THE SAGA OF Facebook Trending Topics never seems to end—and it drives us nuts.

First, Gizmodo said that biased human curators hired by Facebook—not just automated algorithms—were deciding what news stories showed up as Trending Topics on the company’s social network, before sprucing them up with fresh headlines and descriptions. Then a US Senator demanded an explanation from Facebook because Gizmodo said those biased humans were suppressing conservative stories. So, eventually, Facebook jettisoned the human curators so that Trending Topics would be “more automated.” Then people complained that the more algorithmically driven system chose a fake story about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly as a Trending Topic.

Don’t get us wrong. The Facebook Trending Topics deserve scrutiny. They’re a prominent source of news on a social network that serves over 1.7 billion people. But one important issue was lost among all the weird twists and turns—and the weird way the tech press covered those twists and turns. What everyone seems incapable of realizing is that everything on the Internet is run by a mix of automation and humanity. That’s just how things work. And here’s the key problem: prior to Gizmodo’s piece, Facebook seemed to imply that Trending Topics was just a transparent looking glass into what was most popular on the social network.

Yes, everything on the Internet is a mix of the human and inhuman. Automated algorithms play a very big role in some services, like, say, the Google Search Engine. But humans play a role in these services too. Humans whitelist and blacklist sites on the Google Search Engine. They make what you might think of as manual decisions, in part because today’s algorithms are so flawed. What’s more—and this is just stating what should be obvious—humans write the algorithms. That’s not insignificant. What it means is that algorithms carry human biases. They carry the biases of the people who write them and the companies those people work for. Algorithms drive the Google Search Engine, but the European Union is still investigating whether Google—meaning: the humans at Google—instilled this search engine with a bias in favor of other Google services and against competing services.

“We have to let go of the idea that there are no humans,” says Tarleton Gillespie, a principal researcher at Microsoft Research who focuses on the impact of social media on public discourse. That’s worth remembering when you think about the Facebook Trending Topics. Heck, it’s worth repeating over and over and over again.

Facebook’s ‘Crappy’ Algorithm

Jonathan Koren worked on the technology behind the Facebook Trending Topics. The bottom line, says the former Facebook engineer, is that the algorithm is “crappy.” As he puts it, this automated system “finds ‘lunch’ every day at noon.” That’s not the indictment you may think it is. The truth is that so many of today’s computer algorithms are crappy—though companies and coders are always working to improve them. And because they’re crappy, they need help from humans.

That’s why Facebook hired those news curators. “Identifying true news versus satire and outright fabrication is hard—something computers don’t do well,” Koren says. “If you want to ship a product today, you hire some curators and the problem goes away. Otherwise, you fund a research project that may or may not meet human equivalence, and you don’t have a product until it does.” This is a natural thing for Facebook or any other Internet company to do. For years, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks used humans to remove or flag lewd and horrific content on their platforms.

So, Koren and about five or six other engineers ran a Trending Topics algorithm at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, and across the country in New York, news curators filtered and edited the algorithm’s output. According to Gizmodo, they also “injected” stories that in some cases weren’t trending at all. (A leaked document obtained by The Guardian, however, showed Facebook guidelines said a topic had to appear in at least one tool before it could be considered for the Trending module.) The setup made sense, though Koren says he privately thought that the humans involved were overqualified. “It always struck me as a waste to have people with real journalism degrees essentially surfing the web,” he says.

Trending versus ‘Trending’

When it looked like Gizmodo’s story was finally blowing over, Facebook got rid of its journalist news curators—then it promptly had to deal with the fake Megyn Kelly story. People blamed the more algorithmically driven system, but Facebook said all along that humans would still play a role—and they did. A human working for Facebook still approved the hoax topic over that weekend, something many people probably don’t realize. But they were outraged that Facebook’s review system, now without a single journalist employed, let a fake story slip through.

 

Koren says the whole thing was “a bit overblown.” And that’s an understatement. From where he was sitting, “there wasn’t someone within the company going ‘bwahaha’ and killing conservative news stories.” But even if there was an anti-conservative bias, this is the kind of thing that happens on any web service, whether it’s Google or Amazon or The New York Times or WIRED. That’s because humans are biased. And that means companies are biased too. Don’t buy the argument? Well, some people want fake stories about Megyn Kelly, just because they’re what everyone is talking about or just because they’re funny.

