Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine / Volume 1, Number 6 / October 1, 1994 / Page 9
Continued from page 8 / Link to article's front page
June 25, 1993Six months later, the December 1993 page had 124 entries (40,750 bytes), including not only institutional offerings such as:
A Web server has been installed at the Centre Universitaire d'Informatique of the University of Geneva. Information about various research groups at the CUI is available, as well as a number of other experimental services.
December 10, 1993But also more informal information:
A new Web server is online at the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, in Tokyo, Japan, serving Japanese information. This server contains documents in Japanese, as well as notes on Japanese encoding methods and WWW browsers that can display Japanese.
December 10, 1993and:
The first ice hockey team on the Web!
December 26, 1993By June 1994, the "What's New" page included 297 entries (146,684 bytes), and included more specialized webs such as:
A J.R.R. Tolkien information page is now online at University of Waterloo.
June 29, 1994These entries illustrate the trend on the Web during the spring and summer of 1994 for increasingly specialized webs. Also, during the early part of 1994, subject trees continued to flourish. Established subject-oriented webs, such as CERN's Virtual Library continued to grow, while newcomers like Yahoo grew at an astounding rate. According to Yahoo developer Jerry Chih-Yuan Yang, Yahoo started in late March 1994 with about 100 links. It then grew approximately as shown in the following table.
The protein H-Bond analysis software, HBPLUS, now has a WWW page.
June 27, 1994
For lovers of plastic arts a page on stone sculpture from Zimbabwe has been placed on the Web. See these pages on Shona Sculpture! There also is a list of exhibitions on the subject. These pages are regularly expanded as new information becomes available.
Yahoo Database Growth 1994 date Number of URL Links Mar 100 May 9 1666 Jun 1 2823 Jun 15 3607 Jul 11 5479 Jul 23 6121 Aug 5 7337 Aug 11 8265 Aug 17 8566Therefore, along with an explosion in number of Web servers and traffic, there has been an expansion in content--both in terms of amount and diversity--with many institutional "official" webs as well as informal, entertainment, and individual webs growing in the numbers of the links they contain. While older subject trees such as CERN's Virtual Library operate according to a more conservative model involving distributed moderators (people who oversee development of an individual topic page within the virtual library), some informal, single-site, subject trees (exemplified by Yahoo) have grown very rapidly.
But another aspect of the user's needs happens after the user discovers and retrieves information--issues of content and presentation become very important. With rapid Web growth, the user can no longer easily browse alternate or multiple sources for the same or related information--the Web information space becomes "saturated"--that is, there is so much information that a human being can't adequately compare the value of available information sources on a particular subject or topic. Along with saturation, growth in the Web's information space leads to "pollution"--redundant, erroneous, or poorly maintained information that can obscure other information.
This is not to say that Web growth has created no valuable information nor is there a universal standard for information quality. Parts III and IV of this book highlight many valuable webs. Information saturation and pollution are an offshoot of diverse, distributed, creative, and chaotic development--much like the "noise" in Usenet. The goal of information providers is not to eliminate this "noise" on a global scope or crush creative expression--this would lead to unacceptable levels of control, censorship, loss of diversity, and undue dominance of one taste for information over another. (What is excellent information presentation to me may be very poor information presentation to you.) Moreover, information space saturation often leads to competition among information sources, and this competition can drive web weavers to implement information quality increases in order to garner attention and use.
So while saturation and pollution are issues that information providers should consider, the goal is not to seek out or eliminate offending webs or excoriate web weavers. Diversity of web information and views is not pollution or saturation. Rather, pollution and saturation occur when individual information providers don't meet their user's needs or interests. The challenge is for information providers to best define--according to the needs of their users--the content and presentation methods that define quality information so that their webs can meet user needs. This may even include eliminating web structures and information that other webs already offer (reducing redundancy) or correcting erroneous or poorly presented information. In Part V of this book, "Weaving a Web," I propose a methodology web weavers might use to achieve this process of meeting user needs and continuously improving a web.
While information spaces such as traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers) exhibit both saturation and pollution, these aspects are not as salient because of editorial and institutional control in these media. For example, there's a great deal of news during a single day, and I personally don't have time to sort it all out and decide what is important (saturation) or correct (pollution). Therefore, I choose various media--such as a network evening news broadcast or a weekly news magazine--to select and filter that information for me. So while I won't attend to wire reports or C-SPAN during the day, I can depend on Dan Rather or Bernard Shaw to provide me with a daily selection of important events. I choose information sources based on my previously developed trust of their work.
On the Web, however, there's no Dan Rather. Web information providers must become aware of the nature of their medium:
Like cheap, suburban land, Webspace can thus fill with banalities.
Still other challenges for information providers go beyond these considerations for information space saturation and pollution resulting from Web growth. These challenges involve the details of implementing specific information structures and developing processes for gathering, selecting, and presenting online information. To illustrate these issues, in the next section, I discuss some lessons I've learned from my experience in providing information.
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