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Internet Research : A Strange , Foreign World 1

Internet Research: A Strange , Foreign World Luther Young
CTC

Internet Research: A Strange, Foreign World 2

My knowledge of Internet research is limited. I made it through the first 14 years of my education thumbing through library card files and magazine reference books. In my mind, a big stack of books and articles was the only sign of thorough research. I feared Internet research for the same reason that my mother hated microwave ovens (at least until she had the chance to use one). The Internet was a strange, foreign world to me. Like my mother and her microwaves, I feared it because I did not understand it. However, my mother has learned to love her microwave, and becomes testy if for some reason she can't use it. Maybe there's hope for me, after all.

I did possess a smattering of knowledge about the Internet. My feeble attempts to locate long-lost friends yielded an awareness of some sites called "Yahoo!", "Excite!" and "Lycos!". I knew that if I typed in a word or two, then clicked on the word "Search", that a listing of references would pop up. Attached to these references were some obscure foreign hieroglyphics that usually started out with something like "http:\\%$@@!!" I have heard about chat rooms but had never forth into that unknown world until I was required to enter the MOO discussion room.

Armed with this vast wasteland of information, I began my research. Having recently acquired an orchid plant, I was determined to become an orchid aficionada overnight. My history with horticulture is riddled with memories of potted dead leaves, the only remains of plants that advertisements had claimed could be grown by anyone. I guess they never counted on my brand of tender loving care.

I imagined a world of virtual encyclopedias. I could type in a word, and on the screen would pop up a page with an explanation and pictures containing everything I wanted to know, just like they do in the movies. I remember a scene from the movie Deep Impact, in which a reporter typed in an abbreviation, and almost immediately, a picture and facts on world destruction popped up. This scene made internet research look as uncomplicated as kindergarten math to a math major.

My first step was to log-on to Yahoo.com. I had fallen prey to the hackers who claimed to be able to find anything, anywhere, anytime. This stop yielded a list of 11 categories. Already, I'm overwhelmed at the choices. I click on the first highlighted category set which appears to focus on the business and economical aspects of orchids. HMMM. Is there stock or something in orchids? How do orchids figure in the strength of the yen? I decide to skip this category for now and move on to the one that refers to science. This selection provides me with a list of selections that include events, organizations, and shopping resources. I think I'm off to a good start.
I click on the Magazine choice, and find one possibility. I check this one out, and find a home page for what looks like an informative quarterly magazine for amateur orchid growers. The
Internet Research: A Strange, Foreign World 3

site for this prospect is http://www.orchiddigest.com/. I file this away for future gift giving purposes. Before I leave, I notice that this site also references a list of helpful orchid sites, so I bookmark this site.

It doesn't take many more clicks to understand why they call this internet thing the web. It is a web. Each link leads to an explosion of new sources, and each one of those sources reference more sources. I even found the same sites referenced on a few other sites. This is an interlocking, interweaving of information bytes. I have begun referring to the internet as my cave. I go into the welcome cavern, and from there I can venture into a labyrinth of rooms to explore. I've become the lab rat searching for the cheese. When I enter the cave, I am shut out from the outside world. My focus becomes centered on the 10 inch screen in front of me, and the outside world is nothing more than a blur in my peripheral vision. I'm addicted. (Where's that @#! cheese?!)

I began my exploration with a quick check of all the sites I found on my searches. I bookmarked the places that looked interesting, so that I could cut my options down to a manageable stack of destinations. I came across some interesting side trips, bookmarks, webrings, and more. So many things to check out! I feel like a kid in a candy store. This is why people spend hours on these computer things. I wonder if the internet has been investigated for its addictive qualities. I think pretty soon we'll be seeing warnings on the sign-on page that start out "The Surgeon General has warned that internet use may be dangerous to relationships..."

Having been assured from the MOO discussions that chat rooms were relatively safe from evil predators and pedophiles (a cyber-stereotype, if you will), I checked into the first chat room I found, sponsored by Orchid Safari at: http://wbs.net/webchat3.so?cmd=cmd_doorway:Orchidsafari_Chat At the late hour during which I normally do my research, not much was going on there, but the one other person in the room recommended it highly, so I will keep trying to make contact.

My next exploration took me to the rings. My vivid imagination was working overtime, dreaming up images of a journey into Never-Never Land through the Stargate on my monitor. What it turned out to be was a refined search area. The sites listed were infinitely more specific than the results of my first search. It was a sort of virtual street mall. I could directly access orchid growers and marketers, go into the chat room, find information, and much, much more. It was a conglomerate of web sites. The only drawback is that not every site is listed here, so it is not yet representative of every community that is available. However, once bookmarked, the webring is an excellent shortcut to traditional searches. All the sorting and sifting through similar ideas is done for you. The only step is to type in the area of interest, and direct links to registered sites pop up on the screen. I give this community my user-friendly award for this project.

As I continue on investigating all the joints I have hooked on to, I register myself in the guestbooks. Guestbooks are just that: visitors to a site can leave names and addressees just as if they were signing a guest book at a National Park or hotel. I'm hoping that I can find some other budding orchid cultivators (pun intended) to talk to as I stumble along.

I found many sites that had extensive and helpful FAQs. A FAQ is a list of Frequently Asked Questions, and may prove to save the time posting a note on a message board. I strongly recommend the FAQ list published by the Orchid House, located at: http://retirees.uwaterloo.ca/~jerry/orchids/orchfaq.html. This list was very diverse, informative, and easy to read. Even plant ignoramuses like myself can understand much of the information presented here about the orchid.

I checked out the message boards as I went along. I really began to appreciate this aspect of the online community. Anyone can post a message on these boards, and people actually volunteer their knowledge and time by responding with all kinds of tidbits of helpful information. I noticed on one bulletin board that a person by the name of Peter Lin seemed to be responding to a large number of postings. I also stumbled across his own web site, which is a well organized, very informative web site that concentrates on the phalaenopsis species of the orchid plants. This site can be accessed at: http://www.phalaenopsis.net/.

Now I m on information overload. There is so much information out there, and so many new ways to find it, that I can't begin to process all that I have found. As I look back on my card file days, I remember thinking, at that time, how convenient they were, and what a wonderful resource they were. We have before us an impressive evolution. I have learned so much about orchids in my research, but I have also learned that I have even more to learn about the internet. My quest has taken me as far as the moon, but the ends of the universe are still an immeasurable distance away. My orchid can sleep well at night, knowing that I am now armed with enough information to keep it in bloom for years to come. With my new-found knowledge of internet communities comes a great appreciation for this cyberworld, this encyclopedia du jour. I can do this with anything I want to learn about. I can learn to waterski, build a greenhouse for all my future orchids, anything! I'm "queen of the world!" This learning experience has got the synapses in my brain spinning faster than ever before, and I have seen more than I ever dreamed I could see. It's not just the pages of Encyclopedia Britannica put on a monitor, it's the encyclopedia brought to life. I can read the pages, and talk to the authors about what they've written. I can debate in real time about the information, and gain new insight from those with more than book smarts, I can learn from their experiences, and weigh one source against another. I can have all my questions answered, as opposed to just the questions that an editor sitting in his ocean-view office has determined that I need to know. I've heard the advertisements for Yellow Pages that claims that "if it's not in here, it probably doesn't exist." The internet is the mother of all Yellow Pages, and if something is not found not here, then it probably doesn't exist.

Cited Sources
"Orchid House".http://retirees.uwaterloo.ca:80/~jerry/orchids/.Jerry Waterloo. 6 May 1999. Sponsored by the University of Waterloo and the Central Ontario Orchid Society.

"Orchid Digest" http://www.orchiddigest.com/

"Linda's Orchid Page". http://www.orchidlady.com/. Linda Fortner. 23 May 1999. Sponsored by Suite101.com.

"Orchid Safari". http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/3791/. 24 May 1999.

"Phalaenopsis Net". http://www.phalaenopsis.net/. Peter Lin. 24 May 1999.

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