Magazine article Online

A Report from 1998 ONLINE WORLD

Magazine article Online

A Report from 1998 ONLINE WORLD

Article excerpt

The ONLINE WORLD Conference and Exhibition, held last October at the Washington Hilton and Towers, offered attendees a tightly packed three-day program with a solid assortment of six conference tracks.

Most notably, each day featured an especially informative and entertaining highlight. In a successful effort to enhance the conference buzz, Online Inc. offered popular general sessions each morning. Close to a thousand attendees, amounting to standing-room-only attendance, gathered in the International Ballroom to hear Brewster Kahle's keynote address, the Industry Announcements, and a first-ever CEO Industry Panel.


The Keynote

Monday's Opening Session began with Brewster Kahle's Keynote Address, entitled "Datamining the Internet for Quality Content." Kahle, Alexa Internet's cofounder, warned that the Web has reached "critical mass, and called librarians to task with the announcement that, "it is now time for librarians to build a digital library." Kahle estimates that there are about ten million people authoring for the Web, churning out a constant flow of content areas, doubling the Web's size every eight months--often with quality a mere afterthought.

For those concerned with cataloging and arranging information, this is a unique era. Kahle explained that the Web represents a historically unconventional collection of information in that it consists of "materials that started out in digital form, live in digital form, and die in digital form." He suggests that librarians should not just organize what already exists, but help create it. To do this, he listed the five characteristics of the ideal digital library:

* Collection with selection

* Easy access

* Organized materials

* Preservation of the materials

* Aid to patrons

With that, Kahle graded the Web's current progress and found only one of the five characteristics evident. Which one? Access is certainly free and open. Of the rest, Kahle offered progress on two of the components: organization and preservation. Thanks to Alexa, shareware that integrates with your browser, Web sites are beginning to be categorized by metadata and a peer-review ratings scheme. The traditional cataloging structure, Kahle says, won't translate smoothly into the new digital structure. Alexa also sends out robots that crawl through Web sites and archive the content--multimedia and all. What this accomplishes, and Kahle admits that this is on a very basic scale so far, is the ability to offer an out-of-print Web page service. Presumably, searchers could send in a request for a particular piece of information that had been archived before its host site changed content.

Since Kahle could not come up with any evidence of progress on the fronts of selection and aid to patrons, he left us with a score of one definite accomplishment out of five, and two points of slight progress made toward a digital library.


Industry Announcements

The sixth annual ONLINE WORLD Industry Announcements Session featured nine new product announcements, each squeezed into a six-minute time allotment, Most of the announcements came from familiar companies, with one newcomer added to the bunch.

LEXIS-NEXIS announced the addition of its Universe product to its collection of databases, a Web interface that allows easy end-user access and flexible search features (Boolean, "more like this," and a new Focus option). Dow Jones unveiled Web Center, a collection of Web sites of use to business users chosen by Dow Jones editors. …

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