James C. Eisenach, M.D., Editor

URL: http://anesthesiology.miningco.com

Sponsor: The Mining Company

Webmaster: Paul Ting, M.D.

The Internet is a huge place where it is easy to get lost. It is often hard to find the information you need or to make the connections you want. Would it not be nice to have a friendly and well-informed local guide to help?

This is the basic concept behind “The Mining Company,” an organization that attempts to make sense of the Internet by using guides to a wide variety of subject areas, from cocktails to soap operas to, suprisingly, anesthesiology. Our specialty seems somewhat neglected by many of the large medical Web sites, so it is a pleasant surprise to find that Dr. Ting and the Mining Company have produced a large anesthesiology section.

The site, which has been up since February 1997, begins with a home page that is updated at least twice a month. This leads to a variety of articles, some of which consist of original material by Dr. Ting, whereas others are annotated lists of links. Some are aimed at patients, others at anesthesia professionals. Examples include

The Net Links section (http://anesthesiology.miningco.com/mlibrary.htm) is a collection of reviewed and annotated links to resources across the Internet. Within this section, the Jobs category (http://anesthesiology.miningco.com/msub5.htm) is very popular, with its links to anesthesia-specific job search resources and links to general healthcare employment sites. Sections that were recently added and are still being expanded included pediatric anesthesiology, trauma anesthesiology, and critical care resources.

The very popular Patient Information section (http://anesthesiology.miningco.com/msub4.htm) includes topics such as “Labor Analgesia,”“What to Expect During Surgery” and “Anesthesia for Cesarean Section.” Professional information includes, for example, Dr Ting's personal experiences with the Bispectral Index monitor (http://anesthesiology.miningco.com/library/weekly/aa071398.htm) and comments about recent publications about Ondansetron.

The resources of the parent company are apparent in the range of additional services the site provides. These include a search engine, a bulletin board, a calendar of events, the option of signing up for several electronic mail newsletters, and a “chat” room.

The chat room allows a large number of participants to exchange typed messages in real time (as opposed to leaving them on a bulletin board to be read days later). The anesthesiology chat room is available at all times, but Dr. Ting tries to be available on Tuesday at 8:30-9:30 PM Eastern time for patients and on Wednesday at 8:30-9:30 PM Eastern time for anesthesia professionals. Subjects vary widely. Patients mainly have questions about anesthesia, complications, options, and others. Currently, the professional chat is not very busy; most anesthesiologists are probably too busy to chat. However, Dr. Ting can make the chat room available for anesthesia groups who need this facility. This might be a convenient way for a geographically separated group to plan a meeting or to work on a presentation or paper.

The Mining Company currently makes extensive use of frames. All the anesthesiology content appears with the header “The Mining Company Health Medicine Anesthesiology.” If you want to see Web pages at their full size, with the full URL address so you can “bookmark” and revisit the site, try pointing to a link and clicking with your RIGHT mouse button. (Macintosh [Apple Computer, Inc., Cupertino, CA] users just hold down the regular mouse button). This often present options that include “Open Link in New Window.” This creates a new browser window for the linked Web site. (The Mining Company site is apparently being redesigned without frames in response to user complaints.)

The original content has not been peer reviewed, but is the personal opinion of Dr. Ting, a board-certified anesthesiologist in practice as Chief of Anesthesia Services at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.

The chat rooms are essentially unmoderated, so there is no way of ensuring the quality of any comments posted or the identify of the contributors.

The Mining Company represents an interesting business model for the Internet. It relies heavily on enthusiasts who are knowledgeable about a particular subject area. It gives them some training in Web site creation and guidelines about the “house style.” It then allows them to post their own content to the Mining Company's Web site, where the pages get more hits and have more credibility than they would as stand-alone personal Web pages. These guides are rewarded for their work with a cut of the advertising revenue of The Mining Company and the satisfaction and kudos of being associated with a substantial Internet resource.

This is a site that is well worth bookmarking and revisiting frequently. Unlike many anesthesiology sites, it is frequently revised and expanded, so it is a way of keeping a finger on the pulse of anesthesiology on the Internet.

John Oyston, M.B., B.S., F.R.C.P.C.

Department of Anaesthesia; Orillia Soldier's Memorial Hospital; Orillia, Ontario, Canada, L3V 2Z3;oyston@oyston.com

(Accepted for publication December 4, 1998.)