\ by Veronica Frazier and John Cox\
The Bede Island Community Association (BICA) is an umbrella organisation with 60 members operating in the Leicester City Challenge area. It currently has two volunteers who are investigating the usefulness of the Internet to its member organisations. Although Veronica Frazier and John Cox have previous computer experience they have only been 'surfing' the Internet since January and March 1996 respectively.
In the last week of September, BICA held an open evening for its members and the general public. We volunteered to demonstrate the Internet for the open evening. In preparation, we spent two or three weeks browsing around the Internet looking for Web sites and pages relevant to the varied BICA member organisations. We also searched through various magazines' and newspapers' Internet sections.
The primary focus of our searching was for general community interest. Other more specific topics such as children & youth, crime prevention, disability, education and multiple equality issues were looked for as well as several reference sites regarding national and local government.
The newspaper and magazine Internet sections were read regularly where web sites and pages were either reviewed or referred to in context of a feature article. These sections ranged from 2 to 10 pages in the newspapers and non-Internet magazines.\ \ By using web addresses (URLs) from paper sources and the search directories and search engines to generate starting points, links were followed from one site to another. The most useful resource used was the search directory Yahoo. Approximately three quarters of the links we eventually used came from categories within Yahoo particularly the UK & Ireland version of Yahoo. (One of the best aspects of Yahoo is its links to the other search engines such as AltaVista, Lycos, etc.)\ \ The useful sites were bookmarked as we found them for later reference. We decided to focus on the web sites and pages as our experience with newsgroups tended to be more bewildering than useful from a novice's point of view. (We felt like we were constantly coming into a conversation midway and never quite figuring out what it was all about.)\ \ The off line cache reader was then used to view the web pages that had been visited during our on line search sessions. These pages had been automatically saved to the computers hard disk while on line. This meant that we could spend more time reviewing (in greater detail) the search results off line (keeping telephone costs low). Again, Yahoo proved extremely useful as there was a maintained consistency viewing their pages whether on line or off line.
Having accumulated a significant number of bookmarks, John sorted them into appropriate categories relating to our membership. This was accomplished via the bookmark editing facilities of the browser.
This restructured bookmark file was then opened in the web editor to create our own links web page. Using the web editor was not much different from using any word processing or graphics package. Eventually the list of links became too large to be viewed without scrolling the page up and down, so John developed additional links pages.
Our member's now use these pages (which are currently stored on our computer's hard drive) as an alternative to our service providers home page. (Our service provider is http://www.foobar.co.uk who are based in Leicester's city centre have provided us with excellent support.)\ \ You can view the BICA pages we created here
Our conclusions on what's really needed to help groups are:
Use someone else's Internet connection (like your local cyber cafe, if you have one or a friend or co-worker) for your first try. It has the benefit of someone else being around to help you out. Failing that, ask David Wilcox to organise a workshop and talk the local authority into funding it. And above all, keep persevering, (remember the light bulb and the telephone didn't take off overnight either).
What needs to be kept in mind, is that the Internet is an additional tool for communicating with other people in other communities around the nation and the rest of the world. With proper training and everyone using it as every day standard, the use of the Internet can greatly improve the networking of individuals and groups making distances and time differences virtually inconsequential. When used effectively, it can be cheaper than traditional telephone methods and more responsive than traditional postal methods. (Particularly in the middle of a mail strike! We'd just have to keep an eye out for power shortages.)\ \ We are getting closer and closer to achieving immense benefits from using the Internet every day.\ \ Article by Veronica Frazier\ Web Pages by John Cox\ e-mail us at email@example.com