What is The Network Observer?

TNO is a free on-line newsletter. It appeared monthly from January 1994 to July 1996. It probably won't come back. Nonetheless I'll discuss it in the present tense below.

Every issue includes a few short articles, either by me or by guest authors, plus three regular departments: the wish list, which discusses a potential application of advanced computing technology; this month's recommendations, usually short book reviews; and follow-up, which summarizes on-line discussion of previous issues and offers pointers to useful net resources that I've discovered in the last month.

Who are you?
I'm Phil Agre. I edit TNO. Here's my home page.
What is TNO about?
TNO is about networks and democracy. By "networks" I mean to include both computer networks, like the Internet, and social networks of all kinds. By "democracy" I mean people getting together and deciding how to run their lives. I think that democracy is a good thing. I am concerned that democratic values are eroding, at least in my own country, and TNO is my own small contribution to the reinvention of democracy in a new technological world.
How many people read TNO?
It's hard to say. About 3800 people get it from the Red Rock Eater. Many readers get it indirectly from people who have forwarded particular issues or articles to their friends or mailing lists. It also depends what you mean by "read". A lot of people skim it. If I had to guess I'd say its halfways-serious readership is maybe ten thousand.
Who writes the unsigned articles?
I do.
How much time does it take?
I would say that it takes less than a day a month to edit TNO, mostly in bits and pieces as ideas for each month's issue accumulate. Then it takes a couple of hours, usually on a weekend, to get the formatting straight and proofread everything. It's worth it, though, since it's an efficient way of getting some ideas out to a moderately large audience (by academic standards anyway) without having to go through a magazine editor.
Do you welcome press releases?
Absolutely not.
I want to clip out a single article from TNO and send it along to a mailing list. Is that okay?
If you really need to. Please make sure you keep the copyright and contact information at the bottom of the issue.
Do you ever edit the back issues?
Yes. I don't get paid for running TNO, so the version that goes out on the net is sometimes a little rough. I go back and edit the rough parts later on. As a result, I'd much prefer that you make a link to the TNO web pages rather than copying TNO issues into your own pages.
Is TNO officially sponsored by anyone?
No. The opinions expressed in TNO are solely those of the editor, or of the guest authors whose names are signed to their articles. They do not reflect the policies of the University of California or any other organization.
I want to run an on-line newsletter. What advice do you have for me?
I've presented some rough ideas on the subject in TNO 2(3).
Have you thought of turning TNO into a commercial newsletter?
Sure. But it would be an enormous hassle. The only way to make real money at such a thing is to run it like an industry newsletter, charging a hundred corporate subscribers each hundreds of dollars a year. That would defeat much of the purpose of the newsletter, and I expect I would have to change the format and content dramatically to reach that kind of market anyway. So for the foreseeable future I'll just continue doing it for other reasons than money.
Why is the Web version of TNO so badly designed, with nothing but preformatted text?
TNO reaches more people by e-mail in ASCII form than through the Web pages, and it would take a lot of work to convert the ASCII form into fancy Web pages. Someday in my abundant spare time I will give the TNO Web pages a distinctive graphical design. I don't think that the current version is any harder to read than any other Web-based newsletter; it just doesn't look as cool. I can live with that.
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