The issue is whether Facebook misrepresented Trending Topics. Prior to the Gizmodo article, a Facebook help page read: “Trending shows you topics that have recently become popular on Facebook. The topics you see are based on a number of factors including engagement, timeliness, Pages you’ve liked, and your location.” It didn’t mention curators or the possibility that the system allowed a story to be added manually. We could deconstruct the language on that help page. But that’s seems silly. Algorithms don’t exist in a vacuum. They require humans. Besides, Facebook has now changed the description. “Our team is responsible for reviewing trending topics to ensure that they reflect real world events,” it says.

What we will say is that Facebook—like everyone else—needs to be more aware of the realities at work here. Koren says that Facebook’s relationship to the broader issues behind Trending Topics was characterized by a kind of “benign obliviousness.” It was just focused on making its product better. The folks building the algorithm didn’t really talk to the curators in New York. Well, however benign its obliviousness may be, Facebook shouldn’t be oblivious. Given its power to influence our society, it should work to ensure that people understand how its services work and, indeed, that they understand how the Internet works.

What’s important here is getting the world to realize that human intervention is status quo on the Internet, and Facebook is responsible for the misconceptions that persist. But so is Google—especially Google. And so is the tech press. They’ve spent years feeding the notion that the Internet is entirely automated. Though it doesn’t operate that way, people want it to. When someone implies that it does, people are apt to believe that it does. “There’s a desire to treat algorithms as if they’re standalone technical objects, because they offer us this sense of finally not having to worry about human subjectivity, error, or personal bias—things we’ve worried about for years,” says Gillespie.

 

Humans Forever

Sorry, folks, algorithms don’t give us that. Certainly, algorithms are getting better. With the rise of deep neural networks—artificially intelligent systems that learn tasks by analyzing vast amounts of data—humans are playing a smaller role in what algorithms ultimately deliver. But they still play a role. They build the neural networks. They decide what data the neural nets train on. They still decide when to whitelist and blacklist. Neural nets work alongside so many other services.

Besides, deep neural networks only work well in certain situations—at least today. They can recognize photos. They can identify spoken words. They help choose search results on Google. But they can’t run the entire Google search engine. And they can’t run the Trending Topics on Facebook. Like Google, Facebook is at the forefront of deep learning research. If it could off-load Trending Topics onto a neural net, it would.

But the bigger point is that even neural nets carry human biases. All algorithms do. Sure, you can build an algorithm that generates Trending Topics solely based on the traffic stories are getting. But then people would complain because it would turn up fake stories about Megyn Kelly. You have to filter the stream. And once you start to filter the stream, you make human judgments—whether humans are manually editing material or not. The tech press (including WIRED) is clamoring for Twitter to deal with harassment on its social network. If it does, it can use humans to intervene, build algorithms, or use a combination of both. But one thing is certain: those algorithms will carry bias. After all: What is harassment? There is no mathematical answer.

Like Twitter, Facebook is a powerful thing. It has a responsibility to think long and hard about what it shows and what it doesn’t show. It must answer to widespread public complaints about the choices it makes. It must be open and honest about how it makes these choices. But this humans versus algorithms debate is a bit ridiculous. “We’ll never get away from the bias question,” Gillespie says. “We just bury them inside of systems, but apply it much more widely, and at much bigger scale.”

Source : http://www.wired.com/2016/09/facebook-trending-humans-versus-algorithms/

 

Categorized in Search Engine

The Internet is a necessity in the workplace, whether you work in a supermarket or in an office, there is a part of your job that will require an Internet connection. With companies becoming increasingly obsessed with ways to increase productivity, the most obvious way is to improve your connection speed.

If you count up the times you have waited for a page to load or a tutorial video to stop buffering, you’ll probably have spent hours if not days each year sat at your screen simply waiting.

In the following paragraphs we’ll cover what contributes to Internet speed and share some top tips on how you can speed yours up.

