"Floppy Disk of Netscape Navigator" by Toshihiro Oimatsu.
My Old Navigator” by OiMax. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

The world has changed enormously since I qualified as a vet in the nineties, but my first taste of the “brave new world” of technology was when Glasgow vet school installed a 40-strong computer room, all connected up to the internet and the then-new World Wide Web.

These computers used NCSA Mosaic to view web pages (which had to be small and fast-loading to be usable over 56K modem connections) and Gopher to retrieve documents and files – but with a little bit of hacking we got Netscape Navigator running off floppy discs, which allowed centred text and blinking. We also organised a few late-night Duke Nukem tournaments.

Back then I ran a website called VetScape, which was a reviewed catalogue of websites of specific use to veterinary professionals – until AltaVista and Google came along and made it all redundant.

Nevertheless, creating this site gave me a tremendous overview of what was going on “out there”, and I lectured at a number of conferences (such as the SPVS annual congress in Newcastle) about using the internet for education purposes. Even in those comparatively primitive times, people were experimenting with things like 3D “virtual reality” type animations to teach anatomy.

I also forewarned of what I called “self-confessed expert syndrome” – where certain individuals would publish their (often unsubstantiated) views and opinions on email discussion groups and the World Wide Web, and other people would set a lot of store by their words for no other reason than because they were in a written format.

Social media blocks
Twitter/Facebook feeds are VERY public, so make sure you know what you are doing!

Self-confessed expert syndrome still exists today, but now it’s mostly on social media.

Using social media to benefit a business is an art as well as a science, and can backfire quickly (and badly) if you get it wrong; definitely not something to hand over to a random staff member with a Twitter account, or a clueless manager – Twitter/Facebook feeds are VERY public, and all and sundry can comment.

There is another thing you need to be aware of when writing things that will be read by lots of people, and it takes a lot of time and experience to avoid this: people will misunderstand what you write, and often seem to wilfully get the wrong end of the stick.

I have seen this happen in these very pages, and in other arenas too. I used to contribute regularly to various email discussion groups, and it is truly amazing how many different ways there can be of interpreting the same sentence.

Twitter and Facebook give your posts the potential to reach vast audiences, so make sure you know what you are doing!

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