If the words "cyberspace" and "information superhighway" are strangers to your vocabulary, then you likely haven't sampled the delights of the World Wide Web (www).
The "web," as it is more commonly known, is like the biggest shopping mall, library, exhibition and information centers in the world, all rolled into one and entirely available through your personal computer. It is a gigantic information source. There are millions of web sites, full of easily accessible information that often cannot be found elsewhere, certainly not in a single information source such as an encyclopedia or the Yellow Pages.
Information, even pictures, can be copied from the web into your own files or directly to your printer. The web also is a great way to make contact with other people.
If you're not already on the Internet, the first step is to call an Internet service provider, such as Compuserve or America Online. Several types of software can be used to view and maintain information from web sites. Some primary browsers include Netscape Navigator, Mosaic and Microsoft Internet Explorer.
If you don't have a browser and can access the web, you can download Explorer or Netscape from their web sites. Some sites recommend that their pages be viewed through a particular browser, and offer an icon through which to download the browser.
WEB ADDRESSES. Each site has an address. This usually begins with http://www., followed by the name of the site owner, such as World Grain, then a code representing the type of organization: .com or .co for a company; .edu or .ac for a university; .org for an organization. For example, the new World Grain address will be: http://www.world-grain.com (see related story on page 14).
To open the web site, type the address at the top of the browser screen. Most sites have a "home page" that describes the company, organization or author, and often includes instructions on how to move on through the site. Contact names, addresses and e-mail addresses often are provided here.
LINKS. Nearly all web sites provide "links" to other sites or pages. These links are highlighted in blue and are always bold and underlined.
Clicking on these links with your mouse pointer will automatically take you to the web site. In this way you can "surf" the web, jumping from site to site and collecting all sorts of information and experiences along the way.
Surfing the web improves with practice. As you begin to visit sites you will pick up techniques to speed up the process.
Some sites take longer to load than others due to their location and graphics but this all depends on the type of computer you have and whether it is a standalone or on a network. The time of day also can effect how quickly you can load a site. On the eastern side of the Atlantic, we try to use the web in the morning while America is still in bed.
Sometimes links enable you to email a person directly. Clicking on the email address will open a menu box, which directs the user to type in a subject and message to the person. Then click on "send." This works similarly to normal email but can take longer to reach its destination.
DOWNLOADING. Pages of information and images can be copied from the web directly into your computer. This is known as "downloading."
To copy an image, move the mouse pointer onto the picture and click, holding down the right button, then save the image with an appropriate file name. For full pages of information, go to the file menu and save the document as a text file (.txt), which will enable it to be opened into any word processor document.
PRINTING. Printing pages from the web is possible as there is no copyright associated with it. However, the background color in some web pages can cause problems with printing. Black or dark-colored text on a light background is easier to print than white or light-colored text on a dark background.
The top of each printout will include the date and time the page was printed, the site name and address and number of pages printed. Printing the home page for relevant sites provides a reminder about the links on the site and general information about the company or organization.
SEARCHING. One of many pieces of software, known as search engines, can be used to search the web. Some common search engines include Alta Vista, Excite, Google, Infoseek, Lycos and Yahoo.
Type in the company name, industry sector or any other subject and the search engine will provide a list containing related addresses and a brief description of each site. The addresses can be accessed directly from the search page.
Looking for sites relevant to a broad subject, such as "grains," can take endless hours to sift through the massive number of addresses churned out. One search engine alone found 301,144 sites with the word "rice." Not all of these sites will be relevant to your search, however, and by the time the list comes on screen it has taken the better part of 10 minutes.
For a more accurate search, most search engines offer advanced options to allow the user to search for more than one word. In Yahoo, for example, you can look for "grains" and "cereals" by typing a plus sign (+) between the words. Search results will then incorporate both these selections in the sites listed.
You also can select "or," which will look for sites with either cereals "or" grains in them. When searching, try to use the word in its shortest form — for example, "cereal" rather than "cereals." This will generate more hits because it will not be restricted to sites using the plural form.
