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Email 101 Part 8

The amount of commercial traffic on the Internet is disappointingly small--but important. Mostly this is for historical reasons. The backbone network in the United States, NSFnet (for National Science Foundation) has an "acceptable use" policy for traffic carried over it.

This restricts traffic to messages that support the R&D effort of certain government laboratories and universities. Clearly, there is not room for commercial traffic if you are directly connected to the NSFnet.

But nowadays one can get on the Internet without connecting directly to NSFnet, and the amount of commercial traffic is growing. Don't overlook:

o Making product information and brochures available by E-mail as well as by the postal service.

o Allowing customer-support inquiries by E-mail.

o Starting a mailing list for your customers or clients.

o Setting up a "mail-server" to let clients get information about your product automatically, without having to wait for you to log on (required direct connection to the Internet).

o Putting your product information on an anonymous FTP server (requires that you have a fileserver on the net or find an FTP site willing to take the information).

Suprisingly, there are, to my knowledge, no pay-for-advertising services that support mailservers or anonymous FTP sites. It is a fair prediction that this advertising medium will develop as more persons join the net. You could put your information on bulletin boards, of course, but only members will see it there--not the 25 million people with E-mail access.

The fact remains, however, that unless you are in very specific industries that are information or paper intensive (say publishing, computing, information retrieval, and so on), or unless you need access to government information like weather maps, that your use of the Internet will consist of downloading programs or getting the latest technical information.

All of this overlooks the most important aspect of the Internet for businesses. The Internet is evolving very rapidly. It is likely to be an important medium for transacting business, for customer service and for advertising in the very near future no matter what industry you are in. For some industries, like publishing, high-technology industries, and the media, it will be critical. Businesses who have a pool of employees that are adept at using the Internet will have a competitive advantage over firms that don't. Thus you should encourage your employees to get personal Internet connections and learn about the Internet after hours.

Special for Students and their Parents

Since the Internet grew up in an academic environment, university students will likely have a level of access that would be the envy of any business. All the services and research tools--not just E-mail, FTP, and telnet, but gopher, WWW, WAIS, and the rest are likely to be available to students from any terminal on the local "cluster" or by dial-up from their dorm rooms.

Students will be especially keen on:

o checking the university library catalogue to see if a book is in before walking to the library.

o finding out about campus events (even at other universities!) through gopher or school bulletin boards

o posting buy and sell notices for computer equipment, cars, housing, and so on.

o contacting potential tutors either at their own university or for help by E-mail. (A netwide "university" of tutors, called Usenet University, is prepared to answer questions in various subjects by E- mail already exists in the Usenet newsgroups. See the alt.uu.*

hierarchy).

o using online catalogues of other university libraries to find books for interlibrary loan or to compile bibliographies

o downloading free software and information

o finding scholarship information

Parents can communicate with their children at college by E-mail--and probably get a faster response than waiting for the occasional letter from home. Worried parents will have to refrain, however, from using the "finger" command to find out when their children last logged in or read their mail!

Special for Writers, Journalists, Publishers, and Printers

There is probably no industry for which information is so critical as for the media and publishing industries. Journalists who explore the networks will find that they use the tools described in the first part over and over to track down information, conduct prompt "interviews" by mail, and so on. Publishers will be interested in the electronic transmission of manuscripts (though writers soliciting publication will still want to send hardcopy--the equivalent in the electronic age of sending a self-addressed stamped envelope). Publishers will also be interested in sharing or developing free image processing software with other publishers, and transmitting graphics.

As the net develops, libraries research will more and more often involve internetworking. Searching for books is already easy by dial-up or over the Internet. In addition, the amount of information that is never circlulated on paper will increase. This is already the case in the scientific and technical community where printing is a luxury rather than a necessity. Given that a single 8 mm videotape can hold 500,000 pages of text, it is possible to hoard (and search) vast amounts of information that you can never possibly print out. Imagine what such technology will do in the hands of Government or any other bureaucracy.

Finally, it is not hard to image the day when an editor will receive as many press releases by E-mail as through the postal service.

Internetworking technology allows virtually any business or individual to set up and run their own "wire service", providing information about their business or special interest to a select group of subscribers.

This capability is completely analogous to Desk Top Publishing, which put low-end printing in the hands of any business or individual.

Journalists and other writers will not want to overlook the kaleidascopic mixture of technical discussion, product announcements, gossip, and general ranting on Usenet. Usenet already has more channels than a typcial satellite and is growing by ten channels a day or so. It is hard to find, but tucked in among the chit-chat and programs is the only up to the minute information on the Internetworked World.

Certainly all writers of scientific or technical columns will want to tap this source of information.

Special for Elementary and High School Teachers

There are many special Internet services for Elementary and Secondary School teachers provided by the Government, mostly through the education offices of research laboratories. The best all around refernce for teachers is the _NCSA Guide to the Internet_, put out by the Education Office of the National Center for Supercompter Administration. A paper version is available from:

The network version is located at ftp.ncsa.uiuc.edu. Unfortunately, it is available only in Microsoft Word format (requires binary transfer).

If you are unable to use this format directly or convert to a format you can use, you will have to order the paper version.

The NCSA Guide covers all you need to know to connect to the Internet-- both technical details and etiquette--as well as suggested projects to introduce children to the net. You will find out how to get information about the space program or how to access such programs as the Newton Bulletin Board Service for Science and Math. teachers at Argonne National Laboratory.

In addition, Usenet has a k12.* hierarchy which provides a gateway to the K12 network. Besides K12, there are several other regional networks specifically for teachers and students.

One of the more exciting prospects for teachers is that of sharing worksheets, handouts, and other materials with other teachers. Although this type of sharing is routine on bulletin boards and regional networks that cater to teachers, anonymous FTP sites hold out the possibility of a worldwide collection of such materials. Send contributed materials (in electronic format) to

ftp.cs.city.ac.uk:/freelore/incoming

by following the instructions in Chapter xx for sending a file by anonymous FTP, or mail a floppy disk (and a return mailer with prepaid postage, if you want it back!) to

The FreeLore Project P.O. Box 6022 St. Charles, IL 60174.

Make sure your materials have a copyright notice like this course, allowing anyone to copy and distribute them for free (for educational purposes).

Special for Librarians

For many years, of course, libraries have been among the heaviest users of information services--for cataloguing or to fill patron requests.

Several companies now specialize in providing Internet access to libraries, e.g. ACCESS or DRAnet. Libraries will increasingly use these services because the promise the following benefits:

o Inexpensive access to hundreds of online library catalogues, worldwide.

o Uniform, and often cheaper, access to information services using telnet rather than a host of special software packages.

o Access to netwide searching tools like WAIS, WWW, and GOPHER.

o Discussion by E-mail with other librarians, conference reports and announcements, and so on.

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