Magazine article Online

1997: What's Ahead?

Magazine article Online

1997: What's Ahead?

Article excerpt

When asked to offer an opinion on what's ahead, I often think about the profound wisdom shared by the three prophets who appeared briefly in Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979). Known as the Blood and Thunder Prophet, the False Prophet, and the Boring Prophet, they pretty much covered the landscape of forecasting. Following the lead of the Boring Prophet, I offer this vision of the virtual future, in several easy to follow steps@much like those taken by a drunken driver walking the chalk line laid down by a police officer.

1. Individuals will thoughtfully consider Tim Berners-Lee's comments on "The Web After Five Years" in the September issue of The World Wide Web Journal (http://www.ora. com/info/wf/), when he rhetorically asked his interviewer: "What is a Web year now, about three months?" After the interviewer expressed concern about the physical toll that might take on Web workers, Berners-Lee replied, "True. But the plus point is that we will be able to live for three or four hundred Web years, which will be very exciting" By the way, you learn in the interview that he was surprised that "people were prepared to painstakingly write HTML." He also talks about "intercreativity," moving beyond interactivity, a kind of educational virtual reality.

2. The ante in the Web page poker game will continue to climb, as ActiveX controls, Java, JavaScript, VBScript, et al. make inroads in transforming the basic HTML passive pages into programmed dynamic pages. Companies outside the computer industry will realize they got more than they bargained for when they committed to creating Web pages. Development and maintenance will require professionals who know what they're doing - not just students in the midst of learning C++/Java. This is truly Sisyphean technology, continually created anew at each successive stage of development. Thus, HTML, as simple tagging, will begin to decline in importance. For edification, see "HTML 3.2 Reference Specification: W3C Working Draft 09-Sep-1996" (http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/TR/ WD-html32/) to learn about "cougar" and "Wilbur"). On the other hand, users will expect and demand results that fall into the cliche-driven categories of quick and dirty, point and click, fast and loose. This will have a major effect on sales of computer equipment and software, as larger and faster machines are required to process data from new and improved programs in such areas as data warehousing, data mining, and groupware.

3. More people, especially information professionals, will come to appreciate this judgment, voiced by a researcher whose name I withhold on request: "One of the things that I find both fascinating and discouraging about the folks who make the Web search engines is that they have a `Not-Invented-Here' syndrome. There are three decades of work on search engines that don't seem to have much impact, and two centuries or so of library science that also aren't being used. On the one hand, we have a new breed of techies building neat stuff and very excited about the possibilities: on the other hand, we have the experienced people wondering how to contribute (or ignoring) and the librarians wondering how their world will change. (Most of what I hear is fear of this.)"

4. With the evolution and growth of "quality" information on the Internet, professional trainers will offer courses such as critical thinking, end-user information processing and competitive intelligence. One of the drivers will be the recognition by employers that staff, who generally lack knowledge of information quality control and quality assurance, are wasting extraordinary amounts of time looking for data that they are not in a position to evaluate properly. …

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