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((((((((((((((((( WEBREFERENCE UPDATE NEWSLETTER ))))))))))))))))) December 9, 1999

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http://www.webreference.com http://www.webreference.com/new/ http://www.webreference.com/new/submit.html New this week on WebReference.com and the Web:

1. FEATURED ARTICLE: Encouraging Community On Your Web Site Through Experience 2. NET NEWS: * RealNetworks & WebGlide Debut Utopia * Qualcomm Frees Eudora * Be to Bundle Opera's Web Browser * Sun Frees Java Platform, Withdraws Java from Standards Process * He's Cooler than Your Sys Admin

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This week, writer Michelle Moore reminds us that community building is one of the most effective ways to both attract users and keep 'em coming back.

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1. FEATURED ARTICLE: Encouraging Community On Your Web Site Through Experience

I'd like to tell you a story. A girl played soccer the other day. The End. What? You don't think that was much of a story? Well, how about this one: I bought a CD online the other day. The End. Unfortunately, that's about as much of an experience as most Web sites offer.

What if I told the soccer story like this: The US Women's World Cup Soccer team found themselves tied with China after 90 minutes of grueling play during which no one was able to score a goal. The game was then decided on penalty kicks - one-on-one contests between the goalie and the kicker. Brandy Chastain blew the ball past one of the best goalies in the world into the back corner of the net for the game-winning goal. The crowd erupted into a deafening celebration and television cameras filmed for posterity, Brandy's victory dance around the field stripped down to her black sports bra.

Did you notice the difference? The first time, I just offered you information, but the second time, I shared an experience.

The difference between offering online users a service and offering them a complete and unique experience can mean the difference between a passerby and a return customer. If visitors to your site discover that it's memorable as well as useful, there's a good possibility that not only will they be back themselves, they'll send their friends too. Pretty soon, you have a "community," of sorts. Plan and build your site to take advantage of our natural inclination to share a positive experience, then provide that experience.

The site http://www.garden.com was one of the first places on the Web to sell seeds and other gardening items. But it wasn't until they added regular help articles and that nifty little garden planner that their site popularity really took off. There are sites that were built backwards, as a catalog of old email newsletters with searchable archives. Some sites, like http://www.eqhaven.com, a site for players of the game Everquest, got its start almost totally from threaded messages and visitor polls. But sites like these offer the users an experience and the opportunity to share with others. As a result, their user-ship grows. And where users flock, commerce follows.

The simplest way to build an experience is to offer user interaction, and I'm not talking about buttons to click. There are lots of ways to invite your site visitors to become involved with your Web community.

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>Subscribe to our newsletter!

One of the simplest ways to invite a user to become part of your Web community is to provide regular information about your site and ask for feedback. In its most basic form, you can simply set up a form that the user fills in, providing you with an email address for future contact and maybe a box for comments. In more complex situations you might need to set up a database-driven form for your site or sign up for a list server. MSN/LinkExchange offers ListBot (http://www.listbot.com), a free list server that's pretty easy to operate.

>Chatterbox

Chatting with others online is one of the most unique experiences the Internet offers. How else can you talk to people from the other side of the world in real-time without spending a fortune on either a visit or a phone call? After email, chat is the most popular online past-time. You can visit sites like http://www.jars.com to find all sorts of Java-based chat applets that are not overly difficult to operate. Or check with your site host. Chances are they offer a chat room package for a nominal fee.

>Follow that Thread

Threaded message forums no longer have to be a CGI nightmare. Many Web hosts provide message applications. There are plenty of other places that provide free online message forums that you can even "brand" for yourself, like those at http://www.delphi.com. There are also applications written in ASP, Java and ColdFusion which are completely customizable by the licensed owner. Create a few key topic areas, recruit a friend or two to help monitor the activity and clean out the dead conversations and presto, you have an instant traffic source as people read and write messages day after day.

>Other Drawing Tools

* CLASSIFIED ADS are another source of repeat traffic, especially on service-oriented sites, which are not offering retail items for sale. As long as your user policies are clear and concise and enforced, classifieds are a valuable user service that can provide you with a measurable return on your investment.

* CONTESTS: the fastest way to a user's heart is to give them something. Imagination is the prime requisite for online contests. You don't often need fancy programming or expensive server-side solutions or even big prizes - just a little ingenuity and a few desirable items to offer to the masses.

