the participants would have had to have met on a much more frequent basis. More resources for co-ordination would also have been needed. The schedules of busy people make it extremely difficult to arrange to have the people all show up at the same time. Different people attending subsequent meetings have to be brought up to date in proceedings. Such difficulties as these could be overcome to a large extent through the use of computer communications.
The Native Computer Communications Network Project established links between computers but wasn't very successful in creating an interpersonal network. The major hurdles overcome by that project were ones that had to do with use of the technology. The user interface was developed to be very simple and easy-to-use as was the manual. The emphasis on training was important in ensuring that frustrations were kept to minimum. Though the capabilities were there for communicating via computer, the reasons for doing so were not. More emphasis on mutual goal setting in face-to-face meetings would have been helpful.
Habnet was conceived to make use of the strengths of these two projects in order to overcome their weaknesses. Using computer communications to facilitate the formation of a human settlements network seemed a way to keep the resources required by the face-to-face meetings to a minimum.
The following were the main objectives of the Habnet project:
For Habitat - to get important information out to educators, researchers, and field workers in a timely fashion, and to receive immediate feedback from them on their activities.
For York - to facilitate the present networking initiative undertaken in collaboration with the Habitat information office there, and to explore the use of computer networking as a research tool.
For the Human Settlements Field - to allow for more grass-roots participation in issues, to assist in the co-ordination of projects, and to raise awareness of the complex, multi-disciplinary relationships surrounding human settlements problems.
Equipment and Access to Web
After creating the concept of Habnet and describing it to the Habgroup, it was necessary that the members of the team be able to access Habnet on the Web system. This meant ensuring they had the appropriate equipment, their accounts had been created, and the Habnet conference established online.
Making sure the equipment was available meant a number of things. Of the seven members of the group, five had their own personal computers (PCs) at home or in the office, one being an Apple MacIntosh and the others IBM compatibles. A modem had to be purchased for one of these, another had to have a special data line installed to be able to dial out of the office at the university (which was on a local area telephone network which didn't permit data transfer). That same person had also to acquire an electrical adapter to allow his European-made computer to use the North American power standard.
For those without their own equipment, there was the computer room of FES. Of the dozen or so terminals and PCs, one was set aside for accessing Web. Its internal software had to be configured to match the Web protocol, and instructions on the proper procedure to dial out were typed out and tacked up nearby.
To get accounts online was a matter of calling the co-ordinator of Web, giving him a list of the names and addresses of the team members, and making the payment for a group account and a private conference for six months. The cost of this was less than $300. In turn, each of us received an individual 'userID' and password, a personal online 'mailbox' and the capability to participate in any of the 125 public 'conferences' on the system. The private conference was called Habnet and required another password to get into.
The next step was to obtain the proper communications software. This software allowed the 'user' to automate the 'logging in' procedure (dialling Web) as well as 'upload and download' (transfer messages and files to and from Web). There are many kinds of such software, with each major type of computer being incompatible with any other. We used Procomm for the IBM compatibles, and Red Ryder for the MacIntosh, because they were not only good products and among the most commonly used, but they were also 'shareware' (you pay a nominal amount to the creator if you like it but you can take a long time to evaluate it).
The contacts database was established to provide a quick and easy way of accessing information on those people that were affiliated with the York Habitat Networking Initiative. During the Habnet project period, the Habgroup members were encouraged to add data on the contacts they were making to it. The aim of this information, besides being valuable for general interpersonal networking purposes, was to provide a basis for evaluating how best to approach these contacts in order to get them to join Habnet.
The Notebook software allowed for the tailor-making of the field design for each record [a record is all the information on a single person, and contains a number of fields, each of which is a discrete kind of information]. The fields included: name, position, organization, telephone number, address, computer network address(es), personal information, and organizational information. The records could be viewed one to a screen with all fields exhibited for revision, or 24 to a screen with each record showing only the name, organization and telephone number fields on one line for easy reference.
The ability to do sorting of records by having the computer search for shared words in particular fields meant that lists could be easily generated of people in certain locations, such as Ottawa or York University, or with certain organizational affiliations, such as academic or government. This made it simpler to prioritize the contacting of individuals to talk about Habnet, saved time when actually making the calls, and was a handy way of keeping track of each person's capability and willingness to participate in Habnet.
After the conference and accounts had been set up on Web, it was time to begin training the Habgroup to use Habnet. In addition to developing both an understanding of the concepts behind computer communications and an overview of the various kinds of computer networks in existence, the group had to learn to use four software programs: communications software, the Web environment, the Emacs text editor, and the contacts database.
Training sessions were scheduled for the group as a whole and for each individual over a two month period. All documentation was provided in 'hardcopy' (i.e., printed on paper), with both full manuals as well as shorter easy-reference guides.
The results of the training were that two of the seven members of the Habgroup did not make use of any of the software programs and one other only used the contacts database. These three really did not actively participate in the online interaction, while the other four were doing so within a month of initiating the training sessions. The reasons given for lack of participation included: being too busy with other work, slight technophobia (and therefore not much interest), and being out of the country during that period.
The promotion of Habnet began with its introduction at the various constituency meetings of the York/Habitat networking initiative. At the end of each meeting, the concept of using computers to enhance communications among the network of involved in human settlements was presented along with an overview of the history and nature of such a new medium. In addition, a one-page description of Habnet was handed out along with a Web brochure and a listing of the benefits of computer conferencing. Generally the idea was well received, though there were a few who expressed concern that the expense of the equipment would preclude many of the smaller 'grassroots' organizations from participating, especially in the Third World. As these meetings took place many months prior to the creation of Habnet on Web, no attempt was made to recruit anyone at that time.
Articles were written and placed in the weekly FES newsletter and the Faculty's International Development Newsletter (both in-house publications) explaining what Habnet was. Other short articles were sent to two 'umbrella' organizations (academic and NGO) for inclusion in their newsletters, though no responses were ever received as a result.
The main method chosen to promote Habnet was to personally visit with potential members. This also had the advantage of being a survey of their interest and capability. A total of 18 people were interviewed in Toronto and Ottawa, including 8 academics, 5 NGOs, 3 governmental organizations, 1 private sector person, and one non-affiliated individual. These people were chosen on the basis of the likelihood of their not only having the necessary equipment to join Habnet, but also the desire to participate.
The information obtained from these meetings was very enlightening and somewhat discouraging. Only one training session was scheduled as a result of this effort and even that did not result in active participation.
The reasons why people couldn't or wouldn't join Habnet were quite varied. The main reason given by five of them was that they were too busy - their office was understaffed, they had papers to write, they already had too much too do. The next reason was related in that four of them were already preoccupied with other computer networks - and just starting to use them, for the most part. Three did not have the proper equipment, and three were leaving the country for quite a while. The staff of one government office had no experience with computers. One person couldn't see the benefit in relation to the time invested, and another wanted to wait until more people were on Habnet.
Some other concerns were raised too. Information overload was one worry, as was the financial viability of Habnet. Not knowing other participants and fear of lack of security for Third World members were mentioned. Finally, links to other networks and ability to access relevant databases were raised as potential factors to growth.
The ways that Habnet might have been used by the individuals or organizations visited, according to them, was interesting, too. Many just saw it as a way to exchange messages with colleagues, relating it to a mail function. Others were keen on using it to distribute their information, having that as their office's mandate. Only four of the eighteen had any previous experience with computer conferencing, and that was not extensive, so the concept was generally a new one for most of these people.
The general response was very supportive. They thought the idea was a good one and many hoped to be able to join sometime in the future. Some very helpful suggestions were given, including the names of other potential members. Though more than half said they would be in touch about joining in the fall of that year, none ever did. Followup contact was made with five of them that fall but did not result in participation, mainly for similar reasons to those originally given.
Presentation at York University
In mid-October 1988, a one and a half hour presentation on computer networking and the Web system, using Habnet as the illustration, took place in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. About 35 students and professors attended the session. A 'PC Viewer' was used to project the computer image onto the wall screen so everyone could easily see an actual walk-through of the online environment. Though such a demonstration is best performed 'live', in this case there was no direct telephone connection from that lecture room. A 'canned demo' on a floppy disk, consisting of screen pages taken from a previously recorded online session, was therefore used instead.
While there seemed to be a lot of interest in the concept, this presentation did not generate any more participants in Habnet, nor did two similar demonstrations to the general student body a few months later.
Habnet Conferences on Web
Habnet began as a private conference on Web, which meant that only people selected by the conference facilitator (sometimes referred to as moderator, host, chair or fairwitness) could have access to it. The Habgroup originally thought that they and other 'insiders' would use Habnet to discuss strategy in developing the human settlements network. Since this would entail revealing personal information about contacts, it would be best not to solicit participation from the general public.
The Habgroup decided that the initial topics of discussion were to be the following:
1. Document abstracts - a collection of abstracts of books, journals, magazines, newsletters, reports, and other documentary sources of information having to do with human settlements
2. Technical problems - for discussing problems encountered in trying to access and use Web.
3. Projects of student assistants (a topic for each)
4. Networking strategy and development - for the discussion of the York/Habitat networking initiative - who to invite into Habnet, when to invite them, how to encourage their participation, etc.
The following is an index of the Habnet topics of discussion that evolved throughout the active period of the conference, from May 1988 to January 1989.
# Topic (Lines, Responses)
2 Welcome to Habnet! (50, 0)
3 Report on Electronic Networking Association Conference May 12-15,1988 (91, 3)
4 HABGROUP MEETING MAY 19, 1988 - MINUTES (41, 0)
5 TECHNICAL PROBLEMS - difficulties in accessing and using the Web (35, 1)
6 Networking and Habnet - Major Project of Rory O'Brien (Summer '88) (233, 2)
8 Housing Developments and Planning in Africa - Richard Stren lecture (211, 0)
9 Meeting of Habgroup Mon. June 13th, 2 p.m., in the Habitat office (22, 1)
12 Garbage disposal research (17, 1)
13 Waste and unemployment documentation query (11, 0)
14 World Habitat Day - ideas needed (12, 2)
15 Development Workshop telephone number needed (4, 0)
16 Idea - architecture students and low-cost housing projects (19, 6)
17 Idea - Canadian meeting re 1989 Habitat Commission theme? (14, 0)
18 Readership test ;-) (13, 1)
19 MINUTES - Habgroup meeting June 13, 1988 (48, 2)
20 Emacs now the default editor for present Habnet members (17, 0)
21 Peacenet - Nairobi connection (65, 7)
22 ELC - Environmental Liaison Centre (86, 0)
23 ANEN - African NGOs Environment Network (48, 3)
24 Packet radio demonstration - Dakar, Senegal (169, 0)
26 INTEGRATED URBAN MANAGMENT (25, 7)
27 Martha Stewart's Village Video Network (54, 0)
29 Greening the City (85, 3)
30 Report on recent efforts to expand Habnet (64, 5)
31 April 87 Guest Editorial in FES' Int'l Development Newsletter (97, 0)
32 greening info request (5, 0)
33 Web Participation (3, 3)
34 People to meet with in Ottawa (35, 1)
35 meetings in Ottawa (5, 0)
36 BENEFITS AND DRAWBACKS OF HABNET (73, 0)
37 Outline for CIDA proposal for expanding Habnet (67, 1)
38 Report 2 on Attempts to Propagate Habnet (92, 2)
39 FCMNET (16, 1)
40 OISE Meeting on Latin American networking July 13, 1988 (86, 0)
41 Report on Ottawa trip - Rory O'Brien - July 18 to 21, 1988 (253, 1)
42 CIDA's policy on urban issues (18, 0)
43 The Calcutta Social Project - Urban Waste Recycling (96, 0)
44 Rural and Small Town Research and Studies COnference (11, 0)
45 Human settlements publications listing (27, 0)
46 New publ. on construction industry (60, 0)
There was a total of six people who actually took part in the habnet conference, four from the Habgroup and two others already on Web who were invited to join because they were working in the human settlements field. Efforts to bring more contacts online were not successful, as discussed in the above section on Promotion of Habnet. The members of the Habgroup who were working on their own individual projects did not feel that Habnet was sufficiently advanced to warrant encouraging the contacts they were making to join.
The articles placed as topics in the conference were generally of three types: information bulletins, reports on activities, and discussion forums. The information bulletins were by far the majority, but these elicited very few responses, perhaps because of their general 'background' nature. The activity reports were also not very evocative of responses, primarily because they were made verbally in Habgroup meetings prior to their posting online. The few discussion forums that evolved often centred around questions or requests for information. It seemed that if the question was placed online because either it was a spur of the moment thing (such as a technical difficulty) or it was submitted by the two non-Habgroup members (who lived in Nova Scotia), and therefore not likely to be discussed in a face-to-face meeting, it was more likely to result in more interaction online.
Most of the postings were done by two people, the facilitator of the conference (the author of this report) and the Habitat Information Officer. The other participants, while not as active, did all contribute at least some postings, generally as responses in discussion forums.
When the Habgroup realized that the habnet conference was not expanding in its number of participants, it was decided to create a similarly focused public conference called 'humset'. The hope was that by allowing any interested people on Web to participate, a wider range of viewpoints and more interaction would occur.
The humset conference was created in September 1988, and an announcement made on Web advertising it to all 250 users with accounts on the system at that time. The first topic posted in humset outlined the purpose of the conference. Subsequent postings made by the facilitator were re-postings of material for public consumption already contained in the habnet conference.
To avoid information overload and to convey to users that the conference was an active one, the re-postings were placed in the conference in a staggered manner. With three or four such new items a week, new participants would be notified by the system on a frequent enough basis for them to develop a recognition and an affinity for humset. This would help encourage their participation, it was surmised.
Whether such a strategy worked or not is hard to say. Though there were half a dozen or so newcomers, one of whom was active in a few new discussion forums, the conference as a whole did not really become very popular. Though it continued to elicit some infrequent postings after the habnet conference material had all been re-posted, the last entry was put on the system in May 1989.
One of the unexpected results of creating humset was that it caused the original participants to stop posting items in the private habnet conference. It was assumed that, although other factors were involved, Habnet members preferred to interact in only one 'place' rather than divide their time and attention between two.
The amount of use of e-mail between Habnet members showed it to be the preferred method of communication, far outweighing the use of the online conferences. It was much more informal in style and much more personal, of course. The familiarity of sending single messages to one person (and sending 'carbon copies' to others) via regular mail made it the first thing learned by new Habnet users. It actually took a while before participants could be convinced it was more convenient to use the habnet conference for messages that were to go to the whole Habgroup rather than using e-mail to send them to one person and cc'ing the others.
One of the main uses of e-mail was for the requesting and receiving of technical support. Problems that Habnet members had with editing postings or up and downloading made them likely to write brief messages to the Habnet facilitator or the Web system administrator. Another main use made of e-mail was for the scheduling of meetings among members of the Habgroup. Other types of messages were work related insofar as information was shared about overlap in projects and advice given on project development. Finally, many messages were just banter between participants.
The Web system allowed two users to 'chat' with each other when both were online at the same time. This chatting took the form of a written dialogue carried out in the same way a verbal dialogue takes place over a CB radio. One person would write their piece, indicate they were finished with an 'o' (for over), and the other person would respond in a similar fashion, with both people being able to see both sets of writings on their screen.
This was a very popular, though limited, means of communication. It evoked the feeling of a telephone conversation with its immediacy of interaction. Generally, these conversations were fairly short ones. If the 'conversation' became interesting and looked like it would take a long time, the users would exit from Web and use the telephone. None of the chats were scheduled in advance and it was not often that one would find another Habgroup member online at the same time. While it was considered 'fun', it was not used very frequently.
This capability was used only twice during the project period, each time for reports either too lengthy to be put into a conference or formatted for a word processor (which would make it unreadable as a mail or conference message). There seemed to be two reasons why it was not used more often: the procedure was badly documented in the Web manual, and there was not much demand for yet more lengthy readings (of which the Habnet members already had plenty).
Demise of Habnet
The last posting of an item in the habnet private conference was January 31, 1989, and in the humset public conference was May 26, 1989. Electronic mail messages were exchanged with decreasing frequency by the members until August 1989, paralleling the drop-off of participation as members stopped using the system.
There were a number of factors in Habnet's eventual stagnation, many of which, being interactive, were both cause and effect of one another.
For an online network to be successful one needs to get a 'critical mass' of people interacting on the system. This means a sufficient number of people to ensure that the appropriate contacts are available online when one wants to get information from them or initiate a collaborative project. Enough people also means that a greater depth and breadth of information is being posted to the conferences such that one can keep up with the latest news in a particular field of interest. Having more participants generally leads to more frequent messages being available so that each member can have the option of 'taking it easy' and adding to the discussions in a much more leisurely way, without feeling a pressure to make frequent contributions in order to keep the conference alive and active.
Habnet never grew much beyond the original Habgroup. The main reason for this had to do with a lack of resources. It took a considerable effort on the part of the instigator and facilitator of Habnet to bring online even a few people who were very supportive of the idea. In August 1988, this person took on the full-time position as Web co-ordinator, an extremely demanding job. While it still allowed him to continue with Habnet, it did reduce it in his list of priorities. This meant that the time and energy necessary for seeking continued funding for promoting the network, training new users and facilitating their online interaction was not there in sufficient quantities.
One of the original plans of the Habnet project was to write a proposal to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for continued funding for the project. Several outlines for the proposal were drawn up at different times but it was thought best to hold off submitting it until Habnet grew a little larger and it was clear that it was a worthwhile initiative to fund. The final proposal was never written, there being little indication that the funding needed would ever be approved.
The York/Habitat networking initiative was also not providing any new members of Habnet. This is because of two related reasons:
1. the members of the Habgroup who were working on their individual projects were not encouraging their contacts to join Habnet, and
2. there was very little immediate need for any of the contacts to enter into ongoing communication with the Habgroup or each other via Habnet.
The graduate students' networking projects were generally for the purpose of gathering information on who was doing what in specialized areas of human settlements and not for the coordinating of any particular activities. Though creating some kind of collaborative effort to serve as a focus of the whole networking initiative had been discussed early on, it never materialized.
There were several reasons why the few members of Habnet ceased to use it. One left the country for a six-month period, and one (who lived in Nova Scotia) could not afford to use Web any more. Of the others, their participation decreased and stopped as their enthusiasm waned, because they were not getting any real benefit out of Habnet. Without some sort of payoff for putting information online, there is very little incentive to continue. Having only a couple of active members, most of whom were more easily communicated with by telephone or face-to-face-meetings, meant that Habnet was increasingly a waste of valuable time, especially since there ceased to be even a common venture keeping the Habgroup together.
Enthusiasm levels dropped and frustration levels rose due to technical difficulties at three different times, leading to markedly diminished interaction. The first was in mid-January, 1989, when thieves stole the Web computer and its backup tapes. Though luckily an old backup tape was located off-site and the Web system replaced and running within three days, it meant that all mail and conference postings from mid-November had been lost.
Though it was disheartening, members rallied and made an effort to re-upload whatever postings they had available on their own computers. Three weeks later, Web experienced a hard disk crash that wiped out all postings entered into the system since the theft, and since replacement backup tapes had not been purchased, these also were irretrievably lost. Some were re-uploaded again, but not many.
To cap off this 'time of troubles', in mid-April there was a complete change of the Web system to software identical to that used by The Institute for Global Communications (IGC) in the United States and GreenNet in Britain in order to allow for fully integrated conferencing among the three networks. It not only meant a great deal of confusion as users tried to familiarize themselves with the new structure and commands, but it also brought with it over 600 new conferences, making it even less likely for Web members to become active in Habnet conferences.
Lessons Learned From Habnet
Many of the lessons learned from the Habnet project seem, in retrospect, to be very obvious ones. At the time of implementing Habnet, however, they were not so apparent. The following are some of the more important points to keep in mind when attempting to create an on-line network.
Getting Organizations Online
Larger organizations, with more offices and people, have more 'inertia' and can't get online as easily as smaller organizations. Being responsible for more operations and having to coordinate more people means that decisions to adopt new policies or procedures, especially ones that could have wide-ranging impacts, are not made without a great deal of thought. This means it can take a long time for such groups to decide to join a computer network.
What seems to be the strategy chosen by many of them is to have a carefully planned and carefully budgeted 'pilot' project. Many, however, will only consider a pilot after they have seen other organizations are using the innovation to their advantage. Their pilot will not be an exploration of general potential social uses as much as it will be a study of the cost/benefits for themselves and the best way to implement the new technology for their entire group.
Time is more important than money for most organizations, as far as investing resources in computer networking is concerned. Any proposals to get them online must have training as a major focus. Manuals are generally only read as a last resort.
Not having the proper equipment at hand to do computer networking is a barrier for organizations, since it often means quite a delay in getting it budgeted for, i.e., committees have to assess the situation.
It is best not to give people too high expectations regarding the potential benefits of computer networking. Although some 'hype' is needed to get people to be interested enough to try it, if they experience difficulty due to unexpected problems or lack of desired response, their initial reactions will be frustration and discouragement. They should be made to realize that this medium is approximately at the same stage of development as the telephone was at the turn of the century. If they are told they are pioneers who will experience 'hardships' but that the eventual satisfactions will be there, they will possibly be more likely to remain participants. Common frustrations include: technical problems, lack of knowledge about commands and procedures, and disrupted online communications. Murphy's Laws are always being encountered.
Interconnections with other computer networks is vital if the participants want to include other people in their network. The special interest, interpersonal network is not the machine, nor even the host system, but rather the web of connections established between people. There are so many people getting online with dozens of computer networks, it is very likely that some potential participants will already be using a different system and not want to 'move' to another.
Most of the major networks such as BITNET, the INTERNET, and UUCP/USENET, are 'gatewayed' into each other for electronic mail. Special interest network facilitators must become familiar with the correct methods for exchanging messages between their own system and these other systems, if their participants are going to be able to communicate while 'residing' on different computer networks.
It's easy to get people interested in an idea, but difficult to get them to follow through in assisting to implement that idea.
Everyone has their own agendas and goals, such that some people, despite their good intentions, never make the time to get online, or contribute to online discussions. The network facilitator, after providing the necessary support, should not be frustrated at this phenomenon. It is more important to concentrate on those who are able to participate.
Hands-on training saves the novice a lot of time in trial and error learning. Immediate answers to questions can help the new user quickly learn to navigate around the system. It is wise to find out what capabilities the user will be using most and develop the training process accordingly.
