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Here's what I'm doing.
Right now, I'm in BBedit (text editor), putting this together. Here's why. I just got the following note from Daren Henderson (who runs the Neighborlinx site/system in San Francisco). It made me think I ought to do this. Put together a little example of what some of the capabilities of this software are. This is way overboard. Not the kind of thing most people would ever want to do with this software, but it shows some of what's possible... More on that in a minute, but first, here's that note from Daren:

Date: Sat, 8 May 1999 18:55:01 EDT
Subject: Daren Henderson here...

Hi Bill,

Hope this e-mail finds you doing well, or finds you at all, as I am assuming you haven't run off in frustration over all of this stuff.

I just came out of a meeting of about forty people representing the leaders of the various Y2K groups in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area. From Silicon Valley to Marin County. The consensus was that might be a great way for us to continue our discussions, identify focus areas of interest, exchange resources...basically everything you have told me the site can facilitate.

I have some questions that I would like to follow-up with you on via telephone once I give you a chance to digest them.

1. Can people limit their alerts only to those threads they are interested in or will they get an update every time anyone posts to the site.

2. I am unable to access the admin. section for the mailing list. Is there another way in. (When I enter my password it asks for my moms maiden name then denies access)

3. Someone familiar with Greenspun sites at this meeting said there are some updates to the technology, (i.e. profiles for members of the site, search capabilities... could you enlighten me as to what they are and my access to these upgrades.

4. How can I change some elements of the home page to be more user friendly (i.e. change Forum Main to Main Forum or Town Hall or Meeting Hall? Also "Read This" to "How to use this site" or "How to Guide" or something.

I'll call you in the next couple of days to discuss. This seems like an excellent opportunity for us to showcase your technology. A reporter from the chronicle will be acknowledging in an article in June. The members of the group that I met today are our regions leading activists and are sure to make the site more productive, if we can tailor it to there needs or at least help the fully understand its capabilities.

Thank you,

Daren Henderson

And suddenly it's a couple hours later!

(And when isn't it?)... The answer to Daren's question in a minute or two, but first - what's the deal here? I could write a book about this, but I'll spare you. (I may write it in the soon to be post-y2k world, whether that be here at the keyboard, or by kerosene or candle light with a cheap Bic pen. If I do it'll be a companion book to the first one I'm going to write. That one's going to be called, Through the Cracks: Welcome to the Email Donkey Trail.)

And underneath it all, that's got a lot to do with what's going on here on this page. (I'm not a huge fan of email when it comes to communication between more than two people. You may know what I mean. Personally, I think of it as the two-legged horse of online "collaboration." But that's another story - sort of. Let's hop to an antedote.)

Meet the Doctor: One of the few true web masters

This is Philip Greenspun (and his dog, Alex). The guy's amazing. He's probably one of not too many people on the planet who can make software do what it's supposed to do when it comes to the Internet. As a matter of fact, we're smack dab in the middle of a piece of his software right now. I don't know if you noticed it or not, but this isn't really a web page (even though it is). It's the first entry in a thread in an amazing piece of forum software called "LUSENET."

Another book. Short version is this: This forum software is powerful, flexible, dynamic enough to be a "web site unto itself. I mean - this kind of looks like a web site, doesn't it? Just because it doesn't have flashing banner ads, spinning globes, and dancing bears doesn't mean it couldn't be, does it? (And it could have those things, but I don't know how to make them, and haven't felt compelled to learn how because I don't care much for them myself although I suppose that's not economically sound in this day of the certifiable clickthroughs for mere pennies! Call NOW!)

Let's Pretend

Let's pretend for a minute that it actually was some kind of "real world" (wide) web site. Guess what would happen. That's right... The end users would be able to add to its content, shape its direction, be a complete part of the process. Think about that one for a minute. When was the last time you were able to dial up a web site (that wasn't yours), and add something to it? Long time ago, wasn't it...

Do you know how to make web pages? No? So does that leave you out of the content equation? No. Let's try this. As long as we're pretending, let's say I do know how to make web pages and everything you've just read has been the beginning of my position paper - my definitive article, tome, whatever - on why I believe with all my American heart that I not only have the right to bear any kind of arms I can lay my hands on, but I want a backyard nuclear weapon.

Then let's pretend you read that and it gets your goat. You feel like giving me your perspective on that idea. Now. What would you do if this was a regular web site, a regular web page? Look around for the d*** email link, right? And then what would happen? Maybe you type something up and fire it off into the void. I get it. I look at what you have to say and laugh:

"Ah hahahahahahahahahahaha... Another one of those idiots from the hinterlands. Ah hahahahahahahahahaha."

What do you suppose the chances of your perspective making it onto my web site would be? Pretty good or pretty slim? And if they did, what would be the chances of them being anywhere near my Sacred Tome?

But here. Just for the heck of it... Just to see how hard it is to add that piece of your mind to this web site, this web page, click this... Typing or pasting in your comments, information, et ceteras, is how difficult it is to add content to this web page, this web site. If you had (or did) "Submit" anything there, it would've been added directly down the page from what you're looking at now. Sort of like a "letter to the editor" with the article in question directly above all the comments.

But let's say you don't want to comment on what I've had to say. Let's say you think it's just too stupid to waste your time on. You've got other things in mind. You've got a tome of your own to get on the net. You've got a new plan for some kind of windmill that cranks best on completely calm days. Or maybe a solar panel that works in the rain, and you don't have time for people like me. You want to get your info onto a web page, onto the net right away so you can let everyone know where they can read about it.

Oh. But's that's right... You don't know beans about HTML, or servers, or ftp software, or, or, or... "Oh well... I'll just have to email a few people I guess. Maybe send them an attachment."