Internet speed is determined by a number of factors; some are completely out of your control, like where you live whilst others you do have control over.

Network structure

Perhaps the most important thing is the structure of your network. Whether you use a wired or wireless connection, if your system isn’t installed with bandwidth in mind you could be losing mountains of all-important speed. As a result, it is imperative that your business hires a structured cabling and wireless network professional to ensure that your network is in the best position possible to help you reach maximum Internet speed.

Clean your device

Have you ever wondered why the Internet on your laptop seems to move much quicker than on your PC, despite you being connected to the same network? Well a lot of this can be to do with your device rather than the network.

If you are trying to use multiple applications at once or your device is reaching its memory capacity, it will run much slower. As a knock on effect this means it will take longer for web pages to load.

Spend a few hours going through your computer and remove any unwanted applications. Don’t forget to perform regular virus scans as well because if your computer is infected it could make your Internet run at a snail-like pace. Here are a few more tips on how to clean your computer.

Check your browser

This is something that many people forget, but different browsers will have more of a strain on your computer and connection. For example, Internet Explorer is a popular browser but it does use a lot of resources, on the other hand you could find that using a more compact browser like Chrome will speed up your connection.

Download browser plug-ins

Most browsers now come with the ability to download plug-ins like dictionaries that allow you to hover over a word and instantly be presented with a definition.

There are many fantastic plug-ins that can help to improve your Internet speed. Popular ones include those which virtually disable ads from your surfing experience and with less flashing banners and pop-ups on your screen, you will have less elements to load and ultimately the content that matters should load much more quickly.

Most browsers now come with this ability built-in, like Safari will automatically disable all Flash elements unless you physically click on it and enable Flash.

Remove unwanted plug-ins

There are countless plug-ins that you can download so you’ll be forgiven for amassing a few over time. However, if you have plug-ins that you haven’t used in months, delete them. They’ll be running in the background and consuming bandwidth unnecessarily.

Close all unneeded tabs

Many webpages will now refresh automatically every few minutes, mainly news sites. So even if you aren’t looking at pages but have them open in tabs, they will be consuming bandwidth. If you are one of these people that likes to have unlimited tabs and browser windows open, think again if you are experiencing slow Internet speeds – closing them could have a huge difference.

Source : http://www.toptensocialmedia.com/social-media-technology-2/internet-reliance-improving-your-speed-at-work/

Categorized in Science & Tech

ISLAMABAD: In 2013, after Yahoo acquired Tumblr, a micro blogging website, many financial analysts thought that Yahoo would move away from troubled waters and join ranks with the likes of Facebook and Twitter, if not Google.

Marissa Mayer indeed made a good bet by acquiring the blogging platform for $1.1 billion but unfortunately the acquisition failed to turn things around for Yahoo. Revenues fell, though Yahoo snatched back some market share from Google in 2015 after a deal to replace Google as the default search engine on Firefox browsers in the US.

Despite several acquisitions and organisational changes, profits continued to tumble and eventually the company was put up for sale in 2016. Now in hindsight, we can identify four reasons why a company valued at more than $100 billion in year 2000 ended up getting acquired for less than $4 billion in 2016.

Do you Yahoo!?

After 21 years, board of directors at Yahoo still has no idea if Yahoo is an internet technology company or is it a media powerhouse. For most users, Yahoo is an obsolete search engine; for some, Yahoo is synonymous to Yahoo Mail and for many, it is a finance news portal.

The organisational identity crisis resulted in an unbridged gap between its internal self-image and its market positioning. Yahoo was the ‘go-to destination’ to find good content on internet but it failed to develop a new niche after the dot-com bubble burst.

Yahoo is a buzzkill when it comes to acquisitions.

It acquired more than 110 companies since its inception but only a few had a strategic fit with its core business. Yahoo has shown a poor track record in general when it comes to managing million dollar acquisitions. Yahoo failed to monetise the $5.7 billion Broadcast.com, an internet radio company and had to close operations of GeoCities – a web hosting company that it acquired for over $3.6 billion. Yahoo did the same with Delicious and Flickr.

