|Volume 1: No. 26|
AI may be too civilized -- a "definite, coherent heterogeneity" -- but Larry Press (firstname.lastname@example.org) points out that network communities are still in the Nebraska Pioneering stage. It's tough to share a beer over the network, but homebrew systems clubs do meet regularly (or continually) in cyberspace. Larry has also had extensive contact with Soviet RELCOM (Reliable Communication network) users at the Moscow Demos Cooperative, and was linked to them in marathon sessions during the recent coup attempt. He's written an article about it: "A Computer Network for Democracy and Development," El Mercurio, Santiago, Chile, September 5, 1991. RELCOM links 391 organizations in 70 Soviet cities, for stock and commodity exchanges, politics, news services, etc. Traffic to Finland reached 13,159 messages per day during the coup, full capacity and about double the usual traffic. Much of the news was translated and transmitted at great personal risk to those in the Soviet Union. Larry says that the technician-entrepreneurs running Demos are idealistic and non-competitive, much like CS graduate students in the U.S.
Calton Pu (email@example.com) has twice changed cultures. He observes that the invitation-only fraternities and clubs (e.g., Rotary) are surviving well enough, but that churches and student groups are having trouble. It's difficult for newcomers to gain acceptance. Calton spends much of his frequent travel time talking with friends -- senior people -- about research issues and progress. That meets his needs, but there isn't much time for socializing with outsiders.
If people gather just to be with others, they have little to say or do together. If they meet for a specific purpose or job or ceremony, they don't get to know one another -- and may have little in common with the people they do meet. Health clubs, martial arts, duplicate bridge, or PTA work for some. Social climbers take up tennis, handball, racquetball, or whatever the boss is playing. Many people (women, especially) have recently found "networking" groups to be the perfect answer. Some groups are limited to executives and business persons, with emphasis on career contacts and business presentation skills. Others are wide open, on the theory that you never know when somebody's sister's mechanic will have just the information you need.
Network discussion lists (including this one) are networking societies in this sense, but do lack an important dimension of personal contact. They fail (for the most part) in developing your social and presentation skills, and they fail to put you in contact with customers. Many consultants and entrepreneurs cite social networking, participation in service organizations, and public speaking as key to getting customers. Donna Friedman, for instance, belongs to the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Women's Economic Development Corporation, National Association of Women Business Owners, Toastmasters, and (in her own field) the International Special Events Society. Consultants can often cite large contracts referred to them be acquaintances at professional organizations. [David Hallerman, Home-Office Computing, 9/91.]