As the National Capital Freenet (NCF) has been expanding, a number of problems have become visible. As with many things in life, sometimes we loose track of the forest for all the trees : the Freenet is definitely no exception.
The major questions seem to be one of definition of who the users are that the NCF wishes to support, and problems resolving interaction between the two major functions of the NCF. I will start with discussing the dual nature of the NCF.
Two very distinct aspects of the NCF exist and need to be separated in people's minds, the first being that of an Information Provider to the public, and the second being an Access Provider.
One of the structural changes relates back to the original question of who the users are that need to be supported. When you look at the NCF as offering two different types of services, you will immediately realize that there is then two different types of users that should be served:
While making this decision, the NCF should try to remember that it is not yet another Bulletin Board System (BBS) in the Ottawa area, but a service to the entire of the National Capital community. Questions have been asked about what would entice users to call into the NCF if the information were available elsewhere : this very question seems to have lost sight of what the NCF should be trying to accomplish, which is easy access to community information. Any information that is made available only to members is information that will not be as easily accessible to people using their chosen access method.
The last thing the NCF should be doing is encouraging membership. While some of the funding comes from individual members that 'might' not contribute to the NCF organization if they were making use of a different Access Provider, there is also a much higher cost associated with being an Access Provider over being an Information Provider.
There is an assumption being made that if the NCF concentrated on being an Information Provider, and only acting as an Access Provider for those people who can not afford any alternative method, that they would somehow be reducing the amount of money that is donated to the NCF. I myself do not at all see how this assumption is arrived at. I also do not understand why so much emphasis on trying to become a larger and larger Access Provider (and discouraging the use of alternative methods of access by making the information hosted on NCF as an Information Provider harder to access via alternative Access Providers) when this is the very service that costs the most amount of money to support.
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