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Episode 6: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Air Date: June 4, 1998


Fight the tyranny of Ma Bell!


Fashion Designer Crystal Siemens

IBM's Tom Vassos drops in on the Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI) for his weekly visit, and sees Crystal Siemens, one of the TFI's resident fashion designers, composing e-mail on the TFI's computer. Ever since she sent her first e-mail to Industry Canada the previous week, she has been getting the hang of receiving and sending e-mail. She finds that e-mail is not only faster than regular mail ('snail mail'), but it is also inexpensive (you only pay for Internet connection fees), easier to send to a large group of people, and is more legible than her handwriting. However, Crystal's ability to e-mail is limited by the fact that many of the people she must contact, such as her suppliers and retail customers, are not on line yet, and she must still communicate with them the old-fashioned way, by phone or fax. And because these business contacts are often in other parts of the country or even outside Canada, Crystal's long distance bills are quite hefty each month.

Of course, Tom has another information technology solution up his sleeve, and with a quick click of the mouse, he brings up the web site for the JFAX service (www.jfax.com). And what is JFAX? Simply put, it is a cheaper way to do long distance faxing, only without the long distance charges. You simply send an e-mail containing the information of your fax to JFAX, where it is sent across the Internet to the destination and faxed to the target fax machine-- all at a cost of five to ten cents per page. There is also a free Internet fax service available from the TPC.INT 'Remote Printing Experiment' (www.tpc.int), the oldest Internet faxing service which is run by Internet users all over the world. With these services, your contacts can receive e-mails from you on their fax machine.

An even more elaborate use of the Internet as a communications medium is for telephone conversations. Using Internet phone applications, it is possible to circumvent long distance phone charges by placing your call over the Internet. Even text-based conferencing or videoconferencing is possible with the Internet. However, some of these high-end applications often require high-powered computers to work off of, and you must ensure that both ends of the conversation have the same hardware and software. However, even with these restrictions, imagine if your business opened up a new branch office in another city and how much money would be saved by using an Internet telephone over the regular phone system?

Taking this one step further, what if you could network with people in your industry without leaving your office? You can do that, with the help of Liszt (www.liszt.com), which maintains a database of over 89,000 discussion groups covering a wide range of topics. And what is a discussion group? It is essentially a group of similarly-minded people who communicate with each other via e-mail, sharing ideas, answering questions, and providing feedback. For example, you can find out about selling in a foreign market without actually travelling there-- just post a query on the discussion group and someone who knows will probably answer. Or you could simply use the previously-mentioned Reference.com (www.reference.com) to search all discussion groups for conversations related to specific key words. Using Liszt, Tom and Crystal look up 'fashion', and find a few discussion groups devoted to fashion. Crystal, still concerned about finding funding for her fall collection, signs up for a couple of the discussion groups, hoping to find another designer who can share their thoughts on financing in the fashion industry.

Getting back to the accursed affliction of 'Internet myopia', mentioned in the first episode, it is easy to forget the capabilities of the Internet as a cost-effective communications medium. Whether you use it for sending e-mail, sending faxes, placing telephone calls, or business networking, the Internet is there for you to exploit!


Hot Links


Want to learn more about the topics covered this week? Then check out these great web sites and resources:


Internet Fax Services





Remote Printing Experiment


A free e-mail to fax service!

Philipines Fax Service


Offers free faxes to the urban areas of the Philipines

Pagelist Fax Service


Offers free faxes to Israel, and includes an e-mail confirmation upon successful delivery

VersaFax Services


Offers e-mail to fax and e-mail to alphanumeric pager services

Internet Faxing FAQ


A web page listing dozens of free and for-fee faxing services available on the Internet


 Other Internet Communications Applications


Internet Phone





A text conferencing application that is available in freeware and commercial versions

Lotus Instant!TeamRoom


A rentable pay-as-you-go virtual space for conducting meetings and managing projects over long distances



Offers telnet-based chatrooms

Virtual Places


Rents out virtual communications space without requiring the investment in specialized hardware or software







Mark Schneider		CTV - Host of "Digital Desktop"
Tom Vassos		IBM e-business Advisor and Host of "This New SoHo"
Crystal Siemens		Fashion Designer


Production Credits


Anthony Steward		Camera
Anthony Leong		Senior Web Editor

All episode summaries and supplemental information written by Anthony Leong, with material and assistance from Tom Vassos, his book Strategic Internet Marketing, and Mark Schneider.

Click here for IBM e-business solutions

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