A number of interesting changes to the Ottawa Online community have been seen in the last year,
with many possible enhancements in the future. I felt it would be worthwhile to write a
document describing what I feel are the most important contributions in the last year, and
suggestions for improvements over the next year. These are only my opinions: If you disagree or
have more information to add, please make these ideas available.
One very visible change is the increased number of different community minded sites, or other sites with community minded services. In the last year we have seen organizations such as ONAG and OX become public, as well as new services such as the @ottawa.com email redirector. I will only be able to hi-light a few, and by no means should my list be considered complete. I do hope it will serve to encourage these organizations and to encourage other organizations in the upcoming year.
I also hope more co-ordination of services will continue in the new year. If each organization were able to focus on specific aspects of the online community network (Creating an atmosphere of choice, not one of competition), all users of all services would benefit!
Here are the organizations I wish to hilight:
This summer we took on implementing many of the services discussed last New Year (See references to document in discussion of the National Capital Freenet). While we were not able to accomplish all of our goals with the volunteer time we had available, some new services were started.
It should be noted that MagmaCom set up a similar service with their @ottawa.com redirector <URL:http://www.ottawa.com/email/>
FLORA has concentrated on advertising itself in the last year to try to make the existence of this
volunteer group more known. Many more Information Providers have started to use FLORA as
their resource, and I suspect more volunteer resources will be available in the new year. If you
have any volunteer time, please contact us as we likely either need your help directly, or can
direct you to another online service that could use your help.
Last year at about this time I wrote a document entitled "The future of the NCF - Happy New Years 1996" <http://www.flora.org/russell/papers/future1.html>. In this document I gave a vision of what it might be like to use the National Capital Freenet with a more open model for their technology. I also suggested that the technology to implement this future existed then, and could be implemented in a years time.
While not all of the ideals discussed in this paper have been implemented by the NCF, many have started as part of the FreePlan <http://www.ncf.carleton.ca:12345/freeport/freeplan/menu>:
Missing from the ideal plan is an online chatting interface (IRC was suggested, but other
technologies exist) between NCF and other Ottawa users, as well as an Internet based search
engine for finding other people and organizations. It is quite possible that these tools will be
made available in the new year, although no plans seem to be being discussed within the NCF.
(Please see information on OX as this group is discussing these two communications tools).
The NCF is currently set up such that ALL Freenet-facilitated discussion groups are only available through the FreeNews password-protected mechanism (Or via dialing into the NCF). This greatly decreases the ease in which people from all over the region are able to participate in these discussion groups, especially by the less technical members of the local Online community.
This is not a technology issue, but a policy one. I hope that this issue will be brought up as part of the upcoming Annual General Meeting and board Elections.
What is needed to make communication easier? I have the following recommendations:
Note: If the NCF decides to implement the above recommendations, I will be willing to offer my
services to implement any necessary technology.
Started in January of this year, this group hopes to help solve one of the largest problems seen with Ottawa-Wide discussion groups (ott.* newsgroups): Creation, deletion, and documentation of groups.
The idea is simple: This group is comprised of a number of news administrators who hopefully
represent the largest population of users of the discussion groups. Membership includes the
news administrators of the three largest news sites in Ottawa: Carleton University, the National
Capital Freenet, and BNR, as well as additional help from Pinetree, Revenue Canada, and most
recently, myself from FLORA Community WEB. As a group we help focus the discussions
relating to the administration of the newsgroups, and then help facilitate the creation of new
groups (Via a vote, and then the sending out of the appropriate group creation messages). This
group also helps to distribution information about Ottawa wide discussion groups, including
There is a growing number of people in Ottawa who have the money to purchase fairly advanced
computers, but do not have either the funds or the motivation to join a commercial Internet
provider. The OTTAWA.public.net is a perfect service for these people. It makes use of a full
Internet Connection with software running on your own computer, just as the regular commercial
Internet providers do. Unlike the regular providers, however, it is advertisers who are paying for
the Internet connection and not the end user.
One of the largest problems seen with OTTAWA.public.net is busy signals. With a regular Internet provider there is an increased income for an increase in the number of users. Since it is the advertisers that are paying for the connection, increased income (and thus increased service) comes as a result of increased advertising. I suspect the user base should be trying to encourage more advertisers in order to get better service: Tell advertisers that you saw their ads on the net, and there will be more motivation to expand the service.
It is my hope that this service will grow in the new year. It will serve to decrease the load on existing services such as the National Capital Freenet (Dialup is the most costly component of what the NCF offers), allowing them to focus on the people who do not have these advanced computers (People with VT100 terminals, XT computers, and so on).
The OTTAWA.public.net also serves as a trial period for people who may in the future wish to
pay a commercial provider, but first wish to find out what the Internet will offer to them.
Some also believe the lack of additional services (News, Email, Web publishing) is also a
limitation of Ottawa.public.net. While they have added Email to their services, I believe it is
actually in the best interests of the Public.net to concentrate on better dialup, and allow these
other services to be provided by other community-minded sites such as the National Capital
Freenet and FLORA Community WEB (Both of which offer all 3 services).
A number of online-community volunteers have decided to come together to share ideas and
work together on common goals. Since the volunteers come from a number of different groups
(Some are FLORA volunteers, some are current or ex-Freenet volunteers, and so on), it tends to
be a group that favors inter-operation between the various community-minded services out there.
A number of interesting projects are being discussed:
Some longer term projects are being discussed such as: