Measuring Information Providers on the Internet

Article excerpt

The literature is now beginning to have regular evaluations of Internet service providers, but there has been little time devoted to a method for evaluating information providers.

Navigating the Internet is tough enough without having unnecessary obstacles littering the roadway. For years librarians have been in the business of evaluating print data sources, but now that we are zipping around on the Internet, we need some new standards. We all knew how to give grades and fill out a report card for the books on our reference shelves, however the electronic tools present some special problems. Librarians also have to pay special attention to the services they create. Libraries have a special responsibility to provide good service. Not only are we at the beginning of a new service era, but we offer huge masses of data that can be time consuming to use. Bad enough for our patrons if we make them do extra work, but why would we want them online for an unnecessarily long time.

A new set of measurements are needed for services provided on the Internet. Four characteristics form the beginnings of a way to measure what we put onto and get off of the Internet. These characteristics are: accessibility, authority, interactivity, and conviviality.

Accessibility measures the ease of getting to a catalog or service. This may be a good measure of an institution's attitude toward the Internet. Many services are feeling the pressure of popularity, and they are responding in different ways. Additional users mean slow response times or even choked-off service. Some put up firewalls and password protection, others add more bandwidth to the access.

The predictability of entry to a service is an important factor. Frustrating users before they even reach a service does not add to conviviality. It is understandable that progress on the net may mean upgrading equipment and software to add functionality, but the bare-bones user should not be left with no access at all.

Authority in print materials is frozen in time with the data. …