Information Today
Volume 17, Issue 8 • September 2000
• Internet Waves •
A Road Trip on the Information Highway
Make a stop at some of the more informative and unusual sites on the Web
by Shirley Duglin Kennedy

While Information Today and I were on summer hiatus, I nonetheless continued stashing away bookmarks to every decent Web site I stumbled across. Even after all this time on the Net—and despite occasional bouts of depression on those days when the information highway starts looking more like a digital cesspool—I’m still in awe at the scope and quality of freely available information “out there.”

Well, I guess now it’s time for some major-league sharing.

Free ISPs
Speaking of freely available … It’s not news that free dial-up Internet access has become ubiquitous. But as we all know, “free” inevitably has its price. Maybe you’re giving up 24/7 toll-free tech support. Maybe you live outside a major metro area and there’s a dearth of local access numbers. Maybe you’re going to have to sell your demographic soul as part of the sign-up process so you can be subjected to a custom-tailored barrage of advertising while you’re online. And maybe the free access provider is playing Big Brother, tracking your virtual footprints as you browse the Web.

Nonetheless, a free dial-up Internet account can be a useful thing. Obviously, it can function as a backup to your primary account in the event of service outages. Or maybe you’re finally basking in the joy of a broadband connection at home. You’ve got cable modem service. You’ve got DSL. You swear you’ll never go back to a cranky old dial-up connection again. Except … what do you do when you’re on the road? Do you shell out yet another $20 or so a month for a dial-up ISP account just so you can access your e-mail from hotels and airports?

Nah. Take the freeway, not the turnpike. And know what you’re getting into by checking out HEREontheWEB’s Guide to Free Internet Service Providers ( There you’ll find reviews of a whole bunch of ISPs, from the U.S. and abroad, and with links to their Web sites. Which ones blast you with banner ads? Which ones offer a wide range of dial-up numbers? Which ones support Macintosh? Are there any hidden charges? What do other users have to say?

Keep in mind that there’s ongoing turmoil and consolidation in the free ISP “space,” as companies struggle to concoct a viable business model. You may sign up with one provider and, by the time you’re up and running, end up being serviced by another. HEREontheWEB appears to be doing its best to keep track, however, so it still looks like a good first stop.

Worth a Look
“A Map of the World,” (Industry Standard, June 5, 2000;,1151,15551,00.html) explains that “The latest free software craze on the Web is for bookmark managers. But the jury is still out among those who use the technology.” The article goes on to review several such services and ponders variations on the business model.

Web-based File Storage Systems ( is a page full of links to several dozen free, online file-storage systems. Following the name of each service is a number indicating how many free megabytes of storage space it makes available. If you haven’t checked into these services yet, do take a look at this page. I’ve found these online repositories useful for transferring files between home and work, and you can also share files with people in other locations. A caveat: As the maintainer of this page points out, “It is not advisable to depend on any single, free file-storage service. Store your files in at least two places in case one is temporarily or permanently unavailable. Read disclaimers.”

On a similar note, as more folks buy digital cameras or scanners, or have their conventional photos developed and returned on floppies or CD-ROMs, a variety of sites have popped up on the Web to enable photo sharing. See Andromeda Software’s Guide to Free Online Photo Albums ( for a chart featuring a long list of these services (with direct links) and fairly extensive information about the features—free and fee—that they offer.

Document Sites
Forms and documents … We love to hate ’em, don’t we? Alas, we’re stuck with them. Here’s a take on government documents that I’ve never seen before, from the University of Buffalo Libraries Digital Initiative. These folks have gone and digitized a variety of the most popular publications from their government documents collection and posted them online in GIF format at Subject categories include Aging, Employment, Census, Charting Your Family History, Consumer Information, Copyright, Culture, Domestic Violence, Education, Environment, En Espanol, Health, Home Safety and Improvement, Labor, Parenting, Small Business Information, Social Security, Taxes, Travel and Recreation, and Wildlife.

Findlaw, the legal research portal, has amassed a collection of roughly 8,000 federal and state forms in PDF format at You can find court forms for federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts in all the circuits, including the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. If you don’t know what circuit you’re in, you can select it from a sensitive map. What’s available from the different states is more of a mixed bag. From some there’s nothing available at all. For others, there are forms from bankruptcy, civil, criminal, family, juvenile, small claims, worker’s compensation, probate, and other courts. All in all, it’s an excellent resource. However, do read the (sigh) disclaimer at the bottom of the page about “local rules” before actually attempting to file a form on your own.

