Prez Sez -- June 1997
The community feeling of the TPC User's Group combined with the accessibility of the internet...
That seems to sum up what many would like to see from the TPC. Our current Bulletin Board System (BBS) has provided the feeling of community that made life more liveable for those in Tokyo or Japan in general for many years now.
It continues to offer local information but more and more we find ourselves requiring new and faster knowledge that can best be found on the net. Thus many (most?) of our members have accounts with local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that give us that access. Fast and wide-ranging, it cannot be beat for variety and depth. Of course it is many times too wide and too deep but that seems to be improving as search engines make it easier to find what we need and want no matter how unique the topic is.
But how do we keep the feeling of community offered by a BBS? For those who have tried Newsgroups the "threading" of a topic (question follows answer follows comment and so on in a ladder format that is easy to follow) is reminiscent of the "Conferences" found on BBS systems. Conferences keep topics organized (except when we drift off topic which is not unusual <g>) and show who is replying to what making it easier to select those we want to read first and to skip others.
This structure is often lacking in e-mail software either through lack of the functionality or more often through lack of use of that functionality by the user. I must admit to using Eudora for a long, long time before discovering that there was a Filter command. (My excuses are the usual-too busy to read the manual and my Japanese is not comprehensive enough for me to grasp every command/explanation I see first time through.)
Then there is the problem of "signal to noise ratio." Simply put, if everyone is talking intelligently about the same topic then that ratio is high. If half the people are talking about unrelated topics or are spouting garbage then the ratio decreases to 50%. The same can occur when everyone is saying what they feel to be useful but in fact they add nothing new or waste your time with what are basically "me too" answers. Confirmation is nice but repetition can be merely noise and once again the ratio goes down.
How to get/keep the community feeling while providing many people access to a lot of information in an inexpensive and useful format?
That is the question that has been discussed for quite some time now by members of the TPC and has been a topic at a number of executive meetings. Numerous ideas have come and gone. I mentioned mailing lists in the previous AJ and a few more people appear to have signed up-thank you! There has also been an experiment in the past that replicated a newsgroup format on a web site tied into the BBS. While much thanks goes to the man responsible for all the effort involved he will be the first to admit that not much response was met to that method.
The current homepage contains a lot of info and is growing monthly with links to members' pages and links from there to a variety of other topics. (I must admit that I have yet to put up a page. I made one a long time ago, saw how easy it was and then decided I did not have enough to say to put it up for public consumption. Some day...)
Cost is also a factor of course. While many (again I wonder if it is "most" by now) people have an internet account we must ask if it is reasonableto require everyone to get this. To one person a couple of hundred dollars (or several "man yen" to use the local currency) is fair cost for value. But to someone else that is too much and cannot be justified.
All of these issues and more are being discussed. The question for our members is:
Do you want to volunteer your ideas and perhaps some time to make the current system work better to fit your needs or even get a new system going?
Do you want to sit back and watch how things develop?
I must admit the latter is often my approach. It would be nice to have the time to get involved in this and other new stuff but I hope someone else does it instead.
This time I shall be trying to get a little bit involved and if we get a few more people "a little bit involved" then it will be easier for all and may produce a communication tool that will make the club more appealing for all.
Hope to hear from people what they would like. Good luck; let's see what we can come up with!
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