On-line Directories Provide Anchor for Spinning a Research Web
By Timothy B. DeMoss, PennWell Publishing Co.
I`m looking for information on installations of small gas turbines in cogen applications during the last 12 months; can you help me?” This is one typical question, of dozens, that we receive each month at Power Engineering. Often, my first response to such a question is, “Do you have Internet access?” Not every question can be answered by prowling the Internet, but it`s an excellent place to start.
There are many tools available to help you find information on the Internet. Among these tools, and one of the most popular, is a directory of links to sites, grouped by subject. There are many commercial sites available, such as Yahoo!, but if it is industry-specific information you`re after, your best bet is to locate a web site maintained by an industry professional.
The m.i.u.gif>. Web Site
For information related to the power industry, I often begin my information quest at http://www.webfeats.com/preecs/miue/. This site is maintained by Chuck Preecs, Texas Utilities Electric Co. (TU) product development engineer. What`s interesting about Preecs` site, although not unique, is that it is in no way affiliated with his employer. Preecs started the site as a complement to the newsgroup misc.industry.utilities.gif>lectric (m.i.u.gif>.), and as a service to his fellow electric utility industry Netizens. He initiated the site in July 1995 and has one of the easiest-to-use, best organized sites of its kind. The site receives about 4,000 “hits” per week.
Preecs dispensed with flashy graphics (take too long to download), taking the “utilitarian” approach to Web-page design. Following are the categories in the site`s m.i.u.gif>. Utility Directory: Calendar of Events, Consumer Groups–Industry Related, Discussion Forums, Educational, Electric Utilities Around the World, Employment Opportunities, Government/Regulatory Agencies, Industry Organizations, Information and Data Sources, News Sources, Research Organizations, Selected m.i.u.gif>. Archives, Trade Publications, Utility Related Directories and Vendors/Consultants. Two of these categories bear further explanation: Selected m.i.u.gif>. Archives and Utility Related Directories.
Selected m.i.u.gif>. Archives is a series of interesting threads (discussion topics) from the m.i.u.gif>. newsgroup. Preecs has collected these related postings in one place for easy reading. The newsgroup, which spawned the Web site, began in April 1995 as a result of utility-related discussions taking place in the newsgroup sci.gif>nergy. M.i.u.gif>. discussions center on research, business and technical application issues of interest to electricity consumers, engineers, attorneys, financial analysts, regulatory agencies, consumer advocacy groups, economists, scientists and many others.
Utility Related Directories provides links to a number of other on-line directories similar to the m.i.u.gif>. site. It is this freedom of information and willingness to share it that makes a site like Preecs` stand apart from those with a commercial bent. As more individuals` sites spring up providing similar information, Preecs wonders whether his site will continue to be useful, but envisions maintaining a “jumping-off place” for other directories as a possible niche for his site`s future.
Internet Users Group
Preecs is also involved in a project which I would encourage every utility to emulate as we enter the information age. Late last year, the TU information technology (IT) department began offering Internet access to many of its employees. Unfortunately for the uninitiated, the IT department was able to offer little training about the Internet`s use. Like many others in similar circumstances, Preecs and a handful of other TU employees became ad hoc trainers for TU Internet “newbies.” What was at first an informal network of shared Internet expertise and communication gave birth to the TU Internet Users Group. This group now meets about once a month discussing the basics of Internet research and how the employees can best use the Internet as a business tool.
The IT department has even provided the group with a discussion forum on line. The company purposefully placed the forum outside TU`s intranet (an internet-like network available only within the immediate company) so that company subsidiaries in the United States and abroad could take advantage of the peer training and discussion. The forum is password protected to keep out anyone but those associated with TU. However, any “hacking” into the forum could do worse than to learn better how to use the Internet, and Preecs said any troublemakers would simply be booted off. Every IT department should be so lucky to have a group like the one at TU.
Although Preecs finds a lot of the site`s links on his own, today he gets most of his information from users who visit the site and tell him about a useful resource. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail).