Steve Cisler remembered
May 22, 2008 § Leave a comment
Steve wrote a report on an openspace I did with Telluride. Typical of his engaging generosity. He was a person full of heart and hard work.
Telluride, Colorado Ideas Festival: Tele-community.July 23-25, 1993
copyright Steve Cisler 1993. Non-profit BBSes, gophers, file servers, and newsletters may reprint or re-distribute this. As the summer wind currents buffeted the turboprop, our plane weaved through the 13,000 foot peaks, grabbed and held onto the highest airport in North America long enough for several conference attendees to exit. We had arrived at one of the handful of small towns in America that is isolated but whose economy is booming and where urban and suburban refugees are heading--if they can find a place to live and something to do. Telluride has had several booms and busts in the period since gold and silver was discovered and the Ute Indians were displaced in the 19th century. Telluride's current boom is associated with leisure activities including tourism, sports, festivals, culture, and continuing education. Telluride is also a town of innovation. In 1891, L.L. Nunn installed the first generator In Telluride to move AC power to a mining operation. By 1894 he had extended the power to the town of Telluride,making it "the best lighted town in the land." He expanded his company from Colorado into several western states and then founded the Telluride Association, an institute of higher learning. There is a good deal of excitement among the citizens of this small town to spread new communications technologies, much as Nunn pioneered the spread of AC current. The Apple Library of Tomorrow program has been supporting a number of community networking efforts in 1993. The Ideas Festival sponsored by the Telluride Institute marks the birth of the Telluride Infozone (after a long gestation period), a rural regional network serving a few thousand people in the high country of the Colorado Rockies. Besides being a ski resort, the beautiful setting has attracted a number of affluent folks who earned their money elsewhere and have built fine homes in the area around the town of Telluride. The high price of housing is not new; when Telluride was a 19th century mining town, prices were extremely high for everything. There are numerous events throughout the year for bike riders, wine drinkers, artists, Indian writers, mushroom lovers, hikers, hang gliders, filmmakers and musicians. Recently, there was a "Nothing Festival" where the town took a week off and hosted no events at all. As you can imagine, there is a spectrum of strongly held views on growth and no growth. Some want no limit on the number of million dollar estates ("trophy homes") on the mesas and ridges around town; others would like to see more affordable housing, and some would like to keep the area from adding any new residents. The main street is lined with T-shirt shops, art galleries, restaurants, real estate offices, and other signs of growth. Many of the hotels, guest houses, library, museum, radio station, and newspapers are located off the main drag. After checking in, my first visit was to the library, housed in a very attractive 7-year old building but already jammed with materials including a great selection of periodicals, a large children's area, a CD-ROM server, several terminals for a CARL library system, and a public access Macintosh. Their movable shelving has given the community a little breathing space, but they will need to expand soon. On Friday afternoon the place was filled with people, a good indication of the community's need for information and entertainment reading. However, the Infozone computers had not been set up yet here, partly because of space, but also because the software for the town BBS had been lost in transit a couple of weeks before. The Nerve Center Most of the Infozone computers had been set up at the Telluride Opera House, the nerve center for the festival. A large room housed registration, the Electronic Cafe (more on this later), and a table full of Macs and some DOS machines connected to phone lines. Unfortunately, the 56 kb dedicated line to the Colorado SuperNet was installed but not ready for connecting an Ethernet to the Internet. One of the issues we will discuss during the festival is how you build and maintain a network in a small town when much of the technical expertise lives far away. Do you set up a technology that is liberating when it is working but crippling when nobody knows how to keep it running, or do you set your goals to match your expertise at the start of the project? When we arrived it was evident that the agenda for the conference was fuzzy and not well defined. This was solved in a radical and somewhat theatrical (it _was_ in the Opera House) opening session Friday evening when the Telluride Institute board welcomed the guests. John ("Megatrends") Naisbitt talked about a book he is finishing(The Global Paradox: "the more global we become, the more tribal we act"). Cary Davis the Institute director talked about the other programs for composers and Indian writers and turned it over to Richard Lowenberg, whose energy and persistence had pushed Infozone from talk into action. Richard introduced Doug Carmichael of Meta-systems Design Group. a pioneering firm in the use of collaborative software (they sell Caucus computer conferencing systems) located in Washington, D.C. Doug explained that the hundred or so present were going to set the agenda through a unique process that seemed to work so well, that I want to describe it for other groups