A hands-off approach to product development

Unlike Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook and Larry at Google, co-founders of Yahoo essentially disconnected themselves with decisions related to the product design. Product managers called the shots who would prepare extensive requirements elicitation documents for engineers to execute – with little room for feedback.

Creativity was not a priority and there was no culture of process improvement. Things never changed even when underdogs started to steal Yahoo’s thunder and grab its market share.

Missed opportunities

In 2002, Yahoo failed to close a deal with Google co-founders when they asked for $1 billion. Eventually when Yahoo’s CEO went to them with the reluctant offer, Google raised their valuation to $3 billion.

Similarly in 2006, Yahoo approached Facebook with an offer of $1 billion. Though Mark Zuckerberg declined, it was widely known that an offer of $1.1 billion would have got the deal approved by Facebook’s board.

In 2008, Microsoft approached Yahoo with a takeover bid of over $44 billion. Yang resisted the offer and made up a “stockholder rights plan” as a poison pill to make the company unattractive for takeover. Eventually in 2012, Yang stepped down from the board leaving the company in dire straits.

Final word

An internal memo written by a Yahoo employee in 2006 (called Peanut Butter Manifesto) highlighted that the company wants to do everything and be everything – to everyone. The “fear of missing out” and the inability to focus on a core business contributed to the downfall of an internet pioneer.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/1153035/yahoos-demise-internet-giants-failure-story-missed-opportunities/

Categorized in Search Engine

The Digital Payments 2020 report by Google and BCG analyses the transformation in Digital Payments and its impact on the payment landscape in India.

Why digital payments are on the rise?

66% users like the convenience 48% users are lured by offers 75% merchants feel opting for digital payment will increase sales

What are the hurdles on the way?

50% users find it difficult to understand 50% users stopped using it because it is not accepted everywhere

By 2020

60% of digital payments value will be driven by physical points of sale 50% of person to merchant transactions will be worth less than Rs 100

http://retail.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/e-commerce/e-tailing/more-than-50-of-indias-internet-users-will-use-digital-payments-by-2020-google-and-bcg-report/53483942

Categorized in Search Engine

Race, education, socioeconomic factors all linked to lower online participation

Recruiting minorities and poor people to participate in medical research always has been challenging, and that may not change as researchers turn to the internet to find study participants and engage with them online, new research suggests. A study led by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis concludes that unless explicit efforts are made to increase engagement among under-represented groups, current health-care disparities may persist.

In a study of 967 people taking part in genetic research, the investigators found that getting those individuals to go online to get follow-up information was difficult, particularly if study subjects didn’t have high school educations, had incomes below the poverty line or were African-American.

The new findings are available online July 28 in the journal Genetics in Medicine.

“We don’t know what the barriers are,” said first author Sarah M. Hartz, MD, PhD. “We don’t know whether some people don’t have easy access to the internet or whether there are other factors, but this is not good news as more and more research studies move online because many of the same groups that have been under-represented in past medical research would still be missed going forward.”

Hartz and her colleagues offered participants detailed information about their ancestry as part of genetic research to understand DNA variations linked to smoking behavior and nicotine addiction. Some 64 percent of the people in the study answered a survey question stating that they were either “very interested” or “extremely interested” in that information, but despite repeated attempts to get the subjects to view those results online, only 16 percent actually did.

The numbers fell to 10 percent or lower among people with low incomes and no high school diplomas, as well as among study subjects who were African-American. Such groups traditionally have been under-represented in medical research studies.

“This is particularly relevant now because of President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative,” said Hartz, an assistant professor of psychiatry.

The project seeks to recruit 1 million people and analyze their DNA to understand risk factors related to a variety of diseases. Ultimately, the project seeks to develop personalized therapies tailored to individual patients.

“Our results suggest that getting people to participate in such online registries is going to be a challenge, particularly if they live below the poverty line, don’t have high school diplomas or are African-American,” Hartz said.

Because 84 percent of American adults now use the internet and 68 percent own smartphones, some researchers have believed that traditional barriers to study recruitment — such as income, education and race — would be less important in the internet age.

