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Magazines > Online > March/April 2003
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Online Magazine
Vol. 27 No. 2 — March/April 2003
Hardcopy
Recommended Reading on the Library Field
By Deborah Lynne Wiley
Next Wave Consulting, Inc.

****
EXCELLENT 
***
WELL DONE 
**
MOSTLY GOOD 
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SOMETIMES ADEQUATE 
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POOR 

Featured Books:
[Web of Deception: Misinformation on the Internet]
[PC Help Desk in a Book: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to PC Troubleshooting and Repair]
[Super Searcher, Author, Scribe: Successful Writers Share Their Internet Research Secrets]
[Essential Blogging]

 

This month I look at the dangers of trusting information on the Web, a guidebook to troubleshoot your PC problems, secrets of non-super searchers, and the latest Internet communications mechanism—blogging.


Web of Deception: Misinformation on the Internet

edited by Anne P. Mintz

ISBN: 0-910965-60-9

Published: 2002

Pages: 275 pp.; softcover

Price: $24.95

Available from: CyberAge Books, Information Today, Inc., 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055-8750;
609/654-6266; www.infotoday.com

Sometimes it seems there is more misinformation than reliable information available over the Internet, and the process of determining the validity of found data takes longer than the search itself. This book, edited by Forbes' Anne Mintz, helps by providing examples of different types of misinformation, most of it intentional, and then also providing resources to determine validity or to follow up on a particular type of question.

Each of the 11 chapters is written by a different information industry expert, including such luminaries as Paul Piper on Web hoaxes, Susan Detwiler on medical misinformation, Helene Kassler on corporate misinformation, Stephen Arnold on privacy, Carol Ebbinghouse on charity scams and on legal information, LaJean Humphries on Web site evaluation, Susan Feldman on Web search engine biases, and Liz Liddy on how search engines work. Thus, the quality and style of the writing varies a bit, but most of the chapters are very good.

I particularly like the fact that after giving examples of the problems of misinformation in each chapter, the authors then devote a significant portion of the text to resources for validation, countermeasures, and further action. Although many of the examples should be obvious (although they wouldn't be a problem if they were obvious to everyone), there are several tales of misinformation that come very close to being true, and therefore prove much harder to identify as false.

Most of the authors include URLs within the chapter and have references listed at the end of their chapter, with selected resources listed by chapter in the Webliography at the end of the book. The Webliography is a good idea, as the chapters cannot provide all the details you need if you are following up on a problem. However, it is not clear how resources were selected for the Webliography, and those resources included are not necessarily the most helpful for a given chapter. For instance, under medical misinformation, HotBot, Google, and AltaVista are listed. Also, there is no mention of an online listing of resources.

Overall, this book does a good job of presenting the breadth and variety of misinformation that abounds on the Net. If everyone would read it, perhaps there would be less of a problem.


PC Help Desk in a Book: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to PC Troubleshooting and Repair

by Mark Edward Soper

ISBN: 0-7897-2756-0

Published: 2003

Pages: 555 pp.; softcover

Price: $29.99

Available from: QUE, 201 West 103rd Street, Indianapolis, IN 46290; 317/581-3500; www.quepublishing.com

 

Who hasn't been totally frustrated by a computer or program that refuses to function as expected? Even if you have a technical support department, chances are, they are a resource of last resort. No matter what your situation, this book will help you to become more familiar with your PC, while making diagnosing and fixing the problems easier. Its author, Mark Edward Soper, is president of Select Systems and Associates, Inc., a technical writing and training organization, an A+ Certified hardware technician, a Microsoft Certified Professional, and the author of several books and numerous technical periodical articles.

I won't pretend that all sections of this book are easy to understand, but as these kinds of books go, this is better than most. I particularly like the fact that the focus is troubleshooting—helping you to identify what is causing the problem, rather than just providing explanations of PC components. In fact, the first 80 pages of the book are charts and flowcharts to help you diagnose your problem and refer you to the corresponding pages in the book that address potential solutions.

