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How To Use the Internet Effectively

When we first started actively using the Internet, late in 1991, through the Delphi online service, the World Wide Web was a text based frontier. In order to use the Internet, you had to know about telnet, gopher, lynx, archie, veronica, ftp, wais and e-mail. Many of the commands were Unix based. Today, one only needs to know how to use a WWW browser and an e-mail client (program)to derive the full benefit of the Internet.

Even though it is now much easier to access and use the Internet, the amount of information available is overwhelming. For somebody who is entirely new to the Internet, (definition of a newbie) learning how to successfully get around can be very scary. In discussing how to use the Internet more effectively, Going Global is assuming that you know absolutely nothing about the Internet. If you have prior Internet experience and are visiting Going Global for the links to other resources which we have assembled, please remember that you too were once a "newbie".

What Do I Need to Know?

As much as is possible would be the most obvious answer. However, that does not answer your question. If you are reading this, then one of two things must be true: either you are surfing on the World Wide Web and found this site through a search engine or someone who has Internet access printed this for you to read. In any case, to effectively use the Internet to go global you must understand the basics about the following subjects:

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glossary of Internet terms

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WWW browsers and the World Wide Web

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search engines

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e-mail

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e-mail discussion groups

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Usenet Groups

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Yahoo

Experienced users will note that we did not include such things as gopher, irc and telnet. While these are important tools, newbies will become acquainted with them in due course if they browse Going Global regularly.

Glossary of Internet Terms

There are several glossaries of Internet terms available in gopherspace and on the World Wide Web.(WWW) We like the I L C Glossary of Internet Terms which is compiled and continually updated by Internet Literacy Consultants. This glossary will introduce the newbie to Internet jargon and will explain the many strange terms which you will be exposed to as you begin to explore the Internet. We encourage you to take sufficient time to print and read this document and then to review it online and visit the hypertext links to learn even more about the Internet. It is an excellent way to begin the learning process and will remain a valuable reference tool.

WWW Browsers and the World Wide Web

Even if you have failed to visit the Internet, you would have to have been living in isolation to have not heard about it. Since early 1995, most of the important daily newspapers worldwide have devoted considerable space to covering the Internet, especially the World Wide Web. In fact, many new users consider the Internet to be the World Wide Web. According to recently concluded studies, Internet usage has increased most significantly within the past two years. It is probably not a coincidence that this increase in Internet users has occurred simultaneously with technological innovations in browser technology. There are several different WWW browsers currently available. Each online service has its own proprietary WWW browser and even some Internet Service Providers (ISP) as well. However, for practical purposes, there are really two very important ones: Netscape Communicator and Internet Explorer.

Netscape is a very popular Web browser and for several very good reasons. It is easy to download and install and is also intuitively very easy to use, even for people with little computer or Internet experience or knowledge. Netscape has continually strived to improve its browser and is constantly innovating. Many Internet users have selected the Netscape Home Page as their browser's own starting point when they connect to the Internet because it offers a phenomenal amount of information in a format which is very easy to understand and use.

Internet Explorer is the other significant WWW browser. Unlike so many people, we are not going to waste time and bandwidth criticizing Bill Gates because we're jealous of his wealth. Microsoft has to be respected because of its tremendous resources. 

Clearly, Netscape Communicator and Internet Explorer have been adopted by the website designer community as the standards. Most WWW pages and sites will display both icons to alert users that a site is better viewed with them. Newbies should learn the nuances of using both browsers. In exploring the browser information provided by Netscape and Microsoft, newbies will really propel themselves up onto the Internet learning curve rather quickly and will have a lot of fun in doing it.

Volumes have been written about the World Wide Web. However, simply put, the WWW is like a gigantic electronic library with a very colorful catalog of listings which is only a mouse click away. Many government agencies (domestic and foreign) have a significant WWW presence. Add several major companies, non-governmental organizations such as universities and trade & industry groups, newspaper and other media organizations and diverse international groups which have a significant WWW presence. Thousands more join daily. There is a huge amount of international business information available. The best way for newbies to truly understand the World Wide Web is to make their Internet connection and click on the browser of their choice. Then you should visit a search engine, do a search and then browse the sites which are returned as results. Get lost and do a bit of exploring. This is what is commonly called "surfing the Web". It is tremendous fun and a fantastic way to learn about the Internet.

