VCN Board Meeting
Februrary 25 2002

Present: Sharlene Smith, Jonn Oldym, Alison Curtis, Patrick Clark, Jim Sayre, Alexandra Samuel, Peter Royce, Steven Chan, and guest Sergei Stafeev.


Revised agenda moved and adopted. Revisions: Addition of coordinator's report, and Jason's report on streaming media. Financial report not yet prepared.

1. coordinator's report
Just hired a new User Support coordinator, Morgan Chojnacki. See Peter's Coordinator's report for more details on other items.

Jonn raised the issue of how we're going to support VolNet users. As of the end of this month we won't have any support for VolNet. Questions:
- how much money do we have?
- any plans to deal with VolNet?

Sharlene: Financial issue will be part of financial report.

Peter: Re: Volnet specifically. What we're trying to do is to design a system so that we can meet VCN's goals. That will work best via (a) user support coordinator - to train rather than provide direct services, and (B) public access coordinator (Will, already hired), and (C) membership coordinator (currently on the board). We have this problem in terms of managing the transition from each of our funded projects, into core activities.

Jason: Only alternative seems to be to use our surplus, but that just defers the problem. If we're going to hire someone, we should find a way of funding the position as an ongoing position.

Alison: At the retreat we came up with a template for coming up with proposals like Jonn's. Maybe Jonn could produce a proposal along the lines of the other proposals.

Alex: This is part of the broader issue of sustainability.

Sharlene: We need to develop a strategy for dealing with sustainability issue.

Jonn: Will do proposal, but can't do it at the moment. Perhaps Peter could help?

Sharlene and Jonn will meet to go over the results of the retreat. She previously met with Patrick.

2. Secretary report

- Via board list, nominate current members of board who are not
currently officers. If no nominations are forthcoming, we'll look for
new board member to fulfill the role.
- Alex volunteered to take notes until we find someone.

Reviewing board proposals

3. Community Internet Lab (Peter)
- Increase our visibility
- Work with additional partners such as Tao and IndyMedia
- Extend training and support into evening and weekends; our daytime hours aren't necessarily useful to our users.
- The idea is to spend very little money, try to get rent-free space.
- We're looking for approval in principle.

- Comments:
- Jason - it sounds like a CAP site.
- Peter - none of our CAP sites function as lab. Humanities 101 started that way but was then scaled down. We want a facility that will help us bring other groups in. Aim would be to provide 10 or 20 terminals attached to 2 application servers.
- Malls could provide us with a temporary lab, street exposure - using a vacant space until it is rented.
- Alex: free space would work as pilot but not stable enough over long run.
- Peter: also looking at longer-run options; talking to City, also to a housing society as a possibility.
- Steven: currently staff are trapped in the office. This could put staff in the community.
- Patrick: we need to get outside the office. We need to increase our public visibility. Volunteering to work on the lab project.
- Jonn: need stability; can't just disappear once we get established. Could possibly run several labs.
- Jim: Is this tired into the wireless project?
- Peter: probably not. But could have a wireless node.
- Steven: loose wiring on the floor; we're not going to hard-wire the space.
- Alison: libraries provide stability.
- Alex: have we looked at Tinseltown/International City?
- Peter: downtown east side is very competitive space in terms of no. of groups working there.
- Jonn: Danger of alienating users if we open on a temporary basis. Also we should be oriented towards the downtown east side.
- Sharlene: purpose is to get board approval in principle.
- Patrick: has also wondered about why International City is vacant. We do need to stay near population we're targeting.
- Jim: sounds like a CAP site.
- Peter: If any of our CAP site were appropriate for this, that would be our first choice. We are rolling out 25 new sites but not sure that any are appropriate.
- Peter: re: stability - think of this as a community econ development seed project. The temporariness is in the nature of the business we're in. Set it up, see how it flies. See who in the neighbourhood would be interested in taking this over long run.
- Alex: propose a motion that we approve a pilot project.
- Sharlene: we've identified several issues to explore: a) stability, b)HR issues, C) target audience/location choice.
- Jonn: Move that we authorize the staff to look at the development of a community internet lab/internet café.
- Patrick seconds it.
- Jason: I would like to raise a concern….I think this is going to take more staff time than we think. If we go into the situation where you're the only staff member on site, you're going to end up doing all the low level stuff. Right now there is a buffer between sr staff and volunteers/general public. In a mall we'd have people coming in all day
asking very basic questions. Chances of having that staffed are very slim.
- Peter: we can incorporate staffing into our proposal.
- Alison: Partnerships could help address the staffing issue.

Alex asked whether we are going to vote on each proposal as we go.
Sharlene: Other proposals will be evaluated altogether. This is the only one we will handle as a separate proposal..
Peter - staff wanted a statement of interest before we look into it in great detail.

Statement of interest M/S/C.

4. Web site redesign (Alex)

Alex: Summarized goals from written proposal. Noted that to do this, we should make some resource commitment - up-front development costs, and some portion of a staff person to do ongoing content updates. Project is
scaleable: we can start with a redesign to make the most of the resources that are there, then add functionality and features later.

Alison: Would we be considering adding content management tools so that users could publish to it?

Alex: that would be something further down the road. It would require a lot of support to make it useful to users.

Patrick: We do need a facelift on the site. Authoring tools do require a lot of training /support. Original site designed to accommodate low end machines. We can bump that up a bit now, but still need to understand why site was laid out as it was. Adding features as we go will inevitably lead to more basic redesign.

Jonn: still have portion of users who have very low-end equipment and abilities. Need to take these users into consideration.

