New MAIN Web site
January 30, 2000

Since MAIN first went online Feb. 22, 1996, we have envisioned a lively, dynamic and interactive website for local news and information and community-building.Though previous versions of our website had lots of rich content, the homepage itself has been rather static. We are proud to launch our new web site January 30, 2000.

One of the new website's major features is that it will change every day,much like a daily newspaper. The site is divided into three sections. The right-hand column is devoted to local news and information. Highlights include:

  • The latest "current conditions" and weather forecast from the regional National Weather Service office at the Greenville-Spartanburg airport. Thanks to webmaster Michael Tracey's "magic," this feature includes "zoned" updates -- every few seconds -- for the northern, central, western, and southern mountains. This feature will be augmented later this year through a network of local "severe weather spotters" trained by the National Weather Service in collaboration with MAIN. More about this later.
  • Morning headlines from the Asheville Citizen-Times, including links to the full text of the morning's top stories.
  • Links to the week's top stories from Mountain Xpress, as well as other regional media.
  • A pull-down "County Media" directory for access to local media in all the counties of WNC (please let us know of any local media we are missing). Since many smaller, local media do not have websites, MAIN will offer them free webhosting to help these important sources of local news get online.
The center section is divided into two parts. The top section is the Community Calendar, which is automated to allow local groups to submit their own events announcements. This section will include links to daily "featured" events. The second part, below the community calendar, is devoted to Community Network News. This section features news specific to MAIN, such as community meetings, announcement of new website features, and network operations updates (which will reduce the need for "broadcast" email updates).

The lefthand column is anchored by two important features from our old website, Community Resources and Mountain Voices. The former, which includes more than 250 local, nonprofit websites hosted at no charge by MAIN, has been divided into Community Links for nonprofits, and Business Links for local commercial ventures. Each of these directories are now automated, so please encourage local nonprofits and small businesses to link their websites to MAIN.

Mountain Voices, the public forums where citizens can speak what's on their minds, are using new software to make the discussions easier to follow. This section has also been expanded to include a forum for every county we serve. And building on the success of our Y2K and "Computers & the Internet" forums, we plan to add other "special topic" forums (such as gardening) based on feedback from you.

Also, users must now register in order to enter and use the forums. This registration process will allow us to ban users who repeatedly abuse the forums by posing as someone else and/or posting libelous or slanderous comments.

MAIN has strong and proven commitments to free speech as well as online privacy, and this new registration policy will in no way compromise either of these commitments. Free speech rights are not absolute; for example, falsely yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater is not protected by the First Amendment. Nor is slander or libel. Due to repeated abuse by a few users more intent on disrupting the forums than on civil and open debate, we have instituted this new policy and procedure.

The popularity of MAIN's "Swap and Shop" forum has led us to create a comprehensive "Classified Ads" section. This directory is a huge new opportunity for MAIN users to share information as a community.

Finally, at the bottom of the left-hand column, you will find a pull-down menu for county-by-county information across WNC. Each county page will include the official MAIN county website (let us know if you have content for your county website or would like to help maintain it), plus any other county information websites we come across.

Despite all these new features and functionality, please remember that this is a work-in-progress. Also, as a community website, it belongs to all of us. So give us your ideas, criticisms, and any other feedback.And please tell your friends and neighbors about MAIN's new website, soon to be the most comprehensive online source of local news and informationin Western North Carolina!

Wally Bowen
Executive Director

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