Beyond Evaluation

Article excerpt

Librarians and information professionals are fully aware of the continuing exponential growth of the Internet and especially the World Wide Web. The constant struggle to keep up with the technology, the frustration of surfing for useful sites, and the battle with search engines that return 200,000 hits is all too familiar.

Librarians have been writing prodigiously about the need to evaluate information on the World Wide Web. Over 100 articles can be found on the Net or in print on this subject [1]. Most discuss methods of evaluation and training for end-users on how to evaluate Web-based resources [2,3]. A smaller number touch on the need for librarians to become more involved in reviewing and evaluating Internet resources.

It is a librarian's training and expertise in information selection, value-added evaluation and comparison, and efficient presentation of information that is most needed regarding the Internet. There is much room for improvement and further development in the area of qualitative evaluation of Internet resources. Here is a status report on Web site evaluation efforts, a model, and some suggestions.

THE NEED FOR EVALUATION

The accuracy and functionality of Internet search engines leaves much to be desired in the way of evaluative information. Results, for the average user, are often links to the same site or irrelevant links to personal or commercial pages. The reviews, if any, consist of brief uninformative blurbs on the site.

There remains a significant need for evaluating Internet resources [4]. Issues of unevenness of quality, lack of peer-review or accountability, the increasing number of sites on the same topic, and the potential degradation of popular Web directories and search engines continue to create difficulties in finding and using quality resources on the Internet [5].

People, including librarians, who are creating simple or extensive collections of links to Internet sites are doing a grave disservice. Librarians should be practicing what they preach by providing solid information on why they chose to link to these sites.

We (librarians) should be providing comparative information to other electronic and print sources--supposedly what we were trained for and what we do best. The arguments come fast and furious on this topic--too many sites, not enough time, can't compete with commercial services, yadda, yadda, yadda. Encouragingly, a look at the Internet shows a growing involvement by librarians and others interested in separating the good from the bad. The medium, with its easy ability to self-publish and the immediate access to a global audience, demands evaluation.

WHAT'S OUT THERE?

There are, and have been, many evaluative sites for Internet resources.

Dead Sites

Several guides have already gone the way of the dodo or are missing in action, including:

* Cyberhound (http://www. cyberhound.com/), which is now available only in print from Gale Research

* GNN Select (bought out by AOL)

* CNET Best of the Web (http:// www.cnet.com/Content/Reviews/ Bestofweb)

* Sitegrade

* IGuide

Merged, but Still Around

Still others are now merged with other services:

* Excite Reviews is no longer a separate entity, and with Excite's purchase of Magellan (http://www.mckinley.com) and WebCrawler Select, it appears that it is planning to merge these reviews in some way.

* Lycos now owns the Point Top 5% Reviews (http://point.lycos.com/ categories/), adding it to their Sites from A2Z collection (http://a2z.lycos.com/)

All these sites are notable for the fact that they have, or once had, substantial financial backing. They are also notable for the lack of useful information contained in the reviews.

New Review Sites

As some review sites disappeared, new ones have sprouted including:

* Yahoo! …