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<p style="margin-bottom: 0cm;" align="center" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font face="Arial, sans-serif"><font size="5"><b>Searching
for the<br>




Labour
Movement<br>




on
the World Wide Web</b></font></font></font></p>




<p style="margin-bottom: 0cm;" align="center" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3"><b>_____________________________________</b></font></font></p>




<p style="margin-bottom: 0cm;" align="center" lang="en-GB">
<font color="#000000"><font face="Arial, sans-serif"><font size="4">Marc
B&eacute;langer</font></font></font></p>




<p style="margin-bottom: 0cm;" align="center" lang="en-GB"><span style="font-weight: bold;">February,
2007</span></p>




<p style="margin-bottom: 0cm;" align="center" lang="en-GB"><a href="solicomm_web_searcher.doc">Download Essay</a></p>




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      <td style="width: 60%;">
      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Since 1995, when the first union
web site was created, the labour movement has built the richest
depository of union-related information and knowledge ever produced.
But we can't use it. Worse, we can't even see it. It's scattered
across a few thousand web sites existing on a World Wide Web which
has some 80 million other sites. It's as if the greatest book about
the labour movement - containing histories, policies, research data,
educational material and more, in many languages - had all its pages
scattered around the world. Looking at a few isolated pages of this
great book is interesting,
informative and often very useful, but you never get a sense of the
whole work. The work, the labour of thousands of unionists around the
world, needs to be seen to be appreciated and used. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The
question addressed in this essay is: How can we make labour's
information, knowledge and presence on the World Wide Web viewable
and usable for labour education and research?</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Below
is a presentation of the ten-step logic behind the essay. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><span style=""> </span><b>1.
Labour's resources and presence on the Web has created a LabourWeb.</b></font></font></span></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;
The LabourWeb is the entity
created by combining all the web sites, databases, news services and
other sources related to unions that are accessible via the World
Wide Web.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><span style=""> </span><b>2.
We don't know what is on the LabourWeb or who is using it</b></font></font></span></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font size="3">
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; We know there are many unionists
and union sites on the Web. But we do not know who is using what Web
resources for what purposes. We should.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><span style=""> </span><b>3.
The LabourWeb is being built everyday by people motivated by their
local, organizational concerns.</b><span style="">
      </span></font></font></span></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font size="3">
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; By creating information and
knowledge for their immediate needs unionists around the world are at
the same time creating resources which can be used by the global
labour community. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3"><b> 4. We can use the resources of the
LabourWeb (information, knowledge
and people) for labour's goals. </b></font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><b> </b><span style="">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;
There
is a vast amount of information and knowledge available on the
LabourWeb which could be used to support labour's bargaining and
political activities. This is especially important as more workers
use the Web in their work to handle information or create knowledge.
The LabourWeb is the most important resource ever created for labour
research and education.</span></font></font></span></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><span style=""> </span><b>5.</b><span style=""> </span><b>We need to <i>see</i>
the LabourWeb, and participate in
designing it, before we can use it</b><span style="">.&nbsp;</span></font></font></span></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><span style="">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;
The information and knowledge on the LabourWeb is so widely
scattered through the Web that it cannot be easily seen as a whole or
effectively searched by general, commercially-oriented search engines
such as Google. It needs to be searched with labour-designed tools
used by actively involved unionists.</span></font></font></span></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><span style=""> </span><b>6.
The LabourWeb is a huge dynamic <span style="font-style: normal;">database
      </span>of information, knowledge and people.</b><span style="">&nbsp;</span></font></font></span></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><span style="">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;
Considering the LabourWeb as one large database being updated
everyday allows us to use existing database design and searching
strategies to make it manageable and participative for unionists.</span></font></font></span></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><span style=""> </span><b>7.</b><span style=""> </span><b>We need a participative web
searcher (a tool which puts
together web searching tools and people) to work with the LabourWeb. </b><span style="">
      </span></font></font></span></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;
A participative web searcher is
my term for the combination of a World Wide Web search engine (like a
Google) plus the community communication tools needed to allow people
to participate in uncovering information, creating knowledge, and
collaboratively learning on the Web.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><span style=""> </span><b>8.</b><span style=""> </span><b>SoliComm, a labour-designed
web searcher, can be used to
make the LabourWeb more visible and participative. </b></font></font></span>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><b> </b><span style="">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;
SoliComm
(the Solidarity Communications system) has its own web-searching
engine, file depository, email, web site hosting and computer
conferencing systems - all especially designed for unionists involved
in labour education and research. </span></font></font></span>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3"><b> 9. SoliComm can be used today to help
unionists use the LabourWeb for
labour education and research. </b></font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><b> </b><span style="">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;
SoliComm
provides the only labour-specific search engine service on the Web.
It is aimed at providing faster, more complete coverage of the
LabourWeb than any of the general search engines can. It's a working
system which we can use for practical matters now and for planning
labour's role on the Web as it grows. </span></font></font></span>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><span style=""> </span><b>10.</b><span style="">
      </span><b>SoliComm could be used as a staging system
and prototype
for managing the next major evolution of the World Wide Web.</b><span style="">
      </span></font></font></span></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;
The next major stage of the
World Wide Web - coming soon as the Web matures - will be organized
as one huge discussion-like entity involving computers and people. It
will be interactive, participative, intelligent and self-recording.
It will be designed according to how humans think and talk. And,
unless the labour movement considers what role it could play in this
next stage, the mature Web will look like a union-free zone for most
of its users. That could have serious implications for a labour
movement which is trying to renew itself in the face of globalization
and concentrated attacks on its existence. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB">
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<font color="#000000"><font size="3">This essay presents a few ideas
on how we can see and use the LabourWeb in conjunction with SoliComm.
It's designed to promote discussion of what could be. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%; text-align: center;" lang="en-GB">
      <big style="font-weight: bold;"><big><big>#</big></big></big><br>




      </p>




      <br>




      <br>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%; text-align: center;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font face="Arial, sans-serif"><font size="3"><b>Where
is the union information I need now?</b></font></font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">Labour
activists are information-handlers. They are good at asking
questions, getting information, and transforming that information
into knowledge for union related work. At the local level they may
need information on how to respond to a health and safety grievance
involving a chemical they've never heard of. At the national union
level they may be searching for information to support their
arguments for sector-wide bargaining. If they are working on
international issues they may need to know about migration patterns
or the global ban on asbestos. And usually when they're looking for
information, they need it now, not next week.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3"> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The
sort of questions labour activists pose can be divided into two broad
categories. They may be general (as in "I need to know if
chemical ABC is carcinogenic") or they be labour-specific ("What
unions have had a problem with chemical ABC and how have they
addressed the problem?"). What these questions have in common
is that they have probably been posed before and at least partially
answered. What's more, given the rise of the World Wide Web in the
past ten years, they have probably have been answered on the Web. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The
general questions are the more easily handled. Just type the key
words into a general Web search engine such as Google and you're
likely to get thousands, if not millions, of "hits" (places
on the web that include the key words). You probably would not have
to go past the first page of hits to find out if the chemical was
cancerous. The more difficult questions are the labour-specific ones.
Filtering the thousands or millions of hits produced by a Google
search to find out what labour thinks about the use of the chemical,
and the collective bargaining response to its use in the workplace,
is not easy. Unless you are a trained web-searcher (like a labour
librarian, and sometimes not even then) you are likely to get lost in
all the hits. You may never get to page 346 to find out that a union
in South Africa had hired a consultant who produced a report on the
use of the chemical, and that the union had used the report to
bargain protections for its members. And there, right on the union's
web site along with the report, was a model contract clause you could
have used at the bargaining table.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; But
don't feel bad. It's not your fault you can't find relevant labour
information on the Web easily. The truth is that the Web is being
designed for commerce. Companies pay consultants and sometimes even
the search engines themselves to get their information listed at the
top of the list of hits. The union in South Africa would probably not
have had the resources or the desire to do the same. So its
experience was put on page 346, hundreds of pages away from the first
page where the chemical company was announcing that everything was
just fine. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The
problem of information overload when searching the Web is not only
related to the amount of hits that are displayed, but to the time it
takes to find the relevant hits. I suppose you could sit in front of
the computer and click on <i>Next Page</i> 346 times, but
most labour
activists are busy people and they need the information immediately,
or they lose an opportunity to represent their members or labour
organizations. Even labour people who are hired full time to research
issues, develop training materials or create communication strategies
cannot take the time to fully explore the responses to their
questions. They're overworked and driven from crisis to crisis by
circumstances. Page 346 is not only 346 pages away; it's two or three
hours away. </font></font></span>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; There's
another aspect to this overload of hits. The relevant hits - the ones
of most interest to a unionist web searcher - may be scattered
throughout the million or so hits which are found. It may be that in
all that mess there are two hundred different instances of unions
having trouble with chemical ABC. That many instances probably points
to a pattern: the use of the chemical is causing concerns or health
problems for many unionists. But because the hits are scattered
widely over a vast number of hits the fact that there is a general
problem shared by many unions is not highlighted. An important issue
exists. But unions are left to address it in isolated ways and
thereby are not learning from each other, sharing resource material,
or banding together to start a campaign.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Now
consider this: If you are a worker who has a question such as "Is
asbestos dangerous?" and you visit a cybercaf&eacute; to query
Google, what happens when you don't see any union sites in the first
few pages? (Most people don't even get past the initial ten hits). Well
first of all, you probably won't get any information supplied
by a union, so you won't be getting the full story. But secondly, and
most importantly, you are left with the impression that unions don't
care about the issue. The labour movement is not seen in the debate.
It's invisible. And invisible quickly translates into: doesn't exist.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; That
is what we addressing in this essay: the disappearance of the labour
movement as working people start to depend more and more on the Web
for information, news, social interaction and education. Out of site;
out of mind. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><br>




