Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Getting the Word out on the Internet. (Personal Computing)

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Getting the Word out on the Internet. (Personal Computing)

Article excerpt

The Interact is different. Sure, as an information-delivery medium, the Internet in many ways is similar to other media, and you can use magazines and newspapers as examples when researching, writing and presenting information online. But the Internet comes with its own set of tips and techniques for getting the word out.

Research. Much here depends on whether you're writing for a Web site or a discussion group. Despite the noise of online arguments, valuable inside information is offered in Usenet, e-mail and Web discussion groups.

Online discussion groups are just that--discussion groups--where people talk by typing. Mistakes can be quickly corrected with follow-up messages. You don't want to be careless, as many people may read what you write. But you don't have to give the same amount of time to research and fact-checking as with a less fluid medium.

Web sites are typically more formal than discussion groups, but you also can quickly correct mistakes or add to incomplete information.

Because people are typically more casual online, you have to be more careful about the research you do there. It's often good policy to check with multiple sources when searching for information, and it's often good policy to present your credentials when offering it.

With a Web site, make sure you identify yourself or your organization and indicate your experience. With online discussion groups, most software lets you automatically append a "sig" to each message, where you can include a few lines of biographical information or a link to your Web site.

Don't think that because you can't find something online, the information doesn't exist. Much valuable information is only in print. Much isn't either online or in print. Sometimes you have to talk with people or observe things first-hand to really know what's going on.

Writing. The Internet is about speed. People want to get in and out quickly. Neither the Web nor online discussion groups is the best place for long uninterrupted blocks of text.

With a Web site, you need to grab readers' attention and make your main points in the first screen. With online discussion groups, you need to do the same in the first sentence or two. Otherwise, with a quick click, readers will be off to the next site or message.

But don't hesitate to present all the necessary information. Just break it up and let readers know what they're in for. On the Web, include links to interior pages. In online discussion groups, include the word "long" in parentheses at the end of the subject line of your message or indicate at the top of the body of the message that yours will be a long response. …

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