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Dean's Digital World - Sources 42

By Dean Tudor

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 Typists":

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: majordomo@acs.ryerson.ca 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: majordomo@eagle.ca 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 and supporters.

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 at MegaSources.

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 at www.sources.com. 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 this.

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 bin/searchindex?title=What's+New+This+Week&query=new+this+week&searchtype=s ubjects&results=0&search_tags=c>

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 <www.igs.net/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/canadasearch/wn_show.pl?a>

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: yahoo-picks-reply@yahoo-inc.com. 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: listserv@unc.edu 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: listserv@listserv.nodak.edu 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 webscout-subscribe@lists.kz 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 on.

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: nsdigest-request@netsurf.com. 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: join-searchreport@lists.calafia.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 a message:
SEARCH YAHOO <topic or subject>
SEARCH ALTAVISTA <boolean search>
to: getweb@unganisha.idrc.ca
You'll have to wait a few hours, but what's time to a hog?

Second, try sending the message:
?Q : <your keywords>
to: iliad@algol.jsc.nasa.gov
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>
to: agora@www.eng.dmu.ac.uk
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 dtudor@acs.ryerson.ca.

Published in Sources, Number 42, Summer 1998.

See:  Other Dean's Digital World Articles


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