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Showing posts with label search engine. Show all posts


Okay, you're a Star Trek fan or you like Barbie dolls or perhaps you are interested in finding more out about the internet. One thing you could do is proceed to your favorite search engine or perhaps even Yahoo, put in your search terms, and get some sites that interest you. You could do this, and you would definitely find some cool stuff, but you'd also get a lot of unrelated junk.


You know what I mean. You're interested in model railroading so you go to the search engine and enter "model railroading". Now you've got to wade through sites on railroading, models, glamour, dozens of pornographic sites and lord knows what else. While the railroading sites are probably of interest, the rest is just junk that gets in the way. If you're interested in something like "barbie dolls" it's even more frustrating - that will probably match a lot of junk and a heck of a lot of pornographyc trash.

You could stay frustrated or you could visit http://www.webring.org/ and use their search engine. Let's say you enter model railroading. You'll get back a dozen or so entries, each of which has something to do with railroading or model railroading. In fact, the first one is the "Railroad webring" which has 764 sites. A little ways down you'll find the "HO Scale Model Webring" which has 35 sites.

Click on the webring name and you are transported to the first site in the webring. Look it over - it's more than likely on the subject that you want. Need more? Find the "webring fragment". This will often have some graphics, a "next", "prev", "random" and "list" button or link. Click on "random" to get any old site from the ring. Click "next" or "prev" to go backwards and forwards in order. If you want to see them all, click "list".

You see the beauty of this concept? It links together two or more sites which are somehow related together to make it easy for people to find what they need.

I'll tell you from experience that a well run webring which has a good ringmaster is a pleasure to surf! (Of course, a poorly run or abandoned webring is a nightmare of broken links, unrelated sites and, oftentimes, quick money-making schemes and other stupid things).

These are great for webmasters also. You have a site which, say, is about the "Renaissance Faire" and you want to get some more traffic. Of course you should list in the search engines and directories, as that will get you a lot of traffic quickly. Once you've done all that, go to the webring directory  and enter your first keyword. Join as many webrings as you can.

Before you join, make sure you spend a couple of minutes reading the ring charter to be sure your site is appropriate. Then surf the ring for a while to make sure the ring is maintained and stays roughly on topic.

Now, find a page within your site (don't use your index or home page as the ring fragments often have large graphics and can look a little tacky) which is appropriate. Get the URL for that page and go to the "join" section of the webring. Fill in the data and submit the form. You'll get an email which give you the ring fragment code. If the fragment has any associated graphics, copy that to your own server (don't steal bandwidth), then copy the fragment code into your page. Upload to your server, send a quick email to the ringmaster, and in a few days you will most likely be added to the webring!

Don't expect an incredible amount of traffic right away. Just keep adding pages on your site to applicable webrings, perhaps a few a week, and you'll see your traffic numbers climb steadily. One of the good things about webrings is that they require little maintenance after you get added. They just draw traffic, and once in a while you get a request to do something from the ringmaster (change a graphic usually).

You can be a member of as many webrings as you want so don't be shy. Every one of them, as long as they are reasonably well run, will help to bring traffic to your site.

If you are really courageous, you can even create your own webrings. This can be a lot of fun, although the initial phase of setup and promotion is a lot of work. Yes, you need to promote your webring to get people to join, especially if it is new and unknown.

So webrings are a great secret of the web! They make surfing easier and more on-target, and they are a nice way for a webmaster to build traffic. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

Privacy On The Internet

So you think you're pretty safe on the internet? You've got your firewall to protect against hackers, you've got your antivirus software installed and up-to-date, and you are doing backups regularly.

You're safe, right?

Depends upon how you define safe.

Yes, you've done the critical, most important things to protect yourself from the obvious dangers. If you've done the things listed in the first paragraph, you should pat yourself on the back, because you are better protected than 90% of the people on the internet.

internet privacy

However, there is another danger that has been surfacing in the news lately, and it is a much more subtle, insidious monster. This is the danger to your privacy.

All right, why do you care about this? It's actually very important. Let's say you are using one of those grocery programs where you get a card which you use every time you go shopping. You get a discount and the store gets to better understand you're buying habits. Fair exchange, right?

If that's as far as it went, all would be fine. But look at the ugly possibilities. This data could be sold to advertisers (it is actually incredibly valuable). Worse yet, if you were, let's say, being sued, the data could be used in a court of law against you. After all, the store has recorded your transactions. The items purchased, dates, times and so forth. If your wife was divorcing you, she could prove you were an alcoholic if the store's records showed you purchasing lots of beer and liquor.

On the internet it gets even more alarming. If you are anything like me, the web is so convenient that you are doing literally everything from the comfort of your chair. I use the internet yellow pages to find phone numbers, mapping sites to give me directions, shopping sites to make purchases, and hundreds of other sites to make life easier.

On top of that, I use AllAdvantage to make a little extra money and I surf using Yahoo as my start page. I belong to hundreds of webrings. I use the web to sign up for credit cards and to pay my bills.

All of this is recorded. Underneath it all is a system of cookies, web bugs, log files, and databases that, if put all together, could give someone quite a picture of, well, me. Or at least what I've been doing on the web.

Theoretically (at least for now), someone could get the records from DoubleClick and similar advertisers and combine that with the records from the pay-to-surf program and know exactly my surfing habits.

All of this data could be used, in theory at least, in a court of law (although they would have to prove it was actually ME using the computer at the time). It could be used: - by employers before making a hiring decision (we don't like people who surf the Time Magazine site as they are a competitor, for example), - insurance companies before granting insurance (you have been using that very convenient medical site to record all of your prescriptions, haven't you?) - Credit card companies before granting credit (and you thought the credit bureau's were scary - imagine if they had access to literally everything you've done on the web). - by prospective dates (hey, now that's a service you could make a fortune off of - check out your dates surfing habits before meeting him or her. Imagine what you could find out...) - by the police to determine guilt (fairly obvious) - by the courts to prove or disprove a case (your honor, the records show he surfed those sites on the following dates, thus proving he had an interest in ...)

Let your imagination run wild. It could ALL happen.

Okay, now I've got you good and scared. What do you do?

First of all, don't panic. Most of this information is not yet available (and may never be available) in any form that anyone could easily use. In addition, there is some (but not enough) legal protection against quite a bit of this kind of thing.

Second, start getting educated on internet privacy. Just go to your favorite search engine and type in "internet privacy". You'll get a few good articles to read.

Third, read the privacy policies on the various web sites that you visit before you fill out their forms and use their services. How are they going to use this data?

Forth, get a good cookie manager program. Sometimes you do want cookies and sometimes you don't. The options in all of the browsers simply do not give you enough control, so you need a cookie manager to get that control.

You may also want to look at ad blocking software. The product I recommend is Norton Internet Security 2000 (check out the cookie article above for more information).

We are planning on writing several more articles on internet privacy over the next few months. This is an important issue and it is only going to get worse and more complicated as time goes on.