Date: Sun, 5 Jul 1998 16:31:15 -0500
Subject: TOURBUS -- 2 JULY 1998 -- BEST OF TOURBUS #4: BIG!

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       TODAY'S TOURBUS STOP:     The Best of TOURBUS #4:  BIG!

Howdy, y'all!

We have a bunch of stuff to talk about today, so let's get started.  I
hope you will join me in thanking all of today's TOURBUS sponsors for
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On with the show ...


One of the best things about the Internet is that it allows _anyone_
to say _anything_ they want on _any_ topic, and these comments can be
posted for the entire world to see.  For the first time in history,
the power of Mr. Gutenberg's little tool of dissemination has been
extended to _everyone_.  Thanks to the Net, physicists can answer
questions from junior high school students, Aunt Martha can share her
cherry cobbler recipe with the rest of the world, and bozos like me
can take 80,000 people on a virtual tour of cyberspace.

One of the _WORST_ things about the Internet, however, is that it
allows _anyone_ to say _anything_ they want on _any_ topic, and these
comments can be posted for the entire world to see.  Thanks to the
Net, weirdoes can distribute stories saying that John Denver was
really an alien (he was born in Roswell, New Mexico, after all), Aunt
Martha can share her disturbingly bad cherry cobbler recipe with the
entire world, and bozos like me can take 80,000 people on a virtual
tour of cyberspace.

The real problem is that the Net isn't "peered" (in other words, the
Net's content is almost never edited or even reviewed by experts).
With almost every other resource that comes into your home, business,
or classroom, the facts are checked and rechecked, usually by a group
of editors or peers. In short, if the content of these non-Net
resources isn't the truth with a capital T, it's the next best thing.

On the Internet, typically *none* of these safeguards apply.  There is
nothing stopping me from posting the following information online:

     6:00 PM Central Standard Time = Noon Greenwich Mean Time

While this mistake might seem minor at first (it is, after all, only
off by a mere 12 hours), imagine the consequences if you used this
piece of "information" in a school report or business document.

One of the most daunting online tasks is sorting through the piles of
mis-information on the Net to find those few nuggets of "truth."  Most
people have neither the time nor the patience to do this for any
extended period of time.  What the Internet badly needs is a well-
respected curator or librarian who is willing to take the time to
point the rest of us in the direction of the "truth nuggets."

Well, the nice folks at the Encyclopedia Britannica want to be that
"nugget-pointer-outer."  They have launched a new, _FREE_ (yes,
Britannica is actually doing something online for free) service called
the "Britannica Internet Guide" which you can find on the Web at

Now, the "Britannica Internet Guide" ("BIG") is _not_ the online
version of the Encyclopedia Britannica.  That subscription service
costs $85 a year (US), and can be found online at


The Britannica Internet Guide ( is a _free_ guide
to the highest "quality" Web sites on the Net.  BIG is a lot like
Lycos' Point Reviews (, but BIG only includes
pointers to sites that provide highly accurate, reliable information.
Britannica's editors reviewed millions of Web sites -- well, they
reviewed _LOTS_ of Web sites -- and they only chose to include links
to those sites that excelled in the following areas:

     - Depth, accuracy, completeness, and utility of information;
     - Quality and effectiveness of presentation;
     - Credentials and authority of the author or publisher;
     - Elegance of design and ease of navigation;
     - Frequency of revision; and
     - Quality of graphics or multimedia.

The few Web sites that exceeded in all of these categories were then
rated on the following scale:

    Noteworthy          (0 stars)
    Recommended         (1 star)
    Exceptional         (2 stars)
    Best of the Web     (3 stars)

How "strict" was Britannica's review?  Well, only 65,000 Web sites met
Britannica's standards, and of those 65,000 only 30 or so were rated
"Best of the Web."  In fact, according to Britannica, about 15% of the
sites received a Recommended (1 star) rating and less than one percent
were judged to be Exceptional (2 stars).

Most of the sites in the Britannica Internet Guide (about 85% of the
65,000, in fact) received a Noteworthy (0 stars) rating.  According to

     [t]hese include (a) informational sites which, in the judgment of
     the editors, will be useful to readers but which have a limited
     scope or little or no editorial enhancement; (b) works of art and
     literature, historical documents, and other primary resources;
     and (c) many official sites for corporations, schools, libraries,
     newspapers, magazines, and other institutions. Although these
     sites are not awarded a star in this selective guide, they should
     still be regarded as valuable sources of information.

     [all quotes from]

So, what does this mean for you and me?  Well, BIG is a one-stop place
for the absolute best, most reliable information online.

There are two ways that we can use BIG.  We can use it as a search
engine to search for topics that interest us (if BIG does not have
anything on the topic that we are looking for, it will automatically
ship our search to Alta Vista), or we can manually browse through
BIG's 14 categories (much like Yahoo!).  BIG's categories are:

     Art and Literature
     Business, Economy, and Employment
     Computers and the Internet
     Health and Medicine
     Law, Government, and Politics
     News and Current Events
     Philosophy and Religion
     Science, Technology, and Mathematics
     Social Science
     Society and Social Issues
     Sports and Diversions
     World Geography and Culture

Actually, my comparison of BIG to Yahoo! is intentional.  BIG is a lot
like Yahoo! with a content filter.

While BIG's database of sites is admittedly small, that is only
because Britannica's standards are so high (TOURBUS only received one
star).  Still, if you are conducting research on the Net, or if you
are frustrated by the high number of sites that provide questionable
information, you really should check out Britannica's Internet Guide
at .

This may be the one Web site that everyone has been looking for.

       TODAY'S TOURBUS STOP:     The Best of TOURBUS #4:  BIG!


HALLER (Adjective).  Empty.
Usage: "That boy's head must be haller or sumthin."

(Special thanks to Wolfe Kincaid for today's wurd)

You can find all of the old Southern Words of the day at

  For info on my book "Atlas for the Information Superhighway"

=====================[ TOURBUS Rider Information ]===================
  The Internet TOURBUS - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2238
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