The Middlebury Community Network

A brief history of this community network

Back when the web was much younger, Jim Peden, a retired physicist, mathematician, and mainframe computer programmer, recognized that the internet and the personal computer were soon to change the face of the world.  Search engines were still pretty much in their infancy, and the relatively small number of netizens at that time were eagerly searching for content on the embryonic world wide web.  Most web sites of the day had a "My Favorite Links" section, by which surfers could find more neat stuff to view (after waiting forever for the page to load through a 14.4KBPS modem on a dial-up connection).  The early surfers eagerly swapped hyperlinks like kids swapped baseball cards.

The thought surfaced: "Why not band together in internet communities, where folks don't need to actually find us as individual web sites, just as a group in a particular geographic area?"  With the assistance of Dr. Raymond C. Sabb, an internet pioneer, Jim and his wife Susan launched the Middlebury Community Network.

We quickly learned that most folks didn't know how to program a web site, involving laborious html hand-coding at the time, so Jim began building single business home pages for local folks to showcase their businesses.

Not long afterward, a completely unexpected email came in from Microsoft, which in effect said, "We like your idea of community networks, and tomorrow we're going to feature you on the home page of the Microsoft web site."  At that time - and given that folks were still eager for web information - Microsoft had a "Where do you want to go today?" feature, selecting the most interesting sites on the web as their pick-of-the-day.  The day before it had been MTV.

On the following day, we received over 40,000 visitors - a very large number for the times - and fortunately, Dr. Sabb had set us up with a robust UNIX server with the maximum bandwidth available at the time, and the system never faltered.  The web traffic kept up even after our 24 hours of fame, and soon Jim was barraged with requests for web site design.  An 800 lb. gorilla had just been born.

The following year, we received a phone call from National Geographic, seeking our assistance in obtaining information on rural values and attitudes, requesting we aid them in an online questionnaire - to which we of course could not say no.  The questionnaire ran for about 3 months on our home page, and we trust they found the answers they were seeking.  We were definitely off and running strongly on the world wide web.

It can be very rewarding at times.

As you can imagine, we get a lot of email.  Because of our high search engine positioning, folks generally find us on the first page in almost any query involving the keyword "middlebury".  Thus, we are often mistaken for a Chamber of Commerce, the presumed repository of all local information.

A few years back we received an email from someone out west who had found a Middlebury High School ring resting on a lavatory at a roadside rest stop.  The ring had a graduation date and the owner's initials engraved inside.  With a little help from the folks at MUHS, we found a name that matched the initials in that year's graduating class.  The finder and the owner were put in contact, and the young man received his lost ring back.

Other mail was often much more esoteric.  For example, someone locally wrote and asked if we knew the owner of a run-down and vacant Victorian home on a certain road... desiring to possibly purchase and restore it.  Susan, who is a born-and-raised local girl going back many generations ( whom we sometimes jokingly say is a 2nd cousin to every 3rd person in the county ) just happened to know both the home and the owner... and again we helped make the connection... this time, within 10 minutes of the inquiry.

Today, Middlebury Networks, our parent company, hosts many dozens of full-domain web sites which we have designed, in addition to continuing the Middlebury Community Network which launched the whole thing.  Our market niche is the small business on a small budget which needs a clean, straightforward, neat, quick loading, and easy-to-navigate site describing their offerings.  We've never had to spend a dime on advertising, word-of-mouth plus our web presence has been the producer of most of our clients, and our economical home office allows us to keep our programming rates affordable.

And yes, Jim still builds single-page "Business Home Pages" for inclusion in the Community Network, noting that many local small businesses can easily tell their story to the local population without even needing a registered domain name or a separate web server.  In short, they may not need a more expensive "full domain" web site if their basic information can be set on a single page.  All of our single pages can be accessed directly through the search engines, and some of them have received well over 100,000 visitors, and enjoy a high individual ranking in Google and other search engines because of their association with the mother network.  Many other outside sites are now linked to us ( we never "swap" links - they just did it on their own ) which through the "popularity" function of the Google algorithm has given us a premium position in their search engine.  We are spidered almost daily by the major search engines.

We have one firm rule:  Other than the links to our sponsor's web pages, you'll never find any advertising on the Community Network.  We hate the garish appearance of so many sites with banners, links, and click-thrus that make it look like an online carnival.  Our support comes solely from our sponsors who pay a flat $100 per year to have their site showcased among the local community.  And Jim will still design a custom, single-page Business Home Page for another $100, regardless of how much programming time it takes.  It's a labor of love, which may be why we received the President's Award from the United Way of Addison County for "Providing Communications Support to our Community' - as the plaque reads.

If you'd like more information on becoming one of our sponsors, please click , or give us a call at (802) 897-2001.

Thanks for visiting!

Jim and Susan Peden
Middlebury Networks

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Design by James A. Peden
Copyright 1997 - 2008

Middlebury Networks
All rights reserved.
Revised: February 09, 2008