Since our web site went live, there has been a marked increase in the amount of junk e-mail we have been receiving. Tut tut! The barbarians are everywhere. The sending of unsolicited e-mail is a breach of “nettiquette,” an offence magnified a thousand times if the reason for the message is commercial. America Online recently reckoned that 1.5m of these tainted texts had been sent on their system alone, so they have now come up with some impressive filtering software to enable their members to stop it, if they want to.
The rules of nettiquette emerged in the early days of the net when it was still essentially a text only system, when the use of “smileys,” or “emoticons,” were the nearest anyone ever got to graphics. Persistent “spamming” (sending unsolicited e-mail) can get you “flamed,” that is to say everyone gangs up and inundates you with abusive e-mails to crash your system or at least cause you considerable inconvenience. The use of capital letters is also frowned upon as this is the cyber equivalent of shouting. All very charming, and these rules doubtless worked well when the internet was still largely the preserve of genteel academics. Now it’s full of go-getter estate agents, car dealers and other “Have I got a deal for you!” merchants, just like our own dear Conservative party really. The world moves on. Maybe America Online’s solution is the only way.
how did the internet do on US election night? The answer is not very well. It was fine tracking individual electoral races and following the voting on specific propositions (plebiscites). But as a source of major news stories it was beaten hands down by good old television and radio. Inputting the data and updating the site takes a little time. Television and radio are immediate. The internet also turned out to be much less reliable than usual, as the vastly increased hits on the political sites on election night caused some of them to crash and all of them to slow down, sometimes to unusable speeds. In addition hackers chose that evening to bring down the New York Times site with thousands of serial requests for access using forged credit card details. Nihilists and Schadenfreude-ists everywhere are entitled to a chuckle.
during the us elections Bill Clinton did not make many promises, but one of them was to get every school connected to the information superhighway. It is a promise which a lot of European parties are taking up. It has become a totem of modernity, and quite right too. However, here in Britain the picture is perhaps a little more complicated. At the moment 4,000 out of about 5,000 secondary schools in England and Wales already have an internet link; 1,000 of our 25,000 or so primary schools are similarly endowed. In Northern Ireland all 235 secondaries are wired up, but none of the primaries. In Scotland about half of their roughly 300 secondaries and 11 per cent of their 3,000 or so primaries are on the net.
What are they doing with these links? Nobody in London, Belfast, Cardiff or Edinburgh knows. The link could amount to no more than a simple e-mail system in an administrative office for correspondence with the town hall, or go all the way up to a fully blown school-wide network with a connected PC on every desk. If the internet link is in a school because of an initiative taken by a single enthusiastic teacher, it is entirely possible that only in her subject is it being used. The reasons for this are not hard to fathom. Schools are now dominated by the demands of the national curriculum. Unless and until you can show a specific use which relates to the national curriculum, few teachers will be attracted. Research Machines and BT have developed excellent sites which they say tie in with the national curriculum, or at any rate parts of it. Check them out at www.rmplc.co.uk and www.campus.bt.com, but to use them costs money and then there are the other questions to sort out. We have techno-illiterate, even technophobic teachers, most of whom will have completed their training long before the internet was the force it is now. And who’s to say that teachers currently going through training college are going to be any better equipped? Then there’s the hardware available to schools, both the quantity and the quality of which sometimes leaves much to be desired. Put all these things together and you have a daunting challenge, far harder to solve than merely putting a new piece of broadband fibre-optic cable into a school building. Without a clear strategy for dealing with all this the internet will remain a solution looking for a problem. Its forced introduction into schools might be rejected and resented by the hard-pressed governors and staff who never asked for it and do not see the point of it.
with the festive season approaching, drop in on www.turkeystore.com. You’ll find more recipes for cooking the traditional bird than any reasonable human being could shake a stick at. And with some of their suggestions that’s all you would want to do. n