Search Engines

Search engines are software programs which search for documents on the World Wide Web and also in Usenet groups. There are many different search engines which use a variety of criteria to locate documents and WWW sites. However, most focus on some type of key word or phrase search to locate information on a particular subject. The best way for newbies to learn about search engines is to access one and do a search. Then do the same search on different engines until you discover which engines will perform your tasks best. This, of course, will often depend upon the kind of information for which you are searching. Search engines are fun because they often take you to unexpected places where you can discover treasure troves of information which meet your needs quite nicely. We are listing some of our favorites:

Search Engines

Infoseek
Lycos
Google
Webcrawler
AltaVista
Yahoo
Hot Bot
Excite
Northern Light

E-Mail

E-mail, also called electronic mail, is the foundation of the Internet. When the Internet was originally conceived by the U.S. Department of Defense, one of its primary purposes was to develop a communications system which could withstand nuclear attack. Well, the Department of Defense was very successful. Unfortunately, nobody was able to foresee the advent of junk e-mail, commonly known as "spam", which has become a very troublesome reality of life on the Internet. Nevertheless, e-mail is the lifeblood of the Internet and is extremely important to newbies who want to use the Internet effectively.

For many years, e-mail was sent by e-mail clients which used Unix based systems and commands. Some of these programs, such as ELM, are still in use today especially at universities which have not updated their systems to allow their users to be able to use more efficient e-mail clients. Having started our Internet life on a Unix based e-mail system, we are quite happy that e-mail has evolved in the last few years to give us clients (programs) which are easier to use and have more functionality. There are several e-mail programs currently available which are quite good. 

Eudora is considered by many to be the finest e-mail program available today. The program comes in two versions: one is freeware,(a program which exists in the public domain and is freely available to be copied and used by anyone as long as they do not try to profit from it) and the other is commercial (you have to pay for a license to use it). Many Internet Service Providers include the freeware version of Eudora in the suite of programs which they include in their sign up package. Because the program is so widely used, there is a wealth of FAQ (frequently asked questions) documents available in various Usenet groups, which is a huge advantage for newbies. For newbies, the freeware version is sufficient to learn how to use an e-mail client. As you progress, you might want to consider Eudora Pro which is a very fine program with many useful features.

E-Mail Connection is another excellent e-mail client.(program) For newbies, this program is especially nice because it is extremely easy to use. Its graphical interface makes sending e-mail a snap and also is very helpful in organizing received mail. Its address book function is superb. This program also has a freeware and a commercial version. The commercial version has some very interesting features which are very different from Eudora and might appeal to certain users depending upon their computer and network configurations. 

Microsoft Outlook is a very good e-mail client and is also used by many as a newsreader. We prefer Free Agent as a newsreader, but we are beginning to warm up to Outlook for e-mail. It is free and it is very well supported by Microsoft's online knowledge base. It has wonderful drag and drop features for managing e-mail addresses and makes file attachment a snap.


***Note---These are the programs which we use. We do not endorse one over the other. They are both different and each has its own special advantages. However, we think that they offer the new user some distinct advantages over other programs which we have seen.***

E-mail is used primarily to communicate with another person or entity. However, e-mail can also be used to subscribe to e-mail discussion groups or to join other Internet organizations or forums. You can make inquiries for information with numerous interesting organizations, engage a famous person in an interesting discussion or debate, contact old friends and meet new friends or find global trade leads. Because an e-mail address is published on a WWW site or in a newsgroup, does not always mean that your inquiry will be greeted with enthusiasm. It is considered bad manners to send unsolicited e-mail. Such practice is called spamming and people on the Internet just love to beat up on newbies who inadvertently cross what many consider "the line". Polite inquiries are not considered spam generally speaking. Advertising or soliciting for anything is considered spam and newbies will be rudely introduced to the "flame", a nasty message urging the user to do things which would not be discussed in polite surroundings. Please do not send spam to people as it is very irritating.

