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Dean's Digital World
Sources 49

Pathfinders

Dean Tudor


Lately, it seems as if libraries have come back...There was a cartoon this summer, showing the typical librarian, an old-lady-with-her-hair-in-a-bun, sitting at a reference desk, a sign ("Librarian") in the wastebasket, and a new sign in front of her, "Search Engine"...

The new mood reflects the changing patterns of searching for data on the Internet, the complexity of multi-layered Boolean searches, the concept of "the invisible Web", and the need for old-fashioned "pathfinders" , a library term indicating a monster cheat sheet showing where all the bodies are buried, a separate one for every single subject area. Ah, yes, "subject areas" are back.

That's what Yahoo, Mining Company, and Open Directory have been telling everyone for years. But subject areas still need co-ordination from libraries. After all, SOMEBODY has to write them up, as a guide to budding writers or old hand journalists who want to know the basics and a kickstart to searching for newer stuff.

So what's new with libraries and the Internet? The Ottawa Citizen had a story about the Collaborative Digital Reference Service (CDRS). Librarians are going online to pool their collective knowledge and answer hard-to-crack questions posed by end users. CDRS aims to connect libraries and universities around the world, allowing librarians to route tough questions to academics and to other librarians with expertise in a particular field. There are different scales of service for laymen and experts, with an online query service remaining free of charge.

The Canadian government is a member. The Library of Congress sponsors it, and of course it is available 24/7, shifting through different time zones if reporters need an immediate response. Users simply pose queries and "somebody" passes it along. They can expect back brief respopnses that include primary source excerpts and short bibliographies for further reference. Full details are at <lcweb.loc.gov/rr/digiref/>. This is all terrific because librarians have access to huge collections of credible information, many of which are at a distance or global. Unfortunately, though, many people have difficulty articulating their needs. So as journalists, we all should clarify our queries.

At the same time, locally, online research could start at the Web site of a nearby library. Many times, library sites -- especially local libraries for local history and local events -- will conduct several searches at once and help guide reporters and journalists to pinpoint relevant material on the Web. Librarians have the knowledge to access newspaper archives and databases, as well as paying (licensing) for the right to do so, on your behalf. These resources often go further back than most other Web archives.

Library sites may also host a real-time live chat with a librarian or allow for quick E-mail correspondence. Also useful are online newspaper indexes such as <onlinenewspapers.com> and <newsdirectory.com>, or magazine indexes such as <www.magportal.com> and <www.findarticles.com>. And if you have money to burn, there is also Nexis, which can be accessed through your media library. If you don't have a media library or morgue (or if you're a freelancer), try the nearest academic library for free service. You'll have to make a personal visit, since this licensed service is not available for free over the Internet.

Librarians have access to the "invisible Web", that is, the UNINDEXED or INACCESSIBLE Web sites. These are mainly databases. You can find out more at Direct Search <gwis1.circ.gwu.edu/~gprice/direct.htm> and IncyWincy The Invisible Web Search Engine <www.incywincy.com>...It really is getting tougher for the uninitiated to do comprehensive searches on the Internet.

Every reporter and journalist needs to know how to build quick and dirty expert subject pages, for their own use either as bookmarks or as a self- promoting Web page. A good set of basic links, for what we used to call "pathfinders".

The first trick is knowing what kinds of resources to look for. This will vary with the topic, but should include the basic resources: glossaries, dictionaries, directories, FAQ files, statistical sources, biographical sources, chronologies, calendars of events, even maps and graphics. You'll definitely need some links to experts and expert Web directories, and to any specialized search engines for that field. You'll also need some relevant professional and research organizations, which often provide basic guides to important Web resources.

Background, archives, histories: you'll need these, as well as professional and legal magtters such as ethics, certification/licensing, career progressions, multiple viewpoints, government documents and regulations, court decisions. Topical and policy issues also need to be covered, but that will depend on what kind of story you are working on.

You could begin building your book mark at the Scout Report Archive <scout.cs.wisc.edu/archives/>, which has over 11,000 REVIEWED sites of substantial quality. Also <about.com> and <mingingco.com> have guides, and they might even have most of what you need, but probably not for Canadian material. That you'll have to do on your own, searching through the National Library and larger Canadian academic Web sites. Search in Google with the parameter "Canada".

Other places include the Librarians' Index to the Internet <lii.org> and the Internet Public Library <ipl.org>. To find all kinds of FAQs, just use a search engine like Google, inputting the words "[topic]" +FAQ. Use of FAQs will allow you to find both answers to common questions and the experts and organizations who are constructing them.

A good "pathfinder" will have links to enough Web resources to cover all the basic sources of information listed in the paragraphs above. Here's one I use all the time (my specialty is "wine writing"), and there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to construct a similar one for your own subject/expert field, plus any others for new topics you are moving into...

Want to find out how much that Chateau Haut-Batailley 1989, the one in your cellar, is now worth? Or, what wine goes with Cantevaar cheese? Perhaps you need some lodgings in Menton, France. Your brother-in-law in Australia needs a birthday gift, maybe some wine accessory or even some wine. And you may be fed up with paying hundreds of dollars for foreign wine magazines full of adverts and stale news. Any one of these questions or needs can be answered or met through searching for wine topics on the Internet.

The 'Net offers many things about wine, such as breaking news, many (some may say "too many") diverse opinions about a wine's taste, references you cannot get from other sources, such as breaking news, reference books online, business details for the corporately curious (R.Mondavi? Read all about the company's business endeavours), auctions, accessories, travel, data from obscure vineyards around the world, more food and wine pairings than you could ever consume in a score of lifetimes, current prices, global outlooks...

Some sites are interactive, with chat rooms, or they sponsor E-mail listgroups. Both serve as a forum for discussion about wines (tasting notes), sales, news of stores, food pairings. Other sites are "personal pages"

So there are thousands of Web sites on the Internet which deal with wine. Which ones are the best, the ones which won't waste your time, which will maximize your searching endeavours? In listing top sites to visit, in a pathfinder mode, I have listed gateway/portal all-in-ones, fast loading, few ads (or they are non-commercial), quick linkage to other sites, depth of material, frequent updating or changes, reasonably accurate, user-friendly. And I have just listed sites about wine, except for the first source where you can also access similar information in the same pattern about beer, cider and spirits (cognac, bourbon, tequila, cocktail recipes). These are the fastest, most comprehensive sites that will give you the most bang for your "free" wine buck; all of them will respond to you if you E-mail queries for journalism articles, either about the site itself or about wines.

No. 1: www.ryerson.ca/~dtudor/wine.htm

One of the Web's oldest sites, running continuously online since 1994. It is also one of the few NON-COMMERCIAL and text sites, and is a prizewinning major portal/gateway to thousands of sites dealing with Wines, Beers and Spirits on the Internet. This makes it a universal index to anything vinous on the 'Net. Arrangement is by category, with sections on discussion groups, Usenet groups, reference materials, clubs and personal home pages, wine regions and wineries of the world, homewinemaking, beermaking, accessories (software, corkscrews, shelving). Use it find links to trade associations, breaking news, hundreds of thousands of tasting notes, wine magazines, auctions. Anything. Make it your bookmark; you can easily download the source document.

No. 2: www.wineupdate.com

Here's a fast look at wine news, reviews of wines, what's happening where, pointing out different "sites of the day" on the Web, and a searchable archive going back past a month. All sections have URLs marked for quick linkage to the sources. There are selected stories from Decanter, Wine Spectator, WineX, E-mail newsletters, Frank Prial's weekly New York Times article, material from personal home pages, restaurant wine lists. For Beaujolais Nouveau 2001 it had overthetop coverage. Definitely worth a daily visit.

No. 3: winebusiness.com

One of the better B2B sites, meant for the industry. Important news includes the latest on glassy-winged sharpshooters, viticultural fairs, statistics on consumer drinking trends, mergers and acquisitions, imports and exports (all US of course), wine region weather reports, government action and inaction from around the world. Conferences such as Vinitech 2001. And a GLOBAL wine industry yellow pages directory section. Just the stuff for wine junkies who wish to be informed. (If you cannot say anything about the wine in the bottle, then talk about the bottle!)...

No. 4: www.vintners.com

Global directory to wine, beer and spirits beverages, news, business profiles, contact data for brewers, winemakers, and distillers. Easy links to media on the Web, competitions, trade shows, and associations -- all setup by country.

No. 5: www.wineryexchange.com

Winery Exchange is a B2B site, with excellent breaking news and financial data about wines in an international context. It serves mainly as a wine broker for California. It has good articles on mergers and acquisitions, internet integration, glassy-winged sharpshooter, and US legislation. Also has excerpts from the Gomberg Report on trends. It always has about 12 international news articles every business day.

