From the Boidem -
an occasional column on computers and information technologies in everyday
February 22, 1997: That Lingering (after the class)
During the winter semester of the 1995-96 school year I participated
in a course taught by Avigail
Oren. The main emphasis of the course was on MUDding as an educational
experience, but part of our assignment was to prepare a home page. On one
of the pages I prepared I wrote a bit about assigning the preparation
of web pages as term papers:
These pages, as you've probably already noticed, are part of a group
project. Chances are good that whoever is reading this has found them well
after the project has been completed and most of us have forgotten about
our flirt with this rather esoteric educational tool. On the other hand,
as opposed to a term paper which can be kept as a secret between the student
and the professor, a project which finds its way to cyberspace has an existence
of its own. A number of us may continue to modify and add to our pages
until they become substantially different from what they were when they
were "handed in" for a grade.
Little did I know. This month's column is devoted to a review
of the changes that have taken place to those pages in the year that has
transpired since that "assignment" was finished, and to the occasional
correspondance that has grown around and because of them.
A few entirely new pages were added:
In addition to those new pages a number of pages received
significant additions, some less significant changes, and some links to
the new pages:
a page devoted to my
niece's Bat Mitzvah in the U.S., including some links to pages devoted
to rites of passage
a page updating
the information on the page devoted to my older son, Eitan
a page containing links
to my various web pages that have sprung up since that class
a page (prepared after this Boidem column was completed, but while still
waiting for the server to respond in order to upload it) describing how
I found a photo of
Tzippi on the web
But listing the changes hardly gives a proper sense of the
ongoing nature of maintaining these pages. It's not something that gets
attended to every day, but it's certainly much more than handing in a paper
and forgetting about it. Who can forget when mail relating to it keeps
coming in. I'm not referring to the occasional e-letter from a friend telling
me that s/he enjoyed reading the material on the site, but to e-letters
from people whom I don't know at all, but with whom I established contact
(or they with me) via the site.
my page of links on topics of interest received a number of additions,
both in content and in links
on kibbutz related topics
of personal home pages of horn players
the page of personal information received a link to the new page of links
to my various web presences and a change of the e-mail address to the one
I use most
Eitan's page and the "sibling rivalry" page received links to new pages
on a number of pages I found spelling or grammatical errors which have
been (I hope) corrected
My first hint that something different from a term paper
was upon me was when I received a request in the middle of November of
last year, asking me for information on a particular aspect of the kibbuz
...If you could send me (by E-mail) information on this or direct
to a good web page that deals with this topic I would appreciate it. I
need it kind of soon though. The paper is due the first week in Dec.
I like being helpful to whoever needs help, though I had
my doubts about how helpful I could be for a paper due less than three
weeks from the time I received that letter. But in my response, in addition
to noting a couple of (to my mind not particularly helpful) URLs I couldn't
help asking "why me?".
...I found your name on some Kibbutz web site page and it said
that you had a lot of research on Kibbutzim.
That would have been flattering if the "Kibbutz web site"
hadn't been my own page, which didn't say that I had a lot of research
on Kibbutzim, but rather that I'd like to concentrate web materials on
the kibbutz on the page.
Next came a
letter that anwered an ongoing question of mine. In my page of kibbutz
related links I'd including a review of one volunteer's year on a kibbutz.
That page didn't identify the author, nor did it contain links to any other
pages that identified him, so when I added the link I simply wrote that
I didn't know who wrote that review. A short correspondance grew out of
that first letter. Among other things we found a mutual friend on the kibbutz
in question and I passed a "hello" on to him. The correspondance also led
to my changing the blurb about the link to include some information on
And of course I also asked how he'd found the site:
With regard to how I found your page, I was reading my log files
to see various hit counts on documents and noticed that the kibbutz page
was getting a fair amounts of hits despite the fact I knew I never registered
it in any directories and search engine. So I did a search under the words
Kibbutz Negbah and found your site. I guess my question is how you found
the kibbutz article since I kept it out sight mostly.
And that apparently meant that quite a few people were finding
my page of links as well. This was a strange case of "out of mind, but
not out of sight".
Next came an
offer to add a link to my kibbutz links. A student at the University
of Pennsylvania had written a paper on Sexual
Equality on the Kibbutz and uploaded it to the web. She suggested that
I link to it. I checked out the article and found it informative and well
written, and added the link. I also visited the author's web site and found
it a pleasure, so I linked to it
as well, and along the way I discovered that her father participates on
a mailing list I'm subscribed to as well, so that now, when I receive postings
from him a particular association gives me a picture of him in my mind.
By far the
strangest e-letter I received related to my pages wasn't immediately
identifiable as related to them. After all, the title: your queries
about sibling rivalry, suggested that I'd somewhere asked about that
topic. Rather quickly I figured out that my correspondant had found my
page titled (rather humorously, I'd thought) "a
note on sibling rivalry", and was responding to that. But if that was
the case, had others received the same offer to read/buy the book? An AltaVista
search brought up about 1000 hits for "sibling rivalry". Had my correspondant
sent a similar letter to 1000 others? Taking the time I didn't have, I
send queries to six or seven people whose sights mentioned sibling rivalry,
and were individuals rather than organizations so that there might be a
reason for them to receive a letter like the one I received, asking whether
they also had received a similar letter. I quickly received four responses
to my letter: no, nobody had received one. The next step was to ask the
...Did I really make a query about sibling rivalry? Perhaps you
can let me in on just where and when I did that.
To which the reply quickly arrived:
...I looked up sibling rivalry on the internet, as I always do
because its my main interest in life right now, and the first reference
that came up was yours....
So it turned out that simply by being first (I wasn't on
the AltaVista search I conducted) I was the lucky person who got an added
adventure out of having a web site instead of a term paper.
question that deserves more attention at some later date is why I add updates
to outdated information instead of simply replacing the old with the new.
From my experience this is a rather widespread practice. Of course I have
a good excuse: I don't discard anything (my desk and workspace at home
are glaring evidence of that) so why should I discard virtual material.
The latest correspondance around the
site is regarding a typo. The typo has
been corrected, but I can't help wondering about the nature of a medium
that permits total strangers to write openly about anal compulsions.
That's it for this edition. Reactions and suggestions
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