by M.D. Morgan
If you watch television, you see millions of dollars worth of dot.com mania. A friend e-mailed me the other day to say that she was eating an ice cream bar and low and behold, once it was consumed, there on the end of the stick was the name of the ice cream company - you guessed it; so-and-so dot.com.
No matter what you are doing, every time you raise your eyes or open your ears someone is telling you to visit www.something.com for more information. Sometimes it seems like we are all swimming in a sea of e-biz, I-biz, dot.com or dot.net cyber space. Once you wade though the muck and the hype, however, not only is using the 'net fairly easy, it is fun. It's can even be addicting. The 'net is not only an extremely valuable business tool, but it's wonderfully enriching. Many truckers have embraced the Internet; however, the majority of truckers - especially those 50 or older - have shied away from technology. And the Internet especially. I know a handful of drivers who won't buy a new truck because they don't want a chip motor or chips in the cab electrical system.
Computers are a mystery and the Internet is a black hole in space. Many feel all this technology is moving too fast for them and it's something they will never master, but as someone so aptly commented, "Monsters under the bed won't go away if you ignore them."
One thing is certain - it is here to stay, and maybe once everyone realizes they are not going to retire simply because they own or invested in a dot.com, things will settle down and the public will have a chance to remember what the Internet is all about. There is, in fact, much concern over the financial health of these highly visible multi-million dollar dot.coms and many are hemorrhaging cash at a horrific rate.
One problem with the whole thing is the way the Internet has been marketed to the general public. If all you did was listen to the hype, it would seem on the surface that the Internet was little more than a device to sell things or to waste time chatting with friends and sending postcards. Why bother?
If you are not somewhat computer literate, using the technology can be a bit daunting. But the fact is having a web presence has become so important in the business world that companies are afraid no one will take them seriously if they don't have a web site. Unfortunately, many of the more famous and visible sites exist simply because someone wanted to be the next Bill Gates, and those that followed saw how easy it was to get people to part with their money via the stock market and a public offering based on what my geek buddies and I call "vaporware." Vaporware is that new software you bought that is supposed to do everything you need it to do at some insanely high price, but actually does none of those things when you get it home. Essentially, you have paid to be a development guinea pig.
Now I happen to fall into the 50-year-old category, and I resisted the 'net for quite some time. Eventually I succumbed to my curiosity, hooked up with an Internet service provider and dove in. Even though I was computer savvy already, it took me a while to get the hang of it. I persevered because I was fascinated by what I found and spent many a night surfing until dawn.
Today there are many thousand times more sites to visit as there were then. I found the 'net useful and quickly realized its potential, so I took the time to learn how to create web sites and now have two sites of my own. (Which means if I can do it you can do it too.) I guess that makes me a dot.com too.
One of the many reasons I love the Internet is, like most men, I really hate to shop. I just want to find my item as quickly as possible and as easily and painlessly as possible. Today, many of the companies I need to buy things from have commerce-enabled sites. And when I can buy what I want off the Internet, I do. From that standpoint alone, I think it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Another great feature of the Internet is that almost every day there is a new site relative to your needs and interests, and the better sites have rapidly changing content. It takes a lot of time, money, effort and staff to keep a comprehensive site fresh and up-to-date. To that end, enter advertising to help support the site, and hopefully make a profit. Usually it is the user who benefits most from the growing commercial competition on the 'net, because in order to grow and prosper, the good sites have to get better to survive while the poor ones just disappear. At least it's not like trucking where your competition is slitting his and your throat by offering lower and lower rates for hauling more cubes and more weight.
The amazing thing about the 'net is there is virtually no human activity that is not covered and explored in depth, and from a vast array of viewpoints. Unfortunately, this also includes the seamier underbelly of society and the more deviant and aberrant aspects of the human psyche. Everyone can find something on the 'net that offends, and you will, too. It is a byproduct of freedom of speech and democracy.
Aside from sites that will help you do your job, whatever it is, better, faster, easier and less expensively, there are literally millions of personal web sites, many of which are little more than a single page and consist of pretty lame family and pet photos, as well as some text that says "Hi. We're the Richardson's: Bob, Wendy, Sammy and Patty, with our cat Fluffy next to our family Yugo. Thanks for visiting and please sign our guestbook." Right. But even the most trivial of sites provides insight into the folks with whom we share this world. Now we can all be amateur cultural anthropologists at the very least.
The only drawback to the web is that it is so very incredibly big. Some sites are so full of information; you could easily spend the better part of a day just looking at a particular site. I, for one, have always been an information junkie. I always have more magazines around than I can possibly ever read, and I used to spend a great deal of time at the public library going crazy trying to figure out which books I wanted to check out knowing full well there was never enough time to read the ones I did. And the Internet makes me feel like a 13-year-old on a Pepsi 12-pack sugar high. There is just so much dot.com information.
Mike Morgan is a freelance writer living in Prescott Valley, Arizona.