Internet Hints and Tips
"In learning you will teach, and in
teaching you will learn."
-- Tarzan, "Son of Man"
See also: AARP Gide to Internet
Bookmark Liberally -- You'll never
find it again.
- The Web is a maze, and not all resources
are well-labeled. Some are mis-labeled. The links you followed
to reach that site may change. Bookmark not only content, but also
lists of links. People who found Good Stuff are likely to find more
Good Stuff. Lists of links by a sane individual are much more reliable
than search engines.
Use Your "Back" Button And History
- Every browser has a "back"
button to retrace your step ( like leaving a trail of bread crumbs ).
- If you found one neat item down that
path, whoever linked you to it may know of others -- so backtrack and mark
- The "History" button lists
sites you forgot to bookmark recently. Your browser may also have
a drop-down "History" command with a mch longer list, which you
can set to go back years. The disk space required is negligible.
Save Content -- It may not be there
when you come back
- A large percentage of Web pages are gone
after a year or less, or they've moved with no forwarding address.
The majority of people aren't happy with their current Internet provider,
and change within a year. Newspapers and magazine sites typically change
their free articles every few days or weeks. Usenet articles expire in about 3 days.
- Don't worry, you won't fill up your large
hard drive, unless you buy large games or other bloatware. A 2-gig
space on your hard drive can hold about 1,000 books the size of a large
dictionary -- such as the facts needed to defend your position, whatever
Be Careful HOW You Save Content.
- If you just hit File / Save in your browser,
you only get the top page, without pictures. You won't even know
where you got it. If you want the page in its original form with
logos and whatnot, either print it out or do an Edit Page and save to a
- Watch out for tricky formats. Your
browser may have a plugin for YoYo 6.0, but six months from now will
you know how to read that file ?
- Most text on the Web is in ".HTML"
files, which is what you get when you File / Save. You can't read these
in your word processor, most likely. You can usually just double-click
on the saved file to view it in your Web browser ( which doesn't need to
be online ).
- If you need to use Web text in your
word processor, cut-and paste it from your Web browser.
If you collect stray facts here and there, cut-and-paste
them into a clipping file in your word processor. That way you can always keyword-search your entire pile of clippings
using just the Start / Find feature of Windows, even if you have no idea
where you put it. This is a very useful alternative to being organized,
since you can always go back and organize your stuff in oh, say, 50 years.
A Web browser will normally not save
Web pages along with their images, diagrams or whatever. . To do that,
load the desired Web page into your browser's built-in page editor, which
CAN save pictures with text. Normally you can only save one Web page at
a time -- if you also want the pages it links to, you have to save those
separately. That can be gotten around with search assistant software (
see below ).
You're Our Eye In The Sky
- Whenever you find a really great site,
let your linkmaster know. After you lose prize fine link, you can come
back here and find it.
- Meanwhile, other skeptics can swarm all
over your finds and everything they knew, finding nooks and crannies in
the Web you never knew existed.
- Together we CAN "drink from
a firehose", i.e. deal with the vast ocean of information and blaze
trails through the hype.
- Pass addresses around in email.
Better still, post your own collection on your own page, so we can link
to it. That's the name of the game, cross-linking sanity --
and stirring up interest in topics you happen to think need skepticism.
Watch Out For Trolls
- You will occasionally see statements
so idiotic that you just HAVE to respond to them. These are called
trolls, as in trolling for responses. This is similar to talk TV,
which is why you migrated to the computer.
Remember That Most Skepticism Isn't Labeled
- One way to preserve and nurture your
sanity is to locate semi-reliable news and information sources. Rarest
of all are sightings of objective journalists who aren't told what to write.
Don't Dismiss Ineptly Designed Websites
- What you see is not necessarily what
you get when designing a web page, even with visual tools. The internal
language of Web pages, is still awkward and breaks easily. Hence
the occasional godawful colors, mangled paragraphs etc. What's important
is whether the poster knows his or her content, not whether he/she knows
- When you find a really neat site, you
can sometimes 'reverse search' to find sites discriminating enough
to link to it -- then rummage those collector sites for their
OTHER neat finds. Your favorite search engine may allow you to type
in a Web address, to find other sites mentioning that Web address.
- Be aware though that no search engine
can cover the entire Web, and some do a better job than others.
- It takes months for a search engine to
traverse most of the Web, and it may miss some of the Web-hosting systems.
Search engines also vary in their depth-of-search. Search engines
index the top page of each website they encounter, but typically
don't scan the sub-pages beneath.
Search Assistant Software, Whackers, and
- If you do a lot of Web searching, or
want to do thorough searches, consider assistive software.
- A search assistant submits your query
to multiple search engines simultaneously, typica;lly an entire category
of search engines. It merges the results into a browse-able list,
getting rid of duplicates and SOME of the ads.
- A 'whacking' utility downloads collections
of Web pages for you, and has it ready when you want to look at it. Some can also monitor a list of sites, alerting
you to any changes. You can schedule downloads to run at off-peak
times. This saved you time and connect charges. If you have
an unlimited-use Internet account ( which typically costs $7 per
month more ), you can let these utilities run for hours.
- Such tools include Symantec's Internet
Fast Find, Blue Squirrel's Web Seeker and Web Whacker, Quarterdeck Web
Compass, and FirstFloor Smart Bookmarks (which is old but works ).
