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The Times, They Are A-Changin'

Wed, 09/29/2004 - 8:16am

Ern Worthman, Technology and Editorial Director

I suspect that many of you remember that line. If you're too young to remember the original from Bob Dylan, maybe you remember it from one of the U2 concepts circa the late 1980's. But since it's penning, any number of artists, from Bruce Spingsteen to Simon and Garfunckle, to Phil Collins, and countless others have used that 60's quintessential song snippet as an attestable understatement to the rapid pace of change over the past 20 years — electronic and otherwise.

Well, in that vein, there is one unarguably monumental evolution — the Internet and the WWW. That, IMHO has been the driver for much of the change we've seen since about the mid 1990's. And it will likely be the driver and the catalyst for much of the change we are going to see for the next 20 years (talk about an understatement).

One of the dichotomies of the Internet, however, has been it greatest benefit — available to all, everywhere, 24/7 — and its greatest flaw; ubiquity. What I mean by ubiquity is that anyone can do almost anything on the www/net anywhere, as long as they have access (thank you, Mr. originator of the Internet cafe, and you too, Tarbucks!).

There is a plethora of discussable opinions on almost limitless topics of what one can, should, can't, shouldn't do with/on with the net, but I don't have room in this column to go into them. Where I'm going with this is credibility.

While I'm so totally sold on the 'Net and its future, I'm also it's harshest critic in the sense that there are no really enforceable filters as to what shows up there. Yea, we are working on that, but all of our efforts are "after the fact" counting on AI to mitigate the future, based on algorithms. So, if I put a document out there that says that I've discovered, and have proven, fairly academically, by tweaking a few formulas that a truly non-linear, linear performing amplifier does this, with these specs, It is innocent until proven guilty. There is nothing to keep me from "publishing" it on the Web.

Now, that's not a good formula for OEMs — they stand to lose a lot over time, but it's seen regularly in research and for self-promotional motives. But if no one challenges that, it can have a profound effect on any number of issues, until it is proven invalid — bad for credibility.

So, what is the solution? Is there even one? Well, I think there is — at least for most of what matters. It lies somewhere in the honor, peer and respect circles — the conscience of self-regulation.

It seems natural that some traditional early transitional "uncontrolled" e-movements (Ebay for example). The number of unscrupulous seller on Ebay has decreased markedly, because of the ebbing forces such as honesty, and on the filter side, agreeing to play by the Ebay practices and having to meet certain criterion in security and consumer protection or be denied access.

Credibility comes from being right and having others agree — be it Ebay or e-publishing.

Well, I think it is time to make that leap in electronic publishing as well. I and my crack Editor-in- Chief, Kim and our talented and now seasoned, Associate Editor, Andrea go to great lengths to make sure everything that appears on our web site is adheres to the same print standards of credibility and verifiability (except for stuff we get from CBS, of course). I have to think our contemporaries do so as well.

Credibility helps the movement to use the web for things like technical seminars and trade shows. I've been pretty skeptical, for all that I've just said and more. But I'm coming around. I've started to use the web for things like continuing ed, technical sharpening, Web seminars and European trade shows. I'm pretty good at assessing credibility, but I certainly feel much more confident in the material if it has the IEEE stamp of approval, for example.

It's no secret that we are putting on a virtual trade show. We've done a few with sister publications and they have been fairly successful. It's no secret that I was skeptical at first, either. Being of the old school, it took me a while to warm up to virtual classroom/events/seminars. I thought a virtual trade show would miss the "human" touch, especially in 2D. But then I got a glimpse of the latest state of the art. It is impressive (if you haven't seen the digital version of WDD, you should take a look)! But my main skepticism was still the issue of credibility.

However, I have been pleasantly surprised. I've now seen trade shows with virtual booths, containing posted downloable data files in a number of formats, direct links to the manufacturer, real time conversations with engineers and product mavens, and killer technical sessions — both static and live. Virtually, everything you could get at a physical trade show except the coffee, cocktails (everyone's working on that) and jet lag. If it is supported by a credible organization and technical sessions are not self-promoting, it works. Not just ours, but anyone's. I'd expect an e-version of IMS would be as credible as the grounded one (virtual Hawaii)?

Therefore, if a trade show is backed by credibility, it can offer at least as good an opportunity to interact with the bleeding edge. And it is just as accessible to those half-way around the world, as those next door — yep, the times they are a changin'!

I've though about it for a long time. I can sit back and wait for it to happen, or I can jump in with both feet and make it happen. I wanna play!

Finally, see where state of the art is today. . .check out this link: http://www.wirelessexpo.net/wirelessexpo/default.asp— shamelessly self-promotional, but impressively xG.

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