WebWatch is the cooperative effort of two of Phnom Penh's most experienced
David Lewis of Telstra's Bigpond and Bill Herod, information technology
consultant at the NGO Forum on Cambodia. Contact through: PhnomPenhPost@bigpond.com.kh
The Dialecticizer is a weird and wonderful little program you will likely find
both amusing and mystifying. By entering any Internet address in the program, you
will instantly be treated to that web site with the text rendered in one of several
dialects (jive, cockney, redneck, etc.). The results are often hilarious. Try it
with the web site of your favorite bureaucracy.
The program will also work with text you copy and paste into a special Dialecticizer
text box. Try it with your organization's annual report or any other document you
think might benefit from a little linguistic enhancement.
As a test, we dialecticized the following finely-honed sentence from a document on
the Royal Government's poverty reduction strategy:
"On the basis of our broad strategy, we have formulated the following policy
response to poverty: promoting opportunities, creating security, strengthening capabilities
and generating empowerment."
Dialecticized into "jive," this becomes:
"On de basis uh our broad strategy, we gots fo'mulated da damn followin' policy
response t'poverty, dig dis: promotin' oppo'tunities, creatin' security, strengdenin'
capabilities and generatin' empowerment, Man!"
Atomica (formerly GuruNet) is a nifty research tool to help you find what you
are looking for on the Web quickly and efficiently. After you download the program,
the discreet little icon "lives" on your desktop always ready for action.
When you want information about something, you just click the icon and type a search
term into the box which slides open on your screen. Then, instead of being given
a list of thousands of web pages containing your search term, Atomica gives you a
rationally organized list of options. For example, it you enter "Cambodia",
Atomica will offer you an encyclopedia entry, country statistics, maps, books, links
and web search results arranged in various categories (health, education, business,
tourism history, etc.). If you simply want to check the meaning of a word, enter
the word and Atomica will open a dictionary to give you a definition, offer quick
access to a thesaurus and translate the word into several languages.
Every time you go online, an electronic communications channel is opened between
the computer you are using and each of the computers to which you connect. This communications
link allows you to send and receive data in real time but it also allows some "back
channel" communication between the computers themselves. Often this is quite
helpful. For example, if you browse Amazon.com for a few minutes looking for books
on various topics, you might be surprised to find that the Amazon computer will suddenly
generate a unique web page for you based on what it perceives to be your interest(s).
It will present you with options you hadn't asked for - or even thought of. The Amazon
computer simply constructs a web page based on the information you provided in your
search requests. That is innocent enough - and might even be quite helpful - but
it illustrates a point worthy of consideration: When you are online, other computers
on the Web can gather information about you and can send little bits of data (called
"cookies") onto your computer.
These cookies create a trail of where you have been on the Internet.
Using the same technology, other kinds of data can also be inserted into your system.
Several sites offer you the ability to surf anonymously and to control the information
your computer both sends out and receives. The Anonymizer and SafeWeb are two we
have tested. Both permit the user to log on to their sites then browse to any other
location on the Web without a trace. By managing the settings, the user can even
turn off those annoying pop-up ads many advertisers use to get your attention.
Personal Web Sites
A number of programs now make it easy for the novice to construct very impressive
web pages or even entire sites. Using tools with "cut and paste" simplicity,
one can work from various templates to build attractive sites with professional features
(guest books, forms, photo albums, etc.).
Fortune City's Site Generator is an online program into which the user types (or
imports) text, links, photos, etc. Web pages quickly emerge and can be posted online
in minutes. Photos can be uploaded to the site or photos - even whole albums - stored
on Zing.com can be incorporated.
The Zing option even allows visitors to your site to send your photos as e-cards
to others. Zing also has a program which (through the use of "cookies"
- see above) will show your visitors a different photo from your album each time
they log on.
Geocities has teamed with Yahoo Photos to provide similar features through its PageWizard
program. Another site offering impressive results with even the most modest effort
is the ultra-mod Moonfruit.
Buying on line
If you are intending to buy anything on line then it is worth doing a little research
on the vendor first. A number of sites exist to provide help in this respect including
BizRate. They maintain an assessment of how well online retailers are doing at providing
their service. From the home page click on "Store Ratings" and then select
the product category in which you are interested. This presents a comprehensive store
listing. To find out whether a retailer delivers internationally (many do not!) you
need to click on the profile button to see the international delivery options.
Library spot is a fairly new addition to the list of reference (or meta-reference)
sites. As well as a comprehensive database of on-line libraries it also has pointers
to reference information on anything from acroynms to dictionaries to quotations.
Flicking through this site we came across a couple of impressive image libraries.
Both UNESCO's Photobank and the Lycos Image Gallery provide good search engines with
which to explore their comprehensive collections.
A good source of reference information that includes people finder, maps and business
directories is InfoSpace. In fact, this is the power behind many of the directories
one finds all over the Web. This site also has a very good international weather
section and includes weather forecasts for 8 of Cambodia's provincial capitals.
The Phnom Penh Municipality has a new web site with a great deal of information
about the city, its history and administration. There is an organization chart listing
all the districts and departments with links to names of key personnel and contact
Fortune City: www.fortunecity.com
Phnom Penh: www.phnompenh.com.kh
Library Spot: www.libraryspot.com/
Lycos Image Gallery: multimedia.lycos.com
UNESCO Photobank: www2.unesco.org/photobank/