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Abstract -- Building A French Virtual Community On Internet: The Example of Frognet Regional Track
R3: Networks as Empowering Technology

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Building A French Virtual Community On Internet: The Example of Frognet

Oudet, Bruno ( bao@access.digex.net)


Embassies have always searched to develop closer relationships with their citizens and friends in their host country. With Internet they now have a very effective tool to do so, which can be illustrated by the example of FROGNET. Originally intended for the use of French researchers in the United States, FROGNET is a network of French and francophiles in non-French speaking countries. Its name resulted from the network's first members who formed the French Researchers OrGanization known as FROG.

After describing the different services of FROGNET, we will try to draw some conclusions which could help people interested in launching such a network.

The largest service, FROGNEWS, and by far the most popular, is the daily news in French. A summary of the news, together with a press review and a text describing some of the subtleties of the French language is sent every day to over 7,000 subscribers using the listserv program provided by CREN (info@cren.net). The news consists of written versions of a radio broadcast of "Radio France Internationale" which makes it possible to offer this service while staying within a very limited budget (versus writing our own journal).

FROGJOBS is a more limited (1,400 subscribers) but also a very popular service. It is specifically aimed at French scientific researchers desiring to return to France and find a job. A weekly magazine on the job situation in research labs is sent to the subscribers. Members also have access to an efficient question and answer service.

FROGMAG is a more recent initiative. It is a monthly electronic journal, the community journal, realized by the members of the net. Managed by a permanent committee, it permits members to publish articles of general interest.

Lastly, FRENCHTALK is an open forum of discussions. Less than 500 persons are currently on the FRENCHTALK list. Due to the sometimes astonishing rate of discussions ( on some occasions as many as tens of messages a day, followed by a quiet period), people get on and off the list simply to get a flavor of the discussions.

Four conclusions can be drawn for people interested in developing a similar community:

  1. News from your country when you live abroad acts as very good cement to build a community.
  2. Although webs and gophers are an efficient way to provide information, e-mail, which goes directly to the recipient, should take precedence when the goal is to develop a community.
  3. There is no free lunch, and the same goes for the development of a community which requires resources for its direction and dynamics. A case in point is the FRENCHTALK forum whose activities are unmonitored, and has thus remained stagnant in its number of subscribers over the past year.
  4. Recycling of information (in our case sending the text of a radio broadcast) is one way to keep costs minimal at a time when the community does not exist and no one is willing to make a big investment to have it developed.