On-Ramps to the Information Highway
We live in the Age of Information, with information access exploding exponentially. You need information to gain knowledge, and knowledge to gain wisdom. In practical terms, as the noted economist Peter F. Drucker has written, knowledge more than technology is key in giving individuals and companies a competitive edge.
If you’re like me, though, your head often spins from the thought of how much you don’t know. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As the English statesman Disraeli said 150 years ago, “To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.”
Information technology — particularly the Internet — can help you gain knowledge. But first you need to know how to use it. And even if you know the basics, if you’re not using the Internet to its full potential, you’re likely missing out.
One of the things the Net has always done exceedingly well is help you learn about itself. The following is a roundup of some of the best Web sites today aimed at teaching you the ins and outs of Internet technology. Unless indicated otherwise, all are free.
n CNET Help.com (http://www.help. com) is a huge repository of well-organized tips and tutorials about not only the Internet, but also hardware, software, games, and consumer electronics. You can browse the categories or do a search. Beginning and advanced business and consumer topics are covered. CNET Help.com is unequaled in terms of the quantity and quality of information provided.
The site also includes relevant discussion from Usenet newsgroups and lets you post your own questions right from the site. If you’re not satisfied with the answers, you can peruse a topic-specific listing of free and paid tech-support services.
n Webmonkey (http://hotwired.ly
cos.com/webmonkey/guides) isn’t extensive in scope, but it won’t be overwhelming for beginners. It links technical terms to a glossary and walks you through specific procedures such as using the Net to find a job, manage your money, plan a trip and buy a car or home.
n Learn the Net (http://www.learnthenet.com/english) includes a wealth of basic information about business topics such as e-commerce along with more general topics such as e-mail, Web surfing and multimedia. The site provides versions of itself in Spanish, French, Italian and Dutch as well as English.
n Yahoo How-To: A Tutorial for Web Surfers (http://howto.yahoo.com) does a good job of covering the basics with easy-to-follow instructions. Unfortunately, when explaining a subject such as chat services, Yahoo How-To often lists Yahoo’s own offerings first or even exclusively, which detracts from the site’s objectivity and usefulness.
n About the Web (http://www.about-the-web.com) is more of a homegrown effort, and truer to the Internet’s heritage, than other sites described here. It includes lots of information and links for newcomers as well as entrepreneurs and Webmasters. Just watch out for ads that are hidden within the instructional material, such as one for Turbo-Surfer near the beginning of the section on e-mail.
n Darwin Magazine’s Learn (http://www. darwinmag.com/learn) is all business. Subjects covered, among others, are e-business, customer relationship management, outsourcing, knowledge management, application service providers and change management. Along with tutorials covering the basics, you’ll find in-depth articles and links to other Web sites dealing with the subject matter at hand.
The above sites can help you learn, though keep in mind that knowledge has its limits.
As Emerson said, “Ideas must work through the brains and arms of good and brave [people], or else they are no better than dreams.”
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