Content Missing From the Web


The Web does not have everything.

Phone Directories Online

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Phone directories have had one serious shortcoming: They didn’t include all the numbers the phone company knows and makes public for listings. When you get a phone, the listing was public in three days.

Some years ago, I volunteered for a political campaign at its headquarters. I knew the phone number. I was there at least a month when I decided to check the listing in an online directory. Couldn’t find it. A few online phone directories competed and none of them had it. I could get it at 411 or 555-1212 (I forgot which one I tested), but not from online directories which people increasingly were using. (People may be calling 411 or 555-1212 even less nowadays, making online directories even more important by default.)

The online directories are extensive, but the ones I’ve seen don’t say where they get their information and many of their listings appear to be old to the point of being out of date. They often list relationships among people, which helps in identifying whether someone with a common name is who you want, but I can’t tell whether new listings are included. While many paper phone books include editorial closing dates, the dates as of when the listings were up to date, but I have not seen such dates in the online directories.

Cell number lists are bad, too. I had a number for four years, but some online list still had someone else’s name for it. Granted that I don’t publish it widely, and that when I got it I promptly made the number private, but I didn’t set the privacy until I had bought it from a store, to the staff of which I gave my name while they activated the phone getting a number for it and put the data on a machine-printed receipt, and the carrier (whoever that was) had my name with the number, and long afterwards I called someone who apparently knew my name from caller ID on their landline. So it wasn’t that private, yet the online number lists are wrong years after I got the phone and the number.

Why are numbers missing and outdated? I don’t know, but I have a guess. The phone company with the customers is glad to provide the information to the directory websites, but wants a nice piece of change for the data and updates. The online companies all think it is too pricey. No deal.

Older People’s Interests

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Older people have interests and perspectives, but are less comfortable using computers when they don’t need to. Many accept email but avoid the Web.

Health websites abound but my impression is that plenty of other subjects could be treated in ways that appeal to older people. Historical treatments focusing on when older people were younger, maybe thirty to seventy years ago, with memorable images, would help. Accessibility and other design issues would make websites more palatable.