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Press Releases | Web Lab and MSNBC.com

For Immediate Release


Contact: Lisa Carparelli for Web Lab; 917-743-4537; landm113@peoplepc.com

Peter Dorogoff, MSNBC.com; 425-703-8456; peter.dorogoff@msnbc.com


Web Lab Technology Enables High-Quality Small Group Dialogues on MSNBC.com

NEW YORK, December 18, 2001 ­ Web Lab, a non-profit New York think tank and a leading innovator in online dialogue, and MSNBC.com, the number one news and information site on the Web, announced today the launch of a nation-wide initiative to address the myriad questions facing Americans living in a post-September 11 world. The event, entitled "A World Transformed: Terrorism, Politics and Life After 9/11," will bring MSNBC.com users together in small groups to discuss recent and emerging events in the most safe, constructive, community environment available on the Web. Users can read and participate in the dialogues at the A World Transformed site.

Using Web Lab's groundbreaking Small Group Dialogue (SGD) technology as the backbone, and articles by MSNBC.com opinion writers as the context, MSNBC.com will create intimate discussions about the religious, cultural, security and global policy questions facing Americans and the global community as a result of September 11.

"We're pleased to be bringing Small Group Dialogues to MSNBC.com, particularly when so many of us are still grappling with the emotional and political impact of the tragic events of September 11," said Marc N. Weiss, founder and executive producer of Web Lab. "The Internet has been a focal point during this crisis as a vital outlet for grief and a key source of information. We wanted to go beyond that and offer people a way to explore, deeply and safely, the rush of opinions, feelings and concerns we've all faced since September's attacks and to think together about who we are, as individuals and as a nation, in a changed cultural and political climate. In many ways, this technique was made for a moment like this."

Unlike traditional online discussion boards, SGD (1) assigns participants to multiple small groups, rather than creating a crowded, anonymous mass; (2) uses member bios and introductions to promote intimacy and dramatically reduce “flaming”; (3) highlights member-nominated excerpts to encourage responsibility and self-regulation, and (4) sets a limited lifespan for each group, promoting commitment and providing closure. SGD was developed to advance Web Lab's mission of using the power of the Internet as a positive, transformative force in society at large.

"We are delighted to participate in this new, human-scale form of online dialogue," said Joan Connell, executive producer for opinions and communities at MSNBC.com. "What happened on 9/11 has transformed our lives. As an interactive news site, MSNBC.com takes very seriously our obligation to provide the public with an arena for meaningful dialogue about the political, social and moral challenges that lie ahead."

Each discussion group will contain approximately 30 participants.

Web Lab's patent-pending Small Group Dialogue software, first developed in 1998, was recently rebuilt in partnership with Web Crossing, the leading provider of online forum technology. SGD has been successfully used in discussions on the Clinton impeachment and on interracial relationships (in support of the PBS mini-series An American Love Story). Web Lab is currently exploring ways to bring the SGD technology into broader use on the Internet. Any revenue generated from the licensing of SGD would be used to support Web Lab's ongoing public service development work. For more information about SGD, visit www.weblab.org/sgd.

About Web Lab

Web Lab is a New York-based non-profit think tank that encourages and supports innovation on the Web, with a special emphasis on developing the potential of the medium to bring people together to explore both personal and public issues in powerful, transforming ways. Web Lab was created on the premise that the Web is an extremely powerful communications medium that provides unprecedented opportunities for people with diverse backgrounds and experiences to connect with, and learn from, each other.

About MSNBC.com

MSNBC.com is the number one news site based on audience data tracked by the Internet measurement service Media Metrix™. The leader in breaking news and original journalism on the Internet, MSNBC.com delivers the best of NBC News, MSNBC Cable, CNBC, NBC Sports, MSN and Newsweek. MSNBC.com is a 24-hour cable and Internet joint venture of Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and NBC News (NYSE: GE.)

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