In the Precision Medicine Initiative, researchers plan to collect information about diet, exercise, drinking and other behaviors, as well as about environmental risk factors, such as pollution. The study will allow participants to sign up by computer or smartphone, and recruitment aims to match the racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of the United States. The idea is to make it as easy as possible to enroll, but Hartz’s findings suggest signing up on the internet won’t eliminate every barrier.

Hartz

As part of the Washington University study, the smokers who participated were given the opportunity to have their DNA analyzed by 23andMe, a personalized genetics company. The participants were able to receive reports detailing where their ancestors came from, based on 32 reference populations from around the world. That information was available through a secure, password-protected online account set up and registered by the individual through the 23andMe website.

Each subject received an e-mail from the researchers with instructions on how to log on to the 23andMe website and retrieve the information. After a few weeks, the researchers sent another e-mail to those who did not log on. Then, the researchers made phone calls, and, if the subjects still didn’t log onto the site, they were sent a letter in the mail.

Even after all of those attempts, only 45 percent of the European-American participants who had high school educations and lived above the poverty line ever looked at the information. Among African-American participants who graduated from high school and lived above the poverty line, only 18 percent logged onto the site.

“Our assumption that the internet and smartphone access have equalized participation in medical research studies doesn’t appear to be true,” Hartz said. “Now is the time to figure out what to do about it and how to fix it, before we get too far along in the Precision Medicine Initiative, only to learn that we’re leaving some under-represented groups of people behind.”

https://source.wustl.edu/2016/07/use-internet-medical-research-may-hinder-recruitment-minorities-poor/

Categorized in Online Research

The Internet has rapidly become the most important infrastructure in the world. We are now, however, rapidly witnessing how it is becoming the infrastructure of all other infrastructures as well.

Industry 4.0 has become a catch-all word for much of the debate about the future of our economies. From Davos to Hanover, the phrase “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is being used to describe this change.

Over the last two years I chaired the Global Commission on Internet Governance. As we worked — meeting in Stockholm, Seoul, Ottawa, London, The Hague, Bangalore, Accra, Palm Springs and Amman — it become clear to me that this is an incomplete way of describing the transformation we are beginning to see.

While it could be the fourth phase of the industrial revolution, future historians are more likely to describe it as the transition from the industrial to the digital era in the evolution of human society.

The Commission was set up as a broad-based, independent initiative to address the many Internet governance issues that this transition will generate. The more we understood the enormous potential benefits of this transformation to our societies, the more we became concerned by the many challenges that threatened its success.

The benefits are obvious. Developing countries can leap-frog into a new generation of technologies, opening up new possibilities for economic and social development. The World Bank estimates that a 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration raises GDP by more than 1 per cent. A new wave of entrepreneurship is sweeping over Africa and Asia as the smartphone becomes more and more readily available.

There is certainly still a significant digital divide — but with the rapid development we are now witnessing, that divide will become more generational than geographic, and it will affect all of our societies. The generations that knew fax machines will have difficulties understanding the Snapchat generation, and vice versa.

Technology rapidly increases online accessibility. If present trends continue, 90 per cent of the global population is likely to be covered by mobile broadband networks with similar or better capacity than we have in most of Europe today — in a little more than five years.

And that’s when the real revolution will start. 5G mobile networks with a capacity perhaps 100 times better than today’s will usher us into the era of the Internet of Things. Everything could be connected to, and potentially interact with, everything else.

Two major challenges immediately arise.

The first concerns trust. Can we as citizens trust that big government and big corporations don’t misuse the data and information that, one way or another, they are collecting about us? Is there a risk of a cyber “2084” as we look ahead?

The other concern is around security. Conflict and war suddenly take on a cyber dimension that might easily spin out of control if clear norms for state behaviour are not established. With an Internet of Everything, there is suddenly also the risk of a militarisation of everything. In our everyday lives we become vastly more exposed and vulnerable to cybercrime in many ways that were, until recently, unimaginable.

We concluded it is imperative for everyone to take these issues far more seriously if trust in the Internet is to be preserved. Otherwise, the Internet’s promise will never come to fruition.