E-mail Discussion Groups

E-mail discussion groups are very much like the bbs bulletin board forum. Once joined, a person can send an e-mail message which is then "posted" to the entire group. Basically, there are two types of group: moderated and un-moderated. A moderated e-mail discussion group has a moderator to which all potential postings are sent for review before being sent to the entire group. Usually, the moderator will be trying to make certain that postings are within the scope of the group and are relevant to the particular point being discussed. An un-moderated group has no moderator, so that anybody can post anything, whether it is relevant or not.

When we first visited the Internet, e-mail discussion groups and their cousins, Usenet groups, were highly touted as being "the thing". While there is less of this hyperbole today, many still consider these public forums to be a good source of information. We think that they are a mixed bag for anybody and can be confusing to newbies. Quite frankly, we strongly believe that some offer much more than they can deliver. Our advice is quite simple, if you think that an e-mail discussion group can offer you some interesting information, join and just listen or read the postings for several months before contributing anything of your own. One unpopular posting in an e-mail discussion group can result in some very nasty e-mail for quite some time afterwards. Believe us, it's not worth the hassle.

The following discussion groups should be very useful for newbies to international business:

Note:  At one time, there were at least three or four lists posted here, but over a period of years, many of these lists have disappeared. When the Internet was originally founded by the U.S. Department of Defense, many of the e-mail lists were moderated by college professors who had graduate students and funding to run them. During the 1990's especially, it became very difficult to run these lists because of the time involved in moderating responses and making sure that the list software was functioning properly. Unfortunately, many of the Internet's newcomers were unwilling to observe some simple rules and therefore e-mail discussion groups have all but disappeared as a useful forum for exchanging ideas and learning about complex subject matter.

GINLIST This list is moderated by Tunga Kiyak. It is an excellent resource  for newbie and veteran alike. It is sponsored by CIBER, an organization with which you will become very familiar; Center for International Business Education & Research. This list has survived the turmoil of the Internet and is a legitimate Internet information resource about international business.

Usenet Groups

There are over 30,000 Usenet Groups in existence currently and more are being created each day. Usenet Groups are found on your ISP news server and are also called newsgroups. Some ISP's do not carry all of the Usenet Groups which are available for various reasons. In order to read the Usenet Groups postings, a news reader is required. For the PC, Free Agent is considered by many to be the standard. Mac and Apple users can fetch Newswatcher at John Nostad's Programs.

You should use search engines to search the Usenet Groups or read the postings first before posting anything to a Usenet Group. Why? One reason is spam. Once you post to a Usenet Group, your e-mail address can be extracted by a multitude of extractor programs used by spammers to develop their mailing lists. Once added to these lists, your e-mail will increase so much that it will be difficult to manage it, which is why Internet people hate spam and spammers. The biggest advantage of the Usenet Groups is that you do not have to join to read the posts. You can read without anybody knowing that you've read (this is called lurking). Subscribing to a Usenet Group is a misnomer. Actually, what you are doing is alerting your news reader that you want to single this and perhaps others out, so that you can access them more easily.

Usenet Groups represent the best and worst of the Internet. Every hate group and fringe group is here. Racial epithets and homophobic behavior are commonplace. However, there is a tremendous wealth of information available on any conceivable subject known to humankind. If you don't know it, somebody else is likely to know it. If it is a problem for you, then somebody else has probably encountered it. This is the value of the Usenet Group. However, you should never give out any personal information other than an e-mail address in a Usenet Group. NEVER!!

For the Going Global newbie, Usenet Groups offer one feature which is very important. Many unmoderated Usenet Groups allow users to post messages which are actually advertisements, usually promoting a World Wide Web site, a virtual network or an e-mail publication. This is a great opportunity for you to promote your online activities and to attract customers for your product. Before posting to any newsgroup, carefully read its postings to get a sense of what type of postings are generally acceptable in the particular Usenet Group. This is important. Please be considerate of others. Posting the same message in several newsgroups whose topics are unrelated to the content of the posting is called "cross posting" and is considered to be spamming.