* SURVEYS invite immediate user interaction in the simplest of terms - a vote. A few minutes searching development sites like http://www.developer.com, http://www.allaire.com, http://www.tcp-ip.com, or http://www.javascripts.com can yield handy polling tools to allow you to hear from your users on whatever topic you choose.

>Keep up the Good Work

Don't expect your community to be self-sustaining, however. Chat rooms need moderators, or at least personalities who are interesting enough to keep conversations going. Forums need managers to clean out the junk and keep discussions on track, or even to provoke arguments - I mean discussions. Classified sections have to be maintained and cleared of bogus ads. Polls need to ask relevant questions and provide results on line for everyone to see. Newsletters should be cataloged on the site after they've been sent, building yet another resource for your visitors.

When users send you comments, publish them from time to time and carefully consider suggestions they make - after all, they're the ones you built the site for in the first place. And don't tarnish your site's reputation by spamming your subscribers or casual site visitors. Don't make it more of an effort to use your site than it's worth by requiring registrations for everything you offer. Follow through with your contest winners. Make sure they get what they competed for in a timely manner. In short, make a visit to your site an enjoyable experience and the good word will spread faster than an ICQ chain letter.

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About the Author:

Michelle Moore lives in Texas with one husband, two teenagers, and two Shih Tzus. She owned, operated and managed a rural area local ISP, owned and operated BBS systems since early 90's, and started developing community Web portals in 1997. Michelle currently develops interactive Web applications and consults for Internet projects of all types. You can reach Michelle at: michelle@2mgraphics.com & http://www.2mgraphics.com/

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. INTERNET NEWS: RealNetworks & WebGlide Debut Utopia, Qualcomm Frees Eudora, Be to Bundle Opera's Web Browser, Sun Frees Java Platform, Withdraws Java from Standards Process, Cooler than Your Sys Admin

>RealNetworks & WebGlide Debut Utopia

RealNetworks Thursday teamed with WebGlide to integrate its computer generated video technology and e-shopping solution into RealNetworks' RealSystem G2. The new product, named Utopia, delivers computer generated video requiring less than 1/20th the bit rate required for conventional video. http://www.internetnews.com/streaming-news/article/0,1087,8161_256921,00.html InternetNews.com, 991209

>Qualcomm Frees Eudora

Qualcomm Inc. Thursday announced it will release a free full- featured version of its Eudora e-mail program, with sponsors picking up the tab. http://www.internetnews.com/prod-news/article/0,1087,9_256931,00.html InternetNews.com, 991209

>Be to Bundle Opera's Web Browser

Be Inc. and Opera Software A/S announced Wednesday a joint development and marketing agreement to integrate Opera's Web browser with Be's Stinger Internet appliance software platform and BeOs desktop operating system. http://www.zdnet.com/pcweek/stories/news/0,4153,1018317,00.html ZDNet.com, 991208

>Sun Frees Java Platform, Withdraws Java from Standards Process

Sun Microsystems, Inc. hit the computer world with a double-shot of Java news this week: First, Sun announced that it will make the standard edition of its Java 2 Platform free to users. Beginning Jan. 31, Sun will offer J2SE's source code as well as binary runtime environment, the Java programming language, compiler and class libraries without any licensing or royalty fees.

In addition, Sun shocked the Java world when it announced that it would quit efforts to formally standardize the Java 2 platform, Standard Edition, through the ECMA standards body. http://www.internetnews.com/wd-news/article/0,1087,10_255691,00.html http://www.zdnet.com/pcweek/stories/news/0,4153,2405787,00.html InternetNews.com, 991207 ZDNet.com, 991208

>He's Cooler than Your Sys Admin

Think your job is cool? How about hypothermia-inducing temperatures, a cramped apartment smaller than some walk-in closets, and a daily dose of technical troubleshooting? On a year-long assignment as a systems administrator at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Jason Holmes calls his gig a dream come true. http://slashdot.org/articles/99/12/06/1755209.shtml http://phoenix.techies.com/Common/Career/199912/Main/Verge120199_m.jsp Slashdot.org, Techies.com, 991206

That's it for this week, see you next time.

Andrew King Managing Editor, WebReference.com update@webreference.com

Eric Cook Assistant Editor, WebReference.com ecook@internet.com

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