The book is divided into 11 different sections, covering Windows installations, Internet connections, storage devices, input devices, printers, multimedia, network connections, memory problems, processors, power supplies, and software applications. Each section easily stands alone, so you only have to read the pages pertaining to your particular problem, although there are plenty of cross-references in case you need more details about other components. There is an appendix on the philosophy and basic procedures for troubleshooting, which will definitely help you in isolating a problem.

Even if you still want to rely on your tech support people, I recommend that you buy and use this book. You will make their job easier by learning what symptoms to report and maybe even by fixing some of the easier things yourself.


Super Searcher, Author, Scribe: Successful Writers Share Their Internet Research Secrets

by Loraine Page, edited by Reva Basch

ISBN: 0-910965-58-7

Published: 2002

Pages: 216 pp.; softcover

Price: $24.95

Available from:
CyberAge Books, Information Today, Inc., 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055-8750; 609/654-6266; www.infotoday.com

 

This ninth book in the Super Searcher series is a little different—most of the contributors are not actually super searchers in the traditional sense. They are writers and may, indeed, be more skilled at searching than their colleagues, but probably less so than most information professionals. However, this gives a unique perspective to the series—almost like talking to end-users!

An eclectic bunch of 14 writers was interviewed for this book by Link-Up editor Loraine Page, covering such areas as screen and script writing, crime novels, science and technology news, general non-fiction, religion and social issues, romance, and poetry. What links these disparate fields together is a universal need for background information. All of the authors used the Internet and e-mail, but in varying degrees. And not a one felt that the Internet could completely replace traditional online and print resources.

The sources cited are all listed in the appendix and are also available on the super searchers Web site [www.infotoday.com/supersearchers/ssas.htm]. These range from online reference works such as dictionaries and encyclopedias to online discussion lists to writers' forums to business and news sources, to trivia and fact-verification sites. Interestingly, Google was not the only search engine mentioned. It seems each author has their favorite one or two engines, with little overlap in the preferences.

There are many interesting Internet resources mentioned in this book. My favorites are the Rectal Foreign Bodies Web site and the cliché finding sites, but there are many more serious sites as well. Although many will be familiar to any informational professional, there will always be at least a few new ones. However, I think the most useful aspect of this book is the opportunity to get into the mind of a different kind of searcher.


Essential Blogging

by Cory Doctorow, Rael Dornfest, J. Scott Johnson, Shelley Powers, Benjamin Trott, and Mena G. Trott

ISBN: 0-596-00388-9

Published: 2002

Pages: 244 pp.; softcover

Price: $29.95

Available from: O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., 1005 Gravenstein Highway North,
Sebastopol, CA 95472; 800/998-9938;
www.oreilly.com

In the information industry, everyone eventually becomes an aggregator, and blogging is an easy way for librarians to jump on the aggregation bandwagon. In case you aren't familiar with blogging, the term comes from Weblog, and is a process of communicating with short posts on any type of topics, usually in reverse chronological order. Examples include news headlines with personal commentary attached or simply posts of new Web sites of interest with descriptions. According to this book, there are hundreds of thousands of blogs available, along with several varieties of software packages to help you automate and simplify the process.

This book is designed for anyone who wants to get started in blogging. After a short introduction, the authors focus on software and services to get you up and blogging in no time. Blogs are hosted on a Web server. You can choose to edit your blog in real time through software provided by the hosting service, or via a desktop client, and then upload the files when ready. The authors do a good job of explaining the benefits and disadvantages of each and provide descriptions of a number of freeware or shareware desktop clients and hosting services.

Most of the book focuses on demonstrating the use of the different blogging systems. You learn the basics early on. Each subsequent chapter introduces a more sophisticated system. You can easily choose the one that matches your comfort level, download the software or connect to the host, and follow the detailed instructions and screen shots to get your first blog up in minutes.

The last chapter provides words of advice from a wide variety of experienced bloggers. These are fun to read, as well as informative. If there is any topic about which you want to share you perceptions and wisdom with the world, start a blog. Just remember that it may be addictive.


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