Dean's Digital World - Sources
By Dean Tudor
Quite often I am asked two questions: what advice do I have for
maximizing use of the Internet? And -- how do I find so much stuff
so fast? Well, for tips to journalists eager to use the Internet
as a research and resource tool, I have a list already prepared
(actually, I do this sort of thing for my Ryerson students anyway).
Herewith, then, are "Tudor's Top Ten Tips for T'Interneting
1. Join the cancar-l mailing list, devoted to computer-assisted
reporting and research issues in Canada. There can be a lively discussion,
at times. It is sponsored by the Ryerson Institute for Computer-Assisted
Reporting in Canada. Send the message: subscribe cancar-l <your
E-mail address> to: firstname.lastname@example.org and you'll be added
to the list of under 1,000 names. Meet new friends!
2. Join the caj-list mailing list, devoted to discussions
of Canadian journalism issues (mostly non-computer stuff, lots of
detail on Conrad Black). It is sponsored by the Canadian Association
of Journalists, but you need not be a member to access the list.
Send the message: subscribe caj-list <your E-mail address>
to: email@example.com and you'll be added to the growing list.
Get flamed, but enjoy it!
3. For searching the World Wide Web with robotic spiders,
use mainly AltaVista: it is comprehensive, fast, up-to-date, and
usually reliable. Of all the spiders, it is the best. Lycos, Webcrawler,
Open Text (now reorganizing), InfoSeek, and a myriad others are
almost as good, but they duplicate each other quite a lot. Use them
when you are unsure of what you have already found, or if you've
found virtually nothing. It's always better to be safe if you can
double-check or use alternative sources. They all use Boolean logic.
AltaVista is at <www.altavista.digital.com>.
If you are comfortable with hierarchical directories (like libraries),
then Yahoo is your main search engine. Just drill right through
it, through categories and sub-categories. It's at www.yahoo.com.
The good news about both AltaVista and Yahoo is that they have
Canadian search engines as well! AltaVista Canada <altavistacanada.com>
has access to over 15 million Canadian Web pages, national access
to much local Canadian information, and a bilingual search mechanism.
It actually contains more Canadian stuff than the main service.
At a minimum, it helps to filter out non-Canadian sites. This is
useful if you are confronted with thousands of choices at the main
site. Using the Canadian site will at least cut out some irrelevant
material, especially if what you are searching for is "Canadian".
Yahoo! Canada was developed in conjunction with CANOE, the Web service
offered by SunMedia (Toronto Sun, et al). It's at www.yahoo.ca
and is concerned with only Canadian sites. Of course, the major
difference between the two services is that AltaVista Canada is
a spider using Boolean logic while Yahoo! Canada is a hierarchical
directory using a category drill. Both approaches have their uses
4. Visit the MegaSources Journalism Gateway to Gateways,
the index to the universe. It has been specially formatted to be
a collection of links to other collections of links. So it is an
index to indexes. It begins with locating sources, locating subjects,
locating people, then moves on to sites of breaking news, reporting
beat sites, and broad subject areas. It's at <www.ryerson.ca/journal/megasources.html>
Alternatively, if you are really into computer-assisted reporting,
then you might want to try my CAR-CARR Page (Computer-Assisted Reporting
and Computer-Assisted Research and Reporting) which is at <www.ryerson.ca/~dtudor/carcarr.htm>.
It's concerned with news about the Internet, news about Web sites,
breaking news, CARR stories that have been published, spreadsheets,
databases, GIS, and so forth. There are also other journalism gateway
sites (such as Julian Sher's JournalismNet), and these too are listed
5. If you only want text, use Lynx (the browser found on
UNIX machines or shell accounts). It can be part of almost any academic
Internet server, as well as FreeNets. Lynx promotes faster loading.
It ensures rapid delivery of text. Lynx allows you to easily E-mail
or forward material, as well as print it out normally -- without
the pictures and graphics. You can easily get the wires, newspaper
accounts, transcripts of radio and television, and a host of other
items. You just cannot get the video, pictures, graphs, charts,
etc. IF you need these, then of course Netscape or Internet Explorer
will do the job. And you can always turn off the graphics mode in
Netscape/Internet Explorer, in attempting to speed them up.
