Written By: Eric Tollefson, RappNet Administrator
RappNet – Nineteen Years Ago…
In the summer of 1997, Rappahannock Network (RappNet) was created by Bayard L. Catron for the purpose of connecting with people interested in local land use and environmental issues. The initial email list included about 75 neighbors – with the core initial participant list coming from Hunt Harris, the founder and director of Ragged Mountain Resource Center. By the end of 1999, there were over 190 subscribers.
Since the inception, the one common rule has been: No rules! In other words, communication happens in an open forum through emails and, as long as the 1st amendment to the United States Constitution allows for free speech, RappNet will continue unfiltered and open. Based on an April, 17, 2005 interview with Bayard L. Catron conducted by Jan Clatterbuck, Bayard said, “Sometimes in the heat of argument someone says something rude or insulting about those with opposing viewpoints. But I think overall RappNet’ers have gotten better at choosing their words carefully, and backing up their opinions with reasons and evidence.”
Over the past 19 years, technology has improved, people have come and gone, RappNet administrators have changed, and the discussions continued to evolve. In Jan Clatterbuck’s interview, Bayard Catron said, “Perhaps over time RappNet will become more representative of the community. Most subscribers are fairly new to the county and many are self-employed or retired. Lots of people don’t relish spending their time in front of the computer. But I’d expect that the “civic forum” aspect of RappNet will continue to be refined, and more and more people will rely on it as a neighborly party line.”
After one-year on the job volunteering my time to administer RappNet, I have witnessed a wide variety of conversations and membership continues to grow which is currently over 1,300 members. You be the judge, but, I believe Bayard Catron’s vision has come true that “people will rely on it as a neighborly party line.”