Places you should visit on the Web

Four years ago, Laser Focus World started its own World Wide Web site (www.lfw.com) at a time when few magazines had websites and even fewer companies in the optoelectronics industry had any idea that the Web could be a valuable medium for communicating with customers. At that time, we spent many hours explaining the Web to our advertisers trying to convince them to support our embryo website. Today, four years later, it seems that everyone has a website, from communication giants such as Time-W

Sep 1st, 1998

Places you should visit on the Web

Jeffrey Bairstow

Group Editorial Director

jeffb@pennwell.com

Four years ago, Laser Focus World started its own World Wide Web site (www.lfw.com) at a time when few magazines had websites and even fewer companies in the optoelectronics industry had any idea that the Web could be a valuable medium for communicating with customers. At that time, we spent many hours explaining the Web to our advertisers trying to convince them to support our embryo website. Today, four years later, it seems that everyone has a website, from communication giants such as Time-Warner to neighborhood businesses such as the local florist`s shop. A website has become as necessary as hanging out a shingle. But, too many websites are just thinly disguised advertising--electronic brochures that are the online equivalent of junk mail, rarely opened and frequently tossed out.

New and improved

However, website owners are beginning to take a more critical look at their sites and the services they provide. For example, we`ve been attempting to revise our own website to serve you better. The Laser Focus World website has changed dramatically over the last few months. We now have a partnership with a new venture of our parent company, PennWell, called PennWell Media Online (PMO). PMO has a very large set of websites serving all the magazines of PennWell`s Communications and Optoelectronics Group: LightWave, Cabling Installation and Maintenance, Cable Foreman, and Wireless Integration on the communications side, and Laser Focus World, Industrial Laser Review, and Vision Systems Design on the optoelectronics side. You can reach any of these sites via www.lfw.com. There`s a wealth of news and product information contained in the sites, all fully and easily searchable. If you haven`t visited lately, I recommend you take a look.

There are many other sites that have greatly improved their utility. The two major professional societies, SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering and the OSA (Optical Society of America), both have excellent sites. SPIE actually has two sites: a professional society site (SPIEWeb at www.spie.org) and a more commercial site (Optics.Org at www.optics.org). SPIEWeb has all the usual listings of meetings and publications plus several SPIE journals online. There`s a link to a website that is tracking the status of the discussions surrounding the SPIE-OSA Task Force that is exploring ways the two societies can collaborate. I think it`s about time for the two societies to bite the bullet and merge (and maybe take along the IEEE Lasers and Electro-Optics Society) but that`s a subject for another editorial! Of the two professional society sites, I find the OSA site easier to navigate, but they are both well worth bookmarking.

Another site I strongly recommend for small-business owners, or those of you who are thinking of starting a business, is Inc. Online (www.inc.com), the website of Inc. magazine (full disclosure: I used to work for the Goldhirsh Group, the parent company of Inc.). The home page of Inc. Online manages to cram an amazing number of links into a small space, and the site is quick to download. It is updated daily and contains much information that does not appear in the monthly magazine. Inc. Online will even create a website for you and assist in obtaining a domain name. The site is intelligent, informative, and amusing: a tip of the hat to Inc.Online`s editors.

For travel and investment

While I`m on the subject of useful websites, let me recommend another pair of sites, both from Microsoft, a company that, it often seems, everyone loves to hate for its browser tactics. Whatever you may think of Windows and Internet Explorer, Microsoft has done an excellent job with several of its websites, continually revising them to meet customer needs. The two I find particularly useful are Microsoft`s travel site, Expedia (expedia.msn.com) and the investment site, Microsoft Investor (investor.msn.com). Both sites are extensive and easy to navigate. Expedia is very useful for tracking down air-fare bargains, and you can easily make reservations online and pay for your tickets through a secure link. The Investor site makes tracking portfolios, real and potential, a breeze. The only downside of this site is that watching stock prices frequently is not for the faint of heart. I recommend only a weekly visit if that`s the case for you.

We`d like to hear about websites you`ve found valuable. E-mail me the URLs and we`ll check them out so we can report on the best of them in the pages of Laser Focus World.

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