Art Jacobson has this wild idea that people function most productively and happily in communities. He doesn't mean as drones on some collective farm; Jacobson has solid liberal credentials, but he's not that kind of leftist. No, he merely thinks that a bunch of cantankerous, wildly varied people can accomplish something if they just sit down, talk things over, and work out some fluid design for society that protects individual rights but recognizes that individuals have a responsibility to each other.

At least that's what I gather from watching Art Jacobson's futile but valiant efforts to build community on the Internet.

He was one of the very few posters when the Weekly briefly tried to maintain an online discussion group. And he was one of the most enthusiastic charter subscribers to StarNet back in 1995, when Bob Cauthorn was trying to establish an electronic public assembly where anybody with a modem could argue local issues.

Well, Cauthorn was increasingly pressured to turn StarNet into a cash cow, which meant expanding its dial-up service and focusing on advertising. StarNet's commitment to community gradually fell away.

Jacobson tried hard from the public side to make StarNet work; he was one of a dozen subscribers who created the site's then-innovative Election '96 Forum. So it's not surprising that he has followed the decline of StarNet into little more than an advertising vehicle with both sadness and a sense of irony. Read his requiem for what StarNet might have been in this week's issue.

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