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Trouble "shooting"

Section 3 | MENU

Error messages may result from a variety of situations, some relating to the operation of
the browser software, others to the operation of the Internet. The browser software will
attempt to evaluate any problem that is encountered and display an appropriate error
message. The most common error messages result from trying to access a document that
is not currently available, or mistyping a web address. The server issuing the page may be
temporarily shut down or too busy with other connections to handle your request. Or the
page may no longer be at the location specified by the web address. Some error messages
suggest actions you can take. Occasionally, error messages refer to technical aspects of
the problem that may appear cryptic to most users.

Some common sources of error messages are:

• Incorrect web addresses:

Occasionally a "NOT FOUND" error may be encountered because a web page

no longer exists, has been renamed, or has been moved to a different location on a
web server.
One strategy that can be used to locate the missing page, or its replacement, is to
use a technique called "backing up."
Let's suppose that we are looking for a web page with the address
After entering this into our browser we receive the error message

"Not Found
The requested URL /~sclancy/search/pages/troubleshooting.htm was not found on
this server."

Go to the "location" window at the top of the browser and click once and the
again at the right-hand side of the url: .../search/pages/troubleshooting.htm:
We begin by deleting the portion of the address after the last "/":

If an error occurs again, we then delete the next portion of the address:

Hopefully we will come to a higher level of the web site which has a table of
contents, a site map or some other means of locating the page we need.

• Using the wrong slash.

Web addresses always use the forward slash / and not the backward slash \ :
• Incorrect number of forward slashes.

A common error when typing a web address is to include too many or too few
forward slashes:

http:/ or http:///

• What is a " ~"?

Some of those new to the Web are not familiar with the tilde character " ~" . It is
sometimes incorrectly replaced by the caret " ^" or the apostrophe "'" .
• .html vs. .htm
A common ending for web page filenames is either .html or .htm. Fixing a
"NOT FOUND" error may be as simple as adding or removing an "L":
• Case:

Case is important in web addresses, but only after the first single slash:

Does not equal

DOES equal

Exercise 3: troubleshooting
1. What's Wrong with this web address:
http// ? How would you fix it?
2. I have gone to the web address: ""
and received the following message:

What strategy could I try to find the correct web address?

3. Are these two web addresses equivalent? Why or why not?

4. Are these two web addresses equivalent? Why or why not?
Evaluating Web sites
Section 2 | MENU | Section 4

The Web is "like the telephone system except there are computers instead of phones at the
end. You can connect to the computer across the street or around the world, just like the
phone system. You can get good information or bad information, talk on a party line,
leave or get messages, get no answer, or get a wrong computer... The value or lack of
value is in the files that people have put on a computer and made available. AND, just
like a phone call, some of those files are valuable and useful and some are the equivalent
of the 14th credit card offer you've received in one evening." 2

Web sites are as varied and reliable (or UNreliable) as the persons, corporations and
institutions that produce them. Large portions of the Internet and the Web are unfiltered
and unrefereed as to content or accuracy. Many professional-appearing sites are solely for
commercial promotion and sales, the unreviewed efforts of individuals, or collections of
outdated information. Still, there are hundreds of sites offering legitimate and useful
information. The trick is to separate the wheat from the chaff.

This section lists a few criteria you can use for evaluating a web site. Some of the criteria
may not be appropriate to every web site, especially personal or fan web sites.

You may download a simple form to use for evaluating a web site:

• Web site evaluation form (PDF)

• Web site evaluation form (Text)

Criteria for Evaluating a Web Site

1. Authorship, Affiliation & Authority.

o Is the web site an individual effort or is it sponsored by an organization or
company? What is the "domain" of the web site?
o What are the credentials of the author or organization that produced the
site? Is this information easy to locate?
o Is contact information for the author or organization provided? Is this
information easy to locate?
2. Purpose of the web site.
o Educational.
o Personal creativity (vanity publishing).
o Fan or hobby-based.
o Advertising/Sales.
o Political.
o Religious.
3. Objectivity & Bias.
o Is information presented objectively or is there an obvious bias?
o Is the bias clearly stated?
o Is the bias appropriate?
o What are they selling? Is promotion or advertising being presented as
o Is the sole purpose of this web site the promotion of a particular belief,
idea or political agenda?
4. Accurancy & Currency.
o Is the information on the web site reliable and accurate? Is the appropriate
credit given for non-original information? Is opinion clearly separated
from verifiable fact?
o Is the information on the site static, or is constantly updated? Is easy to tell
when the information has been updated?
o Are the links current? Are any broken? Is there a mechanism to report
broken links?
5. Coverage.
o How well is the subject covered? Is it cursory or in depth?
o Are there links to other similar resources on the Internet?
6. Audience.
o Who is the intended audience?
o Is the level of information appropriate for your needs?
7. Design & Ease of Use.
o Are the web pages messy?
o Is the site easy to navigate? Is it easy to return to the "top" of the site, or to
a table of contents?
o Is the site well organized and logically arranged? Do you always know
"where" you are?
o Is a site-map available?
o Is a search function available?
o Are there grammar, punctuation, or spelling errors?
o Are the background graphics (if any) plain enough for the text to be easily
o Do the background and text colors make the page difficult to read or print?

• The "Barbarino Test"

o Who created this web site?
o Why did they create it?
o Where are they located?
o What are they trying to sell?

Guides to Evaluating Web Resources

• The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: or, Why It's a Good Idea to Evaluate Web
• Critical Evaluation of Resources on the Internet
• Thinking Critically about World Wide Web Resources
• Evaluating Quality on the Net
• Gullible's travels: Marylaine Block shows how to teach students to guard
against misinformation, disinformation, and spin on the net.
[Block, Marylaine. "Gullible's travels: Marylaine Block shows how to teach
students to guard against misinformation, disinformation, and spin on the net.”
(cover story). Library Journal, v127 i7 (April 15, 2002): pS12(3)]
• Evaluating Internet Resources: Factors to Consider
by Gale Dutcher, National Library of Medicine.
• Tips for Healthy Surfing Online: Finding Quality Health Information on the
by the Internet Healthcare Coalition.
• Guidelines for Medical and Health Information Sites on the Internet
Principles Governing AMA Web Sites. This is a good example of the criteria a
medical information provider is using to ensure the quality of their web site. This
article appeared in JAMA, March 22/29 2000, 283(12):1600-6.
• Internet Detective: an interactive tutorial on evaluating the quality of
Internet resources
An online tutorial to enhance critical thinking skills for evaluating web-based
Web Site Rating Guides

• Librarian's Index to the Internet
"The Librarians' Index to the Internet is a searchable, annotated subject directory
of more than 7,000 Internet resources selected and evaluated by librarians for
their usefulness to users of public libraries. It's meant to be used by both librarians
and non-librarians as a reliable and efficient guide to described and evaluated
Internet resources."
• Health On the Net Foundation Code of Conduct for Medical and Health Web
The Health On the Net Code of Conduct (HONcode) has been issued by the
Health On the Net Foundation in response to the varying quality of medical and
health information currently available on the World-Wide Web. The HONcode
includes Principles, meant to be applied as guidelines, to help unify the quality of
medical and health information available on the WWW. These Principles have
evolved from discussions with Webmasters, patient support groups and medical
professionals in several countries.

These exercises will give you a chance to view and evaluate a selection of web sites that
differ not only by subject, but also by purpose, bias, and design. It is also meant to
illustrate the wide spectrum of sites available on the Web.

Exercise 2a

• The first three sets of web sites represent the opposite sides of an issue. Pick one
set and compare the two. Whether or not you personally agree with the
information on the web site, how would you rate each in light of the seven
o The Skeptics Society
o Creation Science home page
o Minnesota FORCES
o The Great AIDS Hoax
o American Foundation for AIDS REsearch (amfAR)

Exercise 2b
• The following are a selection of web sites on differing subjects. Pick one or two
and apply the seven criteria to them. What is your opinion of the web site(s) you
selected? Is the information posted on the web site(s) valid and reliable?
o ThirdAge
o Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division - dihydrogen monoxide info
o Breast Augmentation & Breast Implants Information Web - by Nicole
o Educate-Yourself, Inc. - Natural Healing Therapies, Hidden Science,
and Coming Earth Transformations
o Pain-Relief.US
o The Body
o MEDLINEplus Health Information

Common misconceptions about the World Wide Web

1. "Everything is on the Web!"

