Notes from the Technology Trenches – September, 1997

Elizabeth H. Klampert is the Director of Library Services for the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Ms. Klampert was formerly a litigator for five years, specializing in professional liability litigation. Before attending law school, she was a corporate librarian for twelve years, holding management positions in libraries in a number of large organizations, including Rainier National Bank in Seattle, Deloitte & Touche, and Merrill Lynch, both in New York. She received both her BA in English and MLS from the University of Washington in Seattle. She received her JD at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York.

Ever had a bad technology day? Where your computer gives you innumerable GPF error messages or refuses to print or tells you there is no available memory when you KNOW there is more than enough? Where the software you’ve downloaded for your offline Internet presentation (because you don’t trust the live connection) just does not work no matter which version you use? Well then, this column is for you.

Recently, a friend of mine was preparing an Internet presentation and decided to use WebWhacker. During her attempts to get this program to work successfully, she related to me a dream she’d had. Like most of us, she has a recurring dream where she’s being obliged to perform and is just not prepared for it. In this dream, she was slated to give a concert of Elvis Presley songs, accompanying herself on the guitar. As the day approached, she realized that she hadn’t really rehearsed: she didn’t know any of the songs completely, she didn’t know the guitar chords and didn’t even know if she had enough songs to fill the allotted time! (Does any of this sound familiar?)

For those of us who have also tried (but failed) to get this program to work properly, her dream was instantly recognizable as a WebWhacker-induced frustration dream. I hate to single out one product among many for scrutiny, but will focus on it since I know a number of us who have experienced frustration with it and to get the folks at ForeFront to sit up and take notice. It is, however, only one example among many of a highly touted product that fails to live up to its billing.

My own experience with it began earlier this year when I needed a program to simulate the Internet experience offline for my LegalTech presentation. Since LegalTech had some major technical glitches the previous year, I decided not to risk a live demo. A friend recommended WebWhacker (he used, it turned out, the 1.x version) so I decided to download it from ForeFront’s Web site.

The site had version 2.x which had more bells and whistles than did version 1.x so, not knowing any better, I downloaded it. While this version very nicely configured all the Web sites I wanted it to, I could not get it to run properly offline and, believe me, I tried everything!

So, I called the friend who first recommended it who told me to use version 1.x. The problem was that I was running out of time (remember the dream?)! I then called three other people who I knew were not only Internet mavens but who had also done a number of offline presentations. None of them had any experience with WebWhacker but all were greatly interested in my plight and had a number of helpful suggestions.

Well, folks, I never did get WebWhacker to work. I did remember (in the nick of time) that Netscape Gold had the ability to capture Web sites for display offline and that is the solution I finally found. It was a bit kludgy: I arranged the Web sites in Bookmarks in the order that I wished to use them and clicked them on as my outline presented them. It was not quite the real thing but close and my audience didn’t experience any downtime as a live presentation would undoubtedly have done.

On another technical note: I used PowerPoint 7.0 for the bulk of my presentation and had the Internet “demo” at the end. I had hoped to use the captured sites in PowerPoint, originally, but that didn’t work out even though I and a techno-savvy IS friend tried hard to make it work.

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Do you have a similar tale of woe with regard to technology? If so, I’d like to hear it — you can either send me an e-mail at [email protected] or send it to me at [email protected]. I am far from being a Luddite, but I think we all need to realize that technology is a bit like that little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead: “when she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid.” The same thing applies to technology.

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