A Class on the Net for Librarians with Little or No Net Experience
LESSON 28: WWW, PART 3: THE FUTURE
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from
-- Arthur C. Clarke, _Profiles of the Future_, 1962
THE FUTURE IS NOW
The Web has caught America's fancy and is quickly permeating
American culture. Radio newscasters signoff by referencing
their home page and station email address; the local TV weather
man references a page on the Web with real-time local weather
updates; movie posters include a home page URL where you can go
to "play" the movie trailer, and TV commercials include a subtle
"http://www.something.com" in the text (plug in a manufacturer
or product for 'something' and you're likely to hit paydirt).
The Web is the marketing tool of the 90's; large, medium and even
small businesses are hanging out a 'virtual' shingle (on the Web,
nobody knows your office is in your guest bedroom!). But, aside
from the rush of commerce to the net -- and its approaching
ubiquitous stature -- what other developments are changing the face of the web?
Here are some sites to tantalize:
If you've experienced the long lags between downloading soundfiles and video clips,
and actually playing them, check out the RA and RV players (http://www.realaudio.com) that allow
on-demand broadcasting (e.g., listen to ABC News updates while you surf
away, or watch newsclips...). Expect other breakthroughs in delivery of
as network performance increases.
Look for developments to provide for faster and easier presentation of
digital media over the net, such as Macromedia's ShockWave (
http://www.macromedia.com/Tools/Shockwave/), which allows authoring,
animation, and video experts to easily port existing skills to the web.
Java scripting allows for inclusion of portable programs in WWW pages
that are executed by any browser (with a Java plugin); for
information on Java and related software developments, refer to the
Yahoo WWW collection (http://www.yahoo.com/Computers_and_Internet/Internet/World_Wide_Web/).
Virtual Reality Modeling Language (see
http://vag.vrml.org/VRML_FAQ.html) allows for the
addition of 3D data to the Web ... (without, I hope, requiring us to wear
those funny little green plastic glasses!)
Look for more applications of internet technology in the classroom. Everything
from web-based college courses (for credit) to special plug-ins for
testing are being developed. Check out the Institute for Academic Technology's
website (http://www.iat.unc.edu) for
information on facilitating effective and affordable technologies in
Faster, Easier Search Tools:
Look for search engines that are faster, that provide access to a wider
volume of web pages, and for more versatile all-in-one search sites. The
trend also seems to be toward engines that attempt to weigh 'hits' by a
'goodness of match' confidence scale, such as Excite (http://www.excite.com/).
For a critical look at current search engines, refer to the following
Browsers are fast-becoming all-in-one network interfaces. Support for
group communications (whiteboards, chats, conferencing tools), fully-integrated
email and newsgroup functions, improved security, and
personalized "front-ends" (where updates to pages of vital interest to you are
"pushed" to the forefront of your desktop for your immediate attention) are just
some of the many expanded
features you should expect to see.
It's going to be an interesting ride!
A Look at the Possibilities
For a look at some of the issues facing web development, the March 1997 issue
of The Scientific American (accessible on the web at:
presents a special report on organizing the Internet:
"Bringing Order from Chaos." Issues
investigated include multilingualism on the Net, trusted systems
copyright issues), using information filters, searching the Net,
the challenge of creating interfaces for the visually impaired, and
preserving an historic archive of the Internet. Interesting reading...
CHALLENGES OF THE FUTURE FOR LIBRARIANS ON THE NET
In the aftermath of so much cyber-activity, what role will
librarians play in this "brave new electronic world"? For an
answer, let's start with John December, who has been researching
and writing about this very subject for the past four years
(almost the entire life of the Net as we know it today). An
author and pioneer in Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) on the
Net, founder of the CMC Center (a Web-based forum) and the CMC
Magazine (published exclusively on the Net), December is perhaps
best known for creating and maintaining a comprehensive electronic
list of Internet sites and tools: John December's _Information
According to December, librarians are crucial to the future of
information access and delivery on the Net. "Without tools and
methodologies for gathering, evaluating, managing, and presenting
information," he says, "the Web's potential as a universe of
knowledge could be lost." In a thoughtful treatment of the subject,
"Challenges for Web Information Providers", published in the CMC
Magazine (1994) and later, as a chapter in his book, _The World
Wide Web Unleashed_ (Sams, 1994; 1995), December addresses the
role librarians must play if the Internet is to live up to its
billing as the ultimate information resource of the 21st century.
If you remember, at the beginning of this course (in Lesson 2)
I talked about the estimated 200,000 users who are connecting to the
Net every month, searching for information and bringing information with
them. As December points out, the resulting flood of information
is too often "unfiltered by the critical and noise-reducing
influences of collaboration and peer review"; the result, he says,
can overwhelm users and obscure the value of the Web itself. The
intelligent Web robots, spiders, worms, etc. may be able to locate
multiple sites and sources with ease, but they are not capable of
assessing the value of the information they retrieve.
Most of us choose information sources based on our previously
developed trust of their work. On the Web, we may select a site
based on the reputation of the institution supporting the site.
December views an "institutional imprimatur" as an increasingly
useful tool for ensuring aspects of quality. He explains it this
way: "I might seek out the Web page of a university or government
research center for information related to a particular topic.
This information is valuable, ultimately, because specialists and
experts maintain it."
In maintaining his own Internet list, December pays close attention
to the verifiable accuracy and reliability of sources and to the
continuing freshness and stability of links. He will select a few
comprehensive collections of basic links over a multiplicity of
sites offering the same repetitive links. He looks for resources
accompanied by brief, descriptive annotations and for those that
offer an alternate perspective or point of view. In short, he does
many of the things that librarians traditionally do.
