Whos on first?

A couple of readers, by way of e-mail, have "flamed" me for being too interested in the Internet. I make no apology for my interest in a new publishing medium that clearly serves our readers. This column was sparked by the arrival on my desk of a copy of The New York Times and some statistics from the Laser Focus World Internet server. In early February, the Times carried a full-page advertisement from Prodigy, the on-line service, boasting that it was "first again" to offer subscribers access t

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Who`s on first?

Jeffrey Bairstow

Editorial Director

A couple of readers, by way of e-mail, have "flamed" me for being too interested in the Internet. I make no apology for my interest in a new publishing medium that clearly serves our readers. This column was sparked by the arrival on my desk of a copy of The New York Times and some statistics from the Laser Focus World Internet server. In early February, the Times carried a full-page advertisement from Prodigy, the on-line service, boasting that it was "first again" to offer subscribers access to the Internet`s World Wide Web (WWW). Welcome to the crowd, Prodigy.

Prodigy`s advertisement claims that the "Web Browser will change the way we communicate forever." That will probably come to pass when Web sites offer more interactivity and there is true integration of Web browsers and electronic mail. For the moment, most people "surf" the net the way couch potatoes idly channel surf cable TV with their remote controls. Too much Web activity is of the "willya look at that!" variety, rather than the genuinely useful and communicative. One site, for example, offers the "Fish-Cam," a video camera that transmits pictures of an aquarium of tropical fish to Internet users who have little better to do.

On the other hand, Laser Focus World now has a WWW server that modestly tries to serve our specialized audience with news and features on developments in the technology and business of lasers, optics, and optoelectronics. The server began full-time operation at the end of December 1994. In the last 10 days of January, we had more than 7500 file accesses, which, we think, translates into around 1000 users. We`re just beginning to attempt to identify users, but we know that we have about equal numbers from educational and commercial sites, in addition to a fair number of military and government users. It`s a start.

As I write this editorial, our server has more than 150 files available as hypertext pages. By the time you read this, that number will be well over 200. We`re trying to avoid what experienced information providers call "shovel-ware," which is simply loading every possible electronic file onto the server (with a shovel). The problem with shovel-ware is that the hapless user needs more than a shovel to dig into the files to find a few nuggets of information. So just as we edit the mountains of information that cross the Laser Focus World editors` desks to produce concise and useful material for the magazine, so we edit our WWW files for content and readability.

So far, so good. We`re getting high marks from people who have accessed our WWW server. Most folks appear to appreciate the news that we offer on a daily basis (or nearly so!) and the new products that we post on the server. We`re installing forms to make feedback much easier by automating the sending of e-mail. We`re putting pressure on our server vendor (Bolt, Beranek and Newman of Cambridge, MA) to provide a search function so that users can search the full text of our entire set of files. That way, tracking down a particular product or technical development should be only a matter of a few mouse clicks.

We`re also exploring ways of accessing vendor-supplied information. We already have hypertext links to four pioneering companies--Hitachi Instruments, Molecular Optoelectronics, Rockwell Laser Industries, and Teledyne Brown Engineering (click on "Company and Product Data" on our home page). We also have the capability to offer "home pages" to companies without their own servers. If you`re interested in getting a WWW presence via the Laser Focus World server, send me e-mail at jnb@lfw.com. As you might have guessed, we`re excited about making this new medium work for both readers and advertisers.

To be sure, Laser Focus World is not the first magazine to have a WWW presence. Who`s on first is not as important as who`s providing a valuable service to net users. We`re proud of our Internet capabilities, but we know there`s much to be done to make the most effective use of this new medium.

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ºThese pages brought to you by the editors of Laser Focus World. Our WWW pages include information from:

Laser Focus World--The monthly magazine of optics, electro-optics and optoelectronics

Industrial Laser Review--The monthly magazine of industrial laser news and applications

Laser Report--Twice-monthly business newsletter of the laser industry

Medical Laser Report--Monthly newsletter on the medical laser business

Optoelectronics Report--Monthly newsletter on the optoelectronics world

NEWSFLASH!--Hot industry and technology news, updated every weekday, only on the WWW

JCLA--How to subscribe to the Journal of Current Laser Abstracts (400 abstracts per month)

New Products--A database of product information from the pages of Laser Focus World

Laser Focus World Buyers Guide--The definitive annual guide to companies and products

Company and product data--Products and services from laser and electro-optics companies

Professional Society Information--Links to the leading professional organizations

The Editors` choice of Home Pages--For your information and amusement

Please send any comments or suggestions on this server to Jeff Bairstow at jnb@lfw.com

All pages copyright � by PennWell Publishing Co., Tulsa, OK

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