Community Relations

A mentor of mine, Jay Weston, once said "the Internet is less about information or content, and more about relations". I believe this to be very true. The most obvious way to build relations between people using the tools of the Internet is to interact with each other through discussion groups.

There are many different ways people can interact with each other, using a variety of tools that the Internet offers. My particular area of interest is in using these tools to enhance the relationships between people living in and around the Ottawa-Carleton-Hull region.

Ottawa-wide discussion groups

One of the most popular tools for discussion groups is a News-reader. With a News-reader, a user would connect with a particular news host computer and read and post to 'Newsgroups'. These news host computers are usually managed by the individual's own network access provider: The company you dial over your modem, or are otherwise connected to in order to access the Internet.

A newsgroup is simply a descriptive title that gives an indication of the discussion topic of that group. It allows a user the choice to read and post messages in in a particular discussion group, while not requiring that they interact with a different discussion group. This allows for many different discussions to be happening, all at the same time, all organized into topic groups by their newsgroup name.

Current groups include a wide variety of topics, ranging from the various commerce related groups such as '' and '', to more social groups such as '' and 'ott.personals'. If you want to know what the weather is, '' has current weather information for the region. If you are hiring, or looking for a job, the '' conference will come in very handy. If you are not sure where to start, 'ott.general' is set up to handle any Ottawa discussion that currently does not have a newsgroup for that special interest.

Ottawa News Administrators Group

In Ottawa there are many different companies and organizations that one can go to to connect to the Internet. Since each user is reading and contributing messages to discussion groups that are stored on a computer associated with their network access provider, some method to share messages between providers is needed or people using one provider would not be able to easily interact with people using another provider. This type of sharing of messages between providers is built into the software being used at the provider, allowing all the different providers in Ottawa to share discussion groups.

A method to organize all of these messages being shared between the providers is very quickly needed with the number of messages that are contributed. There also needs to be a way to decide what special topics should have their own special group created to make that discussion easier to get involved in. To help with these administrative tasks, a group of people came together to create a group called the Ottawa News Administrators Group (ONAG).

To quote from information provided by the group:

ONAG consists of experienced Usenet administrators and users in the Ottawa area that are interested in ensuring that ott.* is a consistent and useful Usenet hierarchy.

ONAG's primary role is to focus discussions on ott.* management, and provide a consistent and timely procedure for group creation and deletion. Just as importantly, ONAG ensures that groups that people think should be created are created, and carried in significant portions of the Ottawa region. Without a body like ONAG, group creation is an ad-hoc procedure that rarely achieves reasonable coverage.

FLORA Community WEB

While Ottawa-wide discussion groups based on News is appropriate for most people, some special interest groups will have special needs. What if your group is not large enough to warrant a discussion group passed throughout all of Ottawa? What if some of the members of your group only have access to E-mail and not Newsgroups? What if you have electronic brochures and other publications that you wish to publish along with having a discussion group for your members?

This is where a services such as the FLORA Community WEB can help. The primary roll of this particular service is to provide Ottawa community organizations with a method of creating discussion groups for their members, using a variety of Internet technologies such as Newsgroups, E-Mail, and World Wide Web. This service also provides publishing capabilities to these community organizations so that they can easily reach their members.

Current community organizations providing information via FLORA Community WEB are predominantly from two different areas of our community: Education, and Environment/Green Transportation.


The largest group discussing education using the tools provided by FLORA is the cross-Canada group maintaining the Canadian Homeschool Resource Page. This group provides information on homeschooling to parents teaching their own children in their homes. The information on these pages include information about homeschooling in each province, descriptions on books on the subject, and even links to home pages created by homeschooled kids. As a part of this resource page, this group also maintains a Canada wide discussion group on homeschooling.

For more local Ottawa based information, the Home Based Learning Network maintains a discussion group as well as publishes a newsletter both electronically and in paper format.

Green Transportation

For an overall look at this subject area, the Alternative Transportation discussion group includes discussion of all modes of transportation that are alternatives to the private Automobile. The Auto-Free Ottawa maintains information that tries to reduce our dependence on the Automobile as a form of private transportation. PEDNET includes information on pedestrian advocacy, and trying to make our streets safer for pedestrians. The Ottawa Cycling Resource page tries to link to various information of interest to Cyclists in the region.

URL List of some of the groups mentioned in this article: