Back when the web was much
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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