who are planning community networks. It really has the spirit of an electronic barn raising because the participants take control of the whole conference and get it rolling. Doug asked that each person who cared passionately about some aspect of Telluride or information issues, or telecommunications policy, or community networks agree to lead a discussion group or make a presentation. Each volunteer wrote the idea on paper, announced it to the group, chose a time slot and pasted it on the wall. After about 30 proposed discussions were posted, some conveners agreed to merge sessions (I offered to do an intro. on models of community networks and merged with two people from Taos, NM, who wanted to know how to get started in their town). After this lively exercise, Carmichael then asked people to sign up for the sessions they wanted to attend. Each session would not only have a reporter, but the results of the session would be posted immediately in a special electronic conference on The WELL, so that others who did not attend could follow and comment on those subjects. Within an hour the whole conference took shape! The WELL had been the focal point for the discussion for several weeks; it allowed outsiders to follow what was happening, and many did so, in part by the short article in Wired magazine publicizing the conference. Electronic Cafe After the planning session Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz of Santa Monica, CA, showed videos and discussed their very successful and very engaging Electronic Cafe which they had brought to Telluride for the Ideas Festival. Using regular phones lines and slow scan video devices (and some higher bandwidth technology) they have staged global events with artists, kids, communities using (and sometime running) the gear to communicate with others in France, Nicaragua, Japan, various American cities, and now Telluride. The Electronic Cafe continued throughout the festival. At one point a participant was hauling around the videophone with a cellular modem,making scans of people on the main street when the local deputy stopped the technaut for jaywalking, but actually to see what he was doing with all the gear. The high altitude had tired me, so I retired early before this session wound down. This report should be supplemented by the proceedings which are posted on the Well gopher. I could not cover all of the concurrent tracks which included electronic publishing, international issues, access to government information, developing a telecommunications resource center, running a global business from a remote location, privacy-anonymity and information rich - poor issues. These are continuing on the Telluride conference on the WELL. July 24 Saturday morning sessions: Regional attendees accounted for half, while the others came for other parts of Colorado and towns like Blacksburg, Virginia (they are starting a city system), Taos, NM, Ketchum, Idaho, Boston, Denton, Texas; Park City, Utah; Scottsdale, AZ; Rapid City, SD; Truckee, CA; Santa Fe, NM, New York City, and several journalists from Great Britain. About 30 participants debated the values of the current Internet and what should be done to protect them. Who was going to do it? How should that be done? For better or for worse the Internet is making a transition from a small academic network to a different beast. Ken Klingenstein of U. of Colorado said that the Federal Networking advisory Council did not know how to preserve the public values, some of which were mentioned by individuals: -no barriers to the creation and dissemination of knowledge on the network. -the selflessness of information sharing -there is no way for things to stay secret internationally when people use networks. -User-driven networks are a value in themselves because they were not created by business or government. -lots of copyrighted information freely available (!!) In telephony there is cheap access, but what about guaranteed access in the digital world? Are there other ways of charging than by capacity or by use? 70% of the files are not compressed. when moved across the network, but there is no common compression scheme for text. The Internet is growing because of the invisibility of the cost. Long discussion of pricing, and the need for change. Internet users with invisible cost vs. phone companies with the producer/consumer model is inept. of discussion. It was mentioned how costly billing is, but it does create a new market. Some users thought we were concentrating too much on technology. "Don't believe that the whole focus will be democracy by computer networks." "If the values of the Internet are not the values of society, there is no way to preserve them." -- Besides the breakout sessions, there were plenary panels; the first was on Economic Policy Bill Washburn, Commercial Internet Exchange Now with 18 commercial providers including Hong Kong SuperNet. Debbie Thomas US West public policy about issues management. How do you provide rural service when you are competing in urban areas? US West says it will divest itself of the small rural services after doing equipment upgrades. It was evident they consider the rural markets a drag and would rather be putting their resources into more active and lucrative markets such as entertainment, broadband services, and Eastern Europe. Jeff Richardson, Colorado Advanced Technology Institute We have spent no time thinking about how technology could be used. Legislature wanted the to think about what rural Colorado could do. They are funding telecomm experiments in several small towns including Telluride. Lewis Branscomb, Kennedy School for Government, Harvard University (and summer resident in Telluride)Direct science/technology info. project. and the recent Public Access to the Internet conference Richard Civille, Center for Civic Networking, Washington, DC Long discussion of how we provide range of services to the under served when the telephone company's main business is being skimmed off by other companies that are grabbing niche markets. Richardson said there should be a report pulled together to show all the existing projects in the state. Many states have a statewide telecomm strategy plan, but Colorado does not. The net output of a culture can be no greater than the total of the individual input from average people. That's why we need a statewide visioning thing. the discussion should go beyond the public utilities commissions (PUCs), but not exclude them. Will ISDN serve as a bridge to broadband services? A rural New Mexican could not get much movement from US West on this. It sounded as though many thought the time was past for ISDN. Very little interest in this. Civille explained what he called "progressive federalism"--good policies that emerge from the local level. Toxic wastes in Philadelphia neighborhoods aroused curiosity. Law was passed and copied in CA and NY. After Bhopal explosion, the US legislators modeled their bills on these statutes and made it a national law. Communities developing initiatives for using telecomms can use this method too. Universal service fund for all providers and then give the money to customers for other services like cellular or whatever they would want to spend it on. The idea of telecomm/communications stamps was raised John Lifton of the Telluride Institute: role of small communities may be underplayed in this discussion. Home rule cities are very powerful (they have franchised cable). Breakout session: cultural preservation After lunch Randy Ross (American Indian Telecommunications); Dave Hughes (Old Colorado Communications), and I hosted a demo and discussion on cultural preservation issues and networking. Hughes talked about how he approaches a culture on its own terms and helps people use the technology to communicate in a method that is most effective for that group. He stresses the use of graphics and local languages using NAPLPS protocol-based drawing and telecomms programs that run well over slow modem connections. He demoed some art from his own commercial program, Troika, and talked about projects with various Indian tribes and Hispanic groups in S. Colorado. His DOS program will be introduced at the ONEBBSCON in Colorado Springs in August, 1993. Randy Ross discussed some of the issues for Indians: how to network them together for intertribal cooperation and info-sharing, about the needs of individual tribes such as the Sioux whose interests and cultural values can be very different from other tribes, and finally about the online relation between the dominant white culture and the Indians whose historical and present political relations have been marked by long periods of conflict without any resolution. Others in the audience were interested in how you ensure that each group in a community is represented online. Hughes said he had not seen much evidence of different cultures carving out places in the network communities yet. I said I hoped the tools would make it easier for people to participate and begin to transfer their cultural heritage to digital formats. I showed work Apple was doing with Russians (Navigable QuickTime movies of the Pavlovsk Palace in St. Petersburg) with Mayan native healers and herbal plant experts (Mayan Multimedia Memory of Medicine); and with Hawaiian language immersion programs for school children (MauiLink, a Bulletin Board System), where they can exchange information messages using accurate fonts not only for transmission but also for printing. Saturday Afternoon panel: social and cultural issues Richard Lowenberg had an interesting technique. Minutes before the panel began, he would tap you on the shoulder and ask you to participate. No time to prepare, and no time to say no... This was a wide-ranging open session where each speaker could talk about important social issues. It was dominated by us on the stage, but some in the audience got the mike and had good things to add to the initial comments. Dave Hughes recounted his long history of being online on The Source, his own BBSes, and some of his present projects. Howard Rheingold, author of various books on technology,the latest being the forthcoming _Virtual Communities_ Writing is a life sentence to being alone in a room, according to Rheingold. Although he has a family, his long days alone led him online. (He came on The WELL a couple of months after I joined in 1985). He described how much the virtual community the the San Francisco system meant to him in terms of mind-to-mind and face to face contact. I commented that my work environment afforded me more access to people, to information and information technology than anyone outside of some intelligence agencies, but after a trip to Costa Rica, where millions of people leading rich, rewarding lives without electronic mail and had lively public spaces where they could interact, I thought that the systems we were building should be used to support the face to face relationships and not to supplant them, even though that was happening to some network addicts who do not know their own neighbors but do know hundreds of online personalities everywhere in the wired world. Anne Branscomb She has been online longer than Dave Hughes. After divestiture: ....information infrastructure. Civilizations develop social norms and then they become law. She could not find a publisher for a book on telecommunities in 1983. Branscomb has been so far out in front on some issues, that when the others arrived she had headed out even further. I'll have to look for her works and begin to catch up! <In 1975 she wrote: "The First Amendment as ashield or sword: an integrated look at regulaton of multi-media ownership" Sounds like it's appropriate to 1995! In 1986: "Toward a law of global communications networks"> Randy Ross: He recommended the OMNI Ancient cultures meet new technologies. 