      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%; text-align: center;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font face="Arial, sans-serif"><font size="3"><b>Data
and Information for Knowledge-building</b></font></font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3"> Working
people are starting to depend more on the Web for a variety of
reasons: they are using it as a tool at the workplace, as an
information source for personal interests and entertainment, as a
political instrument, as a way of socializing, and for education. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; For
unionists the important consideration is that many workplaces are
becoming increasingly interconnected with the Web's resources. The
boundary between a workplace and the outside world used to be defined
physically (the factory supplying the just-in-time supplies was 20
kilometres away) or via communications such as the dial-up telephone
or the fax machine. Either way there was a distinction between the
workplace and the other place. Connections had to be temporarily
created (as with the telephone) to be put into effect. No more.
Millions of workplaces, even if they are not formally connected in
any business-to-business or business-to-client sense, are connected
to every other workplace on the Web, all the time. That means
millions of working people, especially those in economically advanced
nations, but also in the developing world, can interact with each
other and the resources of the Web as part of their jobs. And they
do.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The
key to understanding more clearly what is happening to many
workplaces today is the distinctions which exist between data,
information and knowledge. Data are raw words and numbers. Think of
telephone numbers and addresses displayed randomly, all in a mess.
Information is created when data are organized into understandable
categories, such as the columns in a telephone book. The potential
for creating information is limited only by the amount of data and
the possible combinations. Knowledge, on the other hand, is built
when new data is found, manipulated into information and presented in
ways which increases human understanding about something. The
potential for knowledge-building is limited only by the human
imagination. But here's the important point: what is one person's
categorized, useful information can be another person's disorganized,
useless data. The Web can produce many hits on various subjects and
these can be combined to provide information, especially for
companies, entrepreneurs, students and the like. But to a unionist
looking for specific labour-related information all the hits the Web
throws up are just noise, random data because they are not pertinent
to the needs of the union. What is needed is a list of hits which
pertain specifically to labour. Only when that labour-specific list
is complied or displayed do the hits become useful information for
the unionist. Then the information can be used to produce knowledge
(such as how a particular group of workers can protect themselves
against the effects of a chemical in their workplace.)</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; It
is important to better understand this process of translating data to
information and then to knowledge because it is changing how millions
of us work. By producing the Internet (with its sub-component, the
Web) and other information handling technologies such as the
telephone, fax and photocopier, humankind is once again re-defining
what it is to work. A hundred years ago work, for the most part,
meant physical labour on the farm or the mine or the factory. Today
it means, for millions of workers, data-collection,
information-handling and knowledge-building. If a hundred years ago
you had told a mine worker or a fisherman that people could make a
living manipulating words or numbers on a screen you would have been
thought crazy and ignored. If you communicate to workers today
without understanding how they work electronically via the Web and
other technologies you won't be thought crazy. You'll be ignored. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; It's
not just the economically-advanced countries which are affected by
the advent of information-handling tools either. Developing
countries are also affected. Some countries such as India and China
are adopting information-handling and knowledge creation (in the form
of call centres, computer programming firms, insurance data-handling
companies and more) in order to create employment for sections of
their workforces. But for the most part developing countries are
being left out of the economic advances being spurred on by the Web
and other information technologies. They lack the structures, such as
the wide-spread use of credit cards or bank accounts, which are
needed to take advantage of Internet-based commercial activity. And
their educational frameworks are weak. The result is that they are
not able to participate in the global Internet-based economy where
transactions worth trillions of dollars are conducted everyday. That
translates into lost opportunities for increasing employment
(especially for young people), spending on health care and improving
educational systems. Still, the opportunities for engaging workers in
developing countries in Web or Internet-based activity is growing,
especially because of the rapid spread of cellphone technology. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%; text-align: center;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font face="Arial, sans-serif"><font size="3"><b>Education
for l'earning a living</b></font></font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3"> Understanding
how to provide educational opportunities is the key to engaging
workers in information-handling and knowledge-creation enterprises,
plus provide potential for growth in the developing world. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Workers
engaged in information-handling and knowledge building are what I
call <span style="font-weight: bold;">l'earners </span>-
people who earn a living by learning on the job. They manipulate words
and numbers to produce information and
knowledge to serve their enterprise and its clients. They do so
within a range of learning opportunities which runs from none to
infinite. For example, clerks who manipulate insurance data day in
and day out do not have many opportunities for learning more about
their work or the company. At the other end of the range architects
can learn from their projects as long as they continue working. Most
l'earners are employed between the two extremes. They learn a little
or a lot as they go along. But what all l'earners have in common is
the desire to learn and the ability to do so, sometimes in
astonishingly rapid and effective ways. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; A
case in point. In 1980 there were maybe a few hundred microcomputers
in the work world, if that. By 1990 there were tens of thousands of
computers plugged into workplaces all over the world. The typewriter -
remember typewriters? - disappeared in less than ten years. How
did that happen? It happened because of two factors. First, people
employed in information and knowledge-building workplaces have a
tremendous desire to learn. It comes with the job. Because they
manage information and knowledge for a living they are stimulated to
want to continue learning. What's more, because they usually have a
higher level of education, they have learned how to learn. Secondly,
the vast amount of learning which occurs everyday is not the formal
product of schools or company training programs. It is produced by
people working out problems by themselves or in groups. It happens
wherever people are, but especially in locales designed especially to
address problems and produce solutions, such as workplaces. The
microcomputer was introduced into thousands of workplaces by people
who never took a computer course. They learned how to work
microcomputers by themselves, or more often, by asking people around
them. They will do the same in the future as new tools are introduced
- whether those tools incrementally advance a technology (such as
cellphones) or are tremendously disruptive (like microcomputers or
the Web).</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The
growth of sectors of the workforce engaged in information-handling
and knowledge-building has two major consequences which should
concern union organizers. The first is that most l'earners need
constant access to new learning opportunities in order to keep up
with the changes in their work. They need life-long learning. The
second is that millions of workers are frustrated because they are
not provided opportunities for this learning. While it is true that
the vast amount of learning that takes occurs in workplaces is
informal peer-to-peer activity, workers understand that this informal
learning could be built upon to produce even more advances which
could improve their lives at the workplace and at home.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Some
unions are taking advantage of this situation to motivate their
activists, build greater membership loyalty to the union, recruit new
members, and present unions as engaged in the new electronic world
being created instead of being seen as leftovers from a fading
industrialism. The British public employee union UNISON is an
example. Encouraged by the country's Trade Union Congress' campaign
for life-long learning, it is providing access to education for its
members and potential members. It provides educational opportunities
ranging from entry-level programs for workers wanting to return to
formal learning all the way up to the provision of degrees in
cooperation with Britain's Open University. The TUC and UNISON know
that workers in economies which are increasingly based on
information-handling and knowledge creation need access to life-long
learning and just-in-time learning. They also know that unions will
be seen by workers as influential actors in the new knowledge-based
economies (and sectors of economies) if they negotiate educational
and training provisions in collective agreements, create
opportunities for working people to re-join the formal educational
processes of the country, and lobby governments for the educational
rights of people in the workplace. All this educational activity
could be supported by a LabourWeb searcher which helps people find
the uniquely labour oriented view of the subjects and issues they are
studying. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Initiatives
such as UNISON's are vital to the growth and development of the
labour movement. However, considering that the vast amount of
learning which occurs in workplaces is informal peer-to-peer, there
is a need to augment labour's efforts by also supporting just-in-time
learning opportunities.</font></font></p>




      <br>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%; text-align: center;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font face="Arial, sans-serif"><font size="3"><b>Just-In-Time
Learning</b></font></font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3"> Carefully
planned and scheduled educational activity is a vital component in
any educational endeavour. That's why one-day workshops, week-long
schools and multi-year courses exist in the labour movement. But the
overwhelming amount of education that occurs amongst working people
is based on informal exchanges prompted by whatever is the issue of
the day. Shop stewards, for example, are constantly confronted with
new situations for which they need immediate answers. If they're
fortunate, and their union has the resources, they can refer the
question to a union expert. But even then they may not have the time
to contact the union headquarters. They certainly don't have time to
take a course. They don't even have time to figure out who to
contact. They need to learn something immediately. They need
Just-In-Time learning. JIT is the provision of opportunities for
learning about a subject at the exact time the need arises.
Traditionally labour activists would practice JIT by asking other
workers or phoning other unions. But the advent of the World Wide Web
has enhanced the possibilities for JIT tremendously. The challenge
is to filter all the unorganized data the Web supplies into
information which can be turned into useful knowledge. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Let's
say you're a union president and you've just been asked to attend a
workplace meeting with the employer on HIV AIDS. And let's say you know
little about the problem, and even less about how unions are
reacting to the pandemic. What can you do? Try this: go to Google and
type in HIV / AIDS. How many hits do you get? A recent search
displayed more than 25 million. Try a little more advanced search
statement: HIV /AIDS UNIONS. That's better. Some unions are listed
on the first page. But still, there are 5 million hits in total and
they are mixed with results from the European Union, the American
Civil Liberties Union, the Cambridge Students' Union, the Canadian
Credit Union and so on. You could of course keep refining your
search statements. Google supplies more than ten commands for
creating a more focused search statement in its "Advanced"
page. But 95 per cent of people rarely use them (probably scared by
the word "advanced"). </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The
point is that the Web is the greatest educational resource ever to be
made available for the just-in-time learning needs of union
activists, but it can be an overwhelming experience for most people.
What is needed is a labour-specific web searcher which automatically
narrows searches to unions or other labour organization sites and
provides suggested links to other web resources. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; But
there's more. The impression should not be left that JIT on the
LabourWeb is only about getting a focused display of hits. JIT labour
learners need guidance. They need to know, for instance, the ten
most relevant hits that labour people knowledgeable in the topic
would suggest for beginners in the topic. They need canned ten-minute
lessons on the subject they trying to learn about written by labour
people. They need a forum of labour activists in which they can pose
basic questions. They need a LabourWeb searcher. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Just
in time learning on the LabourWeb could prove very important to an
approach to unionism that many in the movement feel should be
promoted more strongly. This approach, called "organizing the
organized" emphasizes the constant organizing of union members
to participate in their union's activities. It is in contrast to the
"servicing" model where union representatives are given
problems (such as an unfair disciplinary action) to solve with
minimal involvement of the member. This leads to an insurance
industry approach to unionism: members see the payment of union dues
as insurance premiums which earn them protection if they ever get
into trouble. An organizing the organized approach on the other hand
is aimed at getting more people to be constantly active in their
unions. Yes, it is unlikely that all members in a union will become
active, but at least with an organizing the organized approach the
circle of union activists will widen. What's more, unions that adhere
to the approach position themselves for discovering new ways of
involving their members that they probably would never have
discovered. UNISON's programme for involving its members in
educational activities (both union and academic) is an example of a
very effective organizing the organized approach. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; At
the core of the approach is education. Opportunities for stimulating
learning about unionism and the role of the union are constantly
available: A promotion is granted by favouritism. Rumours of lay-offs
are in the air. The company annual profit-loss statement is
released. A new technology is introduced. The informal economy of the
city has produced another death as street -sellers hawk their goods
in traffic. The idea is to seize opportunities for organizing people
into discussions about their working conditions and what they can do
to improve them. However, just starting a discussion is useless
unless it brings in new information which can be applied to the
problem at hand. Anything else is just idle chatter which repeats
old, probably discredited, arguments and failed solutions. In order
to build the new knowledge which is necessary, new information is
needed just in time for the discussion to have its most potent
effect. A LabourWeb searcher which is available 24 hours a day from
anywhere in the world could provide the labour-specific information
that is needed for a particular group of workers to move from
unfocused complaining to unionized action.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Just-In-Time
learning about labour's views, struggles and solutions using
technologies such as a LabourWeb searcher can be crucial to the
development of unionism at the local and national level. But it can
be equally important to the development of the international labour
movement, especially given the expanding effects of globalization.
The current round of globalization is based on the intermingling of
economies, the creation of new international governing bodies such as
the World Trade Organization and the International Criminal Court,
plus the strengthening of long-standing establishments such as the
International Labour Organization (which defines basic international
labour standards). A realignment of how we trade and govern ourselves
internationally is taking place. And it's all relatively new. The
start of the current round of globalization can be arguably set to
about 1989 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the introduction
of the microcomputer connected to the Internet and the Web. The
result is that labour organizations all around the world have had to
grapple with issues such as free and fair trade, intellectual
property rights, migration and global governance. Not surprisingly,
these organizations vary in their views about globalization, its
effects and potential responses. There is no one labour view about
globalization. What the American labour movement thinks about free
trade may not be what the Tanzanian movement thinks. There is a need
for a global labour discussion about the issues - a discussion which
involves grass root unionists, national leaders, and international
labour activists. And this discussion cannot be relegated to the
occasional international conference. It needs to be conducted at the
local and national level when opportunities promoted by yet another
effect of the phenomena. What's more, it needs to be nourished with
labour-specific information which can lead to the knowledge necessary
for promoting a globlalization tied to social as well as economic
advances. Some of this information can be provided by the
international labour organizations such as the ITUC and the Global
Unions. But they are under-resourced, under-staffed, and overloaded.
What is needed is a marshalling of all the information that exists
about labour's reactions to globalization, especially the information
on the Web, in coherent and easily searchable ways to help unionists
in their discussions, when they need it.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The
fact is that labour <i>is</i> having a grassroots, local,
national
and international discussion about globalization. But it's so
disordered that at the international level it is impossible to see,
never mind understand. It's scattered across thousands of web sites
and a few email lists. It's being held in many languages. And it
ranges across an immense list of topics. A LabourWeb searcher
however, would be able to bring focus to the discussion by making
visible the content of all the labour web sites in the world in
easily searched and categorized ways with simultaneous access to
labour people knowledgeable about the topics.</font></font></span></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"></p>




      
      