Macintosh / Apple users and those used to an mouse and icon based graphics interface have difficulty adjusting to command line interfaces. This may be because recognition is easier than remembering without prompts. User of an online service should have several options of interfaces, each allowing more detail to be given as prompts and explanations. The choice of which level to choose will depend on how quickly the user develops a 'memory map' of the system.
Having people already know each other helps facilitate online interaction. Seeing a familiar 'face' in a computer conference is as welcome and enjoyable as seeing them at a face-to-face conference. It provides an opportunity for the new user to make use of all the system's communications capabilities, thereby learning a wider variety of commands and procedures.
E-mail is the most used feature of a computer network. Perhaps this is because it is something that is readily identifiable with regular mail. The concept and procedure being relatively familiar means there is less fear of making mistakes or 'disobeying' norms as there might be in the case of online conferencing, which is very much an unknown entity. Marshall McLuhan may have had a point when he said we enter the future looking in the rear view mirror.
One of the best uses made of the system was the scheduling of meetings of the Habgroup. Exchanges of e-mail successfully avoided 'telephone tag' in letting the others know when was going to be available.
One of the reasons why there was little interaction online was that the Habgroup members were meeting face-to-face on a fairly frequent basis. This meant they could share information with each other without having to put it in a computer conference. Direct interpersonal communication, because of the emotional content of non-verbal cues, and the ability to get immediate, interactive feedback, is still preferable to computer-mediated communication.
Traditional networking techniques focus primarily on face-to-face interactions. Good networkers have to be good socializers and communicators in order to find out enough about a situation and the people involved to start developing links between participants. The links are forged primarily by encouraging the creation of a commonly shared vision, with sufficient, concrete, collaborative activities laid out in order to realize that vision. Having the resources on hand by which to implement such activities is important. If such resources are not immediately available there must be a commitment by participants to obtain such resources.
There are many barriers to creating new networks besides the absence of shared visions or the resources to create them. One of them is time. Busy people often do not have the time to spend in attending meetings frequently enough to ensure active on-going collaboration. This is especially so if their areas of work are disparate, therefore requiring substantial effort to develop cooperative ventures. Another barrier is distance. Modern transportation has made gatherings of people who do not live near each other more common, but it is still so very expensive and time-consuming to have large group meetings that they are generally held only frequently enough to be effective at creating or reaffirming visions, and not often enough for the interpersonal feedback needed for large-scale, active, on-going collaboration.
Promoting System Usage
Computer communications offers the potential to greatly reduce the time and distance barriers to networking. At present, because the technology is still in its infancy and relatively unknown, it requires a great deal of time, resources and perseverance to create an online network of people. Some of the ways to minimize resources and promote system usage include the following:
1. Put high-quality information online that can't be easily obtained elsewhere; or make the network the only channel for other important communications.
2. Develop the network around a relatively small group of people who need to use the capabilities of the medium to work together. They may not have the resources or time to accomplish their shared tasks using other media alone.
3. The online space can be set up to facilitate social interaction between those who have a great need for it, or are more familiar with the technology. Once the people get to know each other, it is easier to develop common purpose.
4. Use the network to link those who have information to disseminate with those who need to obtain that information.
5. Recruit good networkers within an interest group to act as organizers and facilitators of the online network.
6. Require that the participants pay for their use of the online network. Operating it as a business does not preclude obtaining funds elsewhere, but it does save the network from being at the mercy of budget cutbacks by funding agencies.
The online environment itself is where three general types of interactions occur - working, collegial, and social. The working relationship involves communication in order to carry out a cooperative effort. It makes use of factual reports and purposeful discussions. The collegial relationship is often characterized by the sharing of information in order to keep everyone abreast of developments in the field. Social interactions involve the expressing of opinions and relating of personal anecdotes to a great extent.
Any process of expanding online networks must take the optimal type of interaction, or blend of types, into account. One of the ways of ascertaining the best mix of style for the group, is to have the facilitator ensure that any new member of the online network gets many opportunities to exchange messages. This can be done through 'hand-holding' in the same way that a good cocktail party host greets guests as they arrive, introduces them to other people, and stimulates conversation. Another way is to operate a 'buddy-system' whereby someone currently online assumes responsibility for showing the newcomer around.
It is very important that before the initial novelty of using computer communications that sustains many new participants wears off, bonds must be created to ensure continuing usage. These bonds are generally of two types: the appreciation of the communication capabilities, and the satisfaction of information needs. The communication capabilities imply that the user have the need to be in regular correspondence with another user via
e-mail, or that a group of users be in contact via a computer conference. If the user does not have reason to use the system for interpersonal communication links, they may still have the desire to access the information contained in the conferences. This information could be a matter of keeping up with the latest developments within their field of interest, for example. It seems that the great majority of those who are followers of an online conference never add any items to it, being satisfied with silent observation.
The amount of resources needed to create online networks for purposeful interaction is bound to decrease. There are many present trends that will make it highly likely that more and more people will be using computer networks for communicating. Computer and telecommunication technology is becoming more powerful and less costly, global standards for interconnections are being implemented, the common digitalization of present media is hastening their merging into a single medium, machine-human interfaces are becoming friendlier making the technology easier to use, and the schools are turning out more computer-literate students every day.
The trends point toward such growth that eventually a 'bandwagon' effect will be the outcome. As in the case of fax, at some point people will realize that to be without access to a computer network will put them at a disadvantage in business. Much later, they will see the same at the social level. Until then, people will continue to be too busy to use computer communications unless they can be shown, with patience and perseverance, how it can help them achieve their aims and ambitions more efficiently and more effectively.
The York/Habitat Networking Initiative showed that in the absence of resources allocated to promote collaborative activities among people busy with their own current endeavours, it is very difficult to maintain interpersonal interactions. A great deal of organizing must be done by those most involved in establishing a new network, especially one that links people across several traditional fields.
The Native Computer Communications Network Project was a good example of how a focus on creating a network of computers does not necessarily ensure the interpersonal networking of the potential users of that technology. If the people were not communicating with each other before, developing another method of communication doesn't mean they'll start.
Habnet was a project that tried to overcome the limitations of these initiatives. It succeeded as an exploration of the potentials of online interactions, but failed to thrive when it ceased to grow. It again showed how difficult it is to create an online network without sufficient numbers of people to maintain enough interaction, and thereby enough interest, to make it worthwhile to use.
Computer communication, it seems, will become a much more useful networking tool when large numbers of people with similar interests acquire access to the technology. Though it can expedite the formation of new interpersonal networks by overcoming the space and time barriers faced by traditional networking techniques, it still requires a great deal of concentrated effort and resources to get the people to use it. This problem should become increasingly minimized over the coming years as the technological innovations become more diffused throughout society.
Balson, David A., "Telematics in the Third World: the IDRC Experience", Information Sciences Division, IDRC, Ottawa, 1987
Brochet, Madge Grant, "Effective Moderation of Computer Conferences", proceedings of an online conference on CoSy, University of Guelph, 1985
Bunting, Roger, "Managing Computer Conferencing", in ENA Netweaver, Vol. 2, No. 1, Article 4, January 1985
Deller, Bill, "The integrated services digital network (ISDN)", in Systems Technology, No. 36, March 1983
Dordick, Herbert S., Bradley, Helen, and Nanus, Burt, The Emerging Network Marketplace, Ablex Publishing Co., Norwood, New Jersey, 1981
Dunn, Edgar S., "The Information Utility and the Idea of the Public Data Bank" in The Information Utility and Social Choice, AFIPS Press, 1970
Durlak, Jerome, and O'Brien, Rory, "USENET: An Examination of a Cooperative Computer/Communications Network Under the Stress of Rapid Growth" in Proceedings of the International Communications Association 1989 Conference, ICA, 1989
Engdahl, Sylvia, "The Benefits of Computer Conferencing", in Netweaver, Vol. 2, No. 4, November 1985
Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, "Report on Project Activities September 1986 - December 1987", a Project on Human Settlements report prepared for the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Commission, Toronto, 1987
Gengle, Dean, The Netweaver's Sourcebook, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, Massachusetts, 1984
Glossbrenner, Alfred, "A New Medium in the Making: How People Are Shaping (and Being Shaped by) On-Line Communications" in RAIN, November/December, 1985
Hiltz, Starr Roxanne, and Turoff, Murray, The Network Nation, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1978
Hiltz, Starr Roxanne, Online Communities: A Case Study of the Office of the Future, Ablex, Norwood, New Jersey, 1984
Hiltz, Starr Roxanne, and Turoff, Murray, "Structuring Computer- Mediated Communications Systems to Avoid Information Overload" in Communications of the ACM, July, Vol. 28, No. 7, 1985
Johansen, Robert, Teleconferencing and Beyond, McGraw Hill, 1984
Katz, Daniel, and Kahn, Robert, The Social Psychology of Organizations, 2nd ed., Wiley, 1978
Kerr, Elaine B., Moderating Online Conferences, Special Projects Division of Computer Research of the National Science Foundation, Research Report #20, 1986
Kiesler, Sara, "The Hidden Messages in Computer Networks" in Harvard Business Review, January-February, 1986
Kiesler, Sara, Siegal, Jane, and McGuire, Timothy W., "Social Psychological Aspects of Computer-Mediated Communication" in American Psychologist, October, Vol. 39, No. 10, 1984
Licklider, J.C.R., "Social Prospects of Information Utilities" in The Information Utility and Social Choice, AFIPS Press, 1970
Lipnack, Jessica and Stamps, Jeffrey, The Networking Book, Routledge and Kegan Paul, Inc., New York, New York, 1986
Masuda, Yoneji, The Information Society, Institute for the Information Society, Tokyo, Japan, 1980
McLuhan, Marshall, Understanding Media , McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1964
Meeks, Brock N., "You can't get there from here - or can you?" in Byte, November 1988
Mosco, Vincent, Pushbutton Fantasies, Ablex, Norwood, New Jersey, 1984
Native/Canadian Relations Theme Area, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, "The Native Computer Communications Network, A Feasibility Study", a report prepared for Innovations Canada, Canada Employment and Immigration Commission, Toronto, 1988
Quarterman, John S. and Hoskins, Josiah C., "Notable Computer Networks" in Communications of the ACM, October 1986, Vol. 29, No. 10, pp. 932-971
Quarterman, John. S., The Matrix, Digital Press, 1989
Rheingold, Howard (ed.), Electronic Citizenship, Pacific Bell, 1988-1989
Rice, Ronald, The New Media, Sage, Beverley Hills, 1984
Rogers, Everett M. and Agarwala-Rogers, R., Communication in Organizations, Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., New York, 1976
Rogers, Everett M. and Shoemaker, F. Floyd, Communication of Innovations: A Cross-Cultural Approach, Free Press, N.Y., 1971
Shapiro, Norman Z. and Robert H. Anderson, Toward An Ethics and Etiquette for Electronic Mail, Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, 1985.