Says December, "A resource list exists within a larger context in
which its value as information can be used to create or develop
knowledge ... In order to accomplish this, a resource list should
be presented and used within a community of people interested in
the information, in order to provide the critical review as well as
suggestions to improve it." With the plethora of URLs on the Web,
pointing in all directions to a myriad of links, librarians are
needed more than ever before to gather, evaluate, manage, and
present information in such a way that it promotes both discovery
STABILITY OF THE NET/EPHEMERAL URLs
The problem of ephemeral URLs is very real. As you read the lessons
in this course, chances are good that a number of the URLs listed
have already disappeared or gone SOL. Although we conduct regular
"sweeps" of the sites we list, it's impossible to keep up with all
the changes. Unlike books with ISBN numbers, URLs often leave with
no trace and no forwarding address.
FORWARDING NOTES (THE OLD "SEE" REFERENCES)
Fortunately, many sites insert forwarding notes
at their old addresses. These notes usually say
something like this:
"This document has moved to http:// ... new address. Please
correct your records or update your pointers/links/hotlists,
Forwarding messages may be left in place for 30 to 60 days and
then deleted; sometimes the forwarding page is
created so that it automatically whisks you to
the new location. While some site managers insist their servers
cannot be locked in stone, others believe their site is responsible
for maintaining a more permanent link to the new locations.
TIPS TO THE READERSHIP:
In the event a Web administrator has not set up a forwarding link,
you are not without recourse. Try the following suggestions
given by Carlos McEvilly on the WEB4LIB Listserv (March 1995):
When a URL (say, "http://foo.bar.com/pub/users/joe/docs/info.html")
doesn't work, you can try the following, listed below roughly in
the order of difficulty, easiest first:
- Reload and try again, in case the site was temporarily down
- Examine the URL for components with time significance, and
if found, change them. For example, change:
- Take off the filename and directory name, to see if joe has
some kind of index:
This will load index.html in the /joe directory, if it exists.
Otherwise it will show a listing of the files available for
public access, or if the directory is not public, will give
a message to that effect.
- Take off everything but the root server name to see whether
the site has a main home page:
- Try the same thing without the trailing slashes:
- Since many hosts are creating new www machines and moving all
the www documents there, try changing 'foo' to 'www':
- Use a search engine to find the parent organization of whoever
created the resource, and try to find the resource through the
links from the main page of that organization.
- Find a person who might know the current status and ask.
CITING ELECTRONIC RESOURCES
As more and more research is based, at least in part, on electronic
resources, the question of how to properly cite on-line information is
asked more frequently. As is the case with any source material, the
goal is to credit the author and allow the reader to find the material.
When the American Psychological Association published the 4th edition
of its _Publication Manual_ in 1994, it included a brief section on citing
electronic resources, based on Li and Crane's (1993) _Electronic
Style: A Guide to Citing Electronic Information_; the editors noted
that "At the time of writing this edition, a standard had not yet emerged
for referencing on-line information."
A year later, in 1995, when the Modern Language Association published the
4th edition of its _MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers_, the
section on citing electronic resources had grown considerably; standards
had begun to take shape.
However, the same problems that have plagued electronic resources from
the beginning are still with us. The Internet is dynamic; it changes
constantly. Files that were located on one server yesterday might be moved
to another site today, and totally disappear tomorrow. They can be amended,
revised, destroyed, or completely altered almost instantaneously. How does
one go about verifying sources such as these?
In the September, 1996, issue of _Internet World_, Michael Arnzen, professor
of English literature at the University of Oregon, offers the following
"survival tips" to students who wish to cite electronic information
Professor Arnzen concludes his article with a comprehensive listing of URLs
for electronic styleguides on the Web. Additional source material has been
gathered together by the Penn State College Library staff under the heading,
"Style Guides for Electronic Resources" and can be found at:
http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/hss/ref/style.html. You will find more links listed
Lesson 10 under the similar heading "STYLE GUIDES FOR CITING ELECTRONIC
- Save or print all documents you intend to cite; keep backup files on
a floppy disk
- Refer to a printed source if available; many Web documents are not
original, and you should always opt for citing the primary source if you can
- Choose signed articles whenever possible; if in doubt, contact the
page's Webmaster for verification
- Obtain permission in advance from your professor to cite electronic
sources, especially Internet material, in your research
As for the future, well, -- as you can see from the many sites you visit
all over the Web -- everything is still very much "UNDER CONSTRUCTION."
YOUR ASSIGNMENT: Keep Surfing!
Continue your explorations of the Web by visiting the sites mentioned
in this lesson, and check out this general WWW info:
To keep up with new and newly discovered Internet resources of an academic
nature, go to the Scout Report, at:
READ MORE ABOUT IT:
Garlock, Kristen. _Building the Service-Based Library Web Site:
a Step-by-Step Guide to Design and Options_. ALA, 1996.
Gilster, Paul. _Finding It on the Internet: the Internet Navigator's
Guide to Search Tools and Techniques_. rev and expanded 2nd ed.
Tauber, Daniel. _Surfing the Internet with Netscape Navigator 2.
Thompson, Elizabeth. _Reference and Collection Development on the
Internet: a How-to-Do-It Manual_. Neal-Schuman, 1996.
Remember, your FINAL EXAM is coming up in the LESSON 29; and, need
I remind you ... NO CHEATING!
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