AAOS Bulletin - October, 2006

Connecting to information through portals

Step through a portal and find a new world of information

By Jane Baque

Almost 40 years ago, researchers sat around computers in two different California institutions, anxiously awaiting the start of an experiment in digital communication. A researcher at the first institution would attempt to log in to a computer at the second institution. This experiment, conducted in the late 1960s, would be one of the first to test the possibility of developing a global network of computers.

Although the first researcher was able to type only the first three letters of “login” before both computer systems crashed, the experiment was a success. It demonstrated that communication between distant computers in a network was possible. The network ultimately would be a means of sharing information among military, scientific and educational institutions.

Since then, innovations in networked communications have been hard-pressed to keep pace with demands for connectivity and information. From the development and refinement of e-mail in the 1970s to the growth of networks today, the Internet reaches new audiences, who want to use it for everything.

How large is the Internet?
Today, it is practically impossible to know how large the Internet really is. Published reports in 2002 suggested that there were more than 9 million Web sites (such as www.aaos.org)—and that number has been doubling every year since, according to one analysis.

While Web sites are one measure of how large the Internet is, Web pages (such as www.aaos.org/member/services.asp) are another measure. In 2000, one published report suggested that there were more than 2 billion public Web pages, and that 7.4 million pages were being added each day. In addition, an estimated two to four times that many pages are available through intranet, password-protected and other “hidden” Web sites. So, the Internet is really big—almost impossibly huge. And it is growing.

Finding a specific piece of information on something so vast is an immense challenge. Search engines—such as Google, Metacrawler or Dogpile—cull and provide useful results lists, depending on the user’s ability to formulate a good search statement and on each Web page’s ability to be seen as a relevant search result.

Recently, a new type of Web page—a portal page—has been developed to offset some of these challenges. Portal pages enable rapid access to Internet information that is relevant to a particular subject or to an individual.

A network provider’s home page—such as Comcast or AOL—is one example of a portal. Customizable to the user’s specific interests and needs, it provides access to e-mail as well as to up-to-date news, weather and sports. Some portals bring a wide variety of Internet sites to the user with a particular interest. Others serve as community chat rooms and discussion groups.

No matter what the scope of the portal, its goal is to make sense of the vast Internet and to make the user’s time on the Web worthwhile, productive and interesting.

The AAOS education portal

Orthopaedic Knowledge Online (OKO) began as an online journal but has evolved into a portal. Through OKO, AAOS members can access original journal-type topics in subjects across the field of orthopaedics. Rich in text and images, these topics—written by experts—review the clinical and management options for specific orthopaedic conditions. Streaming video and online slide-show lectures take advantage of the multimedia potential of the Internet.

During the past two years, OKO has added online continuing medical education, online self-study and online access to full-text chapters from AAOS print publications.

“The Internet is such a convenient tool for the physician,” says OKO editor- in-chief William A. Grana, MD, MPH, “that we wanted to make sure OKO provided a range of programs to meet the needs of both AAOS members and orthopaedic residents.”

The OKO portal soon will open even more avenues of education. To bring the broadest scope of available information to orthopaedic surgeons, the OKO editorial board is reaching out to specialty societies for assistance and participation in developing or identifying relevant specialty content and information. As the partnerships progress, OKO will become the orthopaedic portal to the rich array of clinical content available on the Internet.

“We have only just begun developing this portal,” explains Dr. Grana, “but the potential is exciting. Within the next few years, we hope to make OKO the first place orthopaedic surgeons come when looking for concise, relevant and authoritative information on the Internet.”

Jane Baque is AAOS senior manager, publications websites. She can be reached at baque@aaos.org

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