U. S. Government Board on Science and Technology for International Development Report, Microcomputers and their Applications for Developing Countries, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1986
Vallee, Jacques, The Network Revolution, And/Or Press, Berkeley, California, 1982
Weick, Karl E., The Social Psychology of Organizing, Addison- Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, Massachusetts, 1979
Weinberg, B.H. and Benson, J.A. (eds.), Downloading/Uploading Online Databases and Catalogues, Pierian Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1985
Welch, Mary Scott, Networking, Harcourt Brace Janovich, N.Y., N.Y., 1981
----, The Second Guelph Symposium on Computer Conferencing June 1-4, 1987 - Proceedings, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, 1987
----, "Report Card on University E-mail" in EMMS/Electronic Mail and Micro Systems Newsletter, Arnum, Eric (ed.), September, Vol. 12, No. 17, 1988
Types of Computer Mediated Communications
Important Items in an Online Environment
The Benefits of Computer Conferencing
Managing Computer Conferencing
Online Conference Moderation
NATIVE COMPUTER COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK PROJECT
Recommendations Regarding NCCN
A Proposal To Create Habnet
Work Done For Habnet
Historical Overview of Major Networks
Business Aspects of Computer Networking
Factors In Use of Computer Communications
Types of Computer Mediated Communications
Important Items in an Online Environment
The Benefits of Computer Conferencing
The Benefits of Computer Conferencing
Managing Computer Conferencing
Online Conference Moderation
TYPES OF COMPUTER-MEDIATED COMMUNICATIONS
Information sharing and computer networking can be accomplished using a variety of means:
2. Electronic mail
3. Electronic bulletin boards
4. Computer conferencing systems
Databases are passive storage containers of electronic data. They are accumulations of knowledge on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from stock market quotes, to news articles, to library holdings, to information on development projects in the Third World. Databases are becoming increasingly accessible to anyone with a computer and a modem (a device for connecting a computer up to the telephone line). Queries that used to take days or weeks to answer using the books in a library can now often be answered in a matter of minutes.
Electronic mail (often called e-mail) is a generally a point-to-point communication. Aside from much faster delivery and the fact that it uses telecommunications lines, it is very much like the regular postal service. Most people use e-mail in the old-fashioned way - to send private messages to one person. Some large networks, such as BITNET, however, use e-mail as a means of computer conferencing. This takes advantage of the fact that it is extremely easy to make a large number of "carbon copies" of a message (it is only a pattern of electrons, after all) and send them out to any number of names on a mailing list. This ensures that everyone can keep abreast of, and contribute to, a discussion on a particular topic.
Electronic bulletin boards are similar to databases insofar as much of the information posted to them is non-interactive. Lists of items for sale, baseball scores, and jokes are some examples of such 'bulletins'. Unlike databases, though, they are generally a 'grass-roots' phenomenon, being very easy and inexpensive to run on a personal computer. They are also interactive in a limited way, in that they allow messages to be posted that people can respond to. Users usually "call in" to a bulletin board via telephone lines. There are now tens of thousands of such boards in North America alone, many being used solely for sharing information on a particular topic or by a single interest group.
Computer conferencing is a more structured way to communicate "on-line", i.e., by computer. It is topic-oriented, with people being able to 'converse' under many subject headings. The software puts the various postings in their proper area, so the user can more easily follow the conversation. It is an excellent way to coordinate the activities of many people living far apart, as well as for making group plans and policy. This is because, unlike telephone conversations, such conferencing can take place asynchronously, without the necessity of participants having to conduct their communication at the same time. They are able to take time to study an idea or proposal and respond to it at their leisure. An easily accessible record of the transactions is another bonus.
Most users of this kind of communication are large organizations and other cooperative interest groups. The conferencing systems may be described by size of computer used and by degree of distribution. Some are contained within the four walls of a company office (a local area network) and use either a mainframe computer or a micro-computer. Others are much more distributed, with users conferencing on a network with thousands of sites dispersed throughout the world. Such networks link up mainframes (BITNET, for example) but distributed networks for personal computers are just now being implemented (York University's Native Network).
IMPORTANT ITEMS IN AN ONLINE ENVIRONMENT
- automatic notification of new mail on login
- easy to use online editor
- saving messages in different 'folders'
- forwarding mail messages to another user, or to a conference
- connectivity to other systems, commercial and non-commercial
- capability to see if recipient has read your message yet
- capability to send binary files (programs, datasets, word- processed documents) as mail messages
- at least three 'tiers' in structure
2. topics within conference
3. grouped responses following each topic
- clear instructions for creating conferences, and adding topics and responses
- facilitation available
- ability to edit and delete own messages (or others, if facilitator)
- 'practice' conference available
- administration 'news' conference to keep users informed about system developments, policy changes, etc.
- various types of conferences
- public / private (variety of user permissions)
- moderated (items 'filtered' through a moderator)
- facilitated (one user has responsibility for conference)
- user can create a 'personal' conference listing and have the system automatically visit these conferences
- system automatically keeps track of items user has read
- capability to 'import' and 'export' conferences from and to other networks
- of users - modifiable by users themselves
- of conferences
- 'boolean' logic search capability
- online tutorial
- online help function at any prompt
- hardcopy manual and command summary reference sheet
- easy to use interface - menus - commands and information areas - beginners and advanced options
- capability for user to give feedback to, or request information from, the system administration
- trial or guest accounts on system
- 24 hour 'help hotline' phone support (preferably an '800' number)
- clear, easy to find, information about the system
- system overview
- information about administration
- system-wide bulletin messages received at login
- equipment must be reliable, with minimal downtime
- users must be able to have access whenever they want
- security of data
- regular daily backups
- secure premises
- good power supply or UPS
- ways to deal with information overload
- 'kill' files
- browsing techniques
- character string searches in topic list and text bodies
- moderation of conference
- mark all items as read or unread
- 'chat' capability (real-time interaction)
- needs capability to find out who is currently logged in
- system must be able to handle all terminal types
- user should be able to change setup
- terminal type
- delete key
THE BENEFITS OF COMPUTER CONFERENCING
[Taken from an article by Sylvia Engdahl, 1985]
1. Each individual can communicate with more people via CC than
in any other way. This is true not only of those whose
face-to-face contacts are limited, but of everyone. No matter
how many people you know, you can talk to a lot of additional
2. CC enlarges the circle of an individual's acquaintances not
only in terms of numbers, but in terms of variety. In CC,
people of all ages and backgrounds meet on equal footing, which
is not generally the case in face-to-face contact. In fact, the
factors that artificially divide people, including such
handicaps as physical disability or unattractiveness, become
irrelevant and in some cases even invisible.
3. With CC, geography is no longer relevant to communication
(except insofar as phone costs differ). In principle--and in
practice for a fortunate few--people in different parts of the
world can converse easily as those living in the same city.
4. CC frees communication from the constraints of time. Most
people are too busy to meet all the people they'd like to talk
to, and in fact the more people they know, the more significant
time becomes. With CC, they can communicate at their own
convenience (maybe even in the middle of the night) while others
do so at theirs.
5. CC brings people with common interests together; those who
haven't met anyone nearby who shares their interests can contact
others in the same position. This is particularly significant
to people who enjoy serious discussions but are limited to a
circle of acquaintances among whom only "small talk" is
acceptable, and who therefore feel intellectually isolated.
6. Discussions can be better organized, and therefore more
focused, in CC than in any but the most formal face-to-face
7. CC allows individuals who have a visual rather than aural
orientation toward language, and who therefore communicate
better through the written word than through speech, to express
themselves more fully than any other interactive process. Though
these individuals often have opportunity to express ideas as
writers, writing via other media is not interactive; even a
letter produces no response for a week or more, and with
published writing it's a matter of months before any feedback
can be obtained. CC, by eliminating this delay and by allowing
many people to take part in a single written discussion, opens
the door to a level of written communication that has never
before been possible.
8. Ideas can be expressed more fully in CC even by those who
don't have a strong personal preference for writing, simply
because everyone has a far larger vocabulary in writing than in
speaking, and because it is socially acceptable to use a richer
vocabulary and sentence structure in written communications than
in spoken ones.
9. Many people feel less inhibited when communicating through CC
than when speaking. Even to those for whom this is not true,
there is less inhibition in teleconferencing than in most face-
to-face conversations simply because its social conventions
permit people who are not intimately acquainted to discuss their
inner feelings in a way not customary at social gatherings.
Perhaps for this reason, online friendships are often perceived
as being closer than face-to-face ones.
10. CC leads to wider participation by all members of a group
than occurs in face-to-face meetings not only because the medium
itself is disinhibiting, but because a specific effort is
generally made by the discussion leader to be supportive of all
contributors. Everyone's comments have equal exposure, and they
can be made at any time, without waiting for the more active
participants to "be quiet and let someone else speak."
Furthermore, since it's known that readers can skip comments
that don't interest them, there's no worry about boring others;
the audience, if not receptive, will at least be "listening" by
choice. (By the same token, a person who does dominate the
conversation in a way that bores other participants can be
easily tuned out.)
11. The environment in which a person communicates via CC is
normally quiet and free of sensory distractions, which leads to
greater concentration on the ideas being discussed, and possibly
to a mode of thought unlike that in which other forms of
communication usually take place.
12. In CC, responses to comments are not as immediate as they
are in speech, and can therefore be thought through before they
are made. This gives participants a chance to clarify their
thoughts before expressing them, which on the whole raises the
level of the discussion. Any comments made in haste can be
modified or deleted, not only from the record but often before
they are seen by the group.
13. CC creates a permanent record of every discussion, which is
of great value in going back to review what was said. Ideas
don't get lost or forgotten when they are part of such a record.
Moreover, newcomers to the discussion don't miss what was said
before they arrived, and in fact, the entire exchange of ideas
can be of great benefit to readers who encounter it long after
14. CC enhances communication between people who also meet face-
to-face. If they have met online before such meetings, they
start off at a higher level of involvement than they would if
they were strangers, and the productivity of the meeting is
therefore increased. On the other hand, face-to-face
acquaintances who are separated by distance can stay in touch
much more conveniently than by mail or phone.
ENA NETWEAVER Volume 2, Number 1, Article 4 (January 1, 1985)
MANAGING COMPUTER CONFERENCING
A Report from the ENA Fall Conference
by Roger Bunting
The focus of the Managing CC session was understanding the issues of design, structure, and behaviours which can contribute to success of computer conferences (CC). We also looked at the problems to be solved and the dilemmas usually confronted in the management and conduct of CC.
The session design was based on the experiential learning model. The attendees were first asked to work in small groups on one of six different scenarios dealing with the establishment of different applications for CC. In each case, the questions addressed by the groups were:
1. What do you see as the "social glue" that will hold this conference together?
2. What are the desirable characteristics of a CC system that will help this particular CC accomplish its purpose?
3. What are the interpersonal and group dynamics that are most likely to impact the success of this CC?
4. What norms need to be established in order to make this conference work well?
5. If you agreed to be the "leader" of this CC, what else would you need to know before accepting the responsibility?
Following the small group work, each group presented the results of its deliberations, essentially in the form of its answers to the preceding questions. Those results and the ensuing discussions constitute a rich description of the factors and considerations which can contribute to the success of CC. They are synthesized here in the hope that they can assist CC designers and organizers in enhancing the quality and productivity of their CC.
THE "SOCIAL GLUE"
Regarding the "social glue" which can hold conferences together, it appears the following factors can be significant:
Excitement; a willingness to share; a need to complete the project; shared professional or otherwise common interests, purposes, or goals; a need to keep in touch with what's going on; to speed up the learning process; a "draw" to get started, like an initial question that appeals to all; a crisis situation; periodic face-to-face meetings; a desire to demonstrate the gains of CC at both the individual and group levels; a shared commitment to participate; a "walk-around manager" who performs the role of matchmaker, facilitator, and leader.
Especially for global or intercultural CC: exposure to alternate cultures; participation in economic development efforts, and in the creation of a multinational corps.
