A short note on internet basics.

Question: How do you work in internet related projects without access to e-mail?

Answer: You don't.

And that reminds me of an educational encounter last summer in Canada:

We were winding up our stay in Toronto and were on the lakeshore. We noticed a small pre-fab set up on the street which turned out to be an educational internet-based project. Inside were about ten state of the art computers with fast internet connections. During the school year pupils came to the building to research topics related to Canada. The staff was trained in accessing resources on the web related to various aspects of Canadian life. For both professional and personal reasons I found this a fascinating project and spent a bit of time inside. I used the resources their to find a site about Canadian coins, and in that way to learn about a series of coins we'd purchased for the boys. My next step was an obvious one - I started to e-mail the URL I'd found to myself via my Hotmail account.

At first I didn't realize what was happening when I heard someone say "no e-mail allowed here", and I continued with the task I'd taken upon myself. When I heard the phrase repeated I realized that someone was talking to me. I explained that I wasn't checking my e-mail - that I did that every day from my brother-in-law's computer and didn't need this particular project to check my mail. I was simply sending the information I'd found at the project to myself. The reply was a laconic "no e-mail allowed here".

Not yet realizing that I wasn't going to succeed in explaining myself, I tried once again to describe what I was trying to do, while praising the nice work done at the project. Still, I only received the repeated refrain. So finally I decided upon another approach. I introduced myself as an Israeli who works in internet-related educational projects. I explained that I was impressed with the project and would like to speak to someone about how it was run. I was introduced to the manager of the project with whom I established a pleasant rapport. She told me about how students came in organized groups from school in order to research various Canadian topics. She explained that ordinarily these students sent their topics to the center before they arrived so that the staff could prepare bookmarks on those topics. I asked how the staff received the requests and how the students received the materials they found. I was told that they submitted their requests in typed letters, and that the materials that they found while visiting the project were printed out for them after their visit and sent to their schools en bulk later on.

My host couldn't understand why I found this hard to believe. But why not simply send the URLs that they found via e-mail so that they can access them at any time that they might like, I asked. Though the answer I received was partially related to security concerns, the gist of it was actually much simpler - we hadn't really thought of that.

So maybe internet related projects are possible without access to e-mail after all.

Go to: Taking "too far" much too far, or
Go to: The Return of the PC.