Running Commentary

This special issue of the Monitor is devoted to the Internet, the information network that has enormous potential to impact the field of psychology. As you will see in many of the articles in this issue, the Internet is already changing how psychologists work and how we communicate with each other and the world.

According to the New York Times Almanac, 3 million people worldwide were connected to the Internet in 1993. By mid-1999 the total had climbed to nearly 200 million. APA was quick to recognize the enormous communication potential of the Internet, and we developed our Web site early in the game. Posted publicly for the first time in January 1995, APA's Web site was among the first 10 association Web sites. It began simply with Science Directorate information and grew quickly to include education, public interest and practice issues. It wasn't long before we added member services and information for students and the public.

The Internet allows APA to be much closer to our members. Through a range of online services and an extensive library of journal articles and abstracts, we have a growing ability to bring vast amounts of psychology information and resources into our members' homes. Nearly two million documents are