The problem with the Internet (Part 1)

One bad segue deserves anotherWelcome to my first post on the new site. What will happen to rolypolycat? It will still exist, but become the typical “family photo album” type web-site found everywhere on the Internet under obscure URLs. You don’t have to be terribly astute to note that all the old blog postings I made on the site, I’ve transferred over to nerdrider. But (and this is a terrible segue) what if I hadn’t? What if I’d simply abandoned the old web-site to gather virtual dust? The information I’d presented there, would be locked in time. – Both web-sites are hosted on a paid server. The domain names are paid for. So if I simply didn’t renew my account with the vendor, you could imagine that eventually, the hard-drive space would be reclaimed, the DNS entries removed and a small chapter (more like a “generic sentence summarising many aspiring bloggers”) of Internet history would come to a close. But sometimes it appears to be cheaper for a vendor to buy more hard drive space, than reclaim old disk space.

I value my time very highly. I don’t object to anyone who realises its real price. Time is one of those things you can’t buy and only have a limited supply of. IT staff only have a limited time to deal with every issue that comes their way. If they haven’t had the time to set up proper practices, they won’t be using their time effectively. If a hard drive fills, then you have the two choices of “empty it” or “replace it with a bigger one”. Economically, if you spend too long working out what can be removed from a drive, it would be cheaper to replace it. In a world where the global consciousness is finally realising that resources are limited, it’s almost criminal to suggest replacing working hardware is the right choice. But, in the real world, it happens. A classic example: Eighteen months ago, I changed ISP. As is fairly standard, both old and new ISPs offered “free web-space” for a personal web-site. On my old ISP’s website, I had a PHP page with phpInfo() and another page with pictures of strobe ants (that I thought may have been fire-ants). No – I’m not the sort of nerd that studies insects, rather I was concerned that we had fire-ants but the DPI web-site didn’t have the facility to upload photos for them. So, free web-space seemed like an easy solution. Some eighteen months later, my first foray into web-sites still exists.

The computer industry travels at an amazing pace. The technology used today wasn’t here ten years ago. Maybe some research boffin was developing the ideas / software / hardware, but for the most part, it simply didn’t exist. “Best practices” come and go as standards evolve. In our society, we increasingly turn to the Internet as a source of knowledge. We expect that we may have to be wary about the truthfulness of things stated, but we don’t often wonder if its factual basis is still matching any advancements in the field we are studying. Compare this with the Internet’s predecessor AKA a library… Take a book off the shelf, and you always get a feel for how old the information is. Dog-eared pages, faded text, a battered cover, all help convey a sense of age. If you take an engineering guideline off the shelf and see it was published in 1930, you may expect that what you read will be outdated. The cues of age can be far more subtle on a web-page. Without an actual date being displayed on a page, subtelties in fashion and trend (fonts / colours / images etc) will most likely be your only guide. Match that with the pace that the computer industry moves at, and you can see a problem utilising materials found on the Internet as the latest and greatest thinking in the computing field.

I guess my points are:

  • If you are a consumer of Internet material, always look for supporting evidence to indicate what you are reading is correct and up to date. It is relatively cheap to put together a web page. And, you don’t need credentials or a reputable publisher behind you. Without prior writing experience or credentials, try getting a book published in dead-tree form!
    If you are a provider of Internet material, always date your work. It’s current now, but it doesn’t mean it will be by the time someone reads it…

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