      
      <div style="text-align: center;"><font color="#000000"><font face="Arial, sans-serif"><font size="3"><b>Online
news, learning and research </b></font></font></font></div>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3"> But
it's not only the discussion about globalization which would be
served by the use of a LabourWeb searcher. The searcher could also be
used for finding labour news, supporting online (via computer
communication) learning and labour research.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The
web searcher would be used quite effectively for labour journalism
and news reporting. For example, news could be searched according to
sector, topic, region or other criteria. The ITUC, the Global Union
Federations and the national labour federations produce news every
day. But, like much of the news on the Web, it can be difficult to
assimilate because there's so much of it scattered amongst so many
sites and it's impossible to search as a single entity. Meanwhile,
the labour news service LabourStart has been remarkably successful in
providing labour news using a combination of computer tools and
labour activists. LabourStart deserves to supported by more labour
organizations. It should also be augmented by the parallel
development of a LabourWeb searcher which could search all the text
of union-created news items.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Labour
educators could use the the LabourWeb searcher to look for material
other educators have produced, find information for developing course
materials, and build online activities into their courses. This last
possibility has the potential to greatly expand the reach of labour
education. The ideal situation in labour education is to have the
participants all in one room so they can learn through peer work and
discussion. But distance education can enhance these activities by
allowing the participants to work in online computer conferences
before the face-to-face activity and provide group support
afterwards. This sort of blended distance learning (which blends
face-to-face with online education) allows labour educators to design
programs where participants can stay in their workplaces and attend
occasional residential activities. Online learning has been proven to
provide effective labour education which promotes community and
collaborative work. A LabourWeb searcher could support its growth.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; And,
of course, unionists would also find a LabourWeb searcher useful for
research. The LabourWeb can be considered a huge database of
labour-related information being used every day by thousands of
labour activists. And it's growing. If it could be questioned in easy
but effective ways it could prove to be the greatest aide to labour
researchers ever produced. It could prove especially effective for
unionists in developing countries. For example, while microcomputers
are widespread amongst central labour federations in the developing
world (even if these computers are old and underpowered) individual
unions do not have much access to the technology. But cellphone use
is expanding at a fantastic rate even in the poorest regions of the
world. Workers researching a topic, such as a new chemical being used
in the plant, or the laws related to child labour, could use their
cellphones to send requests for information to the database and the
people using it, and then hang up. Later, a text message could be
sent providing the requested information or saying that some
background material could be mailed. Technology does not have to be
designed only to serve the needs of those in the economically
advanced countries. It could be designed to serve the whole labour
community, even in its poorest regions. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The
first step though is to start making the LabourWeb more visible on
the Web so people can see its potential for focused labour research
and education.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%; text-align: center;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font face="Arial, sans-serif"><font size="3"><b>Where's
Labour?</b></font></font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3"> There
is a series of books for children called "Where's Waldo?"
about a tiny cartoon character who is lost in a big picture of
animals, cars, houses and whatever. The object is to find him - and
he's not easy to find. He's almost invisible in all the stuff. Labour
on the Web these days is a little like Waldo. It's almost
invisible in all the stuff.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Partly
this is because the search engines are designed for commercial
purposes. Type "lay-offs"in Google and you'll get lots of
advice about how not to get laid off, or what to do after a lay-off,
by booksellers, newspapers and employment companies. You'll even get
advice on how to implement lay-offs if you're a boss. But nothing
from a union. Try a few other searches yourself: type in "poor
wages", "firings", "employee health plans"
"health and safety" - the kind of keywords a person with a
problem at work might enter. If you are a unionist you will become
quickly discouraged. Nowhere in the first two or three pages (which
are more than most people view) can you find a union offering to
give advice or help. The only conclusion a worker surfing the web can
come to is that unions are not involved in these issues and don't
care.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; This
invisibility is partly a product of the number of hits general
keywords such as "lay-offs"produce and the importance
general search engines allocate to unions. But it's also because
unions have exclusively concentrated on building their own web sites.
And the central labour federations, which are responsible for
promoting labour in societies, do not have the resources or the
inclination to become actors on the wider Web. So the Web, as
portrayed by the search engines, is left to be seen as a non-union
environment. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; It
gets worse. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The
single biggest phenomena to hit the Web, second only to its
commercialization in the 1990s, is the growth of social networking.
Millions of people are participating in the Web to find friends,
share pictures, recommend interesting links, talk about issues,
provide news, and more. If you define social movement as "people
moved to do something socially" it is the most important social
movement in the history of humankind. And through all this the labour
"movement" is nowhere to be found. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Don't
believe me? Try an experiment. Go the site called del.icio.us which
describes itself as a social bookmarks manager. It is used by
millions of people to share their lists of important Web links.
Enter: "poor wages". Not one union website is linked.
(When I did this search the top hit was a site by the libertarian
economist Thomas DeLorenzo entitled "How 'Sweatshops' help the
poor".) Enter the word "unions". The result is a
little better. The Australian Council of Unions is linked to an
article on how to join a union. The LabourStart site is marked. And
the Global Unions site is mentioned on page two. But the
preponderance of hits involves anti-union newspapers articles and
websites such as "The Evil of Swedish Labour Unions",
"Death to Unions" and unrelated hits such as "Same-sex
unions". Try another experiment. The Web has thousands of
discussion groups aimed at topics ranging from Apple picking to Zebra
breeding. Try to find one which discusses the international labour
movement and its issues. You can't. It doesn't exist. There is no
central place on the Web for a worker in Africa or anywhere else to
ask a question like "I've heard of something called the ITUC -
what is it?". This is not just an information-providing issue.
It's related to the visibility of labour on the Web. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; All
this has an obvious implication: if the labour movement is invisible
on the Web, the next generation of workers will not see it as helpful
or relevant and this will contribute to a further decline in labour
membership numbers and therefore our power to represent the interests
of working people nationally and internationally. That is a serious
consequence for anybody who believes that unions are still the best
instruments working people have to protect themselves and improve
their working conditions.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; An
even more serious consequence of the invisibility of the labour
movement is that its political views are also lost amongst all the
noise on the Web. Since its inception the labour movement has been a
major source of politically left views on the conduct of government,
the role of employers, the social and educational needs of workers,
the end-purpose of economic activity and much more. If labour's voice
is lost or outshouted on the Web, society loses a major proponent of
a way of thinking that says the goal of the actors in economic
activity - such as governments and corporations - is to provide full
employment, adequate education, decent social protection and time to
enjoy life. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The
Web is having a civilization-changing influence on how humankind
thinks and learns as well as how it manages the creation, stocking
and manipulation of knowledge. If Labour wants to play a part in this
it has to start making itself more visible to its members, potential
members and the public. One instrument, in the whole array of
instruments which will be needed to do this, is the development of a
tool which highlights labour on the Web. We need a LabourWeb
searcher. Read on. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Or
not. If you've gotten this far you've got the basic idea: There's a
part of the World Wide Web which consists of all the labour-related
sites, mailing lists and databases which we can call the LabourWeb.
We can take advantage of this LabourWeb by developing a
labour-specific search engine tied to communication tools such as
computer conferencing, email, site hosting, radio and Internet
telephoning. What follows is a more detailed description of the
technology - how it is being designed and how it could be designed. You
could stop here and still be involved in the project by using the
SoliComm web searcher (at www.solicomm.net). But if you are
interested in how SoliComm will be designed with the help of
unionists like you, read on. </font></font>
      </p>




      <br>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%; text-align: center;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font face="Arial, sans-serif"><font size="3"><b>What
is a labour designed technology?</b></font></font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"> But
before we can discuss the development of a labour-designed technology
such as a LabourWeb searcher we have to define what a technology is.
This is important because the prevailing definition is based on an
engineering orientation which minimizes the role of people. Our job
as technology organizers (for that is what we are if we design
technologies within the labour movement) is to do the opposite: it is
to <i>maximize</i> the role of people and their capabilities. &nbsp;</font></font></span></p>



      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Here
is an engineer's definition of a technology: a technology is <span style="">a
tool (hardware, software or mental) which is used to solve problems.
The great difficulty with this definition is that it excludes people.
It is as if technologies were not to be used by or for people. By
omitting men and women in the process of designing and using tools
the definition excludes public debate, corporate interests,
governmental action, cultural imperatives, psychological
orientations, fun, love, sex and more. This is the definition
adhered to by the designers of Google as they try to build a search
engine which can act on its own without the intervention of people. </span></font></font></span>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span style=""><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Here is a more people-inclusive definition
of technology: A
technology is a tool (hardware, software or mental) which is used <i>by
groups of people </i>to solve problems. Technologies become
technologies (as opposed to scientific entities) once they come out
of the lab into use by people. And they are used by <i>groups</i>
of
people because that is how we organise ourselves (technologies are
rarely designed for one person.) A technology is a tool (such as a
computer system) <i>plus</i> people. This way of thinking
about
technology is especially important for unionists because unions get
their power when people work together in groups to improve their
employment conditions. If we are going to design a technology, such
as a LabourWeb searcher, we should do it with the idea of enhancing
the power of people to work in groups.</font></font></span></span></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The labour news service,
LabourStart, is a concrete example of how a technology is designed
along labour-oriented principles. Its designer, Eric Lee, would be
the first to acknowledge that LabourStart is not the collection of
programming tools he has written. Nor is it an attempt to write
programs which automatically go out into the World Wide Web to find
labour-related news stories. Instead, its core function is to enable
a group of labour activists from many parts of the world, working in
many languages, to pick news stories that they think the
international labour community would find interesting and useful.
LabourStart is an example of the technology organizer's definition of
technology: a tool plus people.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Another example: in 1983, while I
was director of the computer department of the Canadian Union of
Public Employees (CUPE), I introduced the microcomputer and the
country's first Local Area Network to the union as tools for
accounting, word processing, databases and other applications. At the
same time I designed a communications system (called SoliNet) to run
in parallel with the tools. This allowed people to discuss how the
tools were used and the problems associated with their use such as
health and safety concerns. SoliNet became the first union-owned
computer conferencing and email system in the world. It was opened to
the whole labour movement, national and international, and spawned a
number of important projects such as the first online labour
education courses and the first home for LabourStart. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><span style="">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Tools
plus people; that's the labour way of organizing technology. It is
also quickly becoming the way to create powerful software
applications which labour can use to design technologies for itself.
The "free, open source software" movement is producing a
radical change in how humankind interacts with computer technology.
Open source software is </span>software whose "source code"
- the underlying instructions telling the computer what to do - is
made available to the public. Anybody can copy it, change it and
redistribute it without paying fees or royalties. Open source
programs develop though community collaboration involving thousands
of volunteer programmers as well as very large companies such as Sun
and IBM. It is the largest collaborative learning phenomena is the
history of the world. And, not surprisingly given its historical
consequence, the free, open source movement is not without its
controversies. For example, the word "free" which is often
used alone or in conjunction with the words "open source"
does not refer only to lack of usage charges, but to "freedom".
That raises important political, social and economic questions and
distinctions (for example, the system I designed in the early 1980's,
SoliNet, was open source, but not free, because we had to pay to
license the underlying program). However, as important as the
discussion is, we don't have the space to explore it more fully
here.</font></font></span></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; What
is important to understand about the open source movement is that
labour organizations can use its products for the production of
computer systems and software distribution programs which would have
cost millions of dollars just a few years ago. For example, I
provide the participants in my computer technology courses a CD which
includes software for word-processing, spreadsheets, databases,
presentations, email, web-browsing, web site creation and more, all
free of charge. Many of the programs we use in our central computer
systems, such as our email, web searching and database services,
which five years ago would have cost tens of thousands of dollars,
are open source. These sorts of programs allow us to leverage our
hardware resources to enable technology projects that in the 1990s</font></font><font size="2"><font face="Helv, sans-serif"><font color="#000000">
      </font></font></font><font size="3"><font color="#000000">would have
been considered airy dreams. The challenge is to marshal our human
and technical resources to take advantage of the opportunities the
free, open source movement is providing in order to create
technologies which serve labour's goals - technologies such as a
LabourWeb searcher.</font></font></span></p>





      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%; text-align: center;"><font color="#000000">
      <b><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font face="Arial, sans-serif">A
Labour Search Engine<sup>+</sup></font></font></span></b></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3"> A
LabourWeb searcher can be considered a search engine plus. It has
the tools which enable web sites to be searched (rather like Google)
plus the communication systems to augment the searches with human
participation. If somebody searches for "job security" for
instance, the hits are displayed &agrave; la Google, but at the
same
time the person is provided an opportunity to explore the issue in
networks of real live unionists. Hence the descriptor: participative
Web searcher. What follows is a description of a LabourWeb searcher
divided in two sections: the search engine component and the
communication systems.</font></font></p>





      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><b><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><font face="Arial, sans-serif">The
search engine component</font> </font></font></span></b>
      </p>






      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3"> A Web search engine is an information retrieval
system which searches
for information on the Web. The engine takes one or more key words a
user types into a box on a web page (a query) and displays "hits"
- places on the Web where the words can be found. These hits are
accompanied by the URLs (the web addresses where the material can be
found). The hits which are displayed are ordered by criteria set by
the search engine company. For example, Google uses its system called
PageRank to determine where on the list of hits a page should be put.
It assumes that pages with the most links from other pages are more
important and should rise to the top. If you enter "job
security" Google will provide you a list of pages which have the
term and order the pages like this: : hit 1 (a page which includes
500 links to it), hit 2 (300 links). . . hit 3,000 (2 links). In
other words if you want a page to be put at the top of a Google
search result make sure it has a lot of links to it. (It's a little
more complicated than that, but that's the basic idea.) Some search
engines, not Google, will mix hits found in the normal way with hits
paid for by clients who want top placement for their pages.
Google will place an advertiser's page at the top, in a shaded area
separate from the other hits. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Google's
PageRank system is why when you type in "union" you see
"Union College, Schenectady, NY" (which is unrelated to the
labour movement) at the top of the list. The Union College home page
(the first page on its web site) has more links to it than the
AFL-CIO's (the US central labour federation) which is fifth on the
list. Labour's major international federation - the International
Trade Union Congress - is nowhere to be seen. (I gave up searching
for it after the first ten pages). If every labour site in the world
included a link to the ITUC's home page <i>it</i> would be
at the top
of the list. </font></font></span>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Search
engines consist of three main components: 1) a program which searches
for keywords on the Web (called the "crawler"), 2) a index
of all the keywords which were found, and 3) the query processor
(which is the program you interact with when you enter a query and
see a list of found links). When you use Google you are working
with its query processor. It goes to its massive index of keywords,
finds the words and then displays them, along with the URL where the
words can be found. In the background the crawler searchers the Web
or parts of it every so often to refresh its list of keywords.
Simple, no?</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Well,
it might be if the Web consisted of a few sites. But there are more
than 80 million sites in the world and the number is increasing every
day. Crawling, indexing and displaying results from all those sites
adds up to a massive task. It also results in phenomena such as the
labour movement disappearing amongst the millions of sites. The
answer is to build a search engine aimed specifically at labour
sites. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; There
are two basic kinds of search engines: <span style="font-style: italic;">general</span> (also called generic
or horizontal) and <span style="font-style: italic;">specialized</span> (also called topical or vertical).
Google is a general search engine. SoliComm is a specialized one.
The major difference is that general search engines are aimed at the
whole web. Specialized engines are aimed at a specific number of
sites chosen by a person or team. When it began SoliComm was aimed at
300 of the largest labour websites in the world with a total of 1
million web pages. Nobody is sure how many labour websites there are,
but let's guess at 1,000. The goal of SoliComm's search engine is to
provide better search results from those 1,000 than Google or any
other general search engine can.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; A
specialized search engine can provide better results in its field
than a general one for a number of reasons. First it automatically
supplies the context in which the query is posed. If you type the
word privatisation in the SoliComm query box your search is
automatically focused on labour union web sites. The results are not
mixed up with hits from the European Union, credit unions, and
university student unions. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Secondly,
a specialized search engine can probe deeper into sites to look at
all their pages. Google, because it is a general search engine aimed
at indexing the whole Web, necessarily has to restrict the number of
pages it looks at. Normally that means about 90% of the site is
indexed, which is impressive. But what about the other 10%? It could
include important content which is being missed. This content adds up
to a huge amount of information which is not accessible to unionists
trying to search the LabourWeb. A specialized search engine,
however, can be focused on a particular set of sites (instead of the
whole Web) and therefore provide more comprehensive results. SoliComm
is designed to search 100% of the sites in its list.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; A
specialized engine could also provide better results than the general
search engines by providing access to the labour part of what has
become known as the "deep web". The deep web is the
information general search engines cannot access. It includes
databases which demand a username/password combination before their
data can be displayed and web pages which are presented only after a
user has entered a query in the website's search box. General search
engines cannot plug in usernames and passwords. They cannot put in
queries to call up web pages otherwise inaccessible. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; We
are not sure how much information is contained in labour's section of
the deep web, but it is probably substantial. A specialized search
engine could make this information accessible to union researchers
and educators in two ways. First, labour web editors (sometimes
called webmasters) could supply an index of all the web pages in
their sites which general search engines do not have access to.
SoliComm, or some other LabourWeb searcher, could then include these
indexes in its central index and thereby make the pages available to
unionists. Or, if the union web sites are using databases compatible
with the specialized search engine it could be trained to work with
the databases directly. Either way, the union web editors are more
likely to allow this sort of activity because they know that by doing
so they are not contributing to the commercial interests of Google
and the like, but instead to a search engine controlled by the labour
movement for its purposes.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The
cooperation of labour web editors in the development of a LabourWeb
searcher could be extended in other ways. For example, we could begin
a process of what I term site-bonding. This is when sites begin to
include elements from other sites. The news feed provided by
LabourStart to union sites around the world is a clear example of
site-bonding. The sites which carry the feed (the stream of news
stories) from LabourStart have bonded to it. The result is mutually
advantageous: the union sites get regular updates of labour news and
LabourStart gets access to more readers. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Site
bonding for a LabourWeb searcher could involve a number of
strategies. Most obvious would be insertion of search boxes on union
web sites. Google does this; SoliComm, or another LabourWeb searcher,
could do the same. A unionist entering keywords into the SoliComm
box on her site in Sri Lanka would be provided with focussed
information from union sites all over the world. The opportunities
for just-in-time labour research and education would be significantly
increased. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Another
bonding strategy would be to create an automatically updated and
searchable list of labour sites, classified by particular categories,
which web editors could include on their sites. The Web searcher
could automatically group unions according to categories such as
employment sectors, job classifications, regions and particular
issues such as privatization. It would make that group searchable on
its own, as a subset of the LabourWeb. And finally it would put the
list on all the union web sites subscribed to it. The list would be
updated every time a web editor somewhere applied a new category to
her web site. Members visiting their union's site would see a list
of categorized links which would be updated every time a new union
was added to the category. In this way unionists could search within
their sector or for particular issues. The key would be to have web
editors use a web page element called a "meta tag" to help
categorize their sites. A meta tag is a description such as "public
employees" that a web editor puts at the top part of their
pages, in a hidden section. They were popular a few years ago, but
then some commercial elements started misusing them in order to fool
search engines such as Google. (For example, a tag like "education"
would point to a gambling site). However, union web editors could be
trusted to not maliciously misdirect people with fake meta tags. The
result would be a categorized view of all the labour sites in the
world, automatically updated by union web editors working on their
own sites. Sites on the LabourWeb could have a live links page
connected to every other labour organization site in the world. The
LabourWeb would become much more visible and therefore more useful.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The
categorizing of the LabourWeb by union web editors could be augmented
by computer power. When SoliComm searches the labour sites in its
target list it creates a table of keywords. This table could be used
to create categories and links to sites which include resources
connected to those categories. The categories could be created by
analyzing the number of keywords. If there were substantial instances
of a particular keyword on more than 25 sites on the LabourWeb then
it's a likely possibility that it represents a category labour people
are interested in. Then the sites from where the keywords came from
could be analyzed to see which of them had a high percentage of a
particular keyword and the site could be put into a specific category
in an index. For example, if "migration"is found as a
keyword in more than 25 sites it would be declared a LabourWeb
keyword. Then the sites which contain a high percentage of the
keyword word would be listed in a category called migration. This is
not the place to exactly define the strategies and algorithms by
which LabourWeb sites could be tagged and analyzed. However, the idea
should be clear by now: by recruiting union web editors to categorize
their sites and augment that human endeavour with computing power we
could end up with an organized and usable view of the LabourWeb.</font></font></p>





