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Pamela Saalbach

If you stop and think about it, the collective wisdom present at last month's meeting about computing in Japan was clearly astonishing! What a great program - a topic that is acutely relevant to nearly all of us! And that's not all. It's a topic that squarely faces ANYONE doing bilingual computing inside of or on behalf of Japan and Japanese native speakers. Without a doubt, the contributions and experiences volunteered by those who attended last month's exchange certainly enriched the initial material prepared by the presenters. It was knowledge that could not have been gained by any other better means.

Which brings me to the topic I have in mind for this month's article. It is about how TPC might want to use one of the greatest benefits it provides its members - an enormous intangible asset called "knowledge gained through experience." You can't find this knowledge in books. Any knowledge published in current newspaper and magazine media soon turns to static, outdated and unusable information. On the other hand, knowledge residing in the heads of TPC members who thrash through bilingual computing challenges daily is a living, breathing, organic mass of superb and always highly relevant and reliable information!

Along with the rich diversity of nationalities and personalities of TPC members, this "knowledge and experience" asset is one of our group's greatest sources of cohesion and strength. It lures members to monthly meetings and to repeated logons to the BBS. It is the driving force behind the dedicated service donated by all of the terrific people who, in various capacities, oil the cogs that keep this fine organization running.

But this incredible asset can also serve other valuable purposes: to gain new members whose experience or lack thereof adds further to TPC's evolving pool of knowledge. Or it can also serve as a valuable service to a community of people using bilingual computing applications as close as Tokyo and as far away as Timbuktu ....

Which is where I'm really trying to head with this article (er, not Timbuktu). With just a bit of a shift in thinking, TPC could very easily be serving members as far flung as the most remote corners of the Internet universe. If we simply "captured" the knowledge we share on a regular basis in the form of a database or as interactive chat sessions on the Internet, literally thousands of people could benefit worldwide.

Ok, I'll bring this idea back down to a more manageable size ;-) ....

What if we could "capture" the knowledge we share on a regular basis in the form of a database or online Internet interactive help site or FAQ to assist, say, schoolteachers within a manageable radius of Tokyo with too few resources, never enough time, and lack of experience in getting applications up and running? What if we also donated our old equipment and software to them for their use as well? Granted it wouldn't be the "latest and greatest," but it would certainly be attractive if a school had nothing to start with! Which I understand is the case for many schools. Taking this thought one step further - what if we also offered our services through occasional onsite visits or by offering weekend workshops at a designated location once a quarter or twice a year? Our assistance would not have to be limited only to bilingual computing. Our members know a great deal about computing in general. Such helpful activities have the potential of transforming TPC into an organization that provides a measure of community service that can counterbalance its traditional internal focus of fulfilling members' needs.

Why would we want to consider community outreach as one of our target activities?

1. It would provide TPC with a productive and useful focus for its normal activities.

2. It would provide a personal growth experience for each of the TPC members who participated.

3. It would provide a needed service to the community not fulfilled by other means.

4. It would raise the awareness of the TPC's existence which could serve to build membership.

5. It would give members a new opportunity to cooperate together on a group project and to get to know each other better.

6. It would provide an outlet for getting rid of the old equipment we never know what to do with ;-)

7. It could provide new sources of club revenue if such advice were extended to for-profit businesses.

8. It would be a rewarding experience through the joy of helping other people with knowledge that is second nature to us.

9. It would provide an opportunity to leave behind a "thank you" for the privilege of being hosted by a country other than our own.

Outreach, of course, is not a new concept. Rotary, Lions, and other such organizations have adopted it at differing levels. I know of some local organizations made up of Moms and Dads in the U.S. devoted solely to the National Information Infrastructure initiative - getting schools hooked to the Internet. Old and odd bits of equipment leaving diverse homes enter schools as newly configured systems. Donors spend time with teachers to make sure systems work and offer suggestions for potential classroom uses. It is an exciting and rewarding time for all involved. And America's children are the ones who benefit over the long term. Why not bring this concept to Japan? Isn't our collective knowledge too valuable to be kept to ourselves?

If you are interested in exploring and/or implementing this idea, feel free to forward your comments to me at or

© Algorithmica Japonica Copyright Notice: Copyright of material rests with the individual author. Articles may be reprinted by other user groups if the author and original publication are credited. Any other reproduction or use of material herein is prohibited without prior written permission from TPC. The mention of names of products without indication of Trademark or Registered Trademark status in no way implies that these products are not so protected by law.

Algorithmica Japonica

March, 1997

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor

Tokyo PC Users Group, Post Office Box 103, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo 150-8691, JAPAN