No. 6: www.stratsplace.com

One of the oldest of the personal home pages, devoted to wines. Here you will find a wine glossary, quotations about wine, thousands of wine labels, pronunciation guide to wine regions and their wines, personal pictures of wine cellars from around the world, thousands of tasting notes, 100,000 wine auction prices, about 10,000 wineries listed, over 3,000 wine stores, wine study courses around the world, reviews of wine storage units, daily breaking news from the wine world, practical matters (how to hold a wine tasting, removing labels, selecting/cleaning stemware, decanting/racking, building cellars, removing wine stains), books on wines, maps, wine articles by columnists, vintage tables, and more. Over 200 MEG, searchable.

No. 7: www.winefiles.org

Subtitled "the database for wine professionals and wine lovers" and produced by the Sonoma County Wine Library, offering access to its collection of articles on wine, winemaking, grapegrowing, wine business, and the history of wine. With a strong emphasis on California winemaking (over 30,000 references), the files are searchable by keyword or by an advanced search form. International in scope: for example, there were hundreds of references to wines from South Africa. Many of the items link to articles or off-sites. Others are available by Interlibrary Loan in hard copy (these usually have abstracts which you can read). Articles have been sourced from trade journals, consumer wine periodicals, newspapers, government documents, press releases, and go back to 1849 in some cases. More information on accessing information is available at the site. A tremendous asset for background/reference material.

No. 8: wine.miningco.com

The Mining Company has a nifty guide, also covering fruit wines, newsletters, classes, stemware, gifts of wine, jobs in wine, organic wines, recipes using wine, reference sources, software, tours of wineries, even a winery Webcam! There are also forums and chat rooms, along with topical holiday articles: Beaujolais Nouveau, turkey wines, best sangria recipes, champagne punches, how to store that half-bottle of wine.

No. 9: bestwinesites.com

A comprehensive wine resource for novices and connoisseurs alike. The owners select what they consider to be the "best wine sites": wineries, winemaking (amateur and professional) with equipment and supplies, directories and associations for newsletters and chat rooms, wine stores, wine publications, wine acccessories, wine tours. Of course they want your money with "suggested shopping".

No. 10: www.tastings.com

Subtitled "buying guide to wines, beers and spirits", here is comprehensive information and tasting notes by the Beverage Testing Institute in the USA. Over 30,000 wine notes are searchable by score, price range, varietal and producer. The best producers (as determined by tastings) are also listed by varietal. Directory of wineries and wine stores (especially the major ones in Napa, Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Buffalo), wine tutorial, and a dictionary complete the package.

No. 11: wine-searcher.com

Billed as "a gateway to specialist wines", they have about 600 wine merchants (from most countries, but mainly US, UK and France) listed with about a quarter of a million offers. Search by name (e.g., Opus One for 1990), by date (e.g., all wines from 1960), or a range (e.g., a vertical of Mouton Rothschild). You can even type in your own wines to find out what your cellar is worth. The site is a medium between buyer and seller.

No. 12: bluewine.com

Another huge searchable site: material on wines, beers and spirits, ciders, from the whole world, with stuff about hardware and supplies (tanks, barrels, cork services, software, media and shows, publications, events, clubs and associations, travel. 44 sites were listed for Canada, including the Opimian Society. Well worth a visit, especially if the other big sites are jammed.

No. 13: www.tradeworlds.com

A more commercial site. Click on wine (or, beer if you want that beverage) and drill through such categories as shops, wholesalers, seminars, grapes, training, accessories, fairs and expositions, publications, organizations - - even headhunters for jobs in the wine or beer business! Lots of top news stories posted daily.

Some others, mostly with adverts, but selective in coverage, include Yahoo <dir.yahoo.com/Society_and_Cultures/Food_and_Drink/Drinks_and_Drinking/Alc o hol/Wine/>. For wine events, just add: Events/ to the URL; for wine magazines, add: Magazines/ to the URL; for wine clubs, add Wine_Clubs/ to the URL. The listing is ad hoc, whatever Yahoo wants to put in...

Open Directory <dmoz.org/Recreation/Food/Drink/Wine/> is a bit more organized, with specific access to Google, HotBot, AltaVista, InfoSeek, and Deja for you to input your topic to these search engines. Covered are accessories, auctions, festivals and events, guides and directories, health benefits, kosher wine, magazines, tastings, viticultural science, winemaking, and the business side of it all

For more information about products sold in each province, try the local monopolies' URLs, such as:
www.lcbo.com
www.saq.com
www.mlcc.mb.ca
www.bcliquorstores.com
www.nsliquor.ns.ca

Dean Tudor (dtudor@acs.ryerson.ca) is Professor Emeritus in the School of Journalism, Ryerson University, Toronto. He writes about (and drinks) wine....

 



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