Nifty Resources for Librarians ( above and beyond the standard public domain e-text repository by its use of a clever, configurable Java-based reading applet. No longer do you have to settle for the default display. Here you can choose a combination of text size, font, and background colors that makes online reading easiest for you. Browse for e-texts by author or do a keyword search. There’s even a bookmark feature so you can save your place online if you’re not up to reading an entire e-text in one sitting.

From, the same folks who brought you SearchEdu (, SearchGov (, and SearchMil (, comes SearcheBooks (, where you can search the full text of “thousands of online books.” The search interface is nothing more than a small text box into which you type a keyword. Results are in the form of two URLs for each hit—one that links directly to the book and the other that links to the page of the source providing the book. You can play around with the search function a bit, enclosing phrases in quotation marks to attempt to find specific passages within an e-text.

ALA’s Library Instruction Roundtable maintains a nice collection of pointers to Web-based library instruction tutorials at The topics covered are Website Evaluation Criteria for Libraries, General Guides to Research, Subject-Specific Guides, Interactive Tutorials, Guides to the Internet & Evaluation of Resources, Designing Tutorials, and a bibliography of print and electronic resources. Although these are mainly located on academic library Web sites, most of them are general enough to be adapted for use in any type of library.

At SunSITE Library Super Search (, maintained by Jerry Kuntz, electronic resources consultant at the Ramapo Catskill Library System, you can search the following key library-related resources from a single convenient page:

If you’re involved in Reader’s Advisory Services in libraries (or you’re an avid reader yourself), don’t miss Overbooked (, which specializes in literary and genre fiction information. You can find recommended lists of books in all major genres, and a “What should I read next” collection of links to reading lists posted on the Web, mainly by public libraries. There are lists of children’s books, new and forthcoming books, and “hot titles” that have received recommendations from various review publications. Other features include a discussion area, an alphabetized list of links to publishers’ home pages, and a collection of links to literary and book award pages. This amazing resource is a volunteer project by the Chesterfield County (Virginia) Public Library Collection Management staff.

The Researching Librarian (, maintained by Kerry Smith, assistant professor and library instruction services coordinator at Mississippi State University Libraries, is, amazingly enough, a compilation of “Web resources helpful for librarians doing research.” The focus here is on quality rather than quantity. Annotated resources are grouped into six categories: Databases (citation and full-text), Funding (grantsmanship), Journals (with a library and information-science orientation), Statistics (library, social science, and tutorials), Tools (an eclectic collection of online bibliographies, directories of journals, and e-lists and key resources like the searchable bibliographies section of Gary Price’s Direct Search at, and Awareness (keeping up with what’s new in the profession and what’s worthwhile on the Web).

Erasing Your Past
Back in your wild-and-crazy days, you may have posted more than one vitriolic rant in a Usenet newsgroup. Now that you’re a sober, upstanding citizen, you might be concerned that your words could come back to haunt you if someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart decides to run your name through the search engine at, which archives newsgroup postings. If you can relate to this scenario, you may want to pay a visit to Message Nuke ( Read the instructions carefully and track down your old messages by the e-mail address from which you posted. The catch? You have to still be able to access that e-mail address, as Deja warns, “We only nuke messages from an e-mail address at which you currently receive messages,” and you have to be able to confirm your nuke request via a message sent to that address.

No, I Didn’t Forget …
Strange—If you’re a diehard fan of America’s Pastime, bookmark Baseball Heckle Depot ( and never be tongue-tied at the stadium again. As of early August, there were 675 “heckles” on file here. Razz the umpire (“Don’t donate your eyes to science; they don’t want ’em!”), insult the pitcher (“The last time he found the plate twice in a row was at dinner!”), or belittle the batter (“You couldn’t drive home Miss Daisy!”). There’s even a collection of comebacks for ballplayers (“If you were any more stupid, you’d have to be watered twice a week!”).

Stranger—“Believe it or not, some chemists do have a sense of humor …” Well, judge for yourself by checking out Molecules with Silly or Unusual Names ( There’s actually a substance called Moronic Acid. Why does this not surprise me?

Strangest— ( “brings together people who want to earn extra money while driving in traffic and companies who want a unique medium to promote their brand or product.” You register your vehicle and demographics in their database, which allows “potential advertisers to search for vehicles that meet their demographic criteria.” Once an advertiser culls you from the herd, Autowraps arranges for your vehicle to be swathed in “high-quality vinyl adhesive,” transforming it into a rolling billboard. Depending on how much of your car you are willing to prostitute … uh, cover, you can make anywhere from $100 to $400 a month. But ferheavenssake, be sure and read the sample contract and driver requirements online before you sign away your wheels … not to mention your dignity.

Shirl Kennedy is Webmaster for the City of Clearwater, Florida. Her e-mail address is

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