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Practical Internet Groupware by Jon Udell

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Groupware Aspects of the BYTE Public and Private Newsgroups

The public newsgroups connected the editorial staff to its worldwide readership—or more accurately, to a self-selected group of subscribers and nonsubscribers who shared an interest in the subjects explored in the magazine and discussed in the newsgroups. Such an online community may seem uniquely relevant to a magazine, which by definition serves as the focal point for a well-defined interest group. But as we saw in Part I, an online community makes sense for almost any business. Your customers can help one another make the best use of your products if you provide a venue for that interaction. What they say to each other about your strengths and weaknesses may give you more or different insight than what they say to you.

The BYTE public web forums were a web reflection of the NNTP newsgroups. Why mirror the newsgroups into web space? As we discussed in Part I, many potential participants aren’t familiar with, or comfortable with, NNTP-based discussion. And some are blocked by their corporate firewalls from connecting to foreign news servers. To maximize the reach of the discussions, I supported both news and web modes of access. What emerged was a two-tiered pattern of usage. Most of the 1,500 daily users preferred the web mode; this group read and posted relatively little. Only about 150 visitors each day preferred their newsreaders, but these folks read and posted a lot.

I draw two lessons from this experience. ...

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