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Geographic Metadata About WWW Servers/Pages

From: Steven Clift <clift@freenet.msp.mn.us>
Date: Wed, 9 Jul 1997 18:29:39 +0000
Message-Id: <199707092330.XAA21819@freenet.msp.mn.us>
To: www-talk@w3.org

I just reviewed your Meta data conversation on the list from last 
March in your archive.  My question is in the specific area of making 
geographical navigation of the WWW and the Internet as a whole more 
possible (sort of a CWW - community wide web, where 95 percent of 
your likely traffic is from your neighbors NOT global).  

I am interested in making the Internet more community oriented (in a 
geographic sense - the virtual communities have relatively fine) so 
that for example a map could be generated by an Internet search/index 
site or so someone could indicate that they want to search in X 
place/area based on Y keywords.  I assume that geographical naming 
standards are easier to agree upon than keywords and the like 
(longitude, latitude, Global Positioning Satellites, place names - say 
how about a virtual version of GPS that would allow a site the 
_option_ of choosing a GPS point that represents their site - then 
you could leverage that body of work).

I assume that the best place to make the Internet more of a
"communities network" by nature (I think this has lots of 
similarities to the internationalization - localization? issue) is 
in the standards process.  I just don't see manual local WWW 
directory pages and stand alone "community networks" as sustainable 
without some Internet-wide solutions to leverage.  So I'd like folks 
advice on the best places to share this general idea, so that those 
working on broader Internet meta data and general WWW/Internet 
standards might include it on their long lists of to dos.

Steven Clift
Democracies Online - http://www.e-democracy.org/do
Co-Editor, G7 Government Online and Democracy White Paper - 

P.S.  Enclosed is a rather fluffy, but interesting piece that I 
distributed around the community networking community.

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Date:          Sun, 29 Jun 1997 15:05:02 -0500
Reply-to:      clift@freenet.msp.mn.us
From:          "Steven Clift" <clift@freenet.msp.mn.us>
To:            Multiple recipients of list <edem-elect@freedom.mtn.org>
Subject:       Making the Internet a Communites Network

Making the Internet a Communities Network

I collected e-mail addresses at my block picnic the other week.  In 
fact I have heard about a number of spontaneous collections across 
the Twin Cities.  Imagine ... "Does anyone have a a cup of sugar?" 
"Who has my hammer?"  "My car was broken into last night, did anyone 
see anything?"

When it comes to building online local civic interactive spaces or 
Internet directories, I think we need to do some creative thinking.  
Relying on only manually maintained directories of WWW sites, 
newsgroups, e-mail lists, and WWW boards is not very sustainable nor 

I think proposals to Internet standards bodies could make the 
Internet as a whole a foundation for online communities where 
_geography_ matters!  The true lesson of the Internet is that open 
and scalable standards create the opportunity for information sharing 
and participation.  We tend to think about how the WWW makes 
providing information so much easier, but we often forget that there 
are ways that we can make locating information and creation of 
interactive spaces easier through widely used standards.  It is time 
to move from just Hyper-text Transfer Protocal (HTTP) to a Hyper-text 
Community Location Protocol. :-)

Here is what I'd like to see:

	1.  Comprehensive Internet directories that allow someone to 
locate an Internet resource (WWW, e-mail list, newsgroup, chat, etc.) 
based on geographical attributes.

	2.  A "Global Grid for Community Conferencing" that combines 
standard geographical naming spaces with standard protocols for 
exchanging messages among news groups, WWW boards, and e-mail 


There is a desperate need for standardized "meta data" to be 
collected and shared about WWW sites, servers, e-mail lists, etc..  I 
wonder if details on a WWW server could be inputed to tell the 
world about their location (or preferred public locus).  I wonder 
what kinds of files with meta data could be positioned for WWW 
harvesters to use to allow map based access to the files they 
have gathered?   

What we need is a standardized file that contains information about a 
specific Internet "event".  Items might include the name of the site, 
key words, language(s), and something like a Global Positioning 
System attribute that pin points the geographical center of a service 
and allows for definition of geographic parameters for the target 
audience (which could be from the neighborhood up to world wide.)  

Then the basic standard would encourage Internet indices to compete 
based on designing systems with the information available versus 
who happened to have it submitted or not.  Ideally a special WWW page 
with the proper META tags or some other standard way I don't know 
about, could exist that would indicate information about a WWW 
site, sub-site or other Internet items so that manual submission 
could be avoided.  I doubt that Yahoo and other groups could agree to 
a standardized subject word scheme, so let's assume that people would 
still have to submit information to subject tree based WWW 
directories like that.

