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Column

Letters, we get letters ...

By DAVE GUSSOW

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 10, 1998


From the Tech Times mailbag, the messages keep coming in (sometimes loud and clear).

We'll start with a reader complaining about the feature on laser tag that was part of our Summer Tech Guide for Kids (June 15). The reader found a definite cause-and-effect relationship "between the shooting sprees in schools and the promotion of this type of social strip mining."

    I've been reading about violence and its impact on children since my undergraduate days in mass communications almost 30 years ago, and it's a difficult topic. We wrote about computer games and violence in November, with one of the themes being that parents play a key role in the decisionmaking process of what their kids should see, do or play.

The Summer Tech Guide was intended to help parents know what's out there, not only in the local tech game scene, but also on the Web. My wife and I visited a laser tag center last fall and came away with this impression: It's a bit pricey, but it's supervised, has rules and seemed fun. Would we let our kids play it? Sure. Do we let them watch South Park? No.

    Dave, please pick up ... or I've called you four times ... or Do you have the number for ...

The first person thought I used voice mail to screen calls. I don't. If I'm at my desk in St. Petersburg (I occasionally work in our Palm Harbor office or at home), I answer the phone. The second seemed irritated that I didn't call back immediately. I do return most local calls as soon as possible, which is not always immediately.

That brings us to No. 3. We want Tech Times to be interactive; we want to hear your comments, suggestions and questions. I have enjoyed most of the conversations, as well as the e-mail messages. We try to point people so they can find information on their own. It doesn't mean I can always provide the information callers (or e-mailers) are seeking, and I can't play the role of directory assistance. I often get the numbers the same way you can: the phone book, directory assistance, a Web page or search. I find www.switchboard.com very useful.

When we mention companies or products in stories, it is because we think they have something to add to the news value of the item. It is not an endorsement. If companies want to promote themselves or their products, that's a function of advertising.

On a happier note, we continue to get compliments about the Site Seeing column by Jules Allen, as well as questions: Shouldn't there be a www at the start of the address, or at least an FTP?

We publish the addresses as they should be typed in, and not all require a www. The "www-dot" prefix became standard almost overnight when the World Wide Web came along, according to Jules. But whatever the prefix to the domain name, the idea has always been to try and make server names easy for humans to remember.

    I have been unable to keep up with the rapid developments in the computer technology field, so can you publish a list of new computer hardware terms?

So many stories, so little space. ... We know it's important to define terms, and we try to do it as we go. We have referred to Web sites (www.pcwebopedia.com, for example) in the Site Seeing column that have such glossaries. A published glossary would take up a lot of our limited space.

    Do you have available online a complete compilation of your Solutions column?

Yes. John Torro's work on Solutions has received a wonderful response from readers. We set up separate directories for Solutions and Site Seeing at our Web site (www.sptimes.com/Technology) to make it easier for users to look up information.

    I've gotten a lot of computer knowledge from your articles. I wish, if possible, it could be a pullout section to save for future reference.

Thanks for the note. Focus groups didn't like Tech Times as a four-page pullout before its birth last year, so we didn't do it. Now, we have six or seven pages in each issue, which would make it impossible to do as a pullout. I prefer to have space for more stories and hope you do, too. You could simply take the pages out of the Business Times and put them in some kind of binder for reference.

Readers can send questions, comments and suggestions to techtimes@sptimes.com. Comments may be edited and paraphrased for clarity and length.



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