From the Editor’s Chair

April 30, 2000

The British are famous for their failure to applaud success, or more accurately for their tendency to applaud success only briefly and then pick holes in the successful for ever after. I have always thought that was a rather healthy national characteristic but have been amused to see it in action in recent weeks, but as if played at ten times the normal speed.

The wonderboys and wondergirls of the world seemed popular while they appeared to have been blessed by the fickle finger of good fortune. Parents’ hearts sank as the Oxbridge offer arrived for it surely presaged a three-year postponement of the first million. As the stockmarket plunged, perceptive critics of the emperor’s clothes could scarcely find elbow room on the chat show sofas. The role models of Thursday were, apparently, little better than snake-oil salesmen by Monday.

IT lawyers will be well aware that the bubble has not burst and that e-commerce’s potential is real. It will continue to have an impact on the lives of ordinary people for years to come and it is important that our society has the right legal framework to cope. Those SCL Working Groups that have an e-commerce focus have an important role to play in helping the legislators, in the UK and in Brussels, to make sensible and workable choices, with a full understanding of the issues involved. We certainly hope that these pages and the SCL Web site can help by clarifying debate and involving the widest possible range of contributors.

The Truth is Out There, Somewhere

The latest issue of the magazine is notable for its increased use of colour. This is just one element in a continuing programme of improvement for the Society’s organs of communications. SCL members will see a real difference in the appearance of both the Web site and this magazine in the course of the year. A recent experience has made me realise what a tough job we are taking on in aiming to produce an up-to-date magazine and Web site.

I needed some background information on the Distance Selling Directive. I felt sure that the Web sites of leading firms, particularly those who play a prominent role in SCL, would be able to supply me with the information I sought. Merely to say that the search was unsuccessful would be to devalue my growing amazement. Long after I had reverted to a printed newsletter on the subject, I continued to search sites. After two unsuccessful ventures using sites I knew, I began to conduct something closer to a test. I was surprised to discover a number of well established firms which could not be found via a popular search engine used by millions of consumers and businesses. A number of links operated to take me to totally unconnected pages within sites and the information on the subject which I did manage to discover was, without exception, woefully out of date.

It may be of course that I was unlucky. It may also be that the failures were the result of my incompetence, although my initial pretence of ignorance in the area was soon discarded in increasingly desperate searches. The most likely explanation is that the good quality information is out there somewhere, but that only those who put it there can find it.

One of the challenges which faces anyone involved in the establishment and maintenance of a Web site is keeping it current. The more easily met challenge is providing a means for the intended reader to find the information. I suggest that you take a moment to see if you can find useful information on your own site. Is there anything there that your potential client would want to know about? If there is, could the client actually find it? And is it still the whole truth?

My guess is that many readers will have to include a negative or two in responding honestly to those questions.

Laurence Eastham