Just the FAQs, Ma'am

A FAQ is a Web searcher's best friend. FAQ is an acronym for Frequently Asked Questions. Say you strike up a conversation with a friend. He asks you what is the latest on a shared interest that you two have, such as which browser is better: Netscape Communicator or Microsoft Explorer?

Somebody else approaches and wants to join in the conversation. But he does not know anything about browsers. You stop and answer his questions, bringing him up to speed. Another guy shows up and also starts asking the same questions you just answered for the first guy. By the time the fiftieth new person shows up and asks the same opening questions, you and your friend either give up in frustration or invent the FAQ.

A FAQ not only goes over the basics and recent developments for a topic but, by its nature, can serve as an excellent quick introduction for someone just beginning a Web search. FAQs can be found both on World Wide Web pages but also in Usenet (where it is strongly suggested that people read the FAQs before posting questions in the newsgroups to save everyone the annoyance of repeating themselves over and over).

Q. Are FAQs generally useful?
A. Yes, I tend to rank FAQs as useful as handbooks, almanacs, and encyclopedias for research.

Q. Do you always read the FAQ when you see one on a Web page?
A. It is the first link I follow on a Web page, as a rule. There have been times when the FAQ itself provided all the information that I needed that day on a topic or told me enough to know that I did not need to pursue that line of inquiry any further.

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Last Modified: 2/20/99