      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font face="Arial, sans-serif"><font size="3"><b>Searching
the Whole Wide Web</b></font></font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3"> Still,
as important as it is to make the LabourWeb more visible, we cannot
forget that unionists are also searching the whole Web for
information which could help them in their union work. We need to
also consider how people in the labour movement look at and use the
Web in its entirety. Two strategies could be adopted: we could
create a live links pages of the whole Web, and we could use a Web
meta search engine.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Most
union web sites have a page where they suggest exterior Web links.
These pages make up an important resource because union web editors
have chosen sites they think would be valuable to their members.
These links would be useful to other unionists as well. By collecting
all the links on these pages, and of course eliminating the
duplicates, we could produce a directory of the Web created by union
web editors. SoliComm, or another LabourWeb searcher, could be told
to periodically check the union links pages for additions or
deletions and update the global list. The updated list could then be
transmitted to all subscribing union sites. In this way a
particularly labour view of the Whole Wide Web would be provided and
union sites subscribing to the service would have a constantly
updated resource for their members. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; However,
even a global labour links page would not be able to provide a
comprehensive search of the whole Web for unionists. To do this we
need a meta search engine.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; A
meta search engine is one which works on top of a number of
individual search engines. It collects a query from a user and then
sends that query to all the search engines it works with. For
example, SoliComm has built into it a meta search engine called
Ixquick. When you enter keywords into the box on SoliComm which says
"Search all the Web" they are passed to Ixquick, which in
turn sends them to 12 search engines such as Yahoo and MSN. The
displayed hits are the ones which were found from searching all 12
search engines. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The
first advantage to SoliComm's use of a meta search engine is that 12
engines are better than one for producing results. The second
advantage is related to privacy. When you use a search engine like
Google every one of your searches is captured and put into a file
about you. These searches are never deleted. They are kept in order
to build up a profile on you so you can be targeted more effectively
by advertisers. The profile becomes even more detailed if you use a
related service offered by the company, such as Gmail, Google's
email service. In Gmail all the words in your emails are searched in
order to aim particular ads at you. If you have been using Google and
Gmail for a few years, Google has a lot of information about you,
more than you know. And it's not just Google that does this, most of
the other search engines operate in the same way because that's how
they make money. So if you are a unionist searching on keywords such
as "strikes" or "union organizing" you should
know that you're being watched. What's more governments are forcing
the search engines, even Google, to secretly provide the information
they have on users under the guise of anti-terrorism activity.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Ixquick
- the meta search engine built into SoliComm - works differently than
most general search engines. It does not store its users'
datastreams. It destroys the personal data of its users after 48
hours. So even if a government were to force it to provide the data
it has on its users, at most there would be only 48 hours worth of
activity to be reported. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Ixquick
is just a temporary solution though. In the next stage of its
development SoliComm will have its own, custom-created, meta-search
engine. The SoliComm meta engine will search multiple search engines
and protect privacy, as does Ixquick, but it will also provide a
unique just-in-time labour research and education notification
facility. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; When
you use a general search engine like Google or Yahoo you are
presented with ads in a side column: "sponsored results"
they are called, as if they were displayed for altruistic reasons not
profit-making. These ads are very effective for the search companies
because they are triggered by words entered by the users themselves. If
the user searches for "car", ads from automobile
companies are displayed. Advertisers love this formula because they
can focus their advertising campaigns at people most likely to
respond. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; A
LabourWeb searcher could do the same, except without the profit
motive. Labour-created notices could be displayed in reaction to
keywords entered by users. For example, if a user searched for
"asbestos" a side column could display notices related to
the search such as the ICEM's campaign against the product, news
stories about compensation awards, policy statements from central
labour federations, and so on. If somebody typed in "poverty"
a side notice could provide a link to the ITUC's anti-poverty
campaign. The idea would be to guide unionists searching the Web to
labour resources, campaigns and other sources of information. The
notification facility, which would also be used in the the SoliComm's
labour-specific search engine, would provide a much more
labour-oriented Web search experience for unionists and the general
public.</font></font></p>






      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Similar
to the notification facility is the related keyword function. In
Google, and other search engines, when a user enters a keyword a
suggested list of related keywords is displayed. For example, if you
search "union" on Google you are presented with the
following list of related searches: union sql, civil war union, union
bank, union c++, union oracle, union jobs, union leader, confederate.
In this list only "union jobs" is related to the labour
movement. What a nice message that
sends to union members looking for information about unions: unions
don't exist to represent their members, they exist to provide jobs
for their leaders and staff. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; A
LabourWeb searcher, like SoliComm, could be designed to produce
related keywords that are more clearly focused on the labour
movement. A search for "unions" could produce a list of
keywords such as: the name of the central labour federation in the
user's country, the International Trade Union Confederation (the
ITUC), collective bargaining, freedom of association, international
labour standards, and so on. The list of keywords related to
particular searches could be devised by panels of subject experts in
the movement. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; A
related keywords facility is important because 95% of search engine
users do not use advanced search commands. They enter a word or two.
If they don't find something relevant in the first page, they try
other words or just give up. The advent of search engines has
produced an historic growth in information searching, but the vast
amount of this searching is at a very primary level. People need
assistance in their searching from automated procedures such as
related keywords and ready-made search statements prepared by subject
experts.</font></font></p>





