In one of my classes this semester we have fired up the amazingly old-school Conferencing on the Web tool. It’s all text-based, completely linear, and quite archaic. But there are conversations on the site that have been in existence since 97 when the University of Michigan adopted this tool. Does anybody remember/know about Confer? This makes me think of the various websites and MUDs that have fallen into disuse, but are still hosted out there, somewhere, in cyberspace.

Dan Ray is pretty wry with his hindsight in comment #22. I have taken out a few lost comments – a student tried to make a post in this thread for his class. The title of this conversation is “Is the Web the Future?” Complete conversation after the jump.

1. Author: David
Date: Jan. 17, 1997 0:16 AM

What do you think of this phenomenon called the Web?

2. Author: Dan
Date: Feb. 13, 1997 5:14 AM

I think it’s a passing fad.

3. Author: William
Date: Feb. 13, 1997 10:19 PM

Yes, and so are we. And we might pass first.

4. Author: Eric
Date: Jul. 15, 1997 11:52 AM

I like the idea of being able to use HTML in my replies. Does it work as advertised?

5. Author: Eric
Date: Jul. 15, 1997 11:54 AM

Well, that’s neat! I think I’ll try this in my class.

6. Author: Brett
Date: Jul. 24, 1997 2:30 PM

I’m a little embarrassed to ask this question but what is the advantage of
posting a response to HTML. I can see that the text is slightly different
when this choice is activated. What is the advantage when sending a
simple response or question like I am doing right now?

7. Author: Elizabeth
Date: Jul. 24, 1997 2:51 PM

Well, you can also put links to other pages on COW, or graphics. I think
that’s pretty much the advantage, though not everyone uses those

9. Author: Graham
Date: Oct. 27, 1997 10:28 PM

You can link to other pages, not just on COW. For instance, I could tell you that the Thomas Register is a great place to find many manufacturers of various products for industry.

10. Author: Irene
Date: Dec. 8, 1997 7:05 PM

The Web is so new for me, I can’t give it 100% support. I like various aspects of it, such as calling up the news on the Web page, that’s fun. But why does everything have to be grey? I think the Web should be more colorful.

11. Author: James
Date: Dec. 10, 1997 12:44 PM

The Web has wonderful possibilities. The challenge will be getting the
speed to the point where the web is a real time medium for objects like
pictures and music, which currently take forever using the typical modem.
When that happens, why would anyone watch passive tv when you can interact
with anyone in the world in real time. The whole notion of the workplace
will change. Shopping will change. At that point the technological
revolution will be more than hype, it will have occurred. And if you
think Bill Gates is rich, the richest person as a result of the revolution
is probably in elementary school right now.

12. Author: John
Date: Dec. 16, 1997 4:20 PM

Like Eric, in Responses 4 and 5, I like being able to use HTML. For one thing, you don’t have to worry about formatting at 77 columns, since HTML wraps according to the size of your current browser. For another, you don’t have to resort to *asterisks* or _underlines_ to get the impression of italics or boldface, and that makes writing much easier for people who, like me, use emphasis naturally in their writing to make it more like talk.

For another thing, I’m looking forward to being able to point at Web pages (and occasionally graphics, but I’m not a grafix kinda guy) and other resources in the conference. I’ve been using conferences in all my classes for over a decade and wouldn’t do without them, but the various vagaries of the Confer service have necessitated a whole lot of tzurris over the years, and I’m hoping that the Web — which everybody understands — will make it easier. If COW turns out to be stable, that is.

Vamos a ver, I suppose.

13. Author: David
Date: Dec. 16, 1997 6:58 PM

COW is as stable as I can make it. The service is actually stable in the sense that it requires remarkably little maintenance from admins right now. It’s not stable in that we’re still looking at some development, and some improvements to the interface. I think it’s a mistake to say that “everybody understands the web”, because not everyone does, but perhaps everyone will some day.

My own take on this is that, while I like the COW interface the best of the conferencing tools I’ve seen on the web, I don’t think it’s perfect. I don’t think it’s currently possible to have a “perfect” conferencing interface on the web, because the web itself imposes too many limitations on how you do things. For example the text input box I’m typing this response in. I can’t have it resizable by the person typing the text, I have to specify a size somewhere. And then there’s the balance of what’s too big, and what’s too small? Is 10 lines by 65 characters large enough? Should the window be taller? Should it be shorter? Since it’s scrollable, does it matter what size it is? In the classes I’ve been monitoring, it doesn’t seem to matter much to the students, they type in large responses if they’re called for, and one-liners if that’s what is appropriate. But, that is a basic limitation of the web right now. And not a limitation I particularly like. Is the web the future? Maybe it is, but if it is the future, it won’t look like it does right now. And it may not be recognizable as the web.