8/93. He discuss some barriers of trust between tribes and the dominant cultures. Gene Youngblood, Moving Image Arts College of Santa Fe, NM: problems can be radical in nature but others are not and don't need drastic solutions.He is writing a book about the creators of the Electronic Cafe whose goal is "We must create on the same scale that we destroy." What are the alternative models to broadcast. Broadcast is the most destructive force in the world today. We have to re-socialize ourselves to a new world. Utopian Television is his other book. Power comes from people who control who can say or communicate what to whom, for how long, and that's why you have different access rules on online systems. Non-autonomous communities have no political power, but our online conversations may bring forth a reality that conflicts with the existing power. Rheingold: unmediated conversations was tied to people's ability to govern themselves (democracy). This technology is giving us back some of the power from the mediators. The WELL and Old Colo Comms are examples of how to set up your electronic community. He suggests discussing these issues before making rules. You can't adopt someone else's charter, so encourage people to participate in these discussions so that many can shape the debate. Randy Ross; there is a difference in languages and their thought processes. He has been to meetings where some are so silent and others are quite used to sounding off. Jim May says that tribes have to write more about themselves. He and George Baldwin are looking for Indian lawyers who are interested in telecomms laws to help the tribes get a better hold on their technological future. Rheingold:Telluride should have an area for a place only for people who have a stake in the community,but there should also be a door for you to go into the 3500 news groups and the outside world of information. Doug Carmichael has set up family conferences to keep up with geographically separated family members. He is excited about this and the use of chaos theory in dealing with hyperactive kids. Kit Galloway: we are starting something over, and perhaps we have a chance to avoid mistakes. We should not be just people only as beautiful as we can type. Let's push sound, music, images, and video and not be just text based. Sunday breakout: Intro. to community networks I presented the live version of my paper "Community Networks: Building Electronic Greenbelts" (on ftp.apple.com in the /ftp/alug/communet directory) and several people from Taos, New Mexico, talked about the need for an online service that would benefit the Indians, the Hispanics, and the others in the small town. The metaphor used in the Chile national system, La Plaza, appealed to them. Information Rich and Poor: I could not attend this session, but it is worth following the discussion in the Proceedings. Some pushed for Minitel-like devices (and a subsidy to permit people to purchase them) and others wanted more public access systems similar to Community Memory in Berkeley. Telluride InfoZone will have public access machines in the library and other places in town (and perhaps other towns nearby, where some of the service workers can find less expensive housing). Sunday: K12 Education. Ken Klingenstein plays a role in national, state, and local networking circles. He described the work that the Boulder Valley School District and working with Internet training for teachers and kids. His group has worked on filters for Usenet for the students, and Pacific Bell will also be developing a gopher with different views for younger students, older ones,and the teacher. Others saw the BBS interface as a way of screening the huge amount of information for K12 students. Sunday last session with people from the region (carried on public access cable) Pragmatic realities of the here and now: cost, what it means, how will it benefit us? Richard Lowenberg: link Infozone with the existing communications means in town: the newspapers, cable channel, phone company, cellular service, and face-to-face meetings. Dan Mangelsdorf supt. of schools: plans to implement voice mail before using extensive data communications Finding time for delving into the Internet information is a big problem. With new schools they want to distribute the info to the classroom, not just the media center. Later, it will go to the homes. But money comes slowly, yet each school could do the red penciling. Less emphasis on text books (high cost, out of date) and more on electronic media around instructional curricula. Donna Clark, city librarian 4 years ago they were filing catalog cards by hand, and in 1990 the vote for new funds got the highest votes in the state. They have Magazine Index licensed. Uncover will fax you articles within a couple of minutes, and her interlibrary loan stats have skyrocketed in the past couple of years. Madeline Gonzales-Telluride Infozone On leave from Bell Labs: No funding to pay her to stay here. She is disgruntled and sad that she will have to leave before seeing how it would affect the community. The router to Colorado SuperNet is installed at the elementary school. Peter Hale cablevision cable to distribute broadband cable for a community ethernet system. 