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Widecombe History Group Talk March 2000

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Widecombe History Group Talk on the Website, Database and Internet


Roger Claxton’s Talk on the Website, Database and Internet and how it works and how it can benefit the whole community.

Roger and Ann Claxton have put a great deal of effort into setting up and putting material onto the www.widecombe-in-the-moor.com website. This has been very much appreciated by the group and the parish at large. As well as our minutes and other information regarding our group, there is at present details on the website of the forthcoming ‘Flower Festival’ next June, Widecombe Fair next September, the ‘Tower Appeal’ and much much more, all publicising the parish and the immediate district.

At this our March meeting, Roger gave us an insight into its potential, how it works, and to what we can do to add to its appeal to anyone ‘surfing the internet’. He was assisted in this by Chris Mayhead who had obtained for the meeting a large video screen for the projection from Roger’s laptop computor of the images, graphs, details and explanatory diagrams that Roger had prepared.

Roger began by giving us a taste of what the internet is all about and welcomed questions as the meeting progressed. He brought with him copies of the details of his talk for people to take home and look through..

The internet! The World wide web! This was an idea of an Englishman who could see the benefit of gaining information from anywhere in the world at the press of a button. It meant that a means to link this information was needed and a screen to see the details and a communications network to join it all together.

The internet is similar to a road map - linking towns , cities and anywhere else to each other, and if you consider a spiders web set over and above this map, all the threads linking everything together. That’s the internet network. Originally used for defence purposes and then universities for the exchange of information. He impressed on us that the system is really quite simple but very effective.

This has only really taken off in the U.K. in the past four years or so, but now it is considered the first choice when looking for information, in all walks of life. Physically it is the home computor connected by a telephone line to an ‘internet service provider’, (ISP) who in turn through a ‘backbone’ network has access to all the information ‘pages’ worldwide.

They provide E-mail services and cross-references of website names.

Email is - (Electronic Mail).

A letter from your computer to someone else, is sent by your ISP to the ISP of the recipient and held there until that person connects and the information is then immediately retrieved by their computer.

Search engines are similar to a telephone directory, you type in the subject that you require i.e. Widecombe, the ‘engine ‘ returns with a note of all the pages that have relevance to that word, then proceed by looking at whichever site takes your fancy.

The information displayed can then be printed off to study ’off line’ i.e. when disconnected from the telephone line, this saves the telephone bill! It has to be remembered that all the time you are connected you are paying, so most of what you do should be done ‘off line’ before you connect to send your mail, or after retrieving your information. (This ‘payment’ area is changing - so watch this space for more details).

To get connected your computor needs a ‘modem’ and this is connected to the telephone line, and then to an ISP, there are many free offers available, for connection.

Once connected you will then have full access to website, searching facilities, email facilities, your own webpage and any special content provided by your ISP.

The process is quite fast up to about 3000 characters per second come on screen, a character being a single letter or number, sometimes the line is very busy and you can not get immediate access. Pictures take many more characters so they take more room and more time to display. For example our monthly minutes are about 15000 characters, where the aerial photograph of North Hall takes 235000 characters, this means that to download the minutes, takes about 5 seconds, where the photograph could take 75-80 seconds.

Benefits

  • This really is an information revolution, the future holds no end of possibilities:-
  • Conduct business world wide via the internet.
  • Administer your bank account.
  • Buy just about anything you need.
  • Vast store of information at your finger tips.
  • Transparent and easier access to that information (everything from medical to historic to current events) the list is endless.
  • Everyone is (can be), anonymous so everyone is equal.
  • People can share experiences both good and bad; What is the hotel like that you are thinking of staying at? What is the weather like in Timbuktu?
  • You can get to know this information before you act!

Problems

With anything so vast as this there are bound to be problems, for example:-

  • Security with banking transactions.
  • People ‘hacking’ into your system or adding ‘viruses’.
  • Filtering what is available - so that you can restrict for example what your children are able to access and view.
  • Speed will need to be increased in the future.
  • Content:- junk, unsuitable material available, misleading and erroneous information.
  • Advertising and purchasing needs caution.

Summary

Once you overcome ‘PC phobia’, it is information accessible to everyone.

  • Vast wealth of information available.
  • It can invade many different areas of our lives.
  • Allows us to make more informed decisions - but beware of being misled.
  • It really is a revolution.

To safeguard our website Roger and Ann have a code so that no-one else can infiltrate or add to it or remove information from it.

Secondly he showed us some of the items already on the ‘Widecombe website’ pictures of the area, our monthly minutes, transcripts of The North Hall project, the transcripts of our talks and lectures. Also on our page there was a sequence of three pictures that kept changing, they have the date of the flower festival superimposed over it, this makes you feel that you just must take a look to see what it is all about, and then you have all the details concerning the project. There is an intention to do something similar for Widecombe Fair. If you are searching our minutes for information on one particular subject, say tin, it is possible to find every reference to tin in our complete records of the group.

Thirdly he showed the progress already made into recording the information so far collected from the Parish Documents, "apprentices indentures, removal orders, examinations of the poor" etc.

Information on the Parish Documents is currently being transcribed onto forms, this information is then used by Roger and Ann to compile a database , this will be available and can be accessed by location, person, or occupation etc. This when completed will mean that the documents themselves need not be handled every time that a researcher is looking for details, they will be available via our database. To date about sixty documents have been catalogued.

It can display the name of the person, age, relationship, occupation, spouses, place of residence etc. This can be accessed from all those various directions. It is also possible to list the documents that any particular person is mentioned on. It was noted that the parish registers of baptisms, burials and marriages are available on the internet already.

What for the future of our website?

We need to continually update the website, we can expand on what we cover, the Parish Council and Widecombe Fair have both recently joined in and given us some financial support as well. Maintain and increase a comprehensive and detailed source of local knowledge, future events, and what is happening in the area. The advertising for sale of local goods and services. A guest register so that we could email them with details of what is new or being planned for the future.

The Parochial Church Council have also given us support and they will soon be using the facility to further their activities.

Margaret Steemson proposed a hearty vote of thanks to Roger for a most interesting insight into this ‘mindboggling source of information’ and she mentioned the amount of work that he and Ann have put into this project not only for the benefit of the group but for the whole community.

Roger in reply appealed to us all to send details of items, projects, information etc, for addition to our website, to him and Ann, and they will add to the site all that they think suitable for inclusion and particularly copy that will add to the interest of the pages for those that ‘log on’, his hope is that we for our part will continue to feed them, with these gems of information, so that they can keep the ‘site’ updated and increasingly interesting.

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