      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; But
that is not nearly enough. In terms of labour movement organizing it
doesn't matter how many automated procedures we develop to assist
searchers and provide clearer views of the LabourWeb if we do not, at
the same time, build in ways for people to interact, to help
co-unionists with
their searches, to communicate with people in the movement. A labour
technology is not just a tool, like a search engine, but also the
people who use and design it.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><br>




      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font face="Arial, sans-serif"><font size="3"><b>The
Communications Components</b></font></font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"> Two
phenomena are affecting the World Wide Web as we head into the 21st
century: search and social action. The former is changing how we
think and find information. The latter is re-defining how masses of
people interact. Both are provoking radically new ways of creating
knowledge. These two phenomena have been growing up separately, but
they are bound to start converging. The labour movement can wait
until they do and once again <i>react</i> to how the
technology is
designed by others, or we can be part of the design. SoliComm is a
first attempt at being part of the design of the Web so we can
influence the technology as it matures and adjust it towards our
goals. </font></font></span>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Here's
what's happening: Search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, are
providing very powerful ways to find information on the Web. At the
same time social action networks such as Fickr and Del.icio.us are
providing web-based centres for people to share resources (such as
pictures and links). Notice that that the two phenomena - searching
and social action networks - are not connected. When you search on
Google you do not have access to a community of people (like the
community formed by Del.icio.us or Flickr). And when you use the
community resource-sharing centres you are boxed into the system,
with no search facility aimed at the vaster resources on the Web.
Search is being treated as search; community sharing as community
sharing. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; SoliComm
addresses both phenomena in an integrated fashion. It has a search
component which provides a way to work with the LabourWeb (as well as
whole Web). And it has the communication tools to enable communities
to be an integral part of the search experience. When you search on
SoliComm you have, at the same time, in the same system, access to
networks of communities which are part of your information gathering.
      </font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The
section above described SoliComm's search components. The section
below looks briefly at its community communication tools: email, web
site hosting, file sharing and computer conferencing.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; SoliComm
members are automatically given an email account. In these days of
ubiquitous email (at least in the economically advanced countries)
providing an email service may seem superfluous. But thousands of
unionists in developing countries and even the economically-developed
countries still do not have email accounts. We can wait until they
all subscribe to advertising services like Microsoft's Hotmail or we
can take advantage of an historic moment to create a global
communications community by encouraging union members to create and
use their own email system. There are about 1 billion users on the
Web today. By 2012 the number is expected to double to 2 billion.
There are many more people about to join the Web and many of them
will be unionists who need email services. Beyond this opportunity
though there are other reasons for providing email services: SoliComm
provides an environment free of corporatist and sexist advertising.
It offers encrypted email so unionists can talk to each other without
fear of governmental intrusion. And it provides a central directory.
This directory is small right now, limited to SoliComm members. But
it could be used as a global email directory of unionists by
including all email addresses of unions in the world. Since this
directory would be situated in a protected environment commercial
interests such as spammers would not have access to it. However it
could be used by global labour organizations, such as the ITUC, for
mass mailings related campaigns and information distribution. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; A
related service could be a universal spam-protected union email
network. Any email address in SoliComm's directory or any union
domain (the last part of an email address) could be tagged as
allowable through union firewalls (network protection systems). </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Email
in the SoliComm system comes in three modes. It has a Web-based
system which works like Hotmail and similar systems. It has what is
know as a POP system which allows computer based programs (called
"clients") to retrieve mail, read and write while not
connected, and then send created emails when the connection is
activated. The POP system works with programs such as Thunderbird, an
open source equivalent of Outlook (except better). And finally it has
an IMAP facility. This allows you to use programs such as Thunderbird
to work with your email online so you can access your email from
anywhere, but with the capabilities of a a normal email client
program. It's rather like having a combination of Hotmail and
Outlook, except that it's based on open source technologies. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; SoliComm
also has a website creation and hosting service. If we are going to
encourage the use of the Web for labour education we need to provide
labour educators with easy to produce web sites which they can use as
part of their course offerings. Secondly, if we going to promote the
use of the Web by unions we have a responsibility to assist unions
which do not have the money or technical resources to create their
own web sites. SoliComm provides free web site creation and hosting
for unions in developing countries.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; File
sharing is also part of the current SoliComm system. Anybody can
create a folder into which other SoliComm members can transfer and
download files. Online tutors can create private folders to which
only their course participant have access. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; SoliComm
also has a computer conferencing component. (Conferences are often
referred to as "forums"). This allows groups to work in
conferences which are open to the whole SoliComm community or
restricted to only the members of the group. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Computer
conferencing is essential for online labour education. Email is great
for one-to-one communication and one-to-many (think spammers), but it
is not suited for group interaction. For online labour education to
be effective, messages have to be gathered into a common area so that
they can be seen by the whole group, as the work of the group. This
is how solidarity is developed online. And it is group solidarity
that is at the core of labour education because that is where unions
get their power. Emails scattered throughout an in-box that is
littered with spam and full of messages from friends and co-workers
cannot be easily grouped (by normal email users) and therefore the
group collaborative work spirit which is essential to labour
education is very difficult to generate. In conferences all the
members of the group can see the collaborative work they are
producing and solidarity becomes part of the process.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Computer
conferencing, although it has not been seen as such until now, is
also essential to searching on the Web. If you cannot find what you
are looking for on Google what do you do? If you are a relatively
sophisticated Web user you might look for a forum which includes
people that may have the information you are looking for. But that
means leaving the system, finding a possibly relevant forum,
subscribing to the forum, entering a message, and then waiting for
an answer. Most people don't even get to the second page of a Google
search, never mind go through this convoluted process. The result is
that most users simply give up. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; However
if, as they were searching in a labour-specific search engine, a side
column could indicate conferences on the topic, they could go
immediately to that conference. They would not have to leave the
system to go elsewhere to pose their question. In the conference
there would be real people available to help. In this way the
collective information and wisdom of the community- in our case the
labour community - would become part of the search process.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; There
are bits and pieces of this strategy apparent on the Web. People can
use Google. They can join forums. But the two modes have yet to
converge in any substantial way. SoliComm is the first specialized
search engine/communication system to explore this convergence. It
could lead to a new possibilities for how unionists search the Web.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; One
of the possibilities is to extend the system's capabilities to help
labour people interact not only to explore the LabourWeb (with for
example, live labour links pages and conferences on the topic) but
the World Wide Web, all of it. The challenge would be to index the
Web according to the interests and needs of people in the labour
movement. The index would include not just labour-produced resources,
but also point to other resources which could be useful for unionists
in their work. Producing this index and keeping it up to date would
be an immense task. But it would be possible if we take the example
being set by social networks such as Flickr and Del.icio.us and
extend the models they are developing.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Flickr
(picture-sharing) and Del.icio.us (web link-sharing) ask their users
to to label items on their sites with tags (descriptors of the
items). The process of applying these tags, (called, appropriately
enough, "tagging") is leading to a phenomena known as
"folksonomy" where thousands of people tag items such as
articles, pictures and music files. Eventually, the cloud of tags
becomes a way for a community to find stuff. It's an anarchic way of
doing things because everybody can add whatever tags they want, but
eventually the community works out what tags are most effective to
describe particular items and starts categorizing them. The tags
become, in effect, a shared vocabulary by which the community
describes the material it is interested in. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Current
folksonomy systems such as Flickr are limited in that the content
being tagged has to be one one system, put there either by the site
organizers or the people using the system. A more comprehensive
strategy would be to start tagging material that is on the whole Web,
not just an individual system. Consider this: a unionist reading
about child care on a web page somewhere decides that the page
includes information would be of interest to other unionists. She
right clicks on the mouse and chooses "Send to SoliComm".
This opens a form in which she can tag the page, with keywords and a
descriptor sentence, and then send the address of the page to
SoliComm. The information about the page is entered in the SoliComm
Web directory in an existing category or an "other" section
from which new categories can be developed. The power of thousands
of people in the labour movement looking at all the information on
the Web, including that part I've labelled the Labour Web, would be
harnessed to produce a labour-specific view of the Web. The
possibilities for making the Web even more effective for labour
people would be significant. But the effects of an operation like
this would go beyond just the labour movement. Thousands of people on
the political left searching and categorizing information on the Web
would create a considerable body of knowledge which could be applied
to the improvement of the living and working conditions of humankind.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; By
encouraging unionists and others to use a LabourWeb server such as
SoliComm - with both its labour-specific and general search engines-
we could also start building sophisticated analyses of their needs in
order to provide better targeted union resources. Without identifying
individual users we could track how people use the systems: what
issues are being searched? what information is being requested? what
regions are more interested in particular topics? What information is
being tagged? Then we could begin focussing our Web-based information
provision to actual user needs instead of what we think they are or
should be doing on the Web. The key would be to build in stringent
privacy protections. No individual's data traffic would be recorded.
Only the aggregate figures involving the searches made on the system
would be collected. This would be a way of protecting people's
privacy. But also, the very context of the searches minimizes the
danger of gross privacy. People are unlikely to use a specialized
labour search engine to look for personally sensitive information
such as medicines or particular entertainments. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; All
that we have been discussing above is possible today with tools
currently available. We could have a LabourWeb which is more
effectively searchable for unionists. We could have the Whole Wide
Web indexed according to the interests, needs and political
orientation of labour activists. We could make the Web a more useful
instrument for the labour movement. But more importantly, by doing
so, we would position the movement to be a major player in the next
evolutionary step in the maturing of the Web.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><br>




