The Complete Guide
Volume 22 Number 6
"Are you ready?" Two internet veterans show us the way, with a guide to useful resources and an Internet bibliography.
The Internet is a complex global interconnection of computers that allows information in a multitude of forms to flow amongst the users of those computers. From its beginning as a tool of the military in the 1980s, the Internet emerged in 1994 as a colossal telecommunications opportunity to link communities of all sorts.
Have you had your nose pressed against the glass of the Internet shop wondering what all those treasures were on the other side? Or have you received your key to the shop--your account--complete with user passwords, and now you are uncertain which department you should go to first? Have you had other consumers asking you for advice because your shirt says INFORMATION on the front?
Chances are that you will want to consult one of the many Internet books that have been published in the last year. The demand for these materials has exploded along with the access to the Internet and, as accessibility to network services increases through community-operated freenets, public library workstations, and schools, the demand should not be expected to diminish soon.
Several books, such as Brendan Kehoe's Zen and the Art of the Internet had their beginnings as respectable online guides to the Internet. Tracey Laquey's book, Internet Companion: A Beginner's Guide to Global Networking, was released on world.std.com just two chapters at a time. Users quickly discover that there are many guides online, notable among them Ed Krol's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Internet (1989),
Adam Gaffin's Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet, now known as EFF (Extended) Guide to the Internet (1994), and Zen and the Art of the Internet (first edition). The publisher of Ed Krol's popular book, The Whole User's Guide and Catalog, has put a couple of chapters from the book online in their Global Network Navigator.
"Press <SPACE> for more,
'q' to quit, or 'h' for help"
Beginners also appreciate the FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) online which serve to answer common questions on many topics. Through reading a book such as The Internet Navigator, the new user can discover that FAQs are first approved, posted to a variety of newsgroups, and eventually archived for anyone who wishes to retrieve them. Paradoxically, change is a constant on the Internet.
Keeping pace with change, Kevin Savetz maintains an FAQ for new users. One popular question he answered was, "What's a good book to read for more information about the Internet?" When the answer "outgrew" the FAQ he started a periodic posting to the newsgroups; the postings are archived for ftp (file retrieval) at rtfm.mit.edu:/ pub/usenet/news.answers/internetservices / book. list.
The same information is available via electronic mail. Address the message to email@example.com. In the message area type the following: send usenet/news.answers/internet-services/ book-list. A program at MIT will recognize your address and request from that simple email message. Finally, you can get access to Savetz's information by reading the newsgroup called news.answers. He has promised to post the Unofficial Internet Book List on the 5th and 19th of each month.
Alternatively, book reviews are available online at the Internet Book Information Centre (the URL for which is http://sunsite.unc.edu/ ibic/ IVRB.html). (URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator.) One can also read the newsgroup alt.books.reviews, where Internauts compare notes.
Directions, documentation, destinations and definitions are found in the pages of books about the Internet. In the early stages, users will appreciate the definitions of the jargon of the Internet such as FAQ, newsgroup, Veronica, gopher, world wide web, Hytelnet, archie, telnet, hypertext, and browser. Choosing the newest editions should ensure the inclusion of recent terms. Navigating the Internet and Whole Users' Guide and Catalog are two of many titles that provide definitions and descriptions of these features. The colourful How the Internet Works has illustrated definitions.
Another title from the same publisher, entitled How to Use the Internet, is especially popular with students. Brief step-by-step directions for using the Internet services are accompanied by understandable illustrations. When looking for books to serve as instruction manuals to the Internet, try to find materials that describe the services that are offered in your area and for your equipment. Many readers prefer to see screen captures that illustrate the procedures as they are described in text.
Clarity of instructions is vital. When I began to use the Internet, I opened three separate publications to the chapter on email, then how to ftp, and so on. This led to the realization that one book was particularly clear, leaving the other two to gather dust. As an experienced user, my needs have changed, however, and those once neglected books have since been used.
"Catch you on the Net!"
Directories abound. The Internet Directory exemplifies the type of book that minimizes instruction. Instead, this sort of book divulges addresses for worthwhile destinations, reminiscent of a phone book that requires replacement on a regular basis. As the concentrations and diffusion of Internet offerings shift location from time to time, users may want to read a book such as The Internet Yellow Pages. Such works describes how to locate all sorts of resources, including the work of Scott A. Yanoff and John December, who manage online lists of Internet destinations that are not to be missed.
Both updates are found in many places. Here are two. For John December
updates use this URL: http:/ www.rpi.edu/ Internet Guides/decemj / text.html. For Scott A. Yanoff's update, called the Internet Services List, try the newsgroup called alt.internet.services.
While you are online you can check the table of contents of the definitive guide to Canadian Internet resources, The Canadian Internet Handbook. You can also send email to its authors, Jim Carroll and Rick Broadhead, read the press release or order the book directly. The 1995 edition and its electronic (Windows) version have been available since November.
"You have new mail"
Numerous titles have been packaged with software and include some documentation. In some of these packages, the software may be limited to the use of a single book purchaser, as is the case with the MacTCP software that came bundled with The Mac Internet Tour Guide or The Internet Starter Kit. Apple intends to distribute this software with System 7.5 but anyone wanting to use the program outside of that arrangement is expected to pay for its use.
A survey of over five hundred people described in "Telecommunications and K-12 Educators: Findings from a National Survey" by Margaret Honey for the Center for Technology in Education (ERIC document no. 1: ED359923) reveals that most of the leaders in telecommunications, primarily computer and library media specialists, are self-taught. If this trend toward independent learning continues and if the number of users continues to increase as expected, the amount, the currency, the clarity, and the usefulness of the Internet books on our shelves will need to be measured.
If our shirts say INFORMATION, we should be able to show the way.
Margaret Stimson is Coordinator, Gifted Education/Media Services, with Assiniboine South School Division in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Margaret describes herself as a self-educated Internet user whose question for all school and public librarians is, "Are you ready?"
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