Alison: Can set up accessibility standards as part of redesign. Communications officer can handle site news updates, content updates as part of that role.

Steven: There are actually several aspects to this proposal; we have explored some of these already. Basic dividing line: A) tools we make available to groups who are hosted on our site, and B) the VCN portion of the site - our own piece of the site. Staff have met a few times to go over the web site design of their own parts of the site; they've
discussed how to make it better without doing anything too complicated. See chart in Peter's office for progress so far. Volunteer project already underway to convert our links into a database; this is handled by one of our most committed volunteers; but it takes time. Progress is being made, but it takes time - we may not have seen it yet. Also one of
the people working with Am is looking at developing community tools. Steven is going to put together a bibliographic link of tools we have already tried, and that we can make recommendations about to community groups. Real range of tools requested by groups. Best option is to have a range of tools available. Work is never going to stop.

Alex: maybe we should consider NGO tools in context of NGO toolbox, just think of this proposal in terms of paying for a web site redesign.

Steven: we've identified 3 parallel threads: 1) content 2) layout 3)dynamic - stuff to put in a database. Right now dynamic piece is handled by volunteers. Staff is determining content. Graphical layout could be contracted out.

Jason: like to see some resources allocated to hiring a graphic designer to create logos etc.

Sharlene: don't worry about doing a separate revised proposal, just put it on the table in the context of the next board meeting.

5. E-commerce feature (Jason)

Jason: Basically a way of taking membership payments online. Easiest provider to work with is Moneris (local.) All we'd have to do is create a web page to house this feature.

Alison: does Moneris charge a fee?

Jason: fee depends on size or organization. Maybe something like 67 cents a transaction plus 2%. Worth it for us taking $25 donations; organizations taking in smaller amounts may not find it worthwhile.

Peter: based on experience of Spartacus, might expect positive impact on sales. Would our client organizations make independent arrangements with Moneris?

Jason: yes. Moneris is providing a little program that puts into directly onto their server. Each organization makes independent deal with Moneris. All we provide is the template, contact info. We could develop CGI and dummy web page for organizations to use.

5. Streaming vs nonstreaming multimedia

Jason: probably the kind of content we'd host wouldn't need to be streamed. Only real reason to use streaming is to prevent copying. But we're unlikely to be providing content where copyright would be a big issue. Major issue is how to convert content into digital format. Necessary software is cheap or free. Big cost is time. Could set up a
burning station here or at the lab. People would probably start to do it and then realize how time consuming it was going to be. If people were serious about it they'd want their burning station in their own office to have it run in the background.

Patrick: we don't need anything high end. Unlikely to have too many streams going at once. Amazing how fast people melt away when they realize how time consuming it is. Attraction wears off fast.

Steven: The idea of a streaming server came out of the idea of a partnership with coop radio. Will (who we hired) was going to be the radio stn volunteer to put this together. We could outline that idea to make it clear how that would work. We don't really mean to offer a generic streaming server. There is also another issue with audio streaming: for many non-English speakers, streaming of public education material might be very useful. The idea with co-op radio was that co-op would provide the stream source and encoding; we would just relay it to end users at VCN/Tao. We wouldn't make it available through Internet gateway because that is shared; we'd just make it available via dial-up
users. And then we'd relay a single stream out to another server that has bandwidth to provide broader stream to web users all over the world.

Alex: If part of our interest is in increasing amt of content available online, maybe we want to directly sponsor placing multimedia content. We'll do the encoding and serving, you provide the content. That would be resource intensive so maybe do it as a contest to try it out. But probably more useful than just providing an encoding station; more
useful to offer an encoding service.

Alison: why does co-op radio need streaming?

Jason: so it can go out live.

Sharlene: next board meeting: we'll discuss webmail, Volnet, advocacy/lobbying, wireless. Streaming probably needs to be rejigged (Steven will do).

6. Communications coordinator proposal (Peter) - separate from the proposals coming out of the Board retreat.

On web site, we've already posted the Public Access Coord job, and User Support coord. This is the 3rd part of the triad. User Support was successor to Volunteer coordinator position. The communications coordinator is a new kind of position for VCN.

Proposal is to hire someone full time: it would be a communications and membership development position. There is room for expansion in our membership base. This is the only long-term sustainable funding base. Would also help to keep up with media outreach. Also addresses problem that Admin coordinator hard to retain; this takes on a piece of that role.

Seeking approval for a $37,500 position with expectation it would pay for itself in added funding. There is common agreement on the problem; this is the solution. But there is a degree of risk (will it pay for itself?)

Jonn: How much time will this person spend updating content?

Peter: Not updating content. But offering news on what VCN is doing. Earlier I'd said this could be a part-time proposal; but we wouldn't get enough out of it.

Sharlene: would this come out of existing revenue or the surplus?

Peter: we're expecting this would generate an additional $41,250 in revenues.

Alison: moved to approve proposal.
Jason seconded.

7. Langara contract
- has come to an end
- Peter suggests board should strike a subcttee to reach a recommendation on how to pursue our relationship with Langara Students Union
- Peter needs to go back to LSU with a range of options
- Those options need to reflect some sense of how important the LSU relationship is to VCN's goals. It's been financially lucrative but not related to our core mandate. It's been very demanding in ways that are
peripheral to our mission.
- Jonn - are they serious about having a contract? We never had one. Not sure it doesn't fit in with VCN.
- Referred to next meeting of the Strategic Advisory Cttee (one or 2 weeks before next meeting.)

Other business:
Next meeting is March 25th, 6:30 pm.