An Internet primer: resources and responsibilities

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The ease with which individuals can access the Internet and with which institutions can make information available on the Internet explains the exponential growth of this national resource. Once one accomplishes the difficult task of installing network services and establishing an ongoing mechanism for their support, it is relatively simple to use software systems such as those described in this article to gainfully traverse the Internet for a wide range of professional activities. But, as we have discussed, every step of the process, from simple naming conventions to organizations and ongoing maintenance of network-based information services, should proceed only after careful consideration of a network growing hourly in complexity. Despite the power of the technology available on one's desktop, one can often be frustrated by the small decisions: what is my colleague's email address? How can I most effectively find relevant information on home health care software? How should I organize a gopher server? When is WAIS preferable to Gopher or W3? Who will help me learn more? The process comes full circle back to academic medical institutions. The usefulness of the Internet hinges upon the policies these institutions create to aid the organization and dissemination of medical information, and in the means they use to make their constituents aware of the pitfalls and potentials of various technologies. (ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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