Rhode Island just got a little bigger - on the Internet, that is.
Anchor Communications, the parent company of Rhode Island Monthly, has posted the latest in a series of Rhode Island-oriented sites to appear on the World Wide Web. Their site, RhodeIsland.com (http://rhodeisland.com/), went up last month.
The site's "front page" offers local news summaries, traffic and weather reports that are updated "several times" a day. The news headlines come from Channel 12 and traffic reports from Traffic Net of Providence.
Here's one recent traffic warning: "The pogo stick man is back hopping on the India Point Foot Bridge holding up traffic. . . ."
Will people take the time to connect to the Internet to check news updates or get a traffic report before leaving for work in the morning?
"We are maybe ahead of the curve in terms of how people are going to use the Internet," said Danny Warshay, chief operating officer of Anchor.
But he notes how quickly the Internet has become popular. "A year from now, I think you will see an even greater geometric leap on how much people are using the Internet."
There's plenty to explore here, including restaurant reviews and listings, a calendar of local events and Rhode Island Monthly's annual "Best of" awards.
RhodeIsland.com already has competition. The Internet has at least two other R.I. guides.
America House Communications of Newport has extensive links to anything and everything related to Rhode Island on its site called RIWorks.com (http://riworks.com/).
The site is somewhat difficult to navigate. The centerpiece of the opening screen is an advertisement for an additional program apparently needed to see this Web site at its best. But as of this writing, only Netscape Navigator 2 browsers could take advantage of this feature.
Not until you scroll to the bottom of the screen do you see icons for exploring categories such as business, government and education.
There's a lot here, but finding it is a chore.
By contrast, another Rhode Island on-line directory (http://www.ids.net/ri/riwww.html) which was put together by InteleCom Data Systems, of East Greenwich, is nicely designed and very accessible. The site is a good example of how simple and straightforward design often yields the best results.
But we may not see the site much longer in its current form. That's because it will soon merge with Anchor Communications's site at RhodeIsland.com said IDS president Andy Green.
IDS provides Internet services to Anchor, and Anchor was planning to add their own section of Rhode Island links, said Green.
"It seemed like we had a duplication of effort here."
The Providence Journal Co. has been publishing information specific to Rhode Island on the Web as well. The site (http://www.projo.com/) is produced by Rhode Island Horizons, the electronic publishing arm of the newspaper, which also maintains a fee-based news and information service on Prodigy.
Horizons' free offerings on the Web include sites on the Pawtucket and Boston Red Sox, the recent oil spill, and the presidential campaign. In the works is a tourism site aimed at vacationers thinking about coming to Rhode Island, said John Granatino, director of electronic publishing.
As for the future, Granatino said, Horizons plans to continue producing these "targeted services that are designed to appeal to specific audiences."
He said there aren't plans right now to put all the Journal-Bulletin's news content on the Web.
Like father, like son
It's no wonder that Patrick Kennedy is Rhode Island's first member of Congress to put together his own Web page (http://www.house.gov/patrickkennedy/welcome.html) on the Internet. His father, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., was the first member of Congress to have a home in cyberspace (http://www.ai.mit.edu/projects/iiip/Kennedy/homepage.html), according to the senator's staff.
Visting the younger Kennedy's site, which went up early last month, is a little like a trip to the office of a politician whose walls are covered with pictures. Kennedy has an online photo album that shows him posing with constituents and dignitaries, including two with President Clinton.
But beyond the fanfare, Kennedy has made it easy for wired citizens to keep an eye on what he's doing. There are links on his page to a government site that tracks legislation he has sponsored and co-sponsored.
Press releases from Kennedy's office are available on the site, but unfortunately they are listed only by arcane names like SCALFARO.WPD and SAMPAIO.WPD. You have to click on them to read what they are about (the former is about the recent trip to Rhode Island by Italy's president; the latter is about a Kennedy trip to Portugal).
The only thing obviously missing from the site is Kennedy's e-mail address. That's because he doesn't have one yet, said spokesman Larry Berman. A problem many members of Congress have with receiving e-mail is they get flooded with electronic mass mailings from all over the country.
"We just don't have the staff to answer all those," Berman said. "But we certainly want to receive e-mail from Rhode Islanders."
Until an e-mail address is set up for Kennedy, Rhode Island residents can send e-mail to his constituent affairs director, Kathy Hinckley (email@example.com).
Rep. Jack Reed's staff is working on a Web page (http://www.house.gov/reed/) that is scheduled to be on line in the next few days, according to spokesman Todd Andrews.
Andrews said Reed doesn't yet have e-mail either. As Kennedy's office said, the nationwide mass mailings make it difficult to handle the volume of e-mail, he said. But the staff is exploring ways for Rhode Islanders to send Reed e-mail.
There are "generic" Web pages for the senators who have chosen not to post their own, including John Chafee (http://www.senate.gov/senator/chafee.html) and Claiborne Pell (http://www.senate.gov/senator/pell.html). These have official portraits and biographies of the senators and little else.
April 16 - The Boston Computer Society, Providence IBM-PC chapter, will discuss "Windows Tips and Tricks" at 7 p.m. at the Community College of Rhode Island, Warwick Campus, in the East Conference room. General discussion and question and answer period begins at 6:30 p.m. For more information, contact Louis Stein at 739-2810; by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org or see the Providence BCS home page at http://ids.net/~louissn/ribcs.html
April 20 - The Ocean State Internet Society (OSIS) holds its first monthly "sit-down lab" at Roger Williams University, 150 Washington St., Providence, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. For more information, call D. Jane Harrop at OSIS at 435-8083, box 2, or send e-mail to: email@example.com. Cost: Free.
April 25 - OSIS (see above) will meet at the Weaver Public Library, Grove Avenue in East Providence. Topic to be announced. General question and answer session is at 6:30; meeting is at 7 p.m. Cost: Free. See above event to contact OSIS.
Timothy C. Barmann is a Journal-Bulletin staff writer. His column runs every other Sunday on the On Line page. Send him comments via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or U.S. mail, c/o the Journal-Bulletin, 75 Fountain St., Providence, Rhode Island 0290.
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