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FEEDING THE LISTSERV
We knew that the success of the network depended on the value of the
information it could provide.
Luckily, the W. Alton Jones Foundation had a senior fellow, Paul Miller, who was a LEV-ZEV policy expert. Paul would be the Circuit Rider's sidekick. Or vice versa. He would feed the listserv constantly. With news articles. Political insights. Bits of intelligence gleaned from conferences. As the Circuit Rider brought advocates on line, Paul would keep the information flowing across the wires. Advocates would quickly learn the benefits of joining the listserv. And they would slowly begin to share their own knowledge.
Paul had a crucial role to play. So as soon as the Circuit Rider was comfy in the saddle, he rode down to Charlottesville to meet with Paul. They reviewed the list of participants. Talked strategy. And drew up their early plans.
15 advocates stood out from the pack. Improving their means of communication was key to building a strong network of advocates. So we set our sights on them immediately. The typical member of this A list had a limited use of e-mail and a few, like the Executive Director of Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), had no e-mail at all. Two quick trips to California and Boston introduced us to most of the key players. Those without were set up with e-mail. And we taught all how to interact with the listserv.
Having completed work with the first round of advocates, we set our sights on the remaining organizations. But before saddling up again, we decided to survey the group. We wanted to know more information about them. What hardware/ software did they have? Did advocates already use e-mail? What communication services were they using? Could they use them more effectively or to greater advantage? And we also wanted to know about their needs.
The results confirmed much of what we'd gleaned from studying similar groups. Program staff had good equipment, often better than we'd expected. And, in many cases, they owned all the software they needed. A good number of organizations had e-mail and on-line accounts. But complaints rained about slow or broken modems. Most often it was the users who fell short. They just couldn't operate their own computer systems.
NO TRAIN, NO GAIN
Logically, training would be our major focus. We had to get users up to
speed. Acquaint them fully with their e-mail system. Also, many holders
of a CompuServe or America Online account sought an electronic news
clipping service. Of course, they already had one; they just didn't
know how to access the resident news digest services available to them.
With these fundamentals under their belts, would-be power users were primed for the next step. Under the Circuit Rider's tutelage, they could explore advanced Internet tools such as the World Wide Web. Plus Gopher (the precursor to the WWW a way of publishing text on the Internet with information organized in hierarchical menus). And file transfer protocol (FTP) sites (areas where Internet users can post or retrieve binary files).
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