Taking a Dip in Cyberspace
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Fam Pract Manag. 1998 Jul-Aug;5(7):8.
I'm not sure when, but some time in the past couple of years the World Wide Web stopped being a fad. Yes, it is still trendy, I guess, but it's not just trendy. It's becoming necessary. Remember the days when you scorned pagers as status symbols for ego-challenged executives? Now you may well have one on your belt or in your lab-coat pocket. The pager has been transformed from a status symbol into a convenience — an annoying convenience, to be sure, but one that is nearly indispensable for many family physicians. That's the transformation the Internet is undergoing.
As an editor, I've been reflecting on this transition a good deal recently. To an editor, the beauty of the Internet is that it can make vast amounts of information instantly available, in theory, to everyone — while not taking up any space in print and not forcing information on those who aren't interested in it. That's why everywhere you look, it seems, there's the address of another web site. “For more information, see the such-and-such web site at www.such-and-such.com.'
The problem, of course, is that the information is available to everyone only in theory. It's available to everyone who has access to a computer hooked up to the Internet and who is comfortable browsing and searching the World Wide Web. I'm troubled that every time FPM directs readers to “www.such-and-such.com,” a significant number of readers are left out in the cold. The concern is not enough to stop us from publishing such references. In fact, we'll probably publish an increasing number of them. There's too much of value on the Web to ignore, and so many of our readers do have access to the Web that to ignore it would do them a disservice.
Instead, I want to urge you to get online, if you're not already. Even if you don't have access to a computer, chances are that a library (or a coffee-house!) in your neighborhood does. Try the Web. Visit some of the sites mentioned in articles in this issue. Despite what you may think, using the Web need not mean spending hours in aimless surfing; you can get online, find the information you need and leave. And the Web is friendly to two-fingered typists. Except for typing the occasional web address, you can do virtually everything with the mouse. For that matter, the Web is designed to be friendly to the computer neophyte. Try it.
As an extra inducement, this issue contains an article designed to introduce you to the Web: “World Wide Web 101,” by Gil L. Solomon, MD. It's something of a departure for FPM because the article has little to do with our normal run of subjects. Instead, it's almost the sort of article you might find in a family computing magazine. We've given it space in our pages, though, (and on our web site!) because of its importance to family physicians who aren't yet on the Web. It introduces you to a tool you'll soon wonder how you did without. Dr. Solomon's article is a gentle introduction to the Web; you can start reading it in print and finish it online. What better way to test the water?
Robert Edsall is editor-in-chief of Family Practice Management.
Copyright © 1998 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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