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Public Roads - May/June 1998

Internet Watch

Questions and Answers With Webmaster Kristin Iden

by Mr Author

Kristin Iden is the Webmaster/electronic publishing specialist for the Federal Highway Administration's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC) in McLean, VA.

Q. What does the Webmaster at TFHRC do?
A. The Webmaster manages the flow of information to and through the TFHRC Web site. A big part of the job is coordinating the activities between consultants, contractors, and the staff. Another large component of the job is to educate the internal customers and to promote the use of the web site as a publishing tool. I act as a creative consultant, cheerleader, and referee, depending on the situation. I am also lucky enough to get to represent TFHRC at inter-governmental Internet/Web functions. And, on occasion, I actually sit still long enough to do some coding.
Q. How big is the TFHRC site?
A. How about bigger than a breadbasket, but smaller than an elephant? Seriously, our site currently has somewhere around 7,000 files on our server. We average 30,000 hits a month from a large international audience.
Q. What changes to the site do you see in the future? Will it continue to grow?
A. As I peer into my crystal ball, I see the cyberworld engulfing traditional IT (Information Technology). Web-based databases, electronic libraries, more Web-conferencing, more distance-learning, and, believe it or not, more time doing actual work instead of running around. As Internet/intranet systems grow into useful, accessible tools, we'll spend less time tracking a form down, filling it out, copying it, and then putting it into three different envelopes. With some key strokes and a mouse click, we'll fill out and then distribute information from our desktop!
Q. What types of things will we see more (or less) of on the site?
A. We'll see more Web-enabled databases, more research reports, and, in general, more information. We're redesigning several of the internal pieces and plan for an eventual overhaul of the entire site. We will be adding more indexes and information-access points. I, personally, would like to see more interactivity with our end-users, so we can better provide information.
Q. How important is the role of the Web in information distribution?
A. The World Wide Web already has changed our culture, whether we realize it or not. Children in kindergarten spend time on a computer, and schools are supplying laptops to fifth graders. In the near term, I think the projected growth for electronic commerce will surpass current expectations. Savvy consumers will learn that sometimes, time savings can be equated to cost savings, and they will use the Web as their first stop. News is being broken on Web sites now, not on television or radio. The first reference to the recent Lewinsky incident was broken on a Web site first. Our need for timely information will never go away. The ability to store, transfer, and access information through the Web will be a long-term dividend for everyone.
Q. Will the Web ever replace hard copy?
A. NO! I mean, would you ever want to curl up with your laptop and try to read Wuthering Heights online? And, of course, there are things that just aren't appropriate for the Web, especially in the science and technology arena. How many times do we print pages of computer-generated algorithms or pass along a rough draft for a proof? We need to be careful about what kind of information and how we place that information on the Web. I think much, much more of our finished material will be found on and through the Web, but paper will always be present.
Q. What will be the biggest challenge for the TFHRC Web site in the future? For the users?
A. The biggest challenge for the TFHRC Web site will be to keep up with our internal customers who want everything yesterday. The great part about this job is the excitement that everyone feels when using new and cool technology. And I think our users will have an even bigger challenge in keeping up with our researchers! We're poised to do some incredible things, and I can't wait for everyone to see them!

Going Techno

(or Putting the Web on a Shiny Disk)

It was bound to happen. One moment you think you're safe and that you've finally caught up with technology and then - shazam! Something new comes your way! We at TFHRC are honored to be those people bringing you that new technology. We created a great new product for you to play with, learn from, and use as a reference tool and teaching aid - the "Best of 97" CD-ROM.

Our CD made its debut in February. We had an idea in September 1997 to take the best of our Web site and package it for our customers and clients. We wanted a way to highlight our technology and research and to deliver it in a compact, usable format. Much of the material is on the TFHRC Web site, and there are specially developed pieces that made their debut on the CD-ROM, such as User Guidelines for Waste and By-Product Materials in Pavement Construction. By extending our publishing capabilities, we hope that our material reaches a wider, more diverse audience, who is in search of good research material.

The CD-ROM is usable on Windows ®95, and Windows®NT 4.0. Written in HTML (hyper text mark-up language - the same language that drives the Web), the entire CD is viewable through your Internet browser. You'll find additional files available on the CD-ROM that are not currently on the TFHRC Web site, such as video files from the Federal Outdoor Impact Lab. To obtain the CD-ROM, please order it through the TFHRC Web site, or contact Martha Soneira at TFHRC, e-mail,