Don't do that. Just do the same thing you did to add a comment to my personal nuclear weapons explanation, only click a slightly different link. A link like this one... Go ahead. See what pops up. In LUSENET, that's the "Ask a Question" link. That name's a misnomer. What it really ought to say is something like, "Create a new web page even if you don't know the first thing about making web pages. Click me. I like it."

Let's Move On

I really can tell by the way this is going that I actually could write a book about all this. But I just wanted to put somethig quick together on account of a few of the things Daren's note made me think... Here's the long and short of it...

In about January of 1998 I started to see what this software could do. I was involved in what was just starting to be called "y2k community preparation." And then I happened to see how this software, combined with a few other little things (not the least of which is a "way of looking at things"), could make one heck of a community information sharing/communications system: A web site that community members could not only add to, but use to communicate with each other via a system that not only retained all the best features of email, but improved on them. (If you'd like to read me about that, there's a "dedicated page" that goes into a little more detail on why the system we put together is better than conventional sites and email. Any time, but especially for y2k.)

But here's a big problem with this stuff, this "system" we've put together... People don't get it. Not because they're stupid, but because of "habit." Primarily conventional sites and email and the way people are used to relating to "web life." People seem to freak or seize up when confronted with the ability to add content to a web site. I think they're not used to that. I think they think that's "the web master's job" (and domain which you better not mess with or I'll send the web police!). I think people think they're only supposed to read web pages and send people emails. Period.

I think. I could be wrong. It could be this stuff (this system, this way of going at communications) is stupid, misguided, etc.. I don't think so, but who knows? Anyway... The main idea with this page is simply to put up something that shows a little bit more of what's possible with this software. One (and just one) of the interesting things about this software to me is that there's no reason whatsoever that the forum this page is actually sitting in couldn't be just loaded with pages like this. A forum full of web sites. Or shorter, less fancy notes with links to other related web pages/sites.

Like the one on the left. It leads to my main y2k site. It's an actual "stand alone" site called the Millennium Salons. But even though it's a "stand alone" model, I set it up (with help from Mr. Greenspun's software), so it would mostly run itself, and so that end users can add most of the content.

If you go there, take a look at the "Shared Resources" section. That's run entirely on another piece of Philip Greenspun's software called "BooHoo" (after Yahoo). Another "simple" system that allows site users to add links to the site. So, "as you can see," visitors to the Millennium Salons have the capablility to add both content like this, and links. And when it comes to standard web sites, what else is there (besides pictures, flashing banners, and dancing bears)?

Last but not least (for tonight)...

Just for the yell of it, I'm throwing in the raft of links on the left. They link to the category listings in the Millennium Salons forum. Each of them brings up a list of the threads that've been filed under those headings.

In some kind of summary...

This only scratches the surface. And when it comes to the "Year 2000 Preparation and Recovery System," I guess the rough idea is to say this is the "engine" those systems are based on. That, combined with the concept and other "moving parts" that add up to "the system," create one heck of a lot of potential for dynamic net-based communication and genuine online, local AND global collaboration. That "concept" is the tough part to get across. This is just a little bit of it. (And it occurs to me this page in itself - what's being talked about here - may be way out of context for you; may not make a lot of sense to you at this point. If that's the case, but you'd like to get a more coherent grip, you may want to read that "dedicated page.")

I think the most important aspect mentioned here is the communications power it puts into the hands of the end users in communities that use the system. It has a tremendous amount of potential for that. All people need to do is use it, get familiar with it...

Here. Before I fall asleep, let me pop in one more example. This is an actual post I put into the Millennium Salons forum last week. It leads to a genuinely interesting web page. You may want to give it a quick read (it's short):

Talk radio, state officials, raised eybrows, inquiries: Will the power go out? Rick Cowles and John Koskinen seem to agree.

Click this

That's one of the most basic ways people in the community can use the forum to share info. And there's no need to get fancy by learning how to make "live links" (although it's easy and there are plenty of simple directions laying around for people who want to). The same post could've just been typed in but instead of the link, the plain old url would do just fine

Talk radio, state officials, raised eybrows, inquiries: Will the power go out? Rick Cowles and John Koskinen seem to agree.

Daren's Question (almost forgot)

Yet another "common" way of using the system is putting pointers to other, related threads witin the same (or other) forums. I haven't put it in a thread yet (I'm still in BBedit, and it's geting late!), but I will. I'll my reply to Daren in another thread and put the link to it right here so you can read the answer to those questions (if you're so inclined), that came (to Minnesota), from California, and got me thinking about doing this and staying up way past what should be my bedtime but isn't anymore because of this insane thing called "y2k" (which I can barely stand to hear or type anymore, how 'bout you? "Why Too Kay. Why Too Kay." Like some weird short chant I never did like the sound of much to begin with)...

Okay. I'm about done, outta here, asleep. Here's what I'm going to do next (for those curious about this sort of thing). After I check this over, spend another 15 or 20 minutes figuring out what I did wrong, and staighten it out, I'm going to go to the forum where this will go in, and click "Ask a Question." Then I'm going to paste all this HTML into the Submit box. Then the software is going to take it and file it away on a server. And then, when you put the url into your browser (because Daren threatened you?), and press enter, it will pop up and I hope you're a little suprised to find out this is really just a posting in a forum.

And "lest I forget," don't forget you can add anything you want to this particular web page by clicking the button below that says "Contribute an answer." That would put whatever you wanted to add right below this post. Or you can start another new web page by going back to the top level and clicking Ask a Question. That's all I did. That's all it takes.

Until later,

Bill Dale

Back to the beginning

-- Anonymous, May 09, 1999

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