The Web does not contain all human knowledge. The information you are looking
for may NOT exist on the Web. Many things are still easier and quicker to find in
books, magazines or a library!
2. "Everything on the Web is free!"
The adage "you get what you pay for" is a good rule of thumb for the Web.
Though much excellent and accurate information can be found on the Web, much
of it is only available for a fee, e.g. full-text books, journals, newspapers, research
3. "Everything on the Web is true."
ANYONE with access to a computer and a little free time can put anything on the
Web to be viewed by millions of people. Web sites are as varied and reliable (or
UNreliable) as the persons, corporations and institutions that produce them. Large
portions of the Internet and the Web are unfiltered and unrefereed as to content or
4. "The Government is in charge of the Web ."
As it currently exists, the Web (Internet) is a cooperative arrangement between
computer centers worldwide, passing along shared data and information mostly
without charge. There is no SINGLE body responsible for the regulation of web
site content, the only regulation that exists is a patchwork of conflicting laws and
the rules of individual Internet Service providers.
5. "If it's on the Web [my favorite search engine] can find it!"

Think so? Consider this:

o According to the Web Characterization study study by OCLC the number
of unique web sites in 2002 numbered 8,712,000.5
o According to "Search Engine Showdown data for March, 2002, the
estimates for the actual number of web pages indexed by 8 popular web
search engines ranges from 968 million for Google to 292 million for
MSN search.6
o In another recent test of ten different search engines, out of "141 hits, 71
were found by only one of the ten search engines while another 30 were
found by only two."7
o Search Engine Showdown is a great resource for reviews of search
engine efficacy, comparison, and news. Various tables compare search
engines by features, retrieval, database size, currency, etc.
 Search Engine Statistics: Relative Size Showdown
 Search Engine Statistics: Freshness Showdown
 Search Engine Features Chart
o Much information resides in the "Deep Web" (sometimes called the
Invisible Web), which consists of databases and other information
resources which are searchable only via direct query. Expanded
Academic Index ASAP is a good example of this type of resource. The
web can take you to the front door of such a resource, but you must then
use the resource's own search function to retrieve information.

Acording to the Deep Web FAQ "the 60 largest Deep Web sources
contain 84 Billion pages of content. That's about 750 terabytes of
information — sufficient by themselves to exceed the size of the surface
Web by 40 times. For comparison, Google (the largest Crawler-based
search engine) indexes 4 - 6 Billion pages." More information on the
"Deep Web" can be found in the Deep Web White Paper.

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Searching for information on the Web is a matter of knowledge, skill, practice AND
imagination. Since there is really no equivalent to the Library of Congress on the Web,
and many web sites are poorly organized, it is up to you to think of innovative ways of
finding what you need.

In addition, NO SINGLE SEARCH SYSTEM (AKA search "engine") searches every

web page, despite claims to the contrary. It may require the use of several different search
systems to find the required information.

Every search engine has its own quirks and features. Here are a few tips:

Web Searching Tips:

1. Read all help or FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) pages for the search
Most search sytems contain help pages or tutorials which outline the various tips
and tricks for searching effectively. There may seperate tutorials for basic and
advanced searching.

2. Search for the concept.

If a specific search doesn't work, try searching on the general concept: instead of
"vegetarian lasagna" try "vegetarian recipes" or just "lasagna."
3. Use the "key" words in your search.
Some search systems will now allow you to ask your question in a natural
manner: "How can I get rid of the algae in my goldfish aquarium?" Other systems
are best searched by eliminating all but the keywords "algae goldfish aquarium."
4. Use phrases when it's appropriate:
When you are searching for book and movie titles, song lyrics, proper names, etc.,
search the phrase if allowed by the search system, such as "league of
extraordinary gentlemen".

5. Use synonyms, plural and alternate forms for your search terms:
o "cat" "cats" "feline" "kitten" "kittens"
o "email" "e-mail"
o "color" "colour"
6. Combine keywords with words that might appear in the Web address (URL)
or restrict your search by "SITE TYPE."
7. Dig through the "strata."
Many (or most) search engines list the results beginning with the most relevant
matches. However, if you don't find the web page you are looking for, try looking
at the sites you DID find for one that might link to the site you want. For instance,
you may not find the official web site for Disneyland immediately, but you may
retrieve a site entitled "My favorite theme parks" which may contain a link to the
Disneyland web site.
8. Use Meta-search systems to search several search systems at once.
If you don't get good results with one search system, try another.