Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(November 1999)
 

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Subject: Accommodating low-end technology and social conditions
From: "A. Shettle" <RED_TREK @ DRYCAS . CLUB . CC . CMU . EDU>
Date: Sun, 21 Nov 1999 13:51:24 -0400 (EDT)
To: List-Managers @ GreatCircle . COM

Istvan Berkeley -- I got the impression from your recent post on Listmanagers
that you run a mailing list with many subscribers in developing
nations. I am one of the listowners for a mailing list,
called deafintl, that not only has subscribers in developing
nations but is specifically targeted at them -- the purpose of
my list is to give people a place to share information, ideas,
news etc. related to the empowerment, education, and social
advancement of deaf and hard of hearing people in developing nations.
Although many (I think most) of my subscribers seem to be in
the United States or other developed nations, I consider those
in developed nations (esp. deaf leaders) to be the target of
deafintl and I'm always looking for anything more I can do to make
it a bit easier for them to join the list and participate in it.
I see deafintl as not simply a discussion list but as a 
tool of empowerment for deaf leaders in developing nations.

I have posted some of these general questions on this list before,
but I thought I'd post again in any case, partly because I figure
there must be a new batch of listmembers who might have ideas that
didn't come up before and partly because now that I know a bit more about
the various challenges some of my subscribers face than when
I started I can ask more intelligent questions.

What challenges have you faced with your list in terms of making
it more accessible to those using low-end technology, etc.?
How have you been able to resolve these issues (or have you)?
Do you think there is, realistically, anything a listowner can do
about barriers to active participation that go beyond the
merely technological?

Some examples from my own list:

1) In my list, people who want to join must follow up subscription 
request with a confirmation (i.e., must send two e-mail messages).
For various reasons, many of my subscribers in developing nations
are not able to log in very often and can't stay logged in for long
when they do. That means a simple subscription that should take minutes
from beginning to end can take weeks or even months, assuming no
listowner interference, if they aren't able to hang around long enough
to wait for the computer to send them a request that they confirm
their wish to join the list. I know it can be a good idea to have
this two-step subscription process to prevent mail bombing and so forth,
but I worry that it may be inadvertently keeping out some of the people 
I want most on my list. Any suggestions how to make the process friendlier?

2) In many (the majority?) of countries around the world, including
developing nations, they have to pay for each and every local phone
call; in some cases, they have to pay for each minute they're
on the phone. That means hooking up to the internet can get expensive.
I know one way to deal with this is for the end users to download
their e-mail so they can read it off line, then write their e-mail
the same way and upload it when they're ready to send it. However, I
keep meeting people in/from developing nations who have no clue how
to upload or download and who didn't even realize this was a possibility.
This is frustrating to me because that means deafintl is probably
losing a lot of valuable contributions from listmembers who think
it would be too expensive for them to post actively to deafintl.
I know there are many software programs, etc. etc. etc., for 
uploading/downloading. Can anyone think of a relatively simple
way for me to help my listmembers learn about uploading/downloading
etc.? (Keep in mind that not all of them have web access for the simple
reason that the computers they're using simply can't handle the memory
load.) Is there some kind of universal uploading/downloading
help file that I could send to listmembers on request that could 
help them figure out what software they have in their computers
(I think some of them don't even know) and what they need to do to
use this software, or that can explain how to get ftp software if
they find they don't have it already?

3) Another challenge that listmembers in developing nations face
is, of course, the general poverty and poor economic circumstances.
Salaries are so low that a number of my listmembers have to take
two jobs just to support themselves (one listmember tells me that the
salary from one of her jobs goes almost entirely to her rent; she needs
the other job just so she can eat and clothe herself). Unfortunately,
this means that some of the listmembers who have the most
hands-on experience and knowledge to share with the list are too
busy to post anything! I suppose there isn't really anything I 
can do about this as a listowner, but I thought I'd take a shot
in the dark and ask if anyone has any brilliant notions I hadn't
thought of.

Andrea Shettle
red_trek@drycas.club.cc.cmu.edu
(a co-listowner for deafintl)

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