Why would anyone keep a comprehensive directory of all the places on the Internet and other on-line services where people can find information about diabetes?
That's something I ask myself regularly as I update my Web pages dealing with On-line Diabetes Resources. Keeping that directory up-to-date takes almost daily work. And it is work, even though I'm not paid for it. Writing magazine articles is what pays the bills in this household.
Let me admit it right off. I was fooled. The World Wide Web tricked me. I never dreamed that it would amount to so much. When I started "On-line Diabetes Resources" way back in the early years of the Web—in February 1995—the Internet had two mailing lists, two newsgroups, and two other Web sites dealing with diabetes (plus two each reachable by ftp and gopher).
The main reason why I started my Web pages on diabetes was because I could see all the problems that people were having in subscribing and unsubscribing—particularly unsubscribing—to the mailing lists. Not everybody kept the message that they got when they subscribed, and they sometimes became frustrated when they were overwhelmed with the volume of the messages and tried in vain to unsubscribe.
They would frequently ask how to unsubscribe, something that can be very difficult without directions, but simple if you know how. That's why I called my diabetes pages a "faq," which stands for frequently asked questions. The Diabetic Mailing List Home Page still keeps a copy of my faq—an outdated one—on its Web site at http://www.lehigh.edu/lists/diabetic/html/online.html.
Another reason for the faq was to let others members of the mailing list keep up to date with developments elsewhere in cyberspace. I just never thought that there would be so many developments!
Now, my "On-line Diabetes Resources" site describes 13 mailing lists, three newsgroups, three Internet Relay Chat networks, four other national services, six local bulletin board services (BBSs)—and almost 250 Web sites. "On-line Diabetes Resources"—all on one Web page for a long time. But the explosive growth of the Web dictated breaking out the Web sites. It now takes eight separate pages to describe and link the Web sites alone. For convenience the Web pages are divided into those of general interest, organizations and charities, universities and hospitals, companies, publications, government, personal pages, and Medline links.
And these 250 Web sites are just the most important ones dealing with diabetes. If you ask the AltaVista search engine http://www.altavista.digital.com/ to list the sites that mention the word "diabetes" it will present you with links to 100,000 of them. While I haven't looked at all of these sites (and obviously never will), I have tried to winnow the valuable sites from those that don't contribute anything of substance.
Even though it's a lot of work, keeping these Web pages about diabetes up-to-date has proven rewarding to me in non-financial ways. As a person with Type II diabetes myself, it has helped me directly to stay in touch with the latest thinking.
Furthermore, the great number of messages people have sent me telling me how useful the site is has been psychically rewarding. I think of it as playing my part in what Howard Rheingold calls "gift economy" of the Net: people taking what they need and giving back in some measure without expectation of profit.
As published on the American Diabetes Web site on June 16, 1997.
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