Over 3000 users accessed the meeting during its two week, but only about 2000 went beyond the introductory page and welcoming pages to a standard node and only 1000 attended the discussion threads. Several factors accounted for the attrition: End-of-the-year and holiday chores left workers little time for the meeting; they found email traversal of the hypertext too cumbersome and the texts themselves overwhelming, and may user were interested only in information and not discussions.
The distribution of web accesses by file types shows two patterns among users accessing a standard system node. About two-thirds of these users surfed the meeting material in several reinvention topics, looking primarily at the overviews and newsletters when available. Users in the second group tracked online discussions on several proposals apiece, in one or two reinvention topics, through both retrieval from the hypertext interface (16 comments read on average), and subscription to mailings of comments posted to the thread (as indicated by the concentration of subscriptions on those topics and proposals which were most accessed). Those who commented were necessarily in this group and similarly focused in their comments; with few exceptions, they posted to just one or two discussions. There was relatively little use of the tools in the meeting environment for search directly by reinvention topic, comment type, government agency referenced and other indices. On the whole, these patterns suggest an orientation toward the meeting as a source of general, rather than specific information, and an interest on the part of the in-depth users in what their peers had to say on a few specific issues.
290 different individuals contributed 1013 comments that were accepted for posting. The ratio of one contributor for five actual lurkers at the discussions is much higher than the 1 to 10 or 20 ratio variously estimated for newsgroups. Half the comments were identified as Agreement and 15% were Disagreements. The relatively large number of Questions (167), Alternatives (106) and Promising Practices (72) indicates the contributors' willingness to seek and share new information at the meeting. The near absence of the cognitively complex Qualification (3) supports the contention that cyberspace does not nurture the reflection desired in a public sphere, although a sampling of comments found that some qualifications were misidentified as agreements. Possibly these users did not want their comments to be construed as unsupportive. As a group, the commenters were positive toward the proposals and tried to present constructive ideas, some of which NPR leadership culled for further examination.
Web users were generally satisfied with the system, email users complained about its clumsiness for traversing hypertext, and both groups complained about an overwhelming amount of text to read. These responses, particularly the last, were anticipated. We believed that, consistent with their bureaucratic training, people attending the meeting would want to read the "manual" (the reports) before commenting on the proposals, so we wanted to reduce the texts to much shorter pieces. Because, the NPR team lacked the authority and personnel to do the editing, the overviews were produced as a means for users to get acquainted quickly with reinvention topics.