Homecooking: Spice up the media stew by whipping up your own homepage

The Web has artists, writers, grassroots political organizations,
teachers, students, and just about everyone with Internet access
jumping for joy — and their HTML guides. With a new opportunity to
become an information channel, people are taking their ideas to the
Web, where Jane Q. Publiq has as large a potential audience as
Time/Warner. Radio started out the same way, with scores of amateur
enthusiasts pushing the limits of technology using homemade
devices. Then corporate America got into the act and what was once
an interactive, two-way medium, was quickly homogenized into a
vehicle for advertisers. With business scrambling to establish a
presence on the Web, the prospect of secured transactions and the
ever-increasing instances of traditional billboard-type
advertising, the time draws nigh when independent content providers
might have to struggle to get their content out there.

But for now, the Web is what you make it. For people who don’t
have the ready-made templates provided by AOL, Compuserve or
Prodigy — or aren’t satisfied with what they’re getting from the
Big Three commercial services — there are several resources on the
Net that will help you get started and will support you once you’re
well on your way.

First, you have to determine whether your Internet service
provider will allot you space on their server for your homepage and
if you have to pay a premium. After that’s all straightened out,
you’re ready to proceed. A great way to learn about Web page
authoring, and about the Web itself, is to take Thomas P. Copley’s
Make the Link Workshop, a six week distance-learning
workshop conducted entirely by email. The next course begins on
September 25 and is well worth the $20 it will cost you. Along with
weekly tutorials and technical notes, Copley answers questions from
workshop participants and distributes them to the whole group. To
sign up for the Make the Link Workshop, send an email
message to majordomo@arlington.com and in the body of the message,
type: SUBSCRIBE LINKS2.

Of course, the Web is full of free resources that you can use to
learn about homepage publishing. One of the best is
Web 66, a
comprehensive homepage with easy-to-understand explanations of
various aspects of HTML editing and a lot of great links to
shareware applications that will help you display graphics and get
your page wired for sound. The World
Wide Web Consortium
, run by MIT in collaboration with CERN labs
in Switzerland, the original developers of the Web, has scads of
information about the latest Web developments as well as a huge
library of reference materials for Web page publishers of all
levels.

A Beginner’s Guide to HTML, from the National Center for
Supercomputing Applications (the people who brought you Mosaic),
gives a thorough explanation of many of the details of HTML
editing. This is the beginner’s guide, but if you access NCSA’s
main homepage, there are several resources for more advanced users,
including libraries, primers, and other reference materials.
William A. Luddy’s excellent LUDWEB/Web Design has all the links
you will need to access specifications, manuals, guides, tutorials,
and references designed to assist in your production of an HTML
document. Finally, if you get sick of checking stuff out using the
Web, you can retreat to the
comp.infosystems.www.authoring.html newsgroup, where the
discussions range from the incredibly specific to the wildly
general.

Just because people have the means to communicate doesn’t mean
they are spewing brilliance. Mirsky’s Worst of the Web take you to
some of the most banal and disturbing sites out there.

Ultimately, your site will only be as good as your content.
Think of it this way: If the Eyes of the World were upon you, what
would you show them? If you want to throw up pictures of your dog
and talk about your favorite vegetable, great. But if you want to
connect to people at a different level, to further public discourse
about a particular issue or put up some poems, essays, stories,
photographs or paintings, better. The tools are in your hands.

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