HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

February 5, 2007, Herald Journal

Internet information overload?


During these colder days of the winter season, some of us, including your humble columnist, will go through the occasional cold or suffer from those nasty flu symptoms.

Since programs running on the Internet seem to suffer from an occasional “virus” or “bug,” I began to wonder if we humans could somehow catch “something” from all the time some of us spend online.

If there is a name for it, I imagine it would be “Internet information overload.”

Yes, when surfing the “network of networks” it is easy to become slightly confused and overwhelmed. It is perplexing to know exactly where to go when doing research or looking for a website, or where to find the explanation on how to properly cook an arm roast. (I normally call my mom and ask her, as this advice I consider much more reliable than what I could find on the internet).

I was talking with a group of people and the one thing all of us agreed on is what seems to be the short period of time it has taken for the great amount of information being “shifted” online to the Internet.

Does this bring up the question: “Is there too much Internet information “clutter” out there?”

Do we just accept the information we find on the Internet as accurate without checking it out further?

Some of the questions I ask myself when doing research on the Internet for a column or my job are “is this source credible, reliable and current?”

Using reliable and trusted sources on the Internet for researching a favorite topic for school, work or for your hobbies is a good use of the Internet’s resources. This is one of the main reasons why the Internet was started in the beginning . . . to be able to share information with each other.

Sure, it is easy sometimes to become distraught by the mountain of information being presented to us: an endless number of websites, databases and links that include all or part of the information we are searching for over the Internet.

Are some of us a bit intimidated by this mountain of information?

A person once told me they prefer to do research in the library – where there are people that will help direct him to the information. Since most libraries have access to the Internet, he would be able to build upon the information they obtained in the library by accessing the Internet if needed.

I like books and libraries too, and for those of us that thought reading books online over the Internet would put most book stores out of business, I suggest they drop by a B. Daltons, Barnes and Nobles or a Borders Book store and see how busy they are at times.

There is something about paper books and newspapers that the Internet will not replace – the simple enjoyment of reading them along with drinking a freshly brewed cup of coffee for one.

I suppose it is the same when reading that morning paper, it just seems more comfortable holding the paper. I was told it is the “tactile” aspect of it.

I still read a lot of news online too . . . along with my e-mails.

It’s fun reading “online books”; in fact, they try to make it seem like you’re reading a real hardcover book as you can glide your mouse to “turn the page.” You might find this amusing – one of the online newspapers I read…it actually made the “sound” a page makes when you turn it in a newspaper! Like they are trying to trick my senses into thinking I am holding and reading an actual newspaper?

Talk about virtual reality.

It is amazing to witness how our recorded history is being made instantaneously available to us over the Internet.

I was on http://www.video.google.com and just entered the number “1910” into the search box. The first search results showed me links to films from the year 1910. I viewed the shaky black and white 12-minute movie by Thomas Edison called “Frankenstein,” and to the historical boxing film of Jim Jeffries versus Jack Johnson.

A new website that you can trust to have your kids (and you) use for their history and political research assignments is at http://www.usasearch.gov, which is the United States government’s official web portal.

This website is the government’s equivalent of Google.

If you enter a search term here, it will be cross-referenced to interesting government websites or links.

I entered the search term “T-mails” which presented me links to many libraries and government military (.mil) websites that mentioned President Lincoln and his use of T-Mail, or what is called “telegraph e-mail.” One of my favorite columns I wrote for you was about Abraham Lincoln and his use of what we today call e-mail.

Is there “Internet information overload?” Well, there is a lot of information added to the Internet everyday; we just need to make sure that we do not “overload” ourselves when searching for it.