These commercial approaches all recognize that world in general has migrated to the Internet and our most active hobbyists have followed. Publishing information on paper is static. The world is dynamic and interactive. The post baby boomer generations have grown up with computers and have moved on to laptops, smart phones and tablets and will continue to migrate to the most seamlessly interactive platforms. We need to be somewhere they can find us. A website can be broadly viewed as having three main aspects: static, dynamic and interactive. The static portion is the framework that changes very little from one day to the next: the layout of the home page, the pull down menus, the side bars and the quick link buttons, to name a few. Once we look at a website a few times these aspects become almost invisible, just a tool to get us somewhere. Google has one of the most simple and static homepages in existence. They have fun with their logo but the only item of significance is the search box. Type in your search terms and instantly you are interacting with the digital universe.
Not many websites omit the dynamic aspect of the Internet. Every day MSN has the same basic framework, but the content of all the information in the news stories, the finance section and so forth changes by the minute. This is the dynamic aspect of the Internet. When we use MSN Finance we also enter the interactive portion as soon as we obtain quotes by stock symbol. It becomes even more interactive if we go to a message board or blog and read and respond to posts. Ebay has a static structure that they update from time to time, a dynamically changing list of items for auction or immediate purchase and an interactive auction with feedback about buyers and sellers.
As we attempt to use the Internet more broadly to promote our hobby, we have to realize that barriers to access to content make us invisible. Today the world searches through Google or a close clone. If a philatelic publication has just what someone is looking for and it exists in a book or periodical at the APRL, the searchers are unlikely to find it since to them the APRL does not exist and almost nothing in the APRL is immediately accessible from Google. Until we have a method for all philatelic libraries and websites to share data across an open platform we will remain nearly invisible and irrelevant in the digital age. People have argued against digitizing things because storage media and formats change. That is a false objection. Digitizing produces zeros and ones. Migration from one format to another is trivial. We have gone from switches and lights to paper tape and punch cards to tape and giant disks to large floppies, small disks, CDs, DVDs, internal and external hard drives, thumb drives, SSD and the cloud. Captured data has migrated from one to another and will continue to do so.
The APRL is working to expand the Philatelic Union Catalog in cooperation with several major libraries, but there is much to be done. A précis of every major holding, easily accessed by a Google search without any reference to the APRL, will be needed as a start. This will take enormous input from all major societies. One proposal for linking philatelic data has come from the Philatelic Information Network (PIN). Their website (www.philinfonet.org) outlines a method for creating a standard for linking all philatelic data. There is no way to know, at the moment, what method will work the best, or at least well enough to be implemented. It is critical that the conversation begins in earnest and that we devote significant efforts and resources to mastering the Internet and committing ourselves to the digital age.
Part 1 – Part 2