[Note from Ben: My views have changed a bit since February...]
In the past, I have been a very strong supporter of the Internet. But lately, I've begun to realize that things need to change if the Internet's going to become as useful as it has been touted to be.
Why do I change my mind? On Friday, I turned in my senior paper, an analysis of Randall Jarrell's poetry. Now, we were required to use literary criticism to support our findings. I decided to use the Internet to find some of my secondary sources, and, believe it or not, I found next to nothing about Randall Jarrell on the Internet. I tried all the major search sites, plus some small libraries, and the new Electric Library. Nothing. I have had problems finding information on the Internet before. It seems as if the Internet has absolutely no hard data, but just a collection of useless information.
Try doing research using the Internet. You won't find very many actual facts, but you'll find a lot of talk about the subject you're looking for. I strongly suggest that, if the Internet will become the most popular medium for the first half of the twenty-first century, sites begin to put actual information on the Internet, no matter how insignificant it is. Then have the page filed into the search engines, such as Lycos, Infoseek, and Alta Vista. And make the information easy to manipulate. For instance, I found Moby Dick on the Internet somewhere (imagine my surprise), but it was merely a text document. There was no easy way to move around, search the book for keywords, or do anything else. What good is Moby Dick online if you can't search it? Like people would READ the book on the Internet?!
The other creeping fault of the Internet is how it's beginning to look just like television. Sure, like TV, the World Wide Web is free, but look who controls everything? The same companies who rule TV, like Disney, Fox, and car companies have the most popular web sites and have the most power (through advertising). Just last week, Disney's site premiered, and it was clogged with hits all day (seems like a very fast connection, though). The Internet used to be a way for small businesses and ordinary people to reach the rest of the world. But that doesn't happen anymore. When was the last time you went looking for small personal pages? You don't. Why? Most of them basically suck. The only pages people want to see are the ones with lots of money going into them for web design, management, and advanced Java and CGI coding. The rest of us dumb schmucks can't afford, and don't care, to put that much energy into a page. So, like TV, the only popular shows and channels are the ones with the money. Public access channels (or personal homepages) are found on some hard-to-find channel.
This problem frustrates me when I look at my hit counts for each month. No one sees my page. Regular visitors? Hah! I think, in my own opinion, that my web site is pretty good. It's a good jump off point for other sites, and it has plenty of information on Robin Hood and music/TV/MUD links. The graphics are pretty good, too. But I have no exposure on the global level. Most of my hits come from friends or from other local ISPs (who actually advertise their Internet access...*cough, cough*). I encourage you, if you have a web page or browse the Web a lot, to spread the word about small homepages which are pretty decent. Don't promote the big million dollar company pages. They don't need it. Small businesses and people need it. Make the Web a great equalizer, like it used to be.
But for now, I guess I'll actually have to fight my habits and use a real library to find information. Paper's rather immortal, considering it can be torn, burned, and deteriorated. Don't you think?
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