Internet Sleuthing and the Grey Lady

Internet Sleuthing and the Grey Lady by pendragon David Whelan The links directory and index is SO 1990s Web. You can’t turn around on the Internet without running into someone’s collection of links. Yahoo! and DMOZ for the masses, Findlaw for the lawyers, and so on. The best of the links sites these days include some (meaningingful) annotation to indicate why sites are valuable.

A good sample is the ABA’s Lawlink research jumpstation.  Since I have a hand in it, you can take this recommendation with a grain of salt.  But we have taken a handful of high-quality, high accuracy sites and given information about why they’re important. 

I’m still trying to figure out how to build the DMOZ open source directory (a.k.a. the Google directory) built into this site.  DMOZ takes a step further than sites like Yahoo! but there’s still the underlying problem that self-description of annotations – as opposed to annotations by experts in the field unaffiliated with the link’s marketing department – tend to be overly inclusive and, thus, less useful.

I was surprised to see the New York Times’ Cyber Navigator the other day.  It’s a nice collection of links, connected to one of my favorite resources, the NY Time’s Technology page.  It’s a great example of that midpoint where, with a bit more effort, one would actually wonder why the NY Times is bothering!  They link to the Librarian’s Index to the Internet, among other resources, which are to me a perfect example of the right kind of link index.  The Cyber Navigator is a passable resource, and is clearly culled with its internal audience in mind, but one wonders why there are so many links to mediocre sites (if you’re listing 6 or more search engines, then no-one has spent the time to recommend the best search engine or two).  The “Collections for Journalists” are actually just general information links, primarily to legal and administrative information on the Web.  Why not just link to and let everyone know that it’s a great, well-laid out governmental Web site and is the primary source for much of the content.

So if you work in an organization that wants to create a “links” page, first, be sure you’re not stealing the content directly from some other site (like those sites we routinely find, often law firms, who grab the ABA’s Lawlink content verbatim and slap it on their site).  Then make sure you are truly providing a list of resources that show that SOMEONE has exercised both an editorial eye (keep only the best) and expert opinion (explaining why resource A is so powerful) on any link in your collection.

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David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.