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Common Ground
Compiled by Jeff Slutzky

Happy Trails to Trailing Hyphens

Recently, over 800 domain names with labels containing trailing hyphens were mistakenly registered in the ..com/.net/.org registry. (An example of a trailing hyphen appears in the URL "example-.com.") After consultation among ICANN, NSI-Registry, and the registrars involved, notices were given to the registering parties that these names were registered by mistake and would be canceled.

Names containing trailing hyphens have been prohibited since the Internet domain-name system was implemented in the 1980s. Furthermore, at the ICANN meeting on 4 November 1999, the ICANN board approved a package of agreements that require any registered names to comply with the format specified in the registry’s functional specification. The registry software in use before 3 January 2000, however, permitted registrars to enter them into the registry, and some registrars’ software failed to screen out requests to register them. Upon learning this, the registry operator, NSI-Registry, promptly revised the software to reject additional requests to register names containing the forbidden trailing hyphens.

What’s wrong with noncompliant elements such as trailing hyphens? Domain names in noncompliant formats—including those that contain trailing hyphens—present interoperability problems. They can cause software written in reliance on correct formats to malfunction; several instances of actual malfunctions have been identified. ICANN has commended NSI-Registry and the registrars involved for effectively and promptly addressing this challenge to Internet stability.

For a more detailed report from ICANN, see http://www.icann. org/nsi/trailing-hyphens.htm.

Kidlink Makes a Small World, After All

Corresponding with an international pen pal has long been a great way to introduce children to cultures outside their own. Before the Internet age, a child might have waited weeks or months before receiving a strangely stamped letter in the mail from an overseas friend; today, that young person can have pen pals all over the world and chat with all of them—every day.

Kidlink, located at http://www.kidlink.org, is one program that makes this possible. Founded in May 1990, this nonprofit organization brings young people from over 100 countries together in a global dialogue. The children communicate primarily through e-mail, but other interactive methods are used as well, including Internet relay chat (IRC), Web-based dialogues, fax, videoconferencing, regular mail, and even ham radio.

Kidlink has a private IRC server as well as a MUSH—a virtual world that allows kids and teachers to create online objects and described spaces. Through these and other methods, kids can participate in short- and long-term projects in different languages. In addition, they can submit artwork to the Kidlink Gallery of Computer Art, where it can be viewed by Kidlink’s worldwide audience.

Those up to age 15 can join Kidlink easily by submitting their full name, gender, city and country of residence, and school name, as well as interests, hobbies, concerns, and any additional information they want to include. The young person then answers the following questions: What do I want to be when I grow up? How do I want the world to be better when I grow up? What can I do now to make this happen?

Kidlink also runs several general discussion groups for adult volunteers—primarily teachers and parents—involved in facilitating the Kidlink Global Dialogue. Through these groups, for instance, teachers can share their experiences enhancing their curricula with Kidlink’s services. A Kidlink announcement list can be found at http://listserv .nodak.edu/archives/kidlink.html.

These various methods of interaction help support Kidlink’s goal of supporting a virtual interactive space for children around the world. Instead of having a limited number of long-distance pen pals, kids today can have all the e-pals they want. It’s a different world—and a smaller one.

Wiring Sri Lankan Schools

I*EARN, the International Education and Resource Network, is funding a six-country civic education project entitled Community Voices, Collaborative Solutions, involving computers, e-mail, and other basic elements of modern information technology. Along with Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, India, and Pakistan, Sri Lanka is participating in this cutting-edge educational experiment.

Three Sri Lankan schools are participating. They were chosen based on interest and on the electronic facilities they could make available to the I*EARN pilot project; ideally, they could serve as models for other Sri Lankan school programs. One school, in Anuradhapura, only recently acquired its computer facilities—a result of efforts by the Lanka Academic Network (LAcNet), which is working with I*EARN and which provides the school with logistical and technical support for its new computer lab.

I*EARN is a global network of schools that has pioneered interactive student project work on the Internet since 1988. I*EARN’s goal is to enable elementary and secondary students to go beyond simply being electronic pen pals and to use telecommunications in joint student projects that will make a real difference in their classrooms, home cities and countries, and around the world. I*EARN encourages students to explore together their common humanity, global citizenship and civic responsibility through collaborative learning, by using technology to bring students from different parts of the world into the same electronic classroom. In each of I*EARN’s 75 countries, teacher training workshops are being held and students are jumping into interactive project work.

For more information on I*EARN, see http://www.iearn.org .

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