1980-81. He said the present owners realize they are too small to compete with the megacompanies like TCI, so the cable system is up for sale. Upgrading the system will be costly. Bonnie Peterson US West? The audience asked, "Why isn't it exciting that the growth is happening?" She replied that "Growth is happening in residential areas and some are far from the main trunk,so US West would rather invest in more crowded areas." US West is looking at the new models of business. They'd like a level playing field. Customers are paying averaged rates across the state but others are skimming cream from high margin customers. (what about ISDN, ADSL, ? She does not know)People have big city needs for voice, data, and fax but many of these systems cannot handle it. Randy Balir:Liberty Cellular Phone (a self-styled cream skimmer) serves Durango, Cortez, Telluride and neighboring counties. Growing pains and uneven coverage, but they want to do this in an area with 14,000 foot peaks. Re: Infozone--a very small but important player. Perhaps hook up rural workshops so they can talk to colleagues via the Internet. Someone complained that they could not use their number when traveling from Telluride to Boston; this involves negotiating cross billing between companies, one in an urban area with little interest in the small amount of business that would come from western Colorado.Again, the problems of rural markets and services was evident. Q&A: What about local content? We have not heard from the local information resources? Librarian: oral history is on a database (this could be online too) However, this is just beginning and have only scratched the surface. Telluride is not going to be as intimate, but Infozone is ideally going to underpin the existing face-to-face and local communications. Most of those present were from Telluride or the surrounding area. The cellular service might have to go to digital and that would mean new equipment for the user and vendor. This community is placing a big demand on the comms infrastructure. Lewis Branscomb (who helped arrange for the donation of an IBM workstation to the InfoZone) to Richard: don't drop the ball; put this in place and get feedback from the citizens about what they want. An outside entrepreneur pressed Lowenberg for details on pricing and services and goals. John Lifton discussed the Skyfield project, a few miles from Telluride: planned telecommunity. Lifton will have deed restricted affordable housing and wide bandwidth for electronic businesses. There is a huge around of work that needs to be done immediately, but can this be done with an R&D test bed approach. This is a gorgeous area, and several visitors were dreaming about how they could establish their businesses in Telluride or Skyfield (where no construction has taken place). Personal observations: It's time for the local residents to form an InfoZone advisory group that includes people from government, library, education, arts, city merchants, real estate interests, environmentalists, and citizens with no strong ties to these other groups. The process that began last weekend was unique. No other small town (and few large ones) would have attracted such an eclectic bunch of experienced outsiders. Everyone's expectations are raised after an electronic barnraising, but when everyone leaves town or goes back to work, who is left to fulfill the vision? These discussions have primed the pump, but the Telluride region and the Institute are faced with many grand challenges: how fund even the research, not to mention the working day-to-day communications system. Fees, subscriptions, advertisements and taxes support the existing media. What combination will be used to pay for and build InfoZone? They will be starting off with an easy-to-use electronic bulletin board with a simple graphic interface. This can be the focus of the online discussion (rather than the WELL only), and the training sessions for new users will be important for getting feedback as well as bringing more townspeople online. Their local Macintosh group has about 10% of Telluride on their mailing list; these people can help train others. Working with the cable channel and the newspaper sounds promising (there was good coverage in both), but the long-range goals of US West may not benefit the small town or the average user in Telluride. I consider this significant and troubling. Perhaps bypass technology (a combination of spread spectrum packet radio and satellite) may help Telluride in the next few years. The InfoZone should be as open as possible to different users and information providers. The roles of provider and user/consumer should blend. Local content will be the key to local interest and local value. The onramp to the Internet will attract a certain segment, but many people will place a higher value on staying closer to home. There are many lessons that other small towns will learn from the folks in Telluride (and Blacksburg, VA and other similar projects), and because they will be online soon, it will be much easier to drop in and see how this innovative project is progressing. Steve Cisler Apple Library of Tomorrow July 27, 1993 firstname.lastname@example.org Telluride Insitute, 283 S. Fir Street, Telluride, CO 81435 Voice: 303 728 4402 Email: email@example.com