Computers & Geosciences, Volume 23, Number 10 December, 1997

John C. Butler
Department of Geosciences
University of Houston
Houston, TX 77204

Comments from the Associate Editor

This issue is devoted to topics in Geophysics and was edited by Dr. Neil Anderson. Approximately two years ago (January, 1996) another special issue on Geophysics was published and a set of Geophysics Internet Resources [] is still pertinent. In addition, a new page -- Geophysics On The INTERNET -- [] will will serve as an other Internet Resource to accompany this months special issue.

For the past year I have been experimenting with ways to use the Internet to enhance conversations -- faculty to faculty, faculty to students, and students to students. Listservs, e-mail lists, and related applications all seem to have their place but, like my mother would have put it, it is like pulling teeth to get some groups communicating. There seem to be a lot more readers than writers in the groups that I am working with.

For example, I "own" a Listserv -- the VirtualCoffeeRoom -- [] which is devoted to discussions of the use of the Internet in creating a learning environment. [The name was selected because when I was a graduate student at Miami (of Ohio), I learned a lot of practical things in our department coffee room.] As of October 14, 1997, there are 129 world-wide subscribers. Since its inception in April, 1997 we have averaged slightly more than 1 message per day or some 200 in total. 90% of the postings have been made by 10% of the subscribers and less than 35% of the subscribers have posted even a single message.

It has taken about two years in our department for e-mail to be accepted as the primary means of internal written communication. Probably more than 66% of the stuff that is sent is "bulletin board material" so that the desktop computer has become the faculty mailbox. Most of the use of Listservs and e-mail distribution lists seems to be of the same variety.

Part of the problem is that I have not "forced" my colleagues or my students to communicate. A colleague (Professor Abigail Hubbard) in the College of Business Administration teaches a graduate course in The Environment of International Business [] as an integral part of the MBA program at the University of Houston. There are no formal class meetings and yet the course is designed around working in groups. Today Abigail left for Germany (accompanied by her notebook computer) and I doubt that her students will be aware of her absence. Because students are required to communicate by e-mail and to participate in group discussions in preparation for their group project, they soon learn to do so; or, they are dropped from the course.

This is a rather long-winded way to say that the editor and I remain ready to receive your comments -- no matter what form we receive them in. What special issue topics sound appealing? Would you like to edit a special issue? What "flavor" of articles would you prefer? Do you routinely (once a month) download software from the repository?


Since December 10, 1997

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