TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Schools Prohibit Personal E-mail Sites

Re: Schools Prohibit Personal E-mail Sites
13 Jun 2005 12:07:36 -0700

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Lisa Hancock, I really do not care for
> your attitude on this. If books are good (because they were very
> time-consuming and costly to prepare and edit) and web pages are bad
> (basically for the lack of the same reasons) then how do you explain
> some of the total crap which has been published over the years, such
> as the literature published by A. Hitler and others in Germany during
> the 1920-30's and much also in America?

I didn't say "all books are good and are web pages are bad". What I
discussed was the conditions that tend to make books a more
authoritative source than web pages.

Certainly some very trashy books have been and continue to be
published and distributed. But I dare say it is harder for one to
find such trashy books in normal channels than it is for one to find
trashy stuff on the Internet. Finding paper copies of hardcore
material requires some effort and some material may not be available
to children; but that stuff is freely available on the Internet.

My concern is that there is a lot of garbage masquerading as fact on
the Internet. The controls that exist on other printed matter do not
exist and the unscrupulous take advtg of that. (For instance, I
learned long ago that many sites pulled up by a search engine are
actually porn sites loaded with common key words to trigger a hit.)
People have put up health-information sites and claimed to be a doctor
when after some careful reading it proved to be garbage.

Sure some of the Internet garbage is merely inconvenient, not harmful.
Like when someone recommended a particular restaurant and I went to
it, only to find it had been closed for several years. The poster who
recommended it 'thought' he had been there very recently but then
maybe it was a few years after all. This was an honest error and of
no great harm.

But I know there are some computer users out there who are quite
malicious, and some of them will go to considerable trouble to post
seriously misleading advice or information just to be an SOB or
satisfy their own immaturity. They thrive on the anonymity of the
Internet. Presently, there is no real check or balance on such web

There are some posters whom I feel know nothing (and probably more
than a few who feel that way about me.)

> And although I am only a mere web publisher and could not begin to
> meet the expenses required of having an editorial/fact-checking
> staff, my attitude is that the _truth will eventually prevail_ and
> any sort of ethical web publisher tries his best to make room for
> _all sides_ of an issue to be aired.

That's all well and good. There is certainly useful information to be
found, and I hope I've contributed a bit of it from time to time. But
there is no guarantee all posts include _all sides_ of an issue to
begin with. Further, there is no guarantee that any one post is
totally accurate.

> What you have done is give a slap in the face to everyone who has
> attempted to present some social issue or another using the web as
> the media of choice because of its low cost and ease of use. Not
> everyone can _afford_ the cost of fancy printing and binding; all
> they want to do is present the facts as they know them to the
> largest number of people possible. Many or most of us under those
> circumstances do at least use a kind of peer-review policy. PAT]

I most certainly did not give any "slap in the face". I merely
pointed out the fact that not all web pages may contain reliable
authoritative information, and I stand by that statement. Yes,
there's not guarantee that a healthcare book from the library is 100%
authoritative, but at least a published book has an audit trail of
reviews where as a web page does not.

Discussing social issues are more of a matter of opinion so there's
less of an issue of facts being right or wrong. Often people agree on
a fact but disagree beyond that. For example: it is a fact that long
distance rates went down after AT&T divested. I say that was merely a
continuation of technical improvements that had been going on all
along. But others disagree and say it was due to competition forcing
prices down. Who is right?

But I will note I've seen web sites who claimed that before divesture
"the phone company offered any telephone set you wanted as long as it
was black", which we all know is nonsense.

I've also seen newsgroups ruined because of one or two people
constantly flood the group with nasty postings disagreeing and
disrupting every discussion. I don't think the truth gets out in such
cases. I think moderated groups -- with a reasonable moderation
policy -- are better to get out the "truth", but then many complain of
censorship. Is the person with the biggest bullhorn saying the truth?

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: That 'biggest bullhorn' effect has come
close to happening even here. As you may have noticed, Lisa, some of
our readers do not like to be contradicted. You respond to them with
a 5 K-byte message; their more agressive response comes back with all
of the previous message quoted and another 10 K-byte reply. If you
respond to that, then they return with a full quote and another 20-25
K-byte response. The more the discussion continues, the 'louder' and
'longer' the blast on the bullhorn. They'd be content, I suspect, if
the entire Digest overflowed with one loud, long blast on the
bullhorn. And what is the truth? Often times, my only honest answer
can be 'you tell me' ...

And regards the 'slap on the face', here is what you _actually_ said
in issue 265 earlier today:

> While anyone can write a book and pay to publish it, getting it
> distributed and purchased is another matter entirely.

> There is a big difference between book publishing and Internet web
> pages. Anyone can set up a web page at very modest cost that looks
> authoritative and accurate but may be actually garbage or even a scam.

> On the other hand, to get a book published and distributed takes a lot
> of effort. Reputable book publishers make some effort to edit serious
> non-fiction offerings (not including fad books such as diet books).
> Books for libraries are reviewed and rated. It is by no means a
> perfect system; but my point is that there is at least some editing
> and selection process going on at various levels; on the Internet
> there is none whatsoever.

You've heard, I assume of 'vanity presses' or 'vanity publishers';
people who pay to have their books printed. One of the biggest of the
'vanity presses' is a company called Unity Press (?). They print
anything and everything handed to them; of course you, the author,
have to pay them a couple grand up front. _If_ they can sell your
book, then fine; if they cannot sell it they ship you the several
hundred copies which were printed, and _you_ try to sell them, along
with all the footnotes on each page, and the preface and the addendum
in the back, etc. Either in hard cover, cloth or paper-back; they
don't care ... they print it as you requested. Some of us just regard
the internet as the "poor man's vanity press system".

As we 'Inform Ourselves to Death' (see the Digest #263, over last
weekend), it has truly gotten to the point that information has no
value any longer. But Lisa, some of us do _try_ at least. PAT]

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