Yahoo

Yahoo is the Internet's Directory of Directories and also a primary search engine as well. At one time, if it was not listed in Yahoo, one would normally question its voracity. While that is still true to some extent today, the company itself will tell you that the recent influx of new WWW sites and other relevant information has made its job of categorizing and listing information much more difficult. Nonetheless, Yahoo is extremely important to any newbie to the Internet.

Yahoo lists and categorizes information resources available on the WWW, Usenet Groups, e-mail discussion groups, gopher and some telnet sites. Of these, the WWW and the Usenet Groups are commonly considered most important. What makes Yahoo so useful is its ability to categorize information on different levels. This really makes the information more valuable because it gives you a notion of how it compares with similar information on the same level. Yahoo also cross references sites which one would not normally associate with a particular topic, giving you a wider breadth of how the topic is inter-related.

As a newbie, you must learn how to use Yahoo because it will be your most valuable information resource. The other search engines are very good, but Yahoo, for many things, is better. Become comfortable with this Internet legend. We still use it frequently. And we've discovered something else, the other search engines use it as well. Do not be surprised when another search engine directs you to Yahoo!
***Note---There are several lists that are useful to newbies. We are going to list those which we think are important for you to know about. One thing which you will find out rather quickly is that many WWW sites about a given topic will basically have many of the same hyperlinks. Therefore, a newbie visits all of these different sites expecting to get new or additional information and can become disappointed. This is part of the learning process. Gradually you will choose those lists and sites which are regularly updated and offer you the best information for your needs.***

A Final Word

For newbies to the Internet, the biggest frustration is the fact that one feels immediately overwhelmed and somewhat intimidated by the Internet. This is quite normal. You are not going to become Internet savvy in just one online session. If we had to give a time period, we would frankly say that it requires about six months of regularly visiting the Internet before this frustration disappears. In order to jump up onto the Internet learning curve, two things are very important: 1) please do not abandon your spouse and/or children or other significant family members and friends and 2) be willing to let go of yourself and have fun.

Those of us who are experienced at using the Internet know some of its pitfalls. For newbies, the biggest pitfall of all is that the Internet becomes a substitute for human interaction. This is not something which people just decide to do one day. It occurs as a result of the fixation which the Internet causes. You can not just go into your room and spend endless hours on the Internet when your spouse wants to talk or your kids have a problem. The Internet is addictive and you have to learn how to use self-control or it will cause you severe personal problems. If you ever visit irc, you will encounter people there who spend a significant portion of their lives online. If you question them, they will tell you that they know that they are addicted but that they remain helpless to fight it. That is truly sad. Be smart and remember that the Internet is just one great big library. Would you become obsessed about your local library?

One of the reasons why people become addicted and obsessed about the Internet is because of a need to be in control of it. We are not psychiatrists and we are unable to offer you any good advice for any personal problems which you might have. However, we do know that many people are being forced to learn about the Internet in order to be more effective at performing their jobs. The desire to quickly master the Internet is understandable but not very realistic. Even if your company sends you to a class or seminar, it takes much quality time to learn about the Internet. If you are spending quality time on the Internet which belongs to your spouse or children, then you're in conflict. If you try to hurry the learning process, you will defeat your own best efforts. In order to truly enjoy the Internet, you have to let go of yourself and any plans which you have for learning. You have to log on and then just get lost, drifting and drifting to faraway places. This is how to learn how to use the Internet effectively. You have to have fun!! If it isn't fun, then log off and come back at another time.

 

*Reprinted from ZDNet Inc. October 2000, with permission. Copyright (c) 2000 ZDNet Inc. Content originally appearing in Ziff Davis Smart Business is the copyrighted property of Ziff Davis Publishing Holdings Inc. Copyright (c) 2000. All Rights Reserved.