14. Author: Kevin
Date: Dec. 16, 1997 9:04 PM

Have anyone heard of the new technology called Broad Band service?
Instead of hooking up your modem to phone lines, Broad Band service
enables you to transfer information via cable line (yeah, the one you hook
up your TVs). A friend of mine is using it now. The Media One, a cable
company in Ann Arbor, is providing the service for $50 of monthly charge.
It is almost as fast as ethernet connection, so if you are tired of
sitting in front of your computer waiting for down loading, the Broad Band
service may actually make your life little bit easier. Plus, the computer
doesn’t have to dominate the phone line while you are on line. Sounds too
good to be true? What’s the catch? Well, expensive to begin with. I’m
currently hooked up to the Microsoft Network, and pay 20 dollars monthly
charge with unlimited hour service. Compare to that Broad Band service is
more than twice of investment. Plus, this is something I heard, and I
haven’t confirmed yet, but the uploading time of this technology is still
slow, more resembles the modem speed. Another bad news for portable
computer users. You need to install a card to your computer to hook it up
to cable. My notebook computer seems too crammed for that. Maybe the
Media One have a PCMCIA card available, and I’m willing to check it out,
and see what the advangages, and disadvantges are. Ethernet speed at your
home computer… wouldn’t you be interested?

15. Author: David
Date: Dec. 17, 1997 11:11 AM

More on Broadband is available from MediaOne’s website.

And, right now, in Ann Arbor, this requires a modem when you’re connected, so it still ties up a phone line. Next summer they’re supposed to be moving to cable-only, which will be a savings for people like myself, who have a second phone line to accommodate my computer. The cost (according to the literature I’ve seen) is $34.95/month if you already have cable, and $44.95/month if you don’t have cable, plus installation.

What’s nice is, when they have it all set up right, hopefully next summer, all you will have to have in your computer is an ethernet card. The cable modem will be a stand-alone box that has a port for the cable, and a standard 10BaseT ethernet port. That will make it really easy to set up and play with.

16. Author: Erika
Date: Jan. 12, 1998 9:47 PM

I think the WEB is great. However, I hate when complications come up when
I try to download some stuff and a “plug-in” thing comes up. I’m new to
this whole computer thing. I wish I was a geek and knew how to do a lot
of the cool things, to take advantage of the whole computer and WEB deal.

17. Author: Katy
Date: Jan. 13, 1998 7:38 PM

I grew up in East Lansing, where we have had cable modems for 4 or so
not the best seller for TCI cable, but the ppl that have it love it.
When I go home the only thing I can stand using, after being so used to
our lovely ethernet, are cable modems.

btw- the don’t tie up a phone line, as I think someone mentioned.

However, they do fall apart often, and although one may know how to fix
many different computer related problems, knowing how to fix a cable modem
is something that you have to have the company do.

when ppl in the e.l. area try to run servers for profit, because tci falls
too often, they end up losing business.

just fYI

20. Author: Erik
Date: Feb. 2, 1998 7:50 AM

MediaOne is doing a fair amount of clucking about the “new” technology of
Broadband, but it’s been around for a while. After all, what is cable
television if not a data network? In fact, the UMTV cable system began its
life as the campus WANGNet; the first channel carried was WXYZ Channel 7,
which was included on the data network as an easy way of checking the

I have to admit I’m just a little leery, though, of turning my home
connectivity over to MediaOne. I’m back in Ann Arbor now, but when I lived
in Superior Township, it didn’t take much severe weather to knock the
cable out–sometimes for days. It’s more reliable in town, but even so, a
MediaOne installer lives in my apartment complex and it still takes
forever to get things fixed.

I’m not exactly eager to turn over my modem to them, to be frank.

21. Author: Anonymous
Date: Jan. 14, 1999 5:44 PM

Hey wasn’t the question:

What do you think of this phenomenon called the WEB?

I think its interesting but not a phenomenon.

22. Author: The Name of this Band is Dan Ray
Date: Jun. 9, 2006 3:10 PM

I’ve gotta be honest — I think it’ll take off.