6. Keep reading material by your computer: a magazine, a
newspaper, short stories, idea cards, manuals, day books. This will
stop you from bitching about slow loading. It has been estimated
that all the time that has ever been saved by using a computer has
been negated by the download waiting time for Web sites. The World
Wide Wait indeed! If all you need is text, turn off the graphics.
You can thereby avoid advertising messages too!!
7. The Internet can be superficial and misleading. There
is no guarantee that what you have are the honest goods, or is complete,
or is valid. You still need to double-check and then check again,
especially when doing verification work. Find context for everything!!
8. Check out the directory of Canadian contacts at Sources
As well, you can scurry over to MegaSources and catch my list of
a score of places where you can locate free sources and places that
will get answers for you. Sources is excellent for
Canada, but there is also the rest of the world, and you might want
to compare and contrast information about Canadian concerns as they
are found outside this great country of ours. What about the impact
of acid rain in Northern Europe? Find some Scandinavian sources
here. Medical finances in the USA? Look at ProfNet. Expand your
horizons beyond Canadian sources. The Internet allows you to do
9. RTFM....God, I wish I had a penny (or even a mill) for
every person I know who does NOT do this. Much grief can be saved
if one could simply Read The F*cking Manual. There is no shame,
no mortification, in consulting the printed page. Kingsley Amis
once said that it must be a point of honour for journalists NOT
to consult a dictionary. I can say the same thing about materials
that try to explain the Internet and how particular applications
work. Sure, somebody can show you how something works. But what
happens when you are alone at home, working on a story? Who's going
to help you then? And sure, some manuals can be unreadable -- but
all that's in your own head. Is there really something that you
cannot read? Do you think so little of your skills that you cannot
decipher some jargon, the same kind of jargon that you must decipher
in the courts, at council meetings, in sports, in business? Are
you that rushed that you cannot take the time to read instructions?
And: why are you rushed? Could it be that you procrastinated? And
you don't like paying for your own misdoings and slothfulness? Think
about it. Not everything in life is easy. Take the time to read,
to see how the manual and the application are set up, to study.
You'll learn a lot. Take the plunge. Help yourself. In fact, do
this in conjunction with point six above.
10. Observe the Media Law of Innocence: it is easier to
ask forgiveness than to ask permission ;-) This is in the same category
as reading jargon.
The second question: how do I find so much stuff so quickly? I
certainly don't go out and rummage around -- most of it comes to
me by E-mail!! Here's my list of sources for new Web sites, and
general Internet breaking news:
The first place I head to is Yahoo! Picks of the Day. It has all
the features of a newspaper (gateways to crossword puzzles, astrology,
daily columnists, sports, business, entertainment, comics, breaking
news from Reuters) plus a listing of five or six good Web sites
for browsing -- all fully described and clickable. You can get it
at <www.yahoo.com/picks/daily/> This series of Web picks is
also sent out by E-mail, but only once a week.
Through my Bookmark, I can access USA Today's Cyber column in the
Life section. Each day there are five or six new, international
and interesting sites, fully described, and ready for clicking on.
They are at <www.usatoday.com/life/cyber/ch.htm>
One of the best resources on the Web is the Librarian's Index to
the Internet at the University of California in Berkeley. It is
chock full of well-described, important government and scholarly
sites. And it has a What's New This Week section, posted every Monday.
I can stay current by going over to <sunsite.berkeley.edu/cgi
There is also "What's New in Canadian Web Sites", hosted
by IGS. This is a list of new, interesting sites in Canada. It changes
about every other day, but there are archives. You can find it at
That's about it for going out and foraging: the rest comes to me
in the comfort of my E-mail!!
In my E-mail program, I can access the Newsgroups/Usenet. So I
look at the group <comp.internet.net-happenings>. Here I can
get a daily list of new Web sites, mostly serious and academic.
