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Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link (WELL)

Itself a major Net access point in the San Francisco area, the WELL is also a unique online community that maintains dozens of conferences on every imaginable topic (seven devoted just to the Grateful Dead). WELL users are intelligent and opinionated; discussions are often fast and furious. The Electronic Frontier Foundation was basically started in a series of online conversations on the WELL. Although it has a serious San Francisco flavor, it has users from across the country (enough to support both East Coast and Midwest conferences).

For its conferences, the WELL uses PicoSpan software, which presents messages differently than rn or nn. When you enter a conference, you can call up a list of "topics." Enter a topic number, and all of the messages start scrolling down the screen, sort of like the music on an old-fashioned player-piano. There is some online help, but new users are sent a written manual. See section Electronic Mail for information on access charges (one advantage to connecting to the WELL through telnet is that unless you live in the Bay Area, it is likely to be much cheaper than other access methods).

Telnet: well.sf.ca.us

See section "A Slice of Life in my Virtual Community" by Howard Rheingold if you're interested in an intimate look on The WELL.

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