Notes to a novice

Peter Durrant <> wrote this article in 1997

Peter Durrant offers some hard-won experience of getting started on the Net.

Dear Novice

Networking 'the net' is about thinking on your feet through:

(a) LEARNING THE LANGUAGE and that 'PC' means personal computer, 'down-loading' means getting your printer to re-print what is on the screen and that 'menus' are simply the lists of available options. But it's quite hard to make a mistake and don't be afraid to experiment. So long as you quickly learn how to 'save' your information and not to 'wipe off' by mistake. Oh, and 'lurking' means simply reading other people's forum discussions and not joining in. But you will later.

(b) CONNECTING YOUR COMPUTER means travelling hopefully, and remember when you put one plug, or wire, in where you think it should go, there's usually a symbol on each insert. If you havn't got it right the system won't work but don't be afraid to ask questions from the shop, and, increasingly, your friends on various net networks. Hosts aren't usually too helpful about basic information by the way. You could even try me, for a post-novice opinion on 01123 262759.

(c) ONCE CONNECTED, and e-mail and the world wide web (www) are most people's preferences, remember always to check, and double check, addresses. Otherwise e-mails will be returned and the web won't materialise. Then begin to collect information, again from contacts, or the media, about what interest groups, forums and web sites suit your particular needs. As an example, e-mailing followed by 'subscribe' and your full name in the bulk of the message, will provide some examples of what is available.

(d) CONFIDENCE THEN BEGINS TO GROW and especially when you learn to print-out and people from all over the world begin to e-mail YOU. But do remember to black-out what you want to save before pressing the 'print' sign. Again, it's helpful to record what e-mail addresses you will use most often. You're also getting there when you realise that you can select your own description for 'subject' on the e-mail headings and that 'cc' means any number of people can be written to at the same time.

(e) FINDING, OR SWOPPING, A HOST is less difficult these days but do remember to unsubscribe before you leave. The Guardian on thursdays has dozens of them. As do the many available magazines. The key here is which ones are most helpful for learners. As well as not being too expensive. You'll also find it sensible when your e-mail forums and messages begin to take off to reply directly to individual's raising issues and queries. Unless, of course, everyone, as they sometimes are, would be interested in your comments.

(f) AFTER A WHILE, you'll find yourself making new local, national and international friends through regular contacts, phoning, 'snail-mail' and even meeting at workshops and the like. Who says 'the net' is a monoculture with the world, literally, at your fingertips.

Best wishes

Peter Durrant.

The Humeberstone
Networking Trust.
5 Kentings. Comberton.
Cambridge. CB3 7DT.

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