the new year! A time for a fresh start, a chance to throw away that which we do not feel moves our
lives forward or benefits our weary psyches.
At IU, that means cleaning out our hotlists and making resolutions. Among the ejected, those sites that on initial inspection appeared attractive but on subsequent visits revealed essentially no real content. Graphics alone do not a Web site make, yet in 1995 we saw the rise of that beastly phenomenon known as the Web Site Based Only on Eye Appeal. Certainly, the improvements in the Netscape browsers offered the inclusion of all kinds of swell-looking stuff onto Web sites, but it made us wonder: If you can do it, does it mean you should -- and refrain from anything else? Hmmm.
So we decided, in a collective effort, to avoid the obviously banal, those sites crying out "Look at me!" but that do not follow up with a similar plea to "Read me!" What we ended up with were more text-oriented sites, or those that offered a deep well of information mixed in with the graphics. We call this the Avoiding Yanni Tactic (AYT), in dubious honor of the Greek-born composer known for heavily synthesized Muzak masquerading as mass-appeal pop music. Yanni feels somehow compelled to put his bewitching visage on the front, back and inside flaps of his CDs that are disappointingly filled with what can only be referred to as musical beige. When we thought about it, we concluded many Web pages suffer from the same problem: They get you excited with graphics or photos then fail to deliver, deceptively drawing you into a void.
So in our AYTs, we decided to focus this month on CandyLand. Text-heavy, but boy can you learn stuff you'd never find in the Time-Life Home Improvement series! One of CandyMan's more controversial areas includes more than 100 files on making bombs, ranging from napalm to fertilizer-based explosives. CandyMan's site was frequently held up by major news organizations and Congress as an example of why the 'net ought to be censored. We decided to find out why he felt it was important to keep such information on the bandwidth.
Speaking of bandwidth, let's talk about sound. For so long, our ears have simply been the "teased" sense, the one that had to get by with just a few seconds of .WAV files offering simple snippets of sound. Now, developments such as RealAudio, IWave and other sound applications transmit words and music in a big way, allowing for bands and radio stations to set up shop and hawk their wares through the ether. Two of our stories in this issue profile these developments and the impact of such technology, from the bands who make music to the people who listen to it.
Also in 1995, we saw the advent of Maybe Too Many of a Good Thing Web sites. By that, we mean the situation in which multiple sites are erected by well-meaning fans offering essentially the same details on identical subjects. A prime example: The X-Files. Now, none of us would miss an episode of the Fox show, but hey, there's got to be a limit. It's sort of the same way so many Internet magazines hit the newsstands in 1995, but that's another story. We've resolved not to create an X-Files page of our own.
A little something about our cover story. This month, contributing editor Simson Garfinkel takes a look at something we've been wondering about here in the IU offices. Namely, will the Internet hurt the online services? This may be a story that eludes other media, as some people (journalists included) seem to misunderstand that when hooked on America Online, a user is limited only to a cul-de-sac on the Internet, not offered access to an on-ramp. Garfinkel, author of several books on the 'net and a frequent contributor to Wired magazine and The Boston Globe, investigates.
Oh and our other resolutions? Lose weight, get in shape, write more letters, volunteer for charities and spend more time with our children (although none of us have any). Well, that's what we would do if we could bring ourselves to log off long enough. Maybe we'll just concentrate on Avoiding Yanni.