In the Introduction the authors provide the classic parable of three blind men trying to describe an elephant. This analogy to the Internet is a perfect one since each person will give a different definition of the Internet and each will be correct.
We are constantly subjected to the contradictions of the Internet: "The result is a networked system that no one owns but to which everyone contributes." The essence is those who contribute to the Internet own the Internet (a very American Indian concept).
They raise an important question too: "People in this culture tend to share more. But just what they share, or whether sharing is always a good thing, are open questions." Capitalistically speaking -- probably not, academically speaking -- probably. But this will be expanded in the next Chapter on Netiquette.
The authors do not get lost in the History of the Internet. This is best left to the Net itself.
Relevancy of the Internet to the English student is a key concern of this book. Here the authors have tried to provide a world in which both print and electronic writing can co-exist while each still maintains its own identity. In their argument the most telling line is "the status quo dies hard." Paying tribute to print, the authors recognize and foster the Internet and are prepared to show the relevancy of the Internet to English students.
Chapter One ends magnificently, with the authors proclaiming that any attempt to do what they have planned in a book form is doomed to failure. So, our authors have provided a website in conjunction with the book. They plan for the website to augment the book with resources, reader feedback, and whatever else transpires. The brilliance of this move is to practice what they have just preached about print and electronic writing. The two publishing media, print and electronic, must find a way to co-exist, and the authors have done this.
All student guides need a chapter on Netiquette, and the authors have provided a thorough no-holds barred approach to delivering this sermon from the mountain. My favorite quote from this chapter comes from the section titled "Practice Frugality": "Be frugal with your ideas; don't waste words by treating them cheaply." Sage advice to any English student.
General Netiquette practices are expanded to include concepts of attribution of source, which is covered in greater depth in Part 3, when the authors discuss, indepth, how to cite sources from the Internet.
Answering or, at least, discussing some general standards about a relatively standard-less environment -- the Internet -- is a difficult task. Users of the Internet jack-in on many types of machines using a variety of services of different interfaces. Like fingerprints, no two roads to the Internet are the same, even in a lab. The road keeps changing.
The best advice the authors offer on this point of the etherial world is to get to know your local sysop, system operator, who can provide the best information about the user's computer configuration. In addition, advice is given about learning from errors and how to analyze mistakes.
The learning curve in any new endeavour -- like riding a bicycle, making an omelette, or using the Internet -- is very steep in the first five minutes. Once the first success has been achieved, the learning curve levels out. Success breeds success.
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