THE WEBSTER’S DICTIONARY
By Ralph Benko
Available as an e-book at www.thewebstersdictionary.com
REVIEWED BY CHRISTOPHER SHAVER
Ralph Benko, aka “the Webster,” has the answers for advocacy groups who want to create effective Web sites, and he has written them down in the format of an e-book that will come into print later this month. The book’s title is “The Webster’s Dictionary,” but Mr. Benko is careful to point out that his term, “webster,” is a word he coined to describe “web pilots,” and in no way is a trademark infringement of the old and venerable dictionary of the same name. Merriam-Webster Inc. weighs in this way: “Other publishers may use the term Webster, but only Merriam-Webster products are backed by 150 years of accumulated knowledge and experience.”
In any case, although “the Webster” doesn’t have 150 years of knowledge behind him, he does have two years of online Web experience. He notes that on his Web he did what other advocacy groups couldn’t do, that is, experiment online with different Web techniques before getting down to the business of putting his discoveries into writing.
“That kind of latitude simply is not available to a policymaker, analyst, orinstitute executive with a real-time mission to fulfill and animage to maintain,” he writes.
He compares himself to Dante being lost “within the forest dark,” when describing the transition from being a website visitor to a Web publisher. Setting the tone for the rest of the book, he notes that starting to build a Web site may be comparable to “a venture into Hell.”
Reviewing Mr. Benko’s book proved to have it own set of problems. At first, as I tried to decipher the trail of words that wind through the Web site, I was confronted with more parentheses than I expected. And the Webster turns out to be a little more verbose than I expected. In the book, there are bits and pieces of information that last for several pages that Mr. Benko could well have summed up in a few paragraphs.
However, the Webster did succeed in introducing this reviewer to the myriad considerations related to setting up a Web site: How much it should cost, what certain buzzwords mean and how a Web site can operate more as an investment than a “silver bullet.”
And if there are questions about who the target reader is, the book’s second chapter makes that clear. Mr. Benko writes:
“The Webster wrote this book primarily for those who lead small and midsized policy and advocacy organizations. The Dictionary is directed at those passionate enough to take some moderate, calculated risks in order to make a real difference.”
But the real meat of the book becomes apparent in the fourth chapter. In it, Mr. Benko incorporates a grand list of facts, including what the term RSS stands for, what the term wiki means in Hawaiian and the difference between Web 2.0 and Web 1.0. (He writes the former is based more around community building, as opposed to the latter, which is based on simple information).
One of the most interesting segments of the book is the one devoted to the success stories of various advocacy groups. MoveOn.org is the main group Mr. Benko mentions. But there is a terrific take on how, with the help of Wikipedia, Trevor Lyman started a successful fundraising campaign online for former presidential nominee, Ron Paul.The Webster also succeeds in showing why Sen. Barack Obama did so well in the Democratic primaries.
For the most part, however, Mr. Benko, steers clear of hot button issues, rarely showing political bias. However, it is obvious that Mr. Benko is a Sarah Palin fan.View Entire Story
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