Sunday, January 31, 2010

What Day is This?

I used to go the library to do my research. Now I use the internet, like most everybody. It makes life a little more complicated, because you have to be careful of your source. Previously, if your information came from a book, you could be fairly certain the information was accurate. These days, anybody can put something on the internet and claim it's a fact. There's nobody checking to be sure of that.

There's something else missing from too many websites: a timestamp. For instance:

Yesterday, I caught a glimpse of a smartcar on the streets of Omaha. I came home to look them up – okay, I'm looking for a new car, but I didn't say all my research was for my stories. Anyway, the first website I came to was somebody's blog, where I learned that smartcars are made by Mercedes, but they aren't available in the US because they don't fit Mercedes' image of luxury here. Huh? I kind of figure Omaha is a few years behind the rest of the US, not ahead. I looked all over that page, looking for some clue when that page was published, but couldn't find anything.

Since then, I've discovered that smartcars have been sold in the US for 2 years. There's even a dealership in Omaha, so I guess maybe we aren't far behind the rest of the US. But if I hadn't actually SEEN a smartcar on the street, that first webpage would have misled me.

Webpages have misled me before. I submitted to a publisher based on their submissions guidelines. There was no date on those guidelines, but it's pretty normal, so I didn't let that dissuade me. I waited for a response. And I waited. And waited. Well past what they said their turn around time was, I queried to see if they'd ever received my submission. Then I waited. And waited. Still no answer. I don't know if this publisher is still in business or not. Nothing ever changed on their website that I noticed. Based on this, I really feel that even agents and publishing houses need to put a timestamp on their webpages, even if nothing changes. How hard can it be to add the line, "This information good as of {date}"? And then – if nothing changes before then – have the webmaster change the date every January?

Writing is full of enough frustration without adding that we never hear back from people we had no clue had gone out of business.

See ya next week. Trudy

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