inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #0 of 83: Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 16 Jun 00 23:00
    

Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates are both long-time WELL members and
librarians-turned-independent researchers. They've collaborated on several
book projects, of which Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd edition, is the
latest. They'll be interviewed by Linda Cooper, also a long-time WELL member
and lapsed librarian.

Reva played guinea pig /sacrificial lamb for the inaugural InkWELL
conference interview back in October 1998 (see Topic 4), after the first
edition of ROFD was published. Join us in exploring the joys and travails of
writing a Dummies book, of collaboration, of dealing with a second edition,
of keeping up with new developments in the ever-changing world o' the Net.
Share your own online research discoveries, and pick up some tips from two
experienced information professionals who know that there's a whole lot more
to effective online searching than just plugging a keyword into a search
engine and seeing what it spews back.
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #1 of 83: I kiss your hand... (coop) Sun 18 Jun 00 05:49
    

WELLcome, Reva, Mary Ellen!

First, congratulations to both of you on the second edition of ROFD!

But before we get into the book itself, I think everyone would like to know
this:

Are you still speaking to one another?
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #2 of 83: Reva Basch (reva) Sun 18 Jun 00 09:04
    
Heh! Yes, we sure are. This isn't the first book project we've collaborated
on; I edited Mary Ellen's Online Deskbook and her Super Searchers Do
Business, and she did the tech edit on the first edition of Researching
Online For Dummies. She's a fine writer, and knows her subject, so there was
no second-guessing there. And besides, it was my job to turn everything into
"Dummies style," so I got the last word on everything.
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #3 of 83: Reva Basch (reva) Sun 18 Jun 00 14:57
    
On reflection, all that implies is that =I'm= still speaking to Mary Ellen.
I think she's still speaking to me, but I may be wrong.
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #4 of 83: Mary Ellen Bates (mebs) Mon 19 Jun 00 04:49
    
Yup, we're still speaking, although Reva did forget that I also edited her
_Secrets of the Super Net Searchers_.  Guess I edited that so lightly that
she forgot.

Reva's point about having the last word, particularly in turning
everything in to the Dummies style, is a good one.  Although Reva and I
have never had this problem in our author/editor relationships, it *can*
get testy when it isn't clear who gets that last word.
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #5 of 83: I kiss your hand... (coop) Mon 19 Jun 00 07:05
    

Ok, now that I know you are speaking, I'm more comfortable
with this interview.  (I didn't want to get into the "Tell
Reva that I say...Tell Mary Ellen that I say..." kind of thing.)

I'd like to start by pointing our a few inconsistencies in your
introduction to the book.  Most interesting to me is that you tell
your "Dummies" readers that they are not dummies!  I, for one, was
happy to know that.

Now, is this official Dummies(R) philosophy, or did you two just
want to reassure your readers that they could buy your book with
impunity?
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #6 of 83: Reva Basch (reva) Mon 19 Jun 00 08:47
    
It's both. If I'm not mistaken, that's the only occurence of the word
"dummy" in any form in the entire book. Generally speaking, one is not
allowed to refer to one's readers as dummies, even in jest. And yes, of
course -- we wanted to play =against= the implication of the series title,
which a lot of potential readers resist (and resent), that you have to be a
dummy to benefit from the book.

I resisted it myself, in fact, when I was asked to do the first edition. I
have a sib who's developmentally disabled, and I'm uncomfortable with words
like "dummy." "idiot" or "moron." "Dummy" is the most innocuous of the lot,
I guess.
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #7 of 83: Mary Ellen Bates (mebs) Mon 19 Jun 00 10:48
    
Yes, it pains me, too, when I tell people I co-wrote a Dummies book and
then suggest that hey, it might actually be useful for you to read.

If it's any consolation, I spoke with a corporate librarian last week who
said that it had been selected as the textbook for a class on online
research.  I like to think that Dummies include everyone who's not a stone
expert on a topic.  And that includes me on a lot of subjects.  I consult
the book when I'm looking for info in an area I'm not familiar with.

come on... embrace your inner Dummy.
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #8 of 83: I kiss your hand... (coop) Mon 19 Jun 00 12:01
    


Oh, I do, I certainly do.  My Inner Dummy keeps me on track.

Now, the second inconsistency in the introduction that I'd like to ask about
is the librarian vs. "end-user" searcher you discuss.

You seem to be reminding readers that a professional searcher could help
them a lot with their research needs, but that your book can help them learn
much of what they would need to know for their "everyday" searching needs.

Are you really trying to teach your readers to become information
professionals?  Are you secretly acting as recruiters for a group of library
schools?  Are you giving your readers a taste of the magic?  A part of the
secret info pro handshake?
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #9 of 83: Reva Basch (reva) Mon 19 Jun 00 15:08
    
The last two, for sure. There =is= something "magical," if you will, about
actually mastering the research process, or at least feeling that you have
a grasp of the options available to you and some degree of control over the
outcome. And hey, if anyone gets hooked enough on the process to actually
investigate library school or to take a course in online research, so much
the better. But the point of the book -- and of Dummies books in general, I
think -- is to empower the reader in some way.

We also make a point of letting readers know when they might be getting in
over their heads. We say flat-out that we're not legal research
specialists, and that if they're involved in serious litigation, they might
want to hire someone who is. Same thing with chemistry, patent searching,
and the kind of detailed business research on which multi-million-dollar
decisions might be riding. Know your limits; that's very important no matter
what you're researching or how experienced you might be.
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #10 of 83: Mary Ellen Bates (mebs) Mon 19 Jun 00 15:18
    
<coop>, you know you aren't supposed to talk about the secret handshake!!!

While, as Reva said, there are areas where we think that a little
knowledge is a dangerous thing (legal, medical and patent research are my
prime examples), there is lots of research that folks do all the time that
we think they could do better with a little help and advice.

What I think is important is to have a framework to help you plan out
research - figuring out where the most likely places are to dig, as it
were.  We wanted to help people spend their time more productively online.
If the Net's going to be a time sink, you should at least be enjoying
yourself as you get sucked in.
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #11 of 83: Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 19 Jun 00 17:31
    

(Speaking of getting sucked in, if you are enjoying this conversation from
outside the WELL and want to participate, send your questions and comments
to inkwell-hosts@well.com)
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #12 of 83: only taking care of the room (sd) Tue 20 Jun 00 02:48
    
I am enjoying this book more than I can say. I started using the net for
research in 1994.  I do not do it professionally but find that more and more
I rely on online searching to fill the gaps in my work-related knowledge. I
was not aware of anywhere near half of the sites in your book. Though I read
it straight through the first time, it is in my laptop bag now so that I can
use it for reference wherever I compute.

I'd like to mention that I've been dissapointed in the tone of many IDG
books since the first few. This title, though, takes off from the fun loving
sprit of the first Dummies books and becomes something even more rich and
entertaining. It is a fine choice for a gift to someone who normally avoids
non-fiction.

Speaking of the secrets of Dummieville. Are you allowed to discuss the
editorial instructions that you were given to create a book to fit their
style? Did you give the cartoonist any ideas?
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #13 of 83: Mary Ellen Bates (mebs) Tue 20 Jun 00 04:41
    
We didn't give any input on the cartoons - in fact, we didn't see them
until we had the printed books in our hands.  

There is a pretty strict *format* for manuscript submission; IDG gave us a
Word template that has specific formats for headings, subheadings,
bulleted lists, etc.  That makes sense - the production cycle for the
Dummies books is pretty short, so getting the ms in a clean format makes a
big difference.

Fortunately, Reva shielded me from some of the details of the Dummies
writing style (by dummifying the text before we sent it in, so to speak),
but most of it is pretty straightforward.  Don't use the passive voice,
keep it friendly, don't assume that people *will* read it sequentially,
and so on.

