Enquire within on everything: getting questions answered on the Internet

Online Currents 2003 – 18(2) 22-24

This article compares several question-answering services on the Internet: the paid Google Answers service, the free Usenet Newsgroup system, and AskNow!, a free collaborative reference system run by Australian state and national government librarians.


During its period of massive growth, from about 1992 to 2000, the Internet was largely supported by unpaid volunteers: hundreds of thousands of people gave up millions of hours of free time to support and encourage others. Although this still continues today, there are indications that the tide is turning and that a cash-for-service expectation is developing. Where a free service and a paid service offer the same results, the economic pressure on the paid service has often resulted in its closure. Paid service providers may mount an organised attack on free services through lobbying; conversely, free service providers may look to find ways of charging for their efforts. read more

Forms and databases on the Web

By Jon: First published in Online Currents 2004 – 19(9) 24-26

It is relatively easy to create a form using HTML, but not so easy to process the information which the form collects from the user. Web designers planning to set up a form for user input must make decisions in advance; they may also find their choices severely limited by decisions about hosting and design software which have been made in the past. This article examines the options for processing form information from web pages, including the use of on-line databases to generate forms and produce reports. The options are presented in order from simplest to most complex. read more

In for a penny: micropayments on the Internet

By Jon: First published in Online Currents 2004 – 19(3) 16-17

Why micropayments?

A graph of payment amounts made for Internet transactions would show a large number at the ‘free’ end, representing accesses of the tremendous amount of material funded by advertising, government sponsorship, and just plain altruism. There would be a smaller, extended hump starting at about the $US5 mark and trailing off gradually up in the thousands; included here would be some of the paid reports supplied by Internet research services like Forrester and Gartner. But between zero and, $US5 there would be very little activity. This is the area of micropayments; the region in which the current cost of carrying out a transaction through established methods is greater than the amount of the transaction itself. read more

Internet chat for business

By Jon: First published in Online Currents 2002 – 17(4): 4-6


Real-time conversation via the Internet – ‘chat’ – has been overlooked as a means of business communication.  Despite its reputation as a recreational system, chat offers many powerful features of use to everyone in business or government.  Different types of chat systems and chat software are examined here: Web chat, IRC, NetMeeting, ICQ and Yahoo Group chat.  All have their own strengths and weaknesses, but an appropriate system can open new channels of communication for teams of workers. read more

Internet radio

By Jon: First published in Online Currents – 20 (2) March 2005

Got a fast PC? Got a broadband Internet connection with lots of spare capacity? Bored with your own music and want to hear someone else’s? Need to keep up with a specialised news feed? Have a special interest in rare radio programmes? Or are you just looking for a wider choice of information and entertainment than you can get through the local media?

You may be a candidate for listening to Internet radio.

Here’s how it works.

The Basics

Internet radio (IR) is not, of course, radio. Transmission of IR is by cable, like all the other material transmitted over the Internet – unless, of course, you have a wireless connection to the Internet or to your network hub, in which case the last step is by radio after all. But if you only have a wireless connection you probably won’t have the broadband capacity to properly receive IR anyway. Complicated, isn’t it? read more

Internet telephony

By Jon: First published in Online Currents – 20(8) October 2005

Internet telephony, also known as Voice Over Internet (VOI), is the transmission of voice communications in real time using the Internet rather than a proprietary telephone system.  It has two advantages over conventional telephony (known as ‘Plain Old Telephone System’ or POTS); firstly, the cost of calls is lower – sometimes much lower – and secondly, the introduction of a computer into the process allows powerful software to be used for making, monitoring, timing and recording calls. read more