All of the above products are somewhat quirky. By the time you read
this there may be better ones. Check the product reviews at http://www.pcworld.com,
which also tells you where to get the product and/or trial versions, and
whether there are freeware alternatives. ( Don't try EVERY piece
of shareware out there, since it may not install completely, and can mess
up Windows with memory-eating drivers, buggy DLLs and such ). The
same is true of browsers -- install plug-ins only as you need
them. Any site that needs a plug-in will generally have a link to
- If you read high-volume newsgroups, consider
a newsreader with flake-filtering capabilities, such as Forte Agent.
If you subscribe to public mailing lists, consider a flake-filtering mailer
such as Eudora Pro.
- You can set the filters to flush buzz
phrases like "hot", "win", "be your own",
"own your own", "barely legal, white supremacist lingo,
or resident flake i.d's.
Don't Underestinate Ad-Supported Sites
- Don't assume that you have to spend money
to get good reading matter. Many ad-supported sites are large and
well-equipped. Advertisers don't care whether you're staring
at a TV set or staring at a monitor. The difference is, you can pick
which stories to read. Sites such as CNN and PBS carry a great deal
of supplemental information, and links to related stories. You'll
find such sites listed here under "News" and "Publications".
Use Your Online Public Library
- Ask if your local public library provides
online information services. Many libraries subscribe to commercial
business and other information services, which are only available to library
cardholders for copyright reasons. You may find you can rummage ABI
Business Information, or search back-issues of various magazines
and so on.
Use the Electronic News-Stand
- The ENS carries sample issues of a
great many magazines and news-papers (which happen to be the current issues
). This is particularly useful for checking out garbled
versions of a story, or are looking for factual pubs to subscribe to.
Get What You Want Through Positive Feedback
- When you see something you like online,
say so. The person who put it there may have more. Since few
people take time to write a note, your feedback may be the only input that
- You don't want rational people saying
"What's the use -- nobody's out there." Once people realize
there are others out there with critical faculties, they go looking for
them, which is a Very Good Thing, exceeded only by a dues-paying member.
'Sweep' For Content
- You don't have to read everything as
you come to it, and keep doing that until the trail peters out. That's
tiring, and makes it harder to budget your time.
- Instead, you can range about like a bloodhound
looking for trails, and just bookmark several interesting items on the
way past. Some days you may feel like reading what you've marked.
Other days you may feel like exploring, or follow a side trail, Always
leave a 'trail of breadcrubmbs' with bookmarks.
- The trick is to be loosely organized,
like the Web itself. Surfing is best done with the mind and body
relaxed, open to the tingles of skepticism that accompany meetings of minds,
however dissimilar. This is called "Zen in the art of wading
through BS", which illustrates the last point, namely humor.
Those who are deadly serious about irrational beliefs are welcomed to stress
themselves out -- hopefully we'll outlive them.
- Participation Tips
Keep Your Eye On The Reader
- The online public is rarely swayed by
epic battles with extremists. Nobody stops to watch a fight or a
pissing contest on the information highway, except perhaps a few dimwits.
Most people use their flake filters, or nuke degenerate threads and start
a new one. Godwin's Rule states that a discussion is considered dead
whenever sonebody gets called a Nazi, because it's downhill from there.
Such threads continue to serve as roach hotels.
- A few people root for the big egos, but
you win by holding the reader's interest, by speaking to the reader who's
actually receptive, not the idiot who isn't. Most readers don't care
who wins. They're hoping for something that will stimulate them more
than repetitive orthodoxy.
- Some readers like material that makes
them think. They collect it, they link to it on their websites, they
discuss it on various forums. This is the readership that propagates
rationality, the target audience and the seedbed of skepticism. Tune
to THAT audience when you read or write, and tune out the wasteland.
The popular culture is not rational as a whole, but has some respect for
rationally courteous people, especially when dealing with issues that make
sense only in the light of reason. The skeptic develops the patience
of a teacher, to avoid going nuts.
- The mere presence of skeptics in a forum
conveys the certainty that valid ideas need not be popular, and never have
been. That one fact has value to people who value their own
individuality. Yet quiet confidence in rationality, and the quiet
detachment of rationality, are perhaps best taught by example.
Develop A Thick Skin
- Those who tarry long in cyberspace end
up not giving a hoot what other people think -- or for that matter whether
they think. They develop a certain fearlessness about rejection:
"That's what I think, take it or leave it -- or change
my mind with some semblance of a fact." That's not specific
to skeptics -- other netizens get used to not thinking alike.
Skepticism is more accepted in cyberspace than elsewhere,
due to the vastly larger crocks that punctuate the landscape. Sacred
cows often end up dinner. The Net as a whole is somewhat ill-mannered,
particularly Usenet, which provides a degree of cover for blunt skepticism.
You can get away with more of it, though I wouldn't set up a debunking
outpost on the white supremacy newsgroups.
- You can also get away with long, factual
posts -- just put a twist in there, an occasional nugget, maybe a
juicy quote. At the bottom of every cereal box should be a Zinger.
Don't let anyone tell you that thorough
factual analysis is inappropriate or uncool, even though it makes the arm-wavers
nervous. Net norms are a myth, and totally unenforceable. We
skeptics have as much right to the Net as anybody else. There are
far worse things than skeptics such as spammers.
- "Only with those who are different
can we truly belong.
- -- Little Man Tate
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