Creation of Information on the Internet

Dealing Effectively With Data
Section 5 Using the Internet for Research
Creation of Information on the Internet
How Is Information Posted on the Internet?
So far we’ve been working exclusively with Library databases in this class. Business
Abstracts, IAC Searchbank, Lexis-Nexis, and FIS Online are all databases that simply
republish and make available in electronic format (online) information that has already
been published in paper format. The full text article that you read online in IAC
Searchbank from Harvard Business Review (HBR) is an electronic version of the paper
copy of Harvard Business Review. The folks at HBR have a board of editors that decide
which articles are sufficiently scholarly and well-researched to be included in their
journal. IAC Searchbank simply pays HBR to include their journal in their electronic
database. The main intellectual work of approving articles is done by Harvard Business
Review. IAC Searchbank, Lexis-Nexis, and FIS Online are called aggregated databases
for this reason; they are simply repackaging existing journals in electronic format and
making them available to us for a fee. (Incidentally, part of your technology fee pays for
access to these databases).
The process of a database vendor “aggregating” journals and journal text to sell as a
package is a very different process in comparison to how information arrives on the
“free” Internet. One might assume that because the Internet is such an important provider
of information that is has a rigid system of control as to who and what information is
actually posted. In fact, the Internet has completely the opposite system of posting
information. There is no central hierarchy or governance board for the Internet. Nobody
monitors or does quality control on the information posted on the Internet.
Domain Names
All the Internet sites are organized at the top level by what are termed name “domains”.
The name domain at PSU is is another example of
the name domain for the Whitehouse. This is what’s known as a top level domain. You
can easily go to the Internic website (this is also being farmed out to private companies)
and for around $100-$200 dollars buy yourself a top level domain name. For example, I
could buy (if it hasn’t already been purchased) a domain name .
Nobody would ask me any questions as long as I paid the registration fee. Interestingly
enough, about six years ago, before all businesses understood the importance of the
Internet, a bunch of Internet entrepreneurs went around buying up domain names of large
companies. They later tried to sell back these domain names to the large companies for a
very large fee.
The last part of the domain name, part for example, is very important. A domain
name ending with .com tells you that it’s a commercial site. This could be my site or it could be the commercial site of a company such as that while it provides useful information, is ultimately trying to sell you
Dealing Effectively With Data
Section 5 Using the Internet for Research
a product. I guess I tend to be very careful with information coming from a .com site and
when possible try to look for information from specific agencies of the U.S. government
(.gov) such as the state department at
The following are the most common domain names that have existed for the longest
amount of time on the World Wide Web:
from the U.S. government
from somewhere in an educational institution
from an organization, usually non-profit
from the military
from a company (commercial)
from a network(internet service provider)--generally not clear
The powers that be at the Internic have also recently approved a bunch of new domains
that I’m sure you will be running across in the near future:
another business domain
cooperative financial organization, example credit union
family name
professional, example a doctor or CPA
In addition to these standard domain name endings, you also need to be aware that most
countries also have specific domain name endings, for example .uk for United Kingdom
and .de for Germany. For example the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) domain
name is
If you run across an unfamiliar name domain I suggest taking a look at the following
website from Webopedia to get an idea of the country domain code.
Knowing these domain names will help you get a start on figuring out where the
information is coming from and starting to evaluate whether or not it’s legitimate.
Ultimately what you need to remember is that absolutely anyone can put information on
the Internet. You don’t even need to pay the $100-200 for a domain name. You can
easily get a website that’s part of an already existing domain. As a Plattsburgh student
you can get space on the student webserver. All you have to do is go to and register. If you want to be even more anonymous you can
get a FREE (and that’s free to anyone in the world) at a number of free websites like
Dealing Effectively With Data
Section 5 Using the Internet for Research Again, you do have to register but do you think anybody is really
going check the information you fill in the form? Thus the information you are looking
at on a website could have been posted by another college student, a fifth grader, a CPA
professional, or even someone with a political agenda that’s trying to deceive you.
Some countries, such as France and China, have tried to control the Internet. The French
wanted to make sure that the Internet information in France was written in French.
(They’re kind of sensitive about integrating English words, like hamburger, into the
French language.) I suppose it would be possible to write a computer program for all the
Internet sites that end in .fr and have them run words through a French dictionary.
However, if somebody in France wanted to use lots of English words in their website all
they would have to do is get a website in some domain name or country that didn’t end in
.fr . It’s pretty unrealistic for a country to really think it’s going to control the
information posted on websites coming from their country.