Each search engine responds to different operators and is case sensitive. Here are some tips for the four most popular search engines:
• In Yahoo, type "+" in between the words, e.g. cereal + grain.
• In Lycos, type "and" in between the words, e.g. cereal and grain.
• In Excite, type "AND" in between the words, e.g. cereal AND grain. You also can specify words that you don't want it to find, e.g. milling-equipment. This will look for words that include milling but not milling equipment
• In Infoseek, type "+" before each of the words, e.g. +cereal +grain.
By using combinations of words, you focus the search and hence generate fewer, but more relevant, "hits."
BOOKMARK. To avoid having to search to find a site you wish to access again, you can save the web address by "bookmarking" the page. Select the menu at the top of the screen called "bookmark" or "favorites" and choose "add new bookmark." The address is then added to your list of favorite sites.
The next time you enter the web, you can go directly to your list of bookmarks and click on the site you wish to visit. Bookmarking can be a valuable asset if sites are organized efficiently.
It also is useful to "back up," or save, your bookmarks into a word processor document; this takes only seconds and can save hours of lost work. If you use the web frequently, back up bookmarks at least once a month.
INDUSTRY WEB SITES. There are thousands of sites on the Internet relevant to the grain and grain processing industry. It is a good idea to check sites often as many are updated daily.
I have spent vast amounts of time on the web, searching for contacts and pages relevant to the grain and grain processing industry. The following are some useful and interesting industry web sites. This is not an impartial list, nor a complete one, but it will at least get you started.
This new site from World Grain will not be launched until early 2000, but it promises to be a "one-stop" source for industry news, features, markets, commodity reports, weather and crops, industry and country data, and product news. Persons also will be able to use the web site to search archives of World Grain and its sister publication, Milling & Baking News.
Satake Centre for Grain Process Engineering
Part of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, the site contains general information about the center, its publications and research and staff members. Information about courses and conferences sponsored by the Satake Centre also may be obtained on the web site.
Association of Operative Millers
This could be one of the best sites for flour millers and grain processors, but needs some work. The site is small compared with other sites reviewed, and needs more color or an interesting background. There are links to an events calendar and training/publications, and the associations database is worth visiting.
American Association of Cereal Chemists
Information about cereal chemistry, short courses, job opportunities, meetings and conferences are available through this site. AACC also gives users the opportunity to search through over 37 years of cereal abstracts.
A leader in U.K. flour milling, Rank Hovis has created a site that the user can browse through as either a producer or consumer. The company has included a news page, information on products and services, recipes for bread and other food that can be made with flour, and an extremely interesting FAQ (frequently asked questions) section.
A large employees profile is a novel way to welcome visitors to the Cargill web site. The home page includes bold colors, large type and easy to read links. The site also contains Cargill press releases, speeches and publications, and the news and information page is full of up-to-date news, ideal for frequent visitors.
A perfect example of an interactive site. Appears to be aimed at children but is still informative. An international company, Kellogg also has created web sites in four languages and countries. The U.K. site, www.kelloggs.com.uk, is more adult-focused.
The World Wide Web is certain to play an increasingly important role in the grain and grain processing industry, in establishing and maintaining contact with others and in carrying out business.
As you begin to browse the web, you're sure to find many more interesting, helpful sites in our industry. Let us know about your favorite sites, and why they are so helpful.
Address: Where to find the site, usually beginning with http:/.
Browser: Type of software used to navigate the world wide web.
Bookmark: A feature that allows you to save site address information for easy retrieval.
Download: Copying files, information or images from the web into another document or onto a hard drive.
Email: Electronic mail via the web.
Hits: Positive search results.
Home page: The first page that welcomes you to the site.
Internet: A world-wide network of interconnected computers.
Network: Many computers all connected and running from a main server, for example, within one company.
Operators: Symbols used when searching; +, - etc.
Search engine: Software used to search for sites.
Server: Computer which holds a set of information that it passes on to other computers.
Site: An entry on the web.
Stand alone: A computer not connected to any other.
Surfing: Moving around the web sites.