We have called for a new social compact to regulate the state use of surveillance on the net. There is no question that states have a responsibility to safeguard the rule of law in the digital domain. However, this role must be performed within clearly defined limits and with oversight perceived as robust and credible.

By the same token, encryption must remain a right not unduly undermined or put into question. We must understand that we safeguard our data not through where it is stored — in the digital world there are no real borders — but through how well we protect it wherever it happens to be.

Data will be the key resource of our future economies. Today there is more data generated every week than during the previous thousand years, and the use of this data will drive growing parts of the global economy. We have a strong interest in safeguarding the free flow of data across the global economy as we see digital value chains rapidly gaining importance.

Cyber hygiene must suffuse our entire economy, and it must start at home. Every unsafe device, and every unsafe use of a device, exposes both the user and other people to danger. In addition, industry must resist a tendency to rush new software to market in the belief that it can be patched further down the line. No one has the right to sell insecurity.

The governance of the Internet is today a biosphere of organisations and institutions bringing together all who have a stake in the system. Although questioned by those keen to see U.S. conspiracies everywhere, this multi-stakeholder web of governance has served the world extraordinarily well so far.

Nevertheless, when the U.S. government now gives up its last vestige of direct involvement in the governance of the Internet, it is an important step towards increasing the international legitimacy of the multi-stakeholder system.

Preserving the hallmarks of the multistakeholder model is key to its future dynamic development. We must not allow the governance of the Internet to be captured either by government or corporate interests. Everyone has a stake, and no one should have exclusive control.

This clashes with concepts like “Internet sovereignty”, launched primarily by China but supported by Russia and others. While a dialogue with China, a rapidly emerging cyberpower, is essential, and agreements on important issues should be sought, we should never forget the fundamental difference between open, democratic societies and others.

The final report of the Commission has now been presented in conjunction with the ministerial meeting of the 34 nations of the OECD in Cancun, Mexico earlier this week. It does not provide an answer to all the questions arising from these developments, but it is a call to everyone to put them at the very centre of policy discussions and policy making in the years ahead. It provides a roadmap for the future of the Internet.

The digital age is rapidly emerging. It will, over time, transform our economies and societies in ways beyond our comprehension. But we must act now to address the challenges in order to benefit from its massive potential. Our Commission report is a call to action.

Source:  https://ipolitics.ca/2016/06/26/an-internet-for-everyone/

Categorized in Science & Tech

ABSTRACT

This article attempts to convey the joys and frustrations of skimming the Internet trying to find relevant
information concerning an academic’s work as a scientist, a student or an instructor. A brief overview of
the Internet and the “do’s and don’ts” for the neophyte as well for the more seasoned “navigator” are given.
Some guidelines of “what works and what does not” and “what is out there” are provided for the scientist
with specific emphasis for biologists, as well as for all others having an interest in science but with little
interest in spending countless hours “surfing the net”. An extensive but not exhaustive list of related
websites is provided.

INTRODUCTION

In the past few years the Internet has expanded to every aspect of human endeavor, especially since the
appearance of user-friendly browsers such as Netscape, Microsoft Internet Explorer and others. Browsers
allow easy access from anywhere in the world to the World Wide Web (WWW), which is a collection of
electronic files that are the fastest growing segment of the Internet. Correspondingly, we are drowning in
a sea of information while starving for knowledge. Can we manage this wealth of information into digestible
knowledge? Yes! With help and perseverance. However, given the magnitude and rate at which the Internet
changes, this article cannot provide a comprehensive guide to available resources; rather, it serves primarily
as a starting-point in the individual quest for knowledge.


WHAT IS THE INTERNET?

The Internet is a worldwide computer network started by the US government primarily to support education
and research. Many books and reviews exist that detail the Internet in almost every aspect. Among these,
“The World Wide Web–Beneath the Surf” by Handley and Crowcroft (1) gives basic information and
history. A succinct overview in a tutorial format has been set up by the University of California at Berkeley
Library (2). It provides a quick start to finding information through the Internet. Information about teaching
and learning through the “Web” can also be found in study modules set up by Widener University’s
Wofgram Memorial Library (3). For the science aficionado, concise information containing a primer to the Internet for the biotechnologist can be found in a recent review by Lee at al., 1998 (4).