As well, this newsgroup has lists of newsletters, new mailing lists,
resources for school kids, updates and changes. There are about
75 postings a day.
I get a lot of newsy newsletters, all of them free of course. One
of the most valuable is Yahoo! Picks of the Week, a cumulation of
the Daily Picks. Just send a message: subscribe yahoo-picks <your
E-mail address> to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, get
the subscription form off the Yahoo Picks World Wide Web site. Almost
50 sites a week for you to consider.
Another one is IAT InfoBits, from the Institute for Academic Technology
(University of North Carolina). It strives to facilitate widespread
use of effective and affordable technologies in higher education.
The material is chock full of scholastic and authoritative Web sites.
To subscribe, send the message: subscribe infobits <your first
name your last name> to: email@example.com or, try the World Wide
Web site <www.iat.unc.edu/infobits/infobits.html>
For news of new mailing lists, you can subscribe to the mailing
list NEW- LIST. This will get you postings concerned with new mailing
lists that have started up, with full details plus subscription
information. Lately there have been new mailing lists dealing with
jokes, zippergate, anxiety, glass Christmas ornaments, book reviews.
Send the message: subscribe new-list <your first name your last
name> to: firstname.lastname@example.org For news of new Newsgroups,
go to the <news.announce.newgroups> category in Usenet/Newsgroups.
Names of new groups are posted daily.
Another newsletter is WebScout, a weekly that goes out to 13,000
subscribers. It is free, but contains some advertising sites to
help pay the bills. Send a blank E-mail to email@example.com
Some Web sites include AMP Magazine, Boston Bruins, Birdwatch, Giani
Versace, Vietnam Online.
There is also Internet Scout, more concerned with scholarly and
important sites. There is Scout Report for Social Sciences, Scout
Report for Business & Economics, and Scout Report for Science
and Technology. Full free ordering information can be found at the
World Wide Web site <scout.cs.wisc.edu/scout/> There are more
than 20 Web sites reviewed in each issue, covering education, research,
religion, law, news, etc. Recent reviews include the BBC News Online,
SEDAR, Japan BizTech, baseball highlights, BabyCenter, and on and
NetSurfer Digest is the only newsletter I get that comes in HTML
format. This allows me to click right away on a site, without having
to retype it. Each issue deals with a serious theme and a fun, frivolous
theme. There is also some advertising to support itself. To subscribe,
send a message: subscribe nsdigest-html to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the easiest newsletter to use.
To keep me abreast of what's happening with search engines, I subscribe
(naturally) to Search Engine Watch. This newsletter allows me to
stay current with changes at Excite, AltaVista, Yahoo, MSN, AOL
NetFind, Inktomi, Infoseek, etc. Search engines change all the time,
and this is the best way to stay up with them: new ways of searching,
ease of surfing, free stuff, E-mail packages, etc. etc. To subscribe,
send a blank E-mail message to: email@example.com
or, use the form at <searchenginewatch.com/list.htm>
I like getting things in the mail: it allows me to print with ease,
to forward to friends and colleagues, to save, to reply, to do a
host of things. I can even get Web sites by E-mail! And there are
three different ways to do it --
First, you can search the search engines by using E-mail. Send
SEARCH YAHOO <topic or subject>
SEARCH ALTAVISTA <boolean search>
You'll have to wait a few hours, but what's time to a hog?
Second, try sending the message:
SUBJECT: ILIAD QUERY
?Q : <your keywords>
Again, you'll have to wait awhile for s response.
Third, you can get a site's file if you know the URL. Send message:
SEND HTTP:// <url>
And wait a day.
Dean Tudor is Sources Informatics consultant and a professor
of Journalism and Information Studies at Ryerson University. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in Sources,
Number 42, Summer 1998.
Dean's Digital World Articles
Sources, 489 College
Street, Suite 201, Toronto, ON M6G 1L9.
Phone: (416) 964-7799 FAX: (416) 964-8763
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