DESIRABLE CHARACTERISTICS OF CC SYSTEMS
The following "desirable characteristics" of CC were highlighted for their potential contribution to the success of CC:
Ease of access and use; "idiot-proof" logon; a communications protocol that is competent at introducing the CC system to the users *and* users to users, and which provides near-instant feedback; at least some users that are already using and familiar with the system; an outreach system for nurturing new users; low cost for communications linkages and connect charges; flexibility; a balance of concentration and dispersion (in the structure of the CC program); sub-conferences available; the presence of a real-time chronicler or digester to provide periodic progress summaries; convenient and fast, especially for getting answers and results; a simple search and retrieval system; voting capabilities; individual messaging; integrated with existing technology.
Especially for global or intercultural CC: multilingual
translation services; politically acceptable systems.
INTERPERSONAL AND GROUP DYNAMICS
The following interpersonal and group dynamics were considered to be most likely to impact the success of a CC:
Existing relationships (horizontal, vertical, and cross- functional); use of other modes of communications, e.g., telephone and face-to-face; the need to see progress and the desire for quick results or action; elitism; classism; distrust; verbal, active people vs. shy users; people who are used to working face-to-face, real-time, and with paper; turf issues; one agency or element trying to lead the show; cooperation; handling of feelings, especially anger; the actions of the moderators; transactional velocity; group norms for the free flow of information; relevance to the network; norms for conflict resolution, both rules and processes; complimentary channels with other mediums and processes, like face-to-face, workshops, and face-to-face combined with online activities. Especially for global or intercultural CC: the need for a facilitator skilled in cross-cultural communications.
NORMS FOR CC
The following norms need to be established for a CC to work well:
Everybody has something important to contribute; we all have something to learn; we must pay attention to sharing; mutual respect; rules should be established by the group; it's OK to have diversity... we don't have to agree; acknowledge that the net may "fail"; constructively divert, rather than suppress, dysfunctional discussion; use etiquette when expressing anger via the language; the value of dealing with issues eclipses turf wars temporarily; normally should use public rather than private messages; message lengths should be kept short; discussion content should remain appropriate to the purpose of the conference; norms for participation need to be explicit and achieve balance; input should be required regularly; there should reentry strategies for the infrequent user; leadership should be shared or rotated; provisions should be made for closure.
INFORMATION NEEDS OF CC LEADERS
Before accepting responsibility for leadership of a net, one should want to know:
Clear goals and what reaching them would look like; legal obligations; time commitments; who the lead or sponsoring agency is; senior management support; knowledge of the decision makers and the accepted decision-making processes; relationships; personalities involved; how to recognize danger signs and to sustain interest; hardware and funds availability; a thorough understanding of the issues and the environment; availability of the right people for the net; the commitment of others to facilitate and to agree to ground rules; the structure for leadership transition; own commitments and constraints; ways to publicize the successes that occur.
Especially in global or intercultural CC: cross-cultural experience; languages; availability of support team and home base.
Author's Note: Roger Bunting co-facilitated the "Managing Computer Conferences" session with Joseph Potts at ENA's conference in D.C. in November. Roger and Joe are both leaders in the field of group facilitation who are now applying their knowledge to facilitating interaction online.
ONLINE CONFERENCE MODERATION
[Excerpted from "Effective Moderation of Computer Conferences" by Madge Brochet, 1985]
Conference moderation is a means of structuring online communication to make it a little more useful to accomplish concrete objectives, rather than just for sharing news or posting general inquiries. Think of it like a meeting conducted by a chairperson, except that instead of statements directed at the 'chair', articles are sent by e-mail to a moderator who reviews it for suitability before posting it to the moderated newsgroup. Like a chairperson, the moderator also keeps to an agenda, makes sure everyone has their say, and maintains order and decorum.
- moderator provides clear statement of conferences's purpose in first message - also agenda and topic(s) to be discussed (may be helpful to design with a few other participants prior to beginning)
- common interests, especially common need to determine participants
- moderator should mail personal "invitation" to participants
- would it be better to arrange a face-to-face meeting first?
- set a duration for the conference
- user's ability to use system should be assessed and training provided
- access to equipment should be ensured
- 'critical mass' needed (more than 15 people)
- moderator to determine what criteria for success are
- ensure all participants actively participating
- outline group expectations clearly
- identify new topics as they arise and put on agenda (careful not to subdivide conference too much)
- make sure no late starts
- lay out procedures for group decision-making (consensus, vote, etc.)
- lay out rules for censorship and copyright beforehand
- Discriminator - make complex matters simple
- useful vs useless ideas/discussion
- Host - create feeling of trust
- Pace-setter - promote cooperation
- be aware of dynamics
- Explainer - raise unanswered questions
- revive overlooked messages
- Entertainer - relax participants
Keeping On Target
- redirect conference when it goes off-topic
- handle over-bearing participants
- dealing with personality clashes (maintain humour and patience)
- technical problems
- check on quiet participants
- lost interest?
- technical problems?
- in beginning, good to discuss and create rules and limits
- to keep participants in legal bounds
- copyright infringements
- libel, etc.
- to determine what is appropriate
- to determine when to return article for re-editing
Wrapping Up Conferences
- know when to quit
- moderator to compose wrap-up statement/summary
- remind participants of coming end
- 2 stages
1. after announcing close, conference becomes 'read only' to allow participants to extract remaining material
2. purge conference after a reasonable time
- good to have brief intro period to allow users to practice using the system (relaxes them)
- ensure easy and convenient access to machines (and privacy)
- role of moderator and role of participants should be discussed beforehand (preferably at a face-to-face meeting)
- keep statistics on participation
- number of postings per person
- length of articles
- branching of topics
- keep notes on content of discussions
- keep notes on process of interaction
[The material and quotes are from the document "Toward an Ethics
and Etiquette for Electronic Mail" by Norman Shapiro and Robert
Anderson of the Rand Corporation, 1985]
Communicating via online electronic messages opens up a whole new
way of interacting. It is important to note that this medium demands
a different sort of interaction etiquette. The following are some
suggestions as to how you might make the online environment a pleasant,
harmonious place to share thoughts, opinions, ideas, and information.
1. Create single-subject messages whenever possible.
Separate messages can be filed, retrieved, and
forwarded separately, subject lines can be
descriptive, replies can be tailored to specific
2. Assume that any message you send is permanent.
Messages can become part of someone's private files,
be ported to networks, and printed out at any time.
3. Have in mind a model of your intended audience.
"Have you used more computer jargon in your message
(lulled into techno-talk by using an electronic
medium) than is appropriate to your audience?"
4. Keep the list of recipients to a minimum.
The ease of sending electronic mail can create mailbox
overflow of peripheral material that has to be scanned
5. Separate opinion from non-opinion, and clearly label each.
Your message may end up in the hands of someone who
doesn't know you well enough to distinguish fact from
6. If you must express an emotion in a message, clearly label
Sarcasm, irony, and humour often don't work in E-mail
because it may not come across as intended. Symbols
such as :-) and :-( viewed sideways are now universally
used to show smiles and frowns and, when added to the
end of a sentence, indicate you aren't being too serious.
7. Think about the formality you put in a message.
In the office, we can tell the difference between a
formal memo and a note dashed off on a scrap of paper.
Be sure your electronic messages convey which should
be taken seriously and which are hasty comments.
8. Identify yourself and affiliations clearly.
When sending a message to a public system, help
readers put your ideas in context.
9. Be selective in broadcasts for information.
Use the power of networking--but use it with
discretion. Take time to scan material on special
interest group conferences and make sure your
inquiry is appropriate there.
10. Do not insult or criticize third parties without giving them
a chance to respond.
"We've seen a lot of critiques and criticism on the
nets, much of it deserved. But it's also much easier
to be a critic than a builder. The labours of dozens of
people trying to build a company or product out of
only ideas and hard work can be destroyed by casual
critiques written in a moment of anger when the
criticism might have been inappropriate or answered
Receiving and Responding to Messages
1. If you receive a message intended for another person, don't
just ignore it.
Forward the message if you know for whom it was
intended. Otherwise, notify the sender that it was
2. Avoid responding while emotional.
3. If a message generates emotions, look again.
Misinterpretations are *very* common in electronic
mail. Missing body language and voice tone can cause
what was meant as casual or humorous to be taken
seriously. Pause and re-read the message, consider the
source, and check your understanding with the author.
4. Assume honesty and competence of the sender.
Give the benefit of the doubt. Check the context.
Check for possible misunderstanding.
5. Try to separate opinion from non-opinion while reading a
message, so you can respond appropriately.
Try to unravel opinion from fact and make the
distinction in your reply.
6. Consider to whom you should respond.
If the message was sent to a distribution list,
consider whether the response needs to go to that same
list or just to the originator.
7. Consider alternative media.
If you can walk down the hall or pick up the phone--
that might be the best way to respond. This is
especially useful if there is potential for
8. Avoid irrelevancies.
The medium can have a chatty quality. "The message
that makes its point and fits on one screen does its
job best, and you will be well regarded."
Acting as Facilitator of a Conference
1. Perform relevant groupings.
Group messages on a common topic together to help
readers detect common threads or issues.
2. Use uniform packaging.
Use message headers and other means of assisting
readers to scan material to find specific topics of
3. Exercise reasonable editorship.
"Messages that are not relevant should be excluded, as
should ones that are sufficiently tasteless to be
offensive. But it is important that opinions
(preferably labelled as such) be given a hearing." The
facilitator can also eliminate redundancy and use
periodic broadcast messages to summarize.
4. Timeliness is important.
Facilitators should not "sit on" messages to send as a
group since the value of the medium is rapid communication.
Summary of Things to Remember
Never forget that the person on the other side is human
Your postings reflect upon you; be proud of them
Use descriptive titles
Think about your audience
Be careful with humour and sarcasm
Only post a message once
Summarize what you are following up
Read all follow-ups and don't repeat what has already been said
Be careful about copyrights and licenses
Cite appropriate references
NATIVE COMPUTER COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK PROJECT
Recommendations Regarding NCCN
RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING NCCN
It is best to not let any hardware go out to users until it has been tested for performance in-house. Getting your hardware from a reliable, reputable dealer is very important since there are a lot of defective components being sold. Having a good rapport with the dealers will come in handy for prompt repair and replacement of parts.
Make sure that you have enough memory on the hard disk(s), especially considering the system will have a lot of development software on it, in addition to newsgroup articles. Ninety megabytes is a good amount to ensure adequate storage of information. Try to get machines that have the capability to add on hard disks when needed.
A tape drive for frequent and periodic backups is well worth the investment. (A lot of postings to the NCCN newsgroups were lost because frequent and periodic backups weren't done due to the time and trouble needed to do manual backups onto floppy disks).
Full sites should use AT computers to allow for a truly distributed network. The NCCN project used XTs, which didn't allow for site dialout under Xenix. This meant that 'yunccn' was the only 'server' on the net, hence NCCN was a centralized system of sorts. ATs also have two main advantages over XTs: they are faster, shortening the time spent on the system by the user; and they are multi-tasking, allowing many users to be online at the same time or allowing for the system to be used for office applications while users are online simultaneously.
Software licensing agreements may be problematic. The supplier of UULINK, for example, required that approval for licensing of each copy of the software be obtained in writing prior to the release of that software. This was doubly a problem since that company was in California and was the only supplier of that program.
