Caught in the World Wide Web

We recently conducted a brief and informal telephone survey of readers of Cabling Installation & Maintenance, and one of its results struck me as pretty amazing

Jan 1st, 2001
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We recently conducted a brief and informal telephone survey of readers of Cabling Installation & Maintenance, and one of its results struck me as pretty amazing. Asked about Internet use, 16 of 17 respondents said they used the World Wide Web daily. Although 16 readers is far from representing a quorum of the magazine's readers, I'm going to take their answers to our survey question as being suggestive, at the very least, that many of our subscribers use the Internet regularly.

As a journalist trying to serve our readership, I have in common with it this regular use of the Internet, so I'm going to share my experiences on the World Wide Web, hopefully to your profit.

My first thought is that, truly, it is possible to get trapped in the Web. By that I mean you can spend an unlimited number of hours looking for legitimate business information. This is because the Web is so big and complex, because its information changes so rapidly, and because it's so hard to put in context and evaluate the data you locate on it. For instance, how much good can come from putting the term "MT-RJ connector" into a search engine and coming out with 40,000 hits?

I use the Internet for three things, mainly, and I'm assuming the same of you. We can exchange e-mail, which is a mechanical process I won't discuss further. I also use the Web to find out the latest industry news and to locate specific product, company, and technical information. I'm going to discuss newsgathering in this "Crosstalk" column, and will reserve the subject of locating specific technical and business information for a future issue of Cabling Installation & Maintenance.

To get industry news, I've tried a number of different strategies, with mixed results. General-interest newspaper sites, like The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition, have plenty of news, but even the technology and business news is pretty general compared to what I'm looking for, which is news specific to the cabling industry. So, I've let my subscriptions to online newspapers lapse.

There are also specific news sites for journalists (and others willing to pay for them) that promise to apply filters to the high-technology news, supplying you with only the stories you want. I have found, however, that the filters these sites rely on are not very helpful. I either have to sign up for so many news categories to get all the news I need that I spend an hour or two a day sifting through the results, or, if I narrow my search parameters, stories that are important to me inevitably slip through. So again, my subscriptions to such services have been allowed to lapse.

I have tried the three or four cabling industry-specific monthlies, but their news is months old by the time they reach print, and their Web sites do not seem to be updated regularly with news. Broader-based networking and telecommunications magazines sometimes have daily or weekly news updates on their Web sites, as well as e-mail newsletters that are sent directly to you. Although these Web sites and newsletters are current, they are not specifically targeted at cabling-industry news, and so the problem of having to sift through dozens of sites and e-mails daily is ongoing. I, for instance, now receive about 25 e-mail newsletters, and even skimming them each day has become a real task.

I wouldn't, of course, have brought you all this way without a solution to the problem. At the risk of sounding self-serving, the solution I'm going to offer is our own Cabling Installation & Maintenance Web site, and our new e-mail newsletter, Cabling News.

Like many business-to-business technical publishers, we at PennWell's Advanced Technology Division have tried a number of different approaches to solving the Internet problem. After acquiring and then starting Internet companies, we have come full circle, and have returned our Web sites to the publications that founded them. Along the way, we have learned some valuable lessons. So, here's what you can get at: www.cable-install.com:

  • A Web site containing the archived contents of the magazine, searchable by search engine;
  • News stories not included in the magazine and posted at least weekly;
  • A news feed that supplies half a dozen appropriate cabling-industry stories every day, stories that are screened by our editorial staff before posting; and,
  • An e-mail newsletter, Cabling News, that brings the news to your electronic in-box weekly.

By the time you read this, all of these services will be available and running smoothly. If you want to subscribe to Cabling News, send an e-mail to: stephaniel@pennwell.com; or, visit: www.cable-install.com.

Arlyn S. Powell, Jr.
Editor-at-Large
arlynp@pennwell.com

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