Conferencing and Email

Conferencing has been an essential tool for much of my working life. I used an early version of Notes when I worked as a software developer for Lotus years ago. When I joined BYTE, I found myself in the midst of a group of writers and editors who collaborated extensively on BIX.[5] We conducted a huge amount of editorial business in our private BIX conferences: trading contacts, hashing out story ideas, reviewing drafts, exchanging news items. Across continents and time zones, BIX was our virtual office before the term became fashionable. Clunky by today’s standards, it nevertheless embodied many of the virtues of Internet groupware. It was accessible from anywhere, requiring only a modem and freely available software—in the case of BIX, just a terminal emulator. It combined email with conferencing. It was searchable. It could create multiple zones of discussion for sometimes overlapping, sometimes disjoint groups of users. It could admit a transient collaborator—for example, a freelance writer or editor—to one of these groups for a project of limited duration.

Although BIX conferencing was a deeply ingrained part of our corporate culture, by 1996 we could no longer ignore the call of Internet groupware. We switched from BIX conferences to NNTP newsgroups, retaining nearly all the benefits of BIX while adding a number of new capabilities, which we’ll explore in this chapter.

For a long time I thought everybody depended on conferencing the way ...

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