For more in-depth knowledge, two books of interest to the biologist are Swindell et al., 1996 (5) and by Peruski and Peruski,
1997 (6). However, given the scope and the rate of growth of the Internet, estimated at 40 million servers
and predicted to reach over 100 million servers by the year 2000 (7), any review can become obsolete within
months of publication. (Table 1 illustrates growth estimates of the Internet).


IMPORTANT INTERNET TERMINOLOGY

What are URLs?

URL stands for Universal (or Uniform) Resource Locator and is analogous to the address protocol used
in sending and receiving regular mail. The first portion usually refers to the protocol type, for example:

• HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) allows users to access the information in hypertext format, namely
clickable sites and multimedia (sound, graphics, video).
• FTP (file transfer protocol) permits transfer of files, whether these are text files, image files or
software programs.
• GOPHER is an obsolete text transfer protocol without multimedia access that preceded HTTP.
The next portion of the URL is a set of letters or numbers that indicate website address and files. For a more
detailed explanation see “Understanding and decoding URLs” by Kirk, 1997 (8).

STARTING-POINTS FOR INTERNET RESEARCH

Due to the size of the Internet, one needs to rely on various software, called search engines, to find
appropriate information. A common start-up site that can provide quick subject catalogs by topic area is
Yahoo (11). Many single or multiple database search engines perform broad searches on a topic by keyword. Links to these can be found through the Internet Public Library (IPL) (12). The most popular engines include: Lycos (13), Excite (14), Infoseek (15), Dogpile (16), and Metacrawler (17). A recent addition that allows for one-step searching of web-pages and full-text journals is Northern Light (18). This engine is recommended for scientists, but access to its full text articles requires payment. A comparison of various search engines’ performance with overall tips for Internet searching can be found at the Okanagan University College Library (19).

Other sites containing links to sites of scientific relevance include SciCentral (20), SciWeb (21), BioMed
Net (22) and Science Channel (23), among others. A comprehensive list cataloguing selected sites for
biomedical sciences can be found at Biosites (24) and at the IPL Biological Sciences Reference (25).
Timely topics in science are provided by Scientific American (26). Abstracts of scientific articles catalogued
by the National Library of Medicine can be searched for free using Medline (27), and those catalogued by
the National Agricultural Library, using Agricola (28). Some sites allow for free perusal of full text but few
such journals exist. A good site for development, cell science and experimental biology can be found at the
Company of Biologists (29). Some free online magazines that may be of interest include: In Scight (30)
produced by Academic Press in partnership with Science Magazine, ScienceNow (31) sponsored by the
American Association for the Advancement of Science, UniSci (32), HMSBeagle (33) from BioMedNet.
As well as Network Science (34).

Despite the abundance of websites, effective and efficient searching can be frustrating when a query results
in over 100,000 hits. Successful search strategies are typically through experience and discipline, although
following the guidelines indicated by (2, 3) and the comprehensive basic guide for general researching and
writing from the IPL (35), can be most helpful. Nonetheless, searching through the Internet has become
a common and convenient feature, necessitating one to approach each WWW site with caution. Some
guidelines are given below.

GUIDELINES FOR DETERMINING RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY OF WEBSITES

The Internet changes daily as resources are added, changed, moved or deleted. Millions of people, young
and old, as individuals or within organizations create resources ranging from basic information about
themselves, their interests or their products, to complex lists of funding resources, multimedia textbooks,
full-text journals, clinical information systems, epidemiological and statistical databases, and the like. One
of the most pressing needs is to evaluate these resources for accuracy and completeness. All information
should be received with skepticism, unless an evaluation of a site can be performed.

