Quote of the week:
"This is about going town to town putting more modems in."
-- Bob Pittman, CEO of AOL Networks in a NY Times article on AOL's problems this past Friday.
Yes, the AOL meltdown continues, and rather than add my voice to the growing number of complainers, I come here today with a solution for all your AOLers. Don't bother waiting for them to install enough modems in your neighborhood -- get another dial-up account!
Bear with me a moment: the idea is to separate your connectivity provider with your cyber- identity. So pick IBM, AT&T, CompuServe, or even your local ISP as your dial-up access provider. Sign up with them for their unlimited $20/month rate, and configure your dial-up networking application to deal with this new provider. Keep your AOL software and your firstname.lastname@example.org -- why not? You've probably, as one person quoted in the above Times article, gone ahead and put this ID on your business card, so there is some legacy worth protecting here. Of course, this means your Internet access costs have now doubled but the price of protection is relatively cheap.
You see, you can connect to AOL via any Internet connection, provided you are running a more recent vintage of their software. I tried this on my Mac and it was simple: I used my CompuServe account and PPP dialer, and made one change to my AOL software (from SprintNet to TCPack) on the setup page. Do this, and now you don't have to bother with busy signals on AOL. Of course, if everyone picks the same strategy in your town, you'll now have busy signals on the new provider. But let's hope the diversity of providers will save us from that fate.
So I'd like to share what I found in looking at my logs from overall hits from November and December, collected using e.g.Software's WebTrends. All numbers are expressed as a percentage of total hits during that month. Realize that there was an increase in hits of about 20 % from November to December. (That by the way has been fairly consistent throughout the year -- but I can't tell if more robots are combing my site or if it is real humans. I suspect it is a bit of both.) And there is no way I can assume that even the same people visited the site consistently from one month to the next. Still, with those caveats, take a look:
While two months doesn't mean much, this is one of the biggest changes I've seen on my site in a while: the migration to MS IE is quite strong. And a corresponding migration from Win 3.1 to 95 is finally beginning to happen as well. And if we look at the split between 2.x and 3.x, it is growing: the numbers show 65 % and 86 % running 3.x of Navigator and IE respectively in November, changing to 69 % and 94 % in December.
People are finally beginning to upgrade their browsers -- it might be because they are getting new computers, rather than out of any sense of trying to keep up with the browser vendors' releases.
Well, I took the middle ground: I updated the content, making it clear that I was writing in the present and that the original article was gone from cyberspace. At the time I did that, I had no remorse, and patted myself on the back for keeping things up to snuff on my web. Weeks later and I am now filled with some self-doubt: what about that precious archive? Shouldn't I want to maintain all those back issues of Web Informant, to make it easier when a hundred years from now the Franklin Mint Limited Editions Club wants to offer an engraved boxed set? (Just somewhat tongue-in- cheek.)
This raises a larger question: How many times have you done a search for something on Lycos or whatever and found that the article or page is no longer on the target site? What is the responsibility of a web publisher to maintain the past states of his or her site? And what constitutes a past state anyway? In my case, doing this missives more or less weekly, it is fairly simple to say -- yet I have many more questions than answers. And on sites that have mostly dynamic pages, what is a current state? You got me.
It gets back to whether the right information delivery model is a book, a movie, or a radio program (something I wrote about long ago). Notice that many movies have been re-issued on laser disks with several versions included -- the "director's cut" and so forth. I am sure that trend will continue once DVDs take off.
All of this is some food for thought. I don't have the answers. But for the time being, I'll continue to update my archives -- not a lot, but enough to be helpful.
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entire contents copyright 1997 by David Strom, Inc.