So does anyone have any clue as to who might be interested in this 
idea?  Which Internet standards groups should/are taking this on?
Who are some big thinkers in the right place that could make 
something happen here?  I am just throwing this idea out there, feel 
free to grab it and make it happen.    

Global Grid for Community Conferencing

While the commercial world races to invent the perfect WWW 
conferencing system that makes them rich by becoming the standard, I 
suggest the problem is more about building and maintaining 
participation than perfecting technology.  When I talk about 
community conferencing am not talking about "groupware" nor the 
attributes required for decision-making or sharing of working 
documents.  I am interested in basic text communication.  It all 
comes back to my block club and we don't need anything fancy.

While we could include all of our e-mail addresses in the To: field 
into the next century, might there be a way that we can leverage the 
fact the in the next few years millions of block clubs will be 
looking to use interactive online spaces?

Two images that illustrate the "Civic Participation Center" we 
have experienced to some extent with the MN-POLITICS forum are at:


Let's take this concept right down to the block level!

Here is what conceptually I'd like to see in a lower common 
denominator community conferencing system:

	1.  The ability to choose your preferred interaction technology - 
	e-mail, news, or WWW.
	2.  Allow the commitment and convenience of e-mail.
	3.  Leverage news style group nomination (for online interactive 
	spaces) and name space with strong geographical attributes, and the 
	store and forward distribution.

	4.  Allow for group directory search and archive retrieval and 
	posting through the WWW.  A potential WWW directory of participants 
	would be very useful.

There are scores of gateway products between mail-to-news or 
mail-to-WWW, but I have yet to find a product that attempts to weave 
all three together in an optimized fashion.  I'll hold off on my 
other detailed thoughts, and instead suggest how my block club might 
find itself listed someday in a community conferencing system (I 
don't think you would want to have global distribution down to this 
level, around Minnesota is fine):


	mncc - Minnesota Communities Conference  (Made up)
	ci - city based on U.S. domain  (co - county, tn - township, etc.)
	minneapolis - we have 826 cities and 87 counties in MN
    nb - neighborhood 
    carag - there are something like 80 neighborhoods here
	bc - block club or building club
	3400fremontaves - I live on the 3400 block

Now at any level you could have "topic" or "group" terms to encourage 
issue and interest based discussions.  You could also create 
generalist forums.  Assuming from the start that lots of people 
will prefer e-mail access you need to scope volume and types of 
interaction into different forums.  At the city level perhaps might 
might have the following general forums:

	mncc.ci.minneapolis.bulletin - Community Announcement Bulletin Board
	mncc.ci.minneapolis.commons - Minneapolis Community Issues Commons
    mncc.ci.minneapolis.open - Minneapolitan Open Discussion

The bulletin would be for one-way announcements, the commons would be 
the primary community issues discussion forum with a facilitator and 
specific posting guidelines (like no more than two posts person per 
day - assuming lots of e-mail subscribers that would leave if the 
volume was too high), and the open group would be the free speech 
space for people in Minneapolis to talk about whatever they want (due 
to volume it would be assumed that you would have few e-mail 

A lot of my thinking on this comes from my participation in the 
GOVNEWS effort (http://www.govnews.org).  The approach above is sort 
of a bubble up complement that assumes that at the local level 
community issues are more people to people issues than governmental 
or at least that government would join the conversation, but not 
technically be deeply involved for some time.

What do folks think about this idea?  Sometime in the next year I 
will likely propose to the Minnesota E-Democracy board that 
we initiate a Minnesota-wide project with many partners (non-profit, 
public, and private) to develop such a community-oriented system.  If 
others parts of the world are considering similar projects, we should 
link up.  While the structural implementation might vary tremendously 
from area to area, the basic tools and experiences will have universal 

Thanks for reading this far.

Steven Clift
Board Chair
Minnesota E-Democracy
      Steven L. Clift - clift@freenet.msp.mn.us
      Minneapolis, Minnesota   -   612-824-3747
 http://freenet.msp.mn.us/people/clift/ - Home Page
 http://www.e-democracy.org - Minnesota E-Democracy
 http://www.hhh.umn.edu/PUBPOL/ - Public Policy Network

      Steven L. Clift - clift@freenet.msp.mn.us
      Minneapolis, Minnesota   -   612-824-3747
 http://freenet.msp.mn.us/people/clift/ - Home Page
 http://www.e-democracy.org - Minnesota E-Democracy
 http://www.hhh.umn.edu/PUBPOL/ - Public Policy Network
Received on Wednesday, 9 July 1997 19:31:52 UTC

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