Websites vs. Domains
I mentioned that there is a difference between a domain and a website. I never actually
bought a domain with my name, so I just use the Plattsburgh domain My website address is If
I had bought a domain my website woulde also be . Every
document that’s part of a website has a unique identifier that’s known as a Universal
Resource Locator (URL). For example the URL for this document is When citing or
giving someone a URL for an item make sure you give them the complete URL; I usually
copy and paste. The backslash / simply is a method for the web designer to organize their
information. For example, on your personal computer you probably have a folder called
My Documents. Once you open this folder you have all your documents listed. A web
designer uses this same system to keep all her documents organized and in different
folders by description. As you can see, I have a folder (officially called a directory) on
my website called SLN where I keep all my documents for this class. This one happens
to end in .doc because it’s an MS Word document. Many URLs end in .html because
much on the information on the World Wide Web is written in Hypertext Mark-Up
Language. HTML code is basically a way on enhancing text that determines how it is
displayed on a web browser. You used to have to know how to write HTML code.
However, nowadays things are a lot easier and there are a number of user-friendly
programs, such as MS Frontpage, that put the code in the web pages for you.
Construction of URLs
Let’s take a closer look at the URLs and how they are constructed. The following is the
document Background Notes: Afghanistan coming from the U.S. State Department:
Dealing Effectively With Data
Section 5 Using the Internet for Research
Those backslashes (/) indicate folders or directory levels. If you delete the 5380.htm you
will go up one folder/directory level to the main folder listing the Background Notes for
all countries.
We could delete all the directories/folders and go directly to the top (entry) level of the
website which is the entry page for the U.S. Department of State.
Dealing Effectively With Data
Section 5 Using the Internet for Research
This technique of going back folder/directory levels can be useful when a) your
document URL is incorrect and you’re trying to retrace your steps, and b) you’re trying to
figure out the author (authority) of a document. The document you find may well belong
to a company or may be some individuals homepage. Usually if you keep backing up
levels you will eventually figure out who’s responsible for a document. This will give
you some help in evaluating a document. Look for references as to the qualifications of
the individual posting a document. Is it a government official? Is it somebody with
professional qualifications like a lawyer, doctor, or CPA or perhaps somebody whose
name you recognize as an expert like Peter Drucker in the management field?
Why Examine Internet Information
As we saw earlier, there is a big difference between the “aggregated databases” like IAC
Searchbank and information that comes from websites on the Internet. Literally anybody
can post information on the Internet. In one of the mini-lectures, you saw an example of
a political organization posing as another organization to deceive you with their point of
view. The Evaluating Internet Resources worksheet linked to in the mini-lecture has a
number of things for you to think about when determining the validity of web sites,
including authority (authorship) and propaganda. In addition to propaganda in the
political sense, propaganda can also mean giving extraordinary claims to a product to sell
it. This type of propaganda will be important to watch out for as you help people invest
their money and look at corporate balance sheets.
Dealing Effectively With Data
Section 5 Using the Internet for Research
The following is a web page advertising an initial public offering (IPO), in other words
this private company is soliciting shareholders to go public. You hear about technology
IPOs all the time on the news.
What do you think so far? Looks pretty good, especially being released shortly after the
anthrax scare. Also, as a product it looks attractive and compact and relatively simple to
use. Lets take a look at some of its product endorsements.
Dealing Effectively With Data
Section 5 Using the Internet for Research
Pretty impressive. Folks from Fortune 500 companies and investment banker types
swear by the product.
Any red flags going up yet? Does this product seem a little too good to be true? If it’s so
wonderful how come I haven’t seen all the news anchors that received anthrax threats
with this on their desk? Also, does it make sense in the context of what the news has
been telling us about biological weapons? The army had to send those letters to one of
only a few top-secret labs to examine. I seem to recall that it took them a couple of
months to open the letter addressed to Senator Leahy. Does the idea of a simple little
box seem to fit the profile about what you’ve seen in the news about anthrax detection?
Also, take another close look at the testimonials. Notice that we don’t have any specific
name for that Fortune 500 executive. Again another easy anonymous claim that can be
Do you smell a rat yet? Well, actually this is a website put together by the nice folks at
the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and NASDAQ. They are concerned
about just this sort of Internet scam to get people to invest their money in a nonlegitimate corporation. As with the French website example, somebody anywhere in the
world could set up a scam website like this and have investors send their money to a
fraudulent PO box or a fraudulent bank. Once the scam has run a while, they take the
money out of the country where they can’t be prosecuted.
Dealing Effectively With Data
Section 5 Using the Internet for Research