      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%; text-align: center;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font face="Arial, sans-serif"><font size="3"><b>The
Mature Web</b></font></font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3"> The
next stage in the growth of the Web is to make it work more like
computer programs do.</font></font></p>






      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; In
this stage you will be able to pose natural-language questions and
receive answers which will provide the information you want, plus the
information you need, but didn't know to ask for. More importantly
you will able to activate computer programs which will perform
sophisticated tasks on your behalf using all the resources of the
Web. And this has nothing to do with the kind of super-powerful
computers you see on Star Trek or Star Wars. It just means a
different way of coding information on the Web. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB"><font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; It's
called the Semantic Web. Its lead designer is the inventor of the
Web, Tim Berners-Lee, which means it's not just idle chatter or
commercially-oriented hype (such as the currently fashionable "Web
2.0"). </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"><font color="#000000">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Web
pages today - even the most advanced - are really just files of
information which can be read using browsers like Internet Explorer
or its open source equivalent, Firefox. The browsers are used like
low-level readers: here is a headline, here is a link, play this
music, show this video. The pages are not <i>actionable </i><span style="font-style: normal;">by
computers. Computers can't read the pages for instructions on how to
perform acts such going out into the Web to create an original report
on child labour in the textile sector. As the Web matures into what
Berners-Lee calls the Semantic Web, information on the pages will
become computer processable by browsers or </span><i>agents</i><span style="font-style: normal;">
which will find, share, combine and report on information more
easily. The agents, (think of more intelligent browsers) will act
like computer programs which can follow instructions to
automatically perform tasks. A computer user in a country could
provide an agent with a task, previously undefined, such as this: go
find all the collective agreements expiring in the next year or so
which mention chemical hazards, calculate the number of workers
involved, find out the affiliation of their unions to national
federations, and report back with all the email addresses of the
presidents of the unions involved. By tomorrow. The report could be
used to coordinate a national health and safety campaign tied to
current contract negotiations. The individual efforts of the unions
would be made more powerful because they were part of a wider
campaign.</span></font></font></span></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; font-style: normal; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Of course the Semantic Web will
be used for much more than labour related activity. Web users will be
able to do things such as ask their agents to book medical
appointments ("find a doctor in the city who specializes in
migraine headaches and has office hours on Mondays or Tuesday and
bills according to my health care plan, then book an appointment if
there's no conflict with my calendar".) </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; font-style: normal; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; It's called the Semantic Web
because computers will understand the semantics, the meaning, of a
document instead of just interpreting a series of characters. And it
will be created by normal web editors, not just super-techie computer
programmers. The web editors will use software (rather like they use
page-editing programs such as Dreamweaver today) to create web sites
which are capable of providing computers with instructions to do
things automatically in conjunction with other sites. The result will
be a much greater integration of web sites as agents search through
them looking for information relevant to the people who gave them
tasks.</font></font></p>





      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; font-style: normal; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; This is a different way of
thinking about the Web. No longer will web sites be basically stand
alone operations (with a few hyperlinks to other sites). They will be
automatically interactive with other web sites. But to be interactive
they need to be created so that they know what is on the other sites
so they can provide instructions to the computers. This will be
easily done if the sites are commercially oriented. First, because
there will be money to be made in understanding how commercial sites
can be semantically linked. Lots of companies will spring up, just
like lots of companies appeared when the Web become popular in the
mid-1990s. Secondly, the language of commerce is well known. The
language of business on the Web has been the object of intense
activity in the past few years and can be used to make the
connections between sites: the price or cost of this product is this
much, in this or some other currency, and the product can be
delivered in this way, by this time. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; font-style: normal; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; We know much less about the
language of labour on the Web. We don't have clear ideas about how we
construct our web-based information or discussions. Partly that is
because of the invisibility of the LabourWeb. If you can't see the
whole of labour's activity on the Web then you can't see how it uses
words to describe and present its information needs. The words are
vital to the building of web sites which will work on the Semantic
Web because they will be the elements which the new coding procedures
will use to talk to the computers. For example "contract"
will be coded to link to "collective agreement", "expiry
date", "recognition clause" and so on. By coding these
words according to Semantic Web protocols they will automatically be
connected to other sites that perform the same procedure. The key is
to know labour's vocabulary.</font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; font-style: normal; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Fortunately we have a starting
point. When SoliComm searches labour sites it creates a list of
keywords. As more sites are added to to the searches we will be able
to define the vocabulary labour uses on its web sites. And then we
can create software tools to enable ordinary union web editors to
easily add the Semantic Web codes to their sites. In the end we could
have a global database of labour websites which could be
intelligently searched by casual users. Union members and the public
will begin to see the LabourWeb as a whole and make it work for the
labour movement much more interactively and intuitively than today. </font></font>
      </p>








      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; font-style: normal; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB">
      <br>




      </p>






      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; font-style: normal; line-height: 150%; text-align: center;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font face="Arial, sans-serif"><font size="3"><b>A
LabourWeb Action Plan</b></font></font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; font-style: normal; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font size="3">
Words are not enough. If the
labour movement is to build a focused presence on the Web and prepare
for the day it matures into a more intelligently powerful entity we
need to start doing what we do best: organize. Now. We need to start
organizing the people we have on the Web and the resources at our
disposal. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; font-style: normal; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font size="3">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; As a first step SoliComm has
indexed all the web sites of national federations affiliated to the
ITUC and the Global Union Federations In the near future it will
include all the larger unions affiliated to those organizations. (Some
of which are already included) . The smaller unions will be
added to the search path later. This will enable us to search the
LabourWeb nationally and globally. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; line-height: 150%;"><font color="#000000">
      <span style="font-style: normal;"><span lang="en-GB"><font size="3"> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Simultaneously
with this process we will need to organize labour activists and
subject experts to participate in the educational networks which will
run in parallel with the search engine. Then we can work on getting
web site editors to categorize their sites. Finally we can start to
get unionists to tag the Whole Wide Web. </font></span></span></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; font-style: normal; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font size="3">
&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Is all this possible? Who knows. Is it worth trying? Absolutely. </font></font>
      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; font-style: normal; line-height: 150%;" lang="en-GB">
      <br>




      </p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; font-style: normal; line-height: 0.35cm;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font size="3"><b>Marc
B&eacute;langer</b></font></font></p>





      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; font-style: normal; line-height: 0.35cm;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font size="3"><b>Turin,
Italy<br>



February,
2007</b></font></font></p>




      
      
      
      <p style="margin-bottom: 0cm; font-style: normal; line-height: 0.35cm;" lang="en-GB">
      <font color="#000000"><font size="3"> </font></font></p>





      
      
      
      <p class="sdfootnote">
For
more on how people can act as technology organizers see my article on <a href="technology_organizing.html">Technology Organizing</a></p>




      
      
      
      <div id="sdfootnote1">



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