My biggest challenge was toggling between working on the Dummies book and
my other professional writing, that had to be more, um, straight.  
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #14 of 83: Reva Basch (reva) Tue 20 Jun 00 08:03
    
Thanks for the kind words, Alan.
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #15 of 83: this bag is not a toy (vard) Tue 20 Jun 00 13:40
    

reva, mebs -- isn't it terribly frustrating to write and publish a book
like this one, where the subject matter is such a moving target? I was
comparing this book to the first edition and there is so much new
material.... and of course the subject matter is changing by the minute.
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #16 of 83: Melina C. Larson (pellmell) Tue 20 Jun 00 13:48
    
I'm loving the sense of humor in this book. It was enough to keep me going
through two whole chapters as I was reading myself to sleep last night.
Usually nonfiction of any kind is a reliable sedative for me. 

I've learned a lot already too. Not just about the specific tools that are
out there, but about the brain of a researcher. Learning how to think
about the search before you start it. I've always been sort of a
just-dive-in gal, myself. 
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #17 of 83: Mary Ellen Bates (mebs) Tue 20 Jun 00 14:09
    
Melina, thanks for your kudos!  Sometimes it's tough to know whether
something we find hugely funny will translate well onto the printed page.
And yes, learning about the brain of the searcher is what the book's all
about.

Stephanie, yes, it's hard to write about a target that's moving as fast as
the Web.  One blessing (although it felt like a curse at the time) was the
short timespan between when we started the manuscript and when it came out
in print. It was something like six months from when we started working on
the 2nd edition and when we had hard copies in our hands.

My biggest challenge was looking at a way-cool new resource and then
making a cold calculation about whether it would be around in six months.
And, of course, Reva and I both have folders of things we'll include in
the 3rd edition!
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #18 of 83: Gail Williams (gail) Tue 20 Jun 00 14:17
    
I love the first edition.  It made me an ace searcher.  So... why do I want
the new one?
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #19 of 83: Reva Basch (reva) Tue 20 Jun 00 15:54
    
About 80% of the specific, site- and resource-related content is new, Gail.
The sections on "how researchers think" and that kind of thing haven't
changed much, but as Vard suggested, just about everything else has. We
found better sites for certain kinds of information, we "demoted" some
formerly excellent research resources that have mucked themselves up in the
course of trying to be "portals" or e-commerce sites, we had to document all
kinds of changes in features and functionality. Plus, two chapters that we
had to put on the CD because they wouldn't fit in the 1st edition are now in
the text itself, which is much more convenient (we got a higher page count
this time, which is how we were able to finesse that). And speaking of the
CD, all the URLs have been changed and updated, and most of the shareware
and freeware versions have been updated, too.
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #20 of 83: Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 20 Jun 00 18:09
    

What software does the CD include?
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #21 of 83: Mary Ellen Bates (mebs) Wed 21 Jun 00 06:20
    
Demo, trial or evaluation versions of Bullseye, Copernic, SurfSaver,
Webforia Reporter and Organizer, WS FTP, and Acrobat Reader 

Free/shareware versions of WebWacker, FreeAgent, Eudora Light, and WinZip

Full (free) versions of Internet Explorer and Netscape Communicator

Also search tips for Lycos and Northern Light

All are the most current versions as of when the CD was burned, late 1999.
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #22 of 83: Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 21 Jun 00 12:04
    

Cool!  Thanks.

I guess I will have to read the book to find out what some of those are
for!
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #23 of 83: Reva Basch (reva) Wed 21 Jun 00 13:31
    
Or you could ask us! You know about Acrobat, no doubt, and the search
engines Lycos and Northern Light (weird selection, you might be thinking,
but those are the only ones that responded to our request to reproduce their
Help pages). Bullesye, Copernic, Surfsaver and Webforia are all desktop
tools for searching the web and managing downloaded information. WS FTP is a
Windoze program for doing file transfers; I use it all the time for managing
my web site, for instance.
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #24 of 83: Gail Williams (gail) Wed 21 Jun 00 13:37
    
Desktop search tools.  How useful are those, anyway?
  
inkwell.vue.77 : Reva Basch and Mary Ellen Bates-Researching Online For Dummies, 2nd Edition
permalink #25 of 83: Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 21 Jun 00 13:39
    

I certainly need help managing the information I get.  I can never find it
again!
  

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