Relevant question in evaluating a site include the following: Is the site affiliated with a reputable institution
or organization such as a University, government or research institution? URL’s may reveal this information:
“edu” includes most educational institutions, “gov” indicates government affiliated sites, and “com” refers
to commercial enterprises, while “org” suffixes are used by many non-profit organizations. The two-letter
suffix on non-USA sites indicates the country of origin (8). Is there a tilde (~) in the site address? Usually
personal webpages are indicated with a tilde, and although not necessarily bad, one should be particularly
careful when evaluating such sites. Other questions to keep in mind: Is there a particular bias? Who is the
author? What are their credentials? How current is this site? Many sites have been abandoned and sit as
“junkyards” of old information. How stable is the site? Is the general style of the site reliable? Consider
grammar and spelling

Critical evaluation of websites

Many websites provide strategies for the critical evaluation of webpages. The University of Florida with
a list of short tips (36), Purdue University provides a step by step checklist (37), and Widener University
has page-specific checklists (38). Another list of evaluating resources posted by many librarians can be
found through the University of Washington Libraries site (39).

The following are some points to consider when visiting sites:
1. Content: is real information provided? Is content original or does it contain just links? Is the
information unique or is it a review? How accurate is it? What is the depth of content?
2. Authority: who or what is the source of the information? What are the qualifications?
3. Organization: how is the site organized? Can you move easily through the site? Is the information
presented logically? Is the coverage adequate? Can you explore the links easily? Is there a search
engine for the site?
4. Accessibility: can you access the server dependably? Does the site require registration? If so, is it
billed? Can it be accessed through a variety of connections and browsers? Is it friendly for text
viewers? How current is it? Is it updated regularly?
5. Ratings: is the site rated? By whom? Using what criteria? How objective is it? If the site is a rating
service itself, does it state its criteria?

CITING WEBSITES

Information from any source should be properly referenced whenever possible as intellectual property and
copyright laws usually apply. Electronically stored information presents new challenges since no method
exists to easily monitor this vast “global library”. However, scholarly activity should maintain a high
standard of conduct by following appropriate citation protocols.

Several citation formats exist for referencing webpages. Two common citing conventions are the MLA style
from the Modern Language Association of America (40), and the APA style from the American
Psychological Association (41). The latter acknowledges a guide by Li and Crane, 1996 (42) to its style
for citing electronic documents. Slight variations exist, depending on whether the citation is from individual
works, parts of works, electronic journal articles, magazine articles, or discussion list messages. Detailed
information for these can be found in Crane’s webpages (43), for APA style and for the MLA style (44).
A proposed Web extension to the APA style has recently been reported by Land (45). Consider however,
that there are many citation style guides for electronic sources. Some of these sites are listed at the
University of Alberta Libraries (46).

All references should generally contain the same information that would be provided from a printed source
(or as much of that information as possible). If author of the site is given, their last name and initials are placed first, followed by the date that the file was created or modified (full date in day/month/year format or year, month/date if feasible) and the title of the site in quotations. If affiliation to organization is known, this should be indicated. The date the resource was accessed is placed next (day/month/year or year, month/date), and finally the complete URL within angle brackets. Care should be taken not to give

authorship to webmasters who are responsible for posting or maintaining information on webpages and are
not the originators of the contents. However, they can be referenced as editors with the generic Ed.
abbreviation. Finally, in some instances, Internet resources are also published on hard copies, in those cases,
the appropriate citation format should be followed and the URL address should also be indicated.

Organization of Bibliography

Bibliographic format varies according to the preference of the publisher, institution, or journal. In general, include authors in alphabetical or in numerical order of appearance. Some prefer separate bibliographies for paper-based “hardcopy” references and for “softcopy” electronic sources. Others permit intermixing (as in the present article). If the author is unknown, site names are listed in appropriate order. Should some information be missing, it is acceptable to omit this information and still cite the reference. For example, some sites may not show authors or dates or have any indication of affiliation. However, the URLs should always be indicated.

CONCLUSION

The Internet holds vast and exciting possibilities for the scientific community and for society as a whole.
The power of the individual can be multiplied by the “click of a mouse” as new capabilities are provided
by linking various computing systems to the global village. Nevertheless, the Internet as seen through the
WWW can be addictive. One “click” effortlessly from one site to another in a seemingly endless and aimless
loop. Enjoy or despair, at your own risk!

Written By: E. Misser

Source:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC140117/

Categorized in Online Research
Page 16 of 16

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