Pat's Work at NCF

The National Capital FreeNet was created September 9, 1992 in Ottawa, Ontario. For many years we celebrated the birthday in early February 1993. Using Freeport software, it offered a very simple menu navigation system that was easy for anyone to understand and use. All you needed was a computer, modem and telephone line. In no time, it was the second largest freenet in the world (Chicago had the largest membership), and voted the best community network in Canada. NCF wasn't the first - Victoria was actually the first freenet in Canada. On it's tenth anniversary, it still had 8 thousand active members. (NCF information, archive)

ncf offers free internet access to anyone who cannot afford to donate to keep this fine network afloat. unless you use a public internet terminal, you need a computer, but the oldest computer, modem and software can access their service. over the years it has morphed into a full internet service provider (isp) but still maintains a vibrant member "club" of discussion newsgroups. the original help desk soldiers on.

i became a member in march 1993. i was immediately helping people in the newsgroups, so matthew darwin, who had set up a help desk, asked me to join. he also asked me to create information for the pc users sig as an "information providers" (ip). at that time, you had to update any menu or information on the system using unix shell!

in the early 90's, ncf volunteers set up access to the internet using a text interface (many people have probably only seen the internet using modern graphical software). you could do archie and veronica searches of databases, telnet to bulletin boards and other freenets, and finally access pages from the world wide web.

in 1996, people were flocking to "the web", so ncf took the plunge and began to setup and test new internet services, create a web sites, popmail, nntp news service, and more. i offered to coordinate testing and documentation of the new services.

community networking attracted a large number of dedicated and talented people who believed in the aim of getting everyone online, even those who couldn't afford a computer. they toiled on the board of directors, maintained online files, helped organizations connect with members and the public, set up computer services, convinced companies to donate equipment, set up terminals in libraries, gave public seminars, and much more. still do. here is a list of my "hats" working at freenet.

  • Documentation Team, testing and writing help files, creating Web pages for NCF FreePlace Internet services (1996-2003)
  • Public Download Area coordinator (1998-2003) for PDA software
  • Help Desk member (1993- )
  • Coordinator of the Web Site team (1998). The Web Contest (1997-98) chose the site design. Judges included Jim Carroll, author of The Canadian Internet Handbook and Mark Schneider, CTV television journalist. "The Ice Storm of 98" forced me to organize the judging from a borrowed laptop running on a generator in my very cold home!
  • "Help Desk Live!" public presentations in Kanata (1995) and Nepean (1996) to teach the public about connecting to NCF. Borrowing and setting up demo equipment was the most difficult part.
  • Created the Manotick SIG and The Manotick Index Web site in 1996 (there weren't many links then!), which morphed into The Manotick Directory in 1998.
  • Member of the Web Site Evalutation Team (1996-97).
  • Menu Administrator on the Information Management Task Force until 1996, then IP Administrator, setting up menus, Web sites and newsgroups for local organizations.
  • Wrote an NCF brochure Get Connected! (1994), edited online by members of the Help Desk. I maintained the "Public Access Sites" menu for several years.
  • Wrote several chapters of the official NCF Survival Guide in 1994, which was sold in bookstores. It was edited online by members of the Help Desk.
  • Created and maintained the PC Users SIG information (1994-2000). One of the regulars in the newsgroup held a poll "is Pat a guy or gal?" and the vote was a tie (with many jokes about "Pat" of the SNL television show). Patrick Crispen's famous Roadmap Internet Workshop that taught so many people, was a great hit to new members who wanted to learn about Email and the Interent.
  • Created the Online Community SIG information area including freenet directories and Internet philosophy!
From an old log:
Mar   /93	Member ad995
      /93	Help Desk (Q&A) member
Jun 25/94  PC Users SIG (SIG maintainer, shell access)
Aug   /94	"Get Connected" in the Help Desk
Aug   /94	Help Desk rewrite Survival Guide
Mar 14/95	3 Kanata "Help Desk Live!" public meetings
Apr 11/95  Online Community SIG (SIG maintainer)
May 13/95  Volunteer as Menu Admin
Jun  7/95  Confirmed Menu Admin, in IMT
   (Information Management Task Force)
   (Jun 26/95 Stephen Toy SIG Admin, Mike Jankulak IP Admin)
Aug 7/95   IP Admin training Mike Jankulak
Aug 18/95  Style Guide to IMT
Oct 31/95  IMT problems from outside
Nov 95     IP Admin
Dec 4/95   ask Don McCallum about IP work
Dec 9/95   Don working on dormant IPs
Feb/96     Volunteer of the Month
Mar 30/96  PFA: pat given for being VOM
mar /96    Osgoode Library thanked me for the NCF terminal
July/96	   Sheila took over IMT Menu Admin job
Sep/96	   Nepean Help Desk Live public meeting
Oct/96	   FreePlan-Tech TF freeplan menus/files
 ?	   Coordinator of the PDA
Jan/98     Organized Home page contest
Mar/98     Volunteer of the Month

Did you really read down to here?!