Public domain software may be shareware. This means paying a nominal fee to the creator. It should be stressed that users must legally pay for this software. Such programs include ProComm (communications for dialup users) and MicroEmacs (full-screen text editor).
There may be problems with bending the site licensing and copyright rules, e.g., making multiple copies of Xenix for different systems and sets of users. It is always best to follow the legal rules. This also pertains to the copying of software manuals, in whole or in part. All commercial, copyrighted programs must, of course, be purchased legally. There are advantages to buying from the vendor, as opposed to buying second hand from a friend: free or inexpensive updates, customer support, product newsletters, etc.
The "guest" mode is a very good idea. It allows potential users to see what they might be getting. A potential problem may be that this privilege will be abused by 'guests' continuing to tie up the modem.
Dialup 'packages' are a good idea for getting new users online quickly. These will include: manual, communications software on disk, and a short one-page command summary for dialup access.
Don't let any software go out until it has been extensively tested in-house. Certain 'bugs' may lead to $500 phone bills (as happened twice during the project).
NEEDS ASSESSMENT RECOMMENDATION
It might be a very good idea to do a communications needs study of groups targeted to become part of the pilot study. Groups with lots of resources, high connectivity, and a mandate to promote communications are a higher priority than isolated groups with little in the way of resources.
A checklist to determine needs and resources of potential new users and sites should be developed. This could include: budget allocated for communications; present equipment; physical situation (phone lines, space, office renovations planned, etc.; upcoming organizational changes; groups presently in communication with; present forms of communication; and so on.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ESTABLISHING SITES
The best way to establish a network is to set up one site first and get a lot of dialup users on it. When one organization feels it has the resources and the desire to establish a full-site machine in its office, then provide the training for them to set it up on their own.
Be aware that large organizations may have difficulty implementing computer conferencing technology. They may feel that electronic mail offered by large commercial corporations is sufficient for their purposes and think that conferencing wastes their employees time. Small organizations often do not have the resources (people, time, and money) for a conferencing network and may also lack the need to communicate with many others. Medium-sized organizations seem to have the best potential for becoming full sites.
Educational institutions (high schools, colleges and universities) are an important area to seek network expansion into. The young people who become familiar with the technology will be the future community leaders who facilitate the spread of the network.
It would be helpful in choosing groups to invite into the pilot project, if they are already 'tightly coupled', i.e., already are in frequent communication with each other. This will ensure greater participation online.
Take budget years into account when promoting the network to new groups. They have to know the present and future costs of the equipment and maintenance a few months before the end of the fiscal year. Budgets are usually submitted a month before the end, but submissions for approval and subsequent revisions can take a couple of months.
Written contracts are good to have between the target pilot groups and the project administration. They should clearly state the expectations for both parties. It must be kept in mind, however, that since the association is essentially voluntary, cooperation and adherence to the contract stipulations will depend on mutual advantage. Coercion is not applicable in this instance.
Choose system administrators carefully. Their interactions with potential clients at their site are important for the perception of the network. Try to get people who are enthusiastic and understand the potential of computer networking.
Start with only one full site and concentrate on getting a 'critical mass' of dialup users online. Attempting to set up and maintain machines at many sites wastes resources.
A base of dialup users should be built up at each new site.
SKILLS TRANSFER RECOMMENDATIONS
Help organizations to 'grow' the network by training them to set up their members with modems and home/office terminals, or to set up full sites if they have the resources to do that.
Make sure a viable plan to transfer the technical skills developed in the course of the project is in place to ensure continuation of the network after the end of the project. This means getting the people who will be acquiring the learned skills involved as soon as possible in the project. They must agree as to what is expected of them and accept responsibility for the network's continuation.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR USER INTERACTION AND INVOLVEMENT
Work on a 'buddy' system between project staff and clients to ensure more communication, cooperation, and coordination regarding mutual concerns.
Keep the users of the network informed about the network's development on a daily basis, if possible.
Frequent face-to-face usergroup meetings are a necessity. These can be for the entire network, for system administrators, or for users affiliated with a particular site.
A lot of time should be spent with the users, showing them exactly how the technology can help them, i.e., case studies.
Time should be spent developing specific applications with organizations that are part of the network.
Show organizations how the technology can help them achieve their goals more effectively. Show individuals how the network can be used for enjoyment and education.
Ensure that there are computer terminals on the network that allow for public access, to allow those without their own computers to participate.
Work with client groups and individuals to create funding proposals (joint or single) for projects that make use of this new technology.
PROJECT STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS
Make certain that the project staff use the network for the purpose of facilitating the project. Do on-going analyses of how this new technology can assist in the implementation of a project. This means more postings of activities and developments by programmers, manual writers, cataloguers, database editors, etc. Include problem reports and solutions.
Hire enough technical people full-time to ensure that bottlenecks don't happen because one or two people are overloaded with multiple tasks. Programmers to program, installers to install, maintainers to maintain.
Technical project staff should keep a log of bug fixes and technical malfunctions.
Sites should be monitored on a daily basis so the project staff know when a site is having technical problems. The system administrator at a site should be reporting any problems but you can't rely on them to always do so.
NETWORK EVALUATION RECOMMENDATIONS
Electronic mail is the feature that is most often used by newcomers to the network. This must be taken into account when judging how successful the network is.
A Proposal To Create Habnet
Work Done For Habnet
A PROPOSAL TO CREATE HABNET
A COMPUTER NETWORK FOR THE HUMAN SETTLEMENTS FIELD
Habnet is to be a computer network linking people active in the field of human settlements. The technology now exists to allow participants, equipped with common desktop computers and using regular telephone lines, to send electronic mail, transfer lengthy documents , and hold on-line conferences.
With Habnet large numbers of people can now share information on a wide number of human settlements topics on a daily basis. A person's ideas, research results, or problems can now be expressed to one or a thousand others living in different parts of the world. The advantage to using computers is that the people don't have to all be in the same place at the same time to share information. The computer allows them to have on-going dialogues about things that concern them whenever and wherever they like. The cost is easily within the budgets of most organizations.
For Habitat - to get important information out to educators, researchers, and field workers in a timely fashion, and to receive immediate feedback from them on their activities.
For York - to facilitate the present networking initiative undertaken in collaboration with the Habitat information office there, and to explore the use of computer networking as a research tool.
For the Human Settlements Field - to allow for more grass-roots participation in issues, to assist in the co-ordination of projects, and to raise awareness of the complex, multi-disciplinary relationships surrounding human settlements problems.
A team of researchers at the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University is currently engaged with the Habitat Information Office located there in a networking initiative. A series of meetings has been designed to bring together representatives of various constituencies active in the human settlements area ( academics, NGOs, private sector, government ). It is hoped that increased contact across institutional boundaries will encourage a more holistic approach to issues and result in more collaborative efforts among the participants.
This summer, people closely involved with the York/Habitat initiative will be given accounts on The Web, a Toronto-based, non-profit computer network. They will be provided with the necessary support to make full use of the communication facilities. Important Habitat documents and other pertinent information will be collected and made available on-line to them.
A proposal will be submitted to CIDA at the end of this summer requesting project funds to enable Habnet to expand. This year-long project will provide key human settlements people in North America and the Caribbean to join Habnet and explore its potential to assist in the improvement of human settlements conditions world-wide.
[Note - this was written by Michael Jensen in the spring of
1987 and is included here as a reference to Web as it was
at that time, not necessarily as it is now]
Currently hosted by the Ontario Environment Network, Web is
part of an emerging national network of alternative
electronic information services whose objective is to
provide its members with the cheapest and most effective
access to the new communications technology.
Aside from being able to tap into a range of new information
sources, Web enables fast, direct and multiple contact,
"horizontally" at the grass-roots level with a growing
number of like-minded individuals and organisations.
Environmental and development oriented organisations across
the country are dialling into Web, exchanging messages and
information. Web also has connections with other electronic
networks (like PeaceNet in the US and GreenNet in the UK) so
that Web's members can link up across the globe.
By supporting a common electronic host, we are encouraging
the creation of an online resource of shared information,
bringing down the time and cost of accessing other sources.
Using Web's sophisticated UNIX operating system, organis-
ations can set up an interactive database specially
configured to deliver your information. Using simple and well
known dBase lll+ code, user friendly database search
facilities have already been set up on Web. If required, some
of these routines could easily be modified for other
organisations to tailor specially to provide their own
specific information delivery tools. Access could also be
monitored by the organisation for fundraising purposes.
With the creation of private conferences, organisations can
have ongoing internal discussions with colleagues across the
country, while still in total privacy.
Web's longer-term philosophy:
While US already has a variety of centralised non-profit
electronic information services, Canada has a unique
opportunity to establish a decentralised network of hosts
more suited to Canada's scale. Because long distance
telecommunications charges constitute most of the users'
cost of using a national network, hosts operating in
parallel will hopefully be established across the country,
ultimately in every local dialling area serving a dozen or
However, until other hosts connect up, Web is available
across Canada via Bell Canada's data lines (Datapac and
In Toronto, Web is available 24 hours a day with a local
Web is available to the non-profit sector and is currently
hosted by the Ontario Environment Network (OEN) - a
charitable umbrella group for grassroots environment groups
across the province. Originally established for its members,
the OEN decided that Web should be offered on a
multisectoral basis to share the costs and also help build a
stronger social justice community. Currently it is expected
that the service be ultimately supported by user fees.
Charges below reflect current costs and will be adjusted
accordingly as circumstances change.
Depending on the size of your budget, the cost of a
subscription to Web costs between $10 and $20 a month. If
you're in Toronto this plus a $25 setup fee for manuals and
disks are the only charges.
The fee structure runs as follows:
Personal/organisational budget Monthly subscription
$0 - 30 000 $10
$30 000 - 99 000 $12.50
$99 00 - 199 000 $15.00
$199 - 000+ $17.50
There is a 25% reduction for payment 6 months in advance and
a 35% reduction for a year's subscription. In addition there
is a 10% reduction for use of a credit card.
In addition, multiple IDs billed to the same address are
subject to a reduction, depending on the number of IDs.
Private conferences can be set up for $25 each.
Those outside Toronto will, be required to pay a share of
the long distance communications costs charged by Datapac or
iNet. Web is actively seeking financial support to help
subsidise long distance charges.
Datapac currently costs about $4.00 an hour and is available
from about 120 locations across the country. The local phone
book can be checked for a number.
Access via iNet is $4.50 an hour during non-prime time (6pm
to 6am) and $6.00 an hour during the prime period. Aside
from the same 120 locations, iNet also has 1800 number
access. However iNet also has a $3 a month charge to
maintain an id on their gateway to Web. iNet normally costs
$50 to register but this fee has been waived for those
joining iNet as an Alternet associate. Make sure you ask
your Bell representative for this to avoid paying the fee.
Summary of Web facilities:
Documents prepared on any wordprocessor may be sent via Web
for instantaneous delivery to other Network members,
eliminating Puroletters and time consuming mailings.
Using Web's conferring software, members will be able to
conduct 'electronic' meetings, making conversation
independent of time and space.
To provide the framework for conducting these electronic
exchanges, Web uses a specially developed conferencing
language called PicoSpan, also used by the Whole Earth
Review's Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link (WELL).
Aside from cutting down on travel costs, users can be
better prepared for face-to-face events by receiving
agendas, briefings and minutes right up till deadline. In
addition, those unable to make real meetings can continue to
Electronic conferring offers a number of positive benefits:
More thought can be given to responses, ideas are exchanged
more rapidly, social barriers diminish and people seem to
interact more as equals. It is possible to take as much time
as needed to collect and compose thoughts, shy people find
it easy to enter electronic discussions, while aggressive
people who tend to intimidate others in face to face events
are much less likely to dominate online.
Any number of public and private conferences can be
created as needed. Set up one for a limited time to address
a problem with an immediate deadline, or help maintain
ongoing conferences that explore general concerns for months
or even years.
With many computer experts on tap, Web also provides an
effective support service for groups and individuals needing
Aside from electronic mail and conferencing services, Web
also offers an extensive library of public domain and shared
software, as well as use of an online database program for
customised mailing lists, abstracts and record oriented
Because Web's database facility uses the popular dBase III+
format, members can download our files and run the databases
on directly their own computers.
This makes it easy for Web users to create specially
customised databases for such uses as: membership lists,
organization addresses, addresses of media organisations and
other promotional contacts.
Members may also request searches of over 800 electronic
databases at cost. The results of these searches can be
delivered by email, on disk (ASCII text; IBM, Macintosh, or
CP/M formats) and printed matter (via postal delivery).
WORK DONE FOR HABNET
Development of a contact database (Notebook)
Acquiring equipment and ensuring access to Web
- computer and data phone line for Habitat office
- communications software (Procomm and Red Ryder)
- developing instruction sheet for access from FES computer room
- "A Proposal to Create Habnet" brochure
- Habnet instruction sheets
- "Accessing Web with PCPlus"
- "Accessing Web with Procomm"
- "Commands Available on Web"
- "Benefits of Computer Conferencing"
- "Habnet: Potential Users" list
- List of Web users
- List of conferences available on Web
- MicroEmacs help screens
- "Quick Reference Guide to Using Notebook"
- "How to Access Web from FES Computer Room"
- "On-line conference moderation"
Reproducing and distributing documents
- Web membership agreements
- Web manuals
- Web brochures
- Procomm and PCPlus manuals
- MicroEmacs manuals
- "A Brief Overview of Using International Packet Switching Networks"
Training sessions for Habitat group/individuals
- overview of computer networks
- concepts of computer networking and computer conferencing
- Red Ryder
Creating and facilitating Habnet conferences on Web
- habnet (private)
- humset (public)
Communicating via e-mail on Web
Promotion of Habnet
- phone calls
- visits - Toronto
- articles in newsletters
- FES News
- FES International Development Newsletter
- AUCC Newsletter
- presentations at Y/HNI constituency meetings
- presentation to FES in Fall '88
- postings and messages on Web
Reports on activities
Initial outlines of CIDA proposal to fund Habnet
Historical Overview of Major Networks
Business Aspects of Computer Networking
Factors In Use of Computer Communications
HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF MAJOR NETWORKS
From Patrick_A_Townson@cup.portal.com Sun Sep 18 03:06:06 1988
Subject: Report Card On University E-MAIL
Date: 18 Sep 88 07:06:06 GMT
Organization: The Portal System (TM)
Posted: Sun Sep 18 03:06:06 1988
EMMS/Electronic Mail & Micro Systems Newsletter, dated September 1, 1988
(Volume 12, Number 17) published an interesting report which discusses
USENET and ARPANET in detail. I am reprinting it here for your information
and hope you find it useful. It is *long*.
REPORT CARD ON UNIVERSITY E-MAIL
University researchers may have originated the concept of computer-based
electronic mail twenty years ago, but their e-mail activities have since become
obscured by the shadow of publicity given to well-known common carriers and
computer vendors. In spite of the news blackout, the non-commercial 'Internet'
e-mail community remains large and growing. How large is a question that EMMS
cannot approach answering. The usual measures do not work. Although these
research-oriented e-mail systems fit the definition of public networks, they
usually do not charge by the message or by the minute. In some respects they
are somewhat like wide-area private e-mail networks.
The grandfather e-mail network of them all is ARPANET, created in the late
1960's by the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
It began modestly, with four nodes trading defense secrets and research results
over packetized computer links in 1970. File transfer and e-mail became the
most popular uses of the network.
Long wait for access: But it proved to be too popular for its own good
Although the original users were doing defense-oriented research, they were not
always talking shop over ARPANET. Although the chit-chat was discouraged, it
nevertheless helped fill up the network. As more and more sites inside and
outside academia were added, the network began bumping up against capacity.
The best guess for a count of end users is currently 35,000 people. DoD most
recently estimated that 150 universities are connected, with countless others
who can't be accommodated for lack of network space. However this may change
as DARPA begins to plan an upgrade to T1 and eventually T3 speeds.
There are approximately 3,300 institutions of higher education in the United
States, most of whom would welcome the prestige and funding that would surely
follow an ARPANET connection. Once you are in, you have a free link to the
major players in defense-oriented research in both private industry and the
government. But with less than 5 percent of all colleges on ARPANET, there
are far fewer insiders than outsiders.
Alternatives to ARPANET: By 1980, it became apparent that ARPANET could not
on its own serve the needs of university researchers. Not all university
research is done for the military, and not all network traffic was relevant to
research. Each year approximately 200,000 bachelors, masters and doctoral
degrees are conferred in the fields of computer science, engineering and
communications. Very few of these students ever see an ARPANET session.
Three new communities of university-based computer users sprang forth to
fill the need. One network, called USENET, literally created itself. Another,
called BITNET, positioned itself as a middle ground between the chaos of
USENET and the discipline of ARPANET. Yet a third group, united under the
banner of the National Science Foundation (NSF), opened a variety of national
and local networks tailored to the non-military needs of university
Quantifying usage among university researchers has proved to be elusive. EMMS
was able to gather self-reported statistics on the number of nodes for some
networks, but few were willing to hazard a guess on the number of mailboxes
or messages. The NSF, though, reported carrying 4.1 billion bytes of e-mail
alone in January on its new NSFnet backbone network, which implies a run rate
of 3 to 10 million messages a month on that single system.
Order Amid The Chaos: USENET, a case study in high-tech anarchy, is dependent
upon the willingness of hundreds of volunteers to make dozens of daily phone
calls in order to transport the network's e-mail and news services. Using the
Unix operating system and the uucp e-mail utility contained within it, one
computer calls another and exchanges electronic mailbags. In the July 1 issue,
EMMS listed a total of 873,000 Unix-based e-mail software users. Almost one
in eight are believed to access Usenet regularly.
In terms of sheer bytes created, the news groups on USENET seem to create
about twice as much text as e-mail. The system is estimated to carry about
1200 messages and about 2 megabytes of news daily. However, the news is
distributed to hundreds of locations, while the e-mail is sent only to the
designated recipients. In terms of bytes actually received and read, USENET
may be 90 percent bulletin board news.
USENET traces its beginnings to 1980, when two universities (Duke University
and the University of North Carolina) began an experimental e-mail system.
One computer called the other and executed a file transfer in each direction.
Eventually, other sites joined. They simply called both Duke and UNC every
day and exchanged mailbags. As USENET grew to hundreds of sites, though, it
became impossible for everybody to call everybody else. It's since grown to
the point where many veterans lament that it is too big, and too distributed,
for its own good. The best guess of its current size is about 7000 computers
with some 100,000 end users.
E-mail Survey Results: The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA),
reported in an annual survey of major business schools that usage of public
e-mail networks was growing at institutions of higher learning. In its fourth
annual survey of 128 business schools, published in July by the Association
for Computing Machinery (ACM), the researchers found that almost 65 percent
of respondents used a public e-mail service. The results are summarized in
Table 1: Public E-Mail Usage On Campus
UCLA Survey of 128 Business Schools
Network Name: Percent Using
(totals exceed 100 percent; some use more than one network)
Table 1: Public E-Mail Usage On Campus
UCLA Survey of 128 Business Schools
Network Name: Percent Using
(totals exceed 100 percent; some use more than one network)
The problem for the e-mail industry is that such usage, while encouraging,
is not producing much revenue. Not-for-profit networks do not overtly
compete with commercial e-mail services for customers. But given the choice
between paying for an MCI Mail message or *not paying to post on USENET* (my
emphasis), many users will stick with the free alternatives. In fact, only
three fee-based public services registered on the UCLA survey: CompuServe
(11 percent), The Source (4 percent) and MCI Mail (3 percent). Two up-and-
coming research networks, the non-commercial NSFnet and the commercial Omnet
Inc (Boston) ScienceNet e-mail system, will probably show up in next year's
It should be stressed that none of the above networks are free. In some, end
users themselves absorb the network costs, and donate the computer cycles.
In others, the network authority charges a monthly or annual membership fee,
which entitles an organization to unlimited usage. So although there may not
be a per-message or per-minute charge, there is no such thing as a free
lunch in e-mail.
Depending On The Goodness Of Others: USENET is also very popular outside of
universities, especially with computer programmers in private industry. As
with BITNET users, graduates who go on to private industry frequently keep
up with the contacts they made while in school. Some establish nodes at their
new jobs, sweeping their employers into the system in the process. At the
very least, they are usually able to dial into their alma mater's post office
USENET follows a hierarchical tree structure, in which there are now about
50 'backbone' sites that have volunteered to act as central hubs for USENET
traffic. Some are located at universities. Others are operated by private
companies. All are identified with a specific person who volunteers the time
and money it takes to make 30 - 40 calls a day and take another 20 - 30
calls. Mathematically, the 50 backbone sites would need to make 1225 calls
(or 25 each) to insure that every hub trades mailbags with every other hub.
But since USENET is not rigidly defined, some hubs are busier than others.
Besides calling other backbones, the hubs also connect with between 300 and
400 'branch' sites. Each backbone makes about five calls per day, either to
download files from another backbone or to forward files on to a branch.
Branches must also take calls from 'leaf' sites, the most populated part of
the USENET tree. There may be six or seven thousand of these; nobody really
knows for sure. Most are Unix micros, ranging from single user Xenix PCs to
Apollo or Sun workstations. The leaves make local calls to send and receive
files, but they normally do not have to forward mailbags.
The Good Neighbor Policy: The leaf sites are on their own when it comes to
finding a nearby branch site willing to take their call every day. Unlike
common carriers, Usenet volunteers can choose their clients quite arbitrarily.
They don't have to bear the cost of forwarding mail for free, although they
do so in the spirit of cooperation which pervades the network.
In addition, successful e-mail senders would have to know the path their
messages will take ahead of time, and know the symbols of each hop in the
message transfer. Addressing is somewhat chaotic (*tell me* about it, says
your humble typist/transcriber!), with several intermediate nodes involved
in any given message transfer path. The originator must specify the path
explicitly, which necessitates a detailed knowledge of the network. This
creates a level of difficulty that dissuades most users from creating
significant amounts of e-mail. Instead, they prefer to be recipients, both of
their e-mail and of whatever electronic newsletters and discussion groups
There are about 300 or so special interest groups, operating electronic
bulletin board systems under the banner of Usenet News, who create about one
or two megabytes of postings daily on topics ranging from real estate to
artificial intelligence. Like any electronic newsletter, they receive a
good portion of their contributions from subscribers. There is an editor for
each group, more than likely a person who also operates a backbone or branch
The Faster The Better: Each site decides which Usenet News topics to download.
Some sites download everything into their VAX computers so that any locally
connected terminal can access the data on any topic without the need to make
a phone call. However most sites choose a subset of the whole feed and use
high-speed modems to bring their online average down below an hour a day. Many
are using the high-speed Telebit Trailblazer modems, which seem to be quite
popular with heavy phone users.
But people get tired. They can also choose when their computers are overloaded,
which is the case with most hubs and branches at present. The first few cracks
have already appeared in the Good Neighbor Policy. AT&T, which operates a
USENET backbone site in addition to its own vast internal uucp network (not to
mention AT&T Mail), will no longer forward e-mail for third parties. It will
still make the Usenet News available to its branches, but e-mail no longer
gets a free ride. Other hub sites may adopt similar stances in time. In order
to serve the growing number of leaf sites that wanted but couldn't get USENET
access, the operator of one of the backbone sites created a subscription
service called UUNet. Rick Adams, operator of the old 'seismo' hub, convinced
Usenix, an association of technical and professional Unix users, to sponsor
For a basic flat fee of $35 per month, a leaf site can subscribe to the UUnet
backbone node. UUnet is reachable both through WATS lines and a Tymnet
gateway. Subscribers can choose to call through WATS or Tymnet, which entails
an additional charge, or call UUnet directly and pay for the long distance
call themselves. So far, UUnet has attracted about 400 clients. For more
information on UUnet, call voice to 703-764-9789.
Reselling USENET news? Donnalyn Frey, press liason for both Usenix and UUnet,
said the node is not operated for profit. In fact, she said Usenix makes the
Usenet News available through two commercial services in the Bay Area: The
Well (Sausalito) and PORTAL COMMUNICATIONS (Cupertino), which in turn sell
it to their subscribers. Portal charges $10 per month. It is available through
the Telenet PC Pursuit service for an additional $25 per month.
BITNET, which showed up in more than half the schools responding to the
UCLA survey, is quite popular with university computer centers. Like USENET,
it also began as an alternative to ARPANET for university based programmers
and other computer technology buffs. It is now used by 1500 computers at
380 different sites, and is believed to be the most widely used e-mail
network on campus.
For a non-commercial service, it is startling to find that BITNET maintains
over 400 e-mail distribution lists for its end users. People who need to
send multiple recipients a news item or memo can send one copy to a
distribution list they can store at any of 120 sites. That node then creates
and sends the carbon copies.
Incorporating More Control: But until recently, Bitnet had no central control.
The rules against self-promotion or commercial usage were hard to enforce,
because there was no central authority. About all that could be done was
to remove an offending node from the directory -- cut their feed -- so
they could not exchange mailbags. Now that BITNET has become Bitnet, Inc.,
based in Princeton, NJ, a little more central control is reported to be
on the way.
BITNET is most popular with university computer centers. USENET is more
popular with individuals. ARPANET closely tracks the high-tech military
research community. A fourth group, guided by the National Science Foundation,
has found success with computer science and engineering departments within
Gateways To ARPANET: The NSF began funding alternatives to ARPANET in 1981.
One of its first projects was called CSNET, which was organized to provide
computer science departments with gateway access to ARPANET. CSNET has since
grown into an e-mail network in its own right, with about 185 sites
participating at present. About 60 percent are universities, 35 percent
are private industry, and 5 percent are government, according to spokesman
John Rugo. He said the balance is shifting in favor of private industry,
as more and more schools defect to newer NSF network alternatives.
Rugo, while acting as spokesman for CSNET, is actually an employee of
Bolt Beranek & Newman, Inc. (Cambridge, MA), which was intimately involved
in the creation and operation of ARPANET. It also operates many of the
internet gateways such as those between CSNET and both ARPANET and Telenet.
BBN is also closely linked to the NSF networks in a support role.
Paving The E-Mail Superhighway: The NSF also became involved with super-
computer centers several years ago. Two years ago, NSF funded the creation of
a high speed link between supercomputers at the University of Illinois and
Cornell University. That endeavour grew up to become what is now called
Feeding into NSFnet are several tributory networks, most of which are
organized by state or region. Some, such as CSNET, are organized by
profession rather than by location. Others, such as ARPANET are interconnected
even though there is no clear NSF relationship. The system currently
connects about 200 campuses linked to the 13 nodes which form the national
TCP/IP Won't Go Away: NSFnet currently uses the TCP/IP (Transmission Control
Protocol/Internet Protocol) first made famous by ARPANET twenty years ago.
The Internet Protocol is old; it is inefficient; it is prone to crashes; and
it won't carry networking into the gigabit range, let alone the megabit speeds
of T1 and T3 links. But despite predictions of its demise, TCP/IP is actually
gaining followers outside the Unix and Darpa communities.
It would make little sense to re-engineer TCP/IP since modern alternatives
such as X.400 and FTAM are available. The NSF networks plan to graduate to
the Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) protocols by 1990. The primary 'vendors'
for NSFnet (the equipment and service is donated by IBM and MCI, respectively)
are committed to an OSI path, but for now the community is sticking with
what is available.
Karen Roubicek, BBN's NSFnet Service Center Manager, said a major test of
the network's resiliency is occurring now, as academia returns for the new
term. A 56K-to-T1 line speed upgrade, finished on time this past July, has
yet to carry a full load. She said she expects usage to explode, though, as
supercomputer users come back from summer vacation to discover they can work
27 times faster than before.
Pricing Schemes On The Way? At present, NSFnet members pay annual dues, but
not user fees. Roubicek and Rugo said the NSF style is to conceive and fund
a network, but to push it in the direction of self-funding through member
dues, as is the case now with CSNET. For NSFnet, though, it is very possible
that the tributory networks will impose pricing schemes of their own, since
they must also become self-sufficient over time.
NSFnet is also trying to attract more researchers from private industry. But
even if a pricing scheme is adopted, Roubicek said she doubts the network
would allow commercial applications. This they hold in common with CSNET,
USENET and BITNET. The four e-mail networks, in one respect alternatives to
ARPANET, are in another respect alternatives to commercial e-mail services.
They are sheltered from the business world, and they cling to their non-
And that is the complete transcription of an article entitled "Report Card On
University E-Mail" which appeared in the September 1, 1988 edition of
EMMS/Electronic Mail & Micro Systems Newsletter. (Volume 12, Number 17).
The EMMS Newsletter is published bi-weekly at 21 Locust Avenue, #1-C,
New Canaan, CT. Regretfully, the article did not include the name of an
author, but was probably compiled by either the editor, Eric Arnum, or the
contributing editor, Stephen A. Caswell. Their phone is 203-966-2525.
[Excerpted from Networking, by Mary Scott Welch, 1981]
Personal networking is the attempt by an individual to cultivate as many good 'contacts' as possible in order to have help in furthering their personal aims and ambitions. Contacts can provide: feedback, referrals, information, opportunities, advice, emotional or financial support, other contacts.
It is a two way street, however, insofar as it means giving as well as receiving the above advantages. Reciprocal favours are very important in successful personal networking.
Successful networkers make a point of initiating contact and maintaining it periodically with as many people they think important to get where they want to go.
- figure out where you want to go
- subscribe to pertinent newsletters, get on mailing lists
- keep a file for contact information
- get an appointment book and calendar
- tell them what you're doing, find out what they're doing, and see how you might aid each other
- look for common ground
- find out what connections you have
- maintain records of your encounters and the information resulting from them
- follow up afterward, perhaps invite a third person to the next meeting
- 'people hop'
- follow through with any promises made
1. Draw up a chart of your present networking - personal and professional connections
2. Chart the network of connections you have to develop to accomplish your aims - individuals and/or occupations
3. Strategize on how to meet the contacts you need to make
4. Set a schedule for yourself and stick with it.
- Network support is based on performance. There is no substitute for being seen as good at your job, and there are two parts to that: doing good work and letting other people know it.
- Any member of your network will help only as much as she can without diminishing her own influence.
- What you do with your networking resources is up to you. You can't sit back and wait for someone to take you in hand.
Networking Do's and Don'ts
Do try to give as much as you get
Don't be afraid to ask for what you need.
Do report back to anyone who has given you a lead.
Do follow up on any leads and names you've been given.
Don't tell everything to everybody.
Do be businesslike in your approach to your network.
Don't pass up any opportunities to network.
Don't neglect traditional organizations.
Do read up on the subject...before you ask questions.
Do keep in touch with your old network as you move up.
Don't expect your network to function as a placement office.
Do call members of your network "for no reason at all". That is, don't wait to call until you need something.
Do bring your network into play with particular care when you're about to enter unfamiliar territory.
Don't be discouraged if someone brushes you off.
Do call ahead when you've given someone's name to a person in your network.
Do refine your questions.
Do keep expanding your network.
Do ask for only one thing at a time - information, referral, moral support.
Do watch your timing.
Don't expect an instant, magic answer.
Do take advice when you've asked for it.
Do offer your help generously.
Don't tell anyone what to do, even if she asks you to. Above all, don't do it for her.
Do make certain guidelines clear to your constituency, i.e., the limits to your assistance.
Do be on the alert to hear such guidelines from others, too.
Do deliver on your promises.
Do pick the right people to ask for what you need.
Do take others up on their offers to help.
Do include all ages of people in your network.
Do try to circulate at network meetings.
Do wake up to the "petty cash" aspects of networking over food or drinks.
Do be prepared for a slump following your initial excitement over learning to network.
BUSINESS ASPECTS OF COMPUTER NETWORKING
- phone calls
- promotional materials
- client database / files
- accounting / bookkeeping
- mailing bills
- rent, heat, lights, water, etc.
- cleaning, renovations
- furniture, equipment, supplies
- client reception (telephone, in person)
- communications (mail, fax, courier, online)
- policy creation
- budget / business plans
R & D
- Hardware, software
- Online environment
Scanning of Business Environment
- Other affiliated services, e.g., telephone companies
- Collegial systems
- Gatewayed systems
- Paid staff
- Board of Directors
- public relations
FACTORS IN USE OF COMPUTER COMMUNICATIONS
how many people do you need to communicate with?
how many are online now? On which networks?
how many could (and would) get online?
how far away?
for what purpose?
For obtaining information
what subject area?
for what purpose?
For distributing information
what subject area?
to which audience?
What are the goals of the organization?
What are its strategies?
How can computer communications enhance these?
How much money and staff time is currently spent on:
long-distance telephone calls?
computer or terminal? what kind?
modem? what speed?
using Local Area Network (LAN)?
party line or extensions?
clean line (no 'noise')?
need special adaptor for local office telephone system?
communications software? what kind?
If no equipment available, is there access to someone else's?
If no equipment at present, intention to acquire? When?
3. EXPERIENCE / KNOWLEDGE
understanding of concepts involved?
present or previous experience with computer communications? What kind?
know how to use a computer?
know how to use a modem?
know how to use communications software?
need help with:
setting up equipment?
learning to use a computer?
learning to access and use a Network?
how positive/negative are feelings about computer communications?
what are prior expectations regarding:
degree of difficulty?
amount of time needed?
to what extent can the costs of using the Network be afforded?
can costs be shared with someone else?
how much time can be made available to learn, and then use, the system?
6. ORGANIZATIONAL FACTORS
Degree of change needed
size of organization?
number of people immediately involved?
what kind of hurdles need to be overcome?
can a plan be created for successful implementation?
'Champion' or core group of enthusiasts available?
how much power?
how long to stay?
ability to initiate and sustain necessary organizational change?
willingness and ability to act as facilitator both online and offline?
Return to home page