Cultivating and cataloging online resources


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If you have access to the Internet — and if you don't, I'm curious how you're reading this — then Apple II support is just a click away. From software vendors to hardware manufacturers, message boards to chat rooms, program repositories to magazine archives, there's a Web site for everything.

Or is there? Doubtless there's room for growth in any community, and we should encourage new online enterprises. They needn't be commercial in nature. For example, this blog is a mere five months old, but I think it is doing something that no one else is: producing original content on a regular basis about what it means to be an Apple II user. What other online resources could serve the Apple II and its fans?

However, a problem with a growing community is awareness of its new members. When a site launches, how does one make its presence known, and how does it become able to be found? This isn't the old days of GEnie, when we could move to page 645 and find everything meticulously organized (or, in today's lingo, "curated") into searchable topics, categories, and libraries. Instead, the Internet offers so many destinations that any one site can easily be overlooked.

There are a couple attempts to address this issue. David Kerwood maintains the A2-Web!, intended as a comprehensive index of Apple II resources, from user homepages to emulator download sites and online stores. The site contains many vendors I've never seen referenced elsewhere, leading to some wonderful discoveries. However, A2-Web! is often dependent on user contributions for reports of new or broken links, resulting in some occasionally outdated data. A chronological record of changes lacks an RSS list, making it hard to discover these updates.

David also coordinates the 32-member Apple II webring, a pre-search-engine networking concept devised by GeoCities.

More recently, Bill Martens has been maintaining the Apple Archives, which links to Apple II content but also hosts quite a bit itself, including scans of well-known publications. Instead of textual descriptions of the site, the indices offer image thumbnails of the Web sites; clicking on these will sometimes offer a more verbose description with a link to the actual site, though some listings, like KansasFest and Juiced.GS, lack a detailed description. Like A2-Web!, the Apple Archives is broken down into several categories, but their entries aren't in alphabetical order, and a few could use more obvious categorization: for example, Syndicomm is listed under "Programming", "Support/Projects", and "Vendors", but not "Software" or "Docs". There also doesn't appear to be a category for blogs and other hobbyist pursuits.

Although the Internet offers unprecedented opportunity for peer-to-peer support, and the above efforts make creating and finding these sites vastly easier, it's apparent that the Apple II community still has work to do. Just as programmers sometimes solicit ideas for new software, I'm eager to hear your ideas for new Web sites and online tools. What changes or additions would you suggest the wealth of Apple II online resources adopt? And how can we disseminate news of those changes in a way that makes them able to be found not just by today's members, but by tomorrow's newcomers as well?