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No Information Online?

© 1999 Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D.

Dear Ann Landers,

Joy in Mudville wrote to you saying that the Internet is not a source of information. That statement is like saying that people or books are not sources of information. When we receive information from another human or from a book, we must evaluate that information and consider the source.

The same is true on the Internet. If we run across an Internet site run by a person with no credentials, we should not believe that the site offers the one true cure for cancer. However, the Kids Health at the AMA site offers important health information to everyone (http://www.ama-assn.org/insight/h_focus/nemours).

Numerous companies are offering information within their expertise. Seed company sites display planting and anti-erosion information (http://www.albrightseed.com); shipping companies list the various methods of overseas shipping; one well-known travel guide publisher displays the full content of every travel guide they publish (http://www.roughguides.com); a non-profit foster family agency provides details on becoming a foster parent (http://www.fosterfamily.org); a consultant in buying and selling high-tech businesses writes a monthly advice column for business owners (http://www.cashing-out.com); a non-profit foundation tells how researchers can apply for grants (http://www.haynesfoundation.org); a non-profit organization for small publishers lists resources for printing books in quantity (http://www.spawn.org).

How can this information be worth anything if it's free? Why should we be able to get information without paying for it? Well, the spirit of the Internet is a concept which many people find unsettling. The spirit is a carryover from the early days of the Internet when everything was free, because the Internet was fully subsidized by government funding. The spirit is: information should be free, so to draw people to a site, we must be generous with information.

That is, any site which expects to build up a reasonable amount of traffic must first offer something to bring in the traffic. Thousands of companies and organizations display their high-quality information so that they can inform potential buyers. The Internet is an astounding web of information on any subject. Of course, it is still up to the reader to evaluate the quality of the information.

Sincerely,

Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D.

~ Virginia Lawrence is an Information Architect who publishes both in print and online. She can be reached at virginia@cognitext.com or at her Web site, http://www.cognitext.com.

 

 

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