Navy site tries to make history
- By Bill Murray
- Jan 12, 1998
United States forces had launched Tomahawk missiles into Iraq, and the president would
hold a 9 a.m. press conference to announce the strike. Goldstein hung up the phone,
scrambled out of bed and hurried to his Pentagon office to post photos and text on the
Navy's World Wide Web site at http://www.navy.mil so
the public could view them by 9 a.m.
In building and maintaining the site, Goldstein said he has learned that "the key
is timeliness. Yesterday's newspaper isn't a newspaper, it's a history document."
The retired lieutenant commander, who formerly worked in Navy public affairs, said he
tries to use the Web as a press release to carry the service's message, despite his
professed lack of technical expertise.
The Navy site, which contains nearly 5,700 files, gets more than 1.3 million hits a
month, Goldstein said. He updates the site as many as five times a day with information
from the service's wire agency, issues of the All Hands monthly publication and other
"It's a team effort," Goldstein said. "Everyone at the news desk and the
news photo division is thinking about the Web site."
The site made a 1993 debut as the Navy Public Affairs Library, but the uniform resource
locator was too long and convoluted, and users didn't understand the site's mission.
"They wanted to know if we loaned books," Goldstein said.
Once officials at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station (NCTS) in
Pensacola, Fla., gave the Office of Information permission to move the site to navy.mil
last March, the number of visitors shot up.
A Sun Microsystems Inc. Netra server running Solaris hosts the site at Pensacola.
Goldstein himself works at a Dell Computer Corp. Dimension XPS H266 PC with 266-MHz
Pentium II processor, 64M RAM, 4G hard drive, 12/24X CD-ROM drive and 100M Iomega Corp.
Zip removable-media drive. The Dimension runs Microsoft Windows 95 and Microsoft Office
"I thought I wouldn't have to carry floppies around any longer" with the Zip
drive, Goldstein said. But his briefcase still ferries a handful of Zip diskettes between
home and work. He keeps applications on the hard drive and data on diskettes.
The Navy paid about $6,000 in September for a pair of Dimensions for Goldstein and his
assistant, Suzette Kettenhofen. Another Navy organization gave him a Tektronix Inc. Phaser
340 printer for color images.
NCTS officials provide outstanding support, he said. "No one's attacked our
site," he said while knocking on wood. He declined to detail his Web security
strategy for publication.
Goldstein relies on the Netscape Communicator 4.0 browser, Adobe Photoshop 3.0 and
Corel Corp.'s CorelDraw 7.0.
He also uses HTML Assistant Pro 97, a $99 package from Brooklyn North Software Works of
Halifax, Nova Scotia, to edit Hypertext Markup Language text.
Although his boss, Navy information chief Rear Adm. Kendall Pease, has never asked
Goldstein to work at home, the webmaster logs as many as three hours a day there from his
300-MHz Dell Dimension desktop PC via a 56-kilobit/sec U.S. Robotics Corp. Sportster
modem, checking e-mail and updating the site.
He maintains a dial-in account on a server at the Navy Yard in Washington and accesses
his e-mail account and Web server as a telnet client. To relieve a heavy search burden on
the Web server, Goldstein has removed a search engine from the front page of the site.
"People were using the search engine instead of looking themselves,"
Kettenhofen said. The site now has an alphabetical index and a Unix Perl script search
engine at the help page.
Goldstein occasionally posts Motion Picture Experts Group-compressed files and other
animations on the site, but he said he eschews bells and whistles unless they educate,
enlighten and perhaps entertain the intended audience--Navy personnel, their families, the
media and the public.
He said many in that audience have only 14.4- or 28.8-kilobit/sec modems, so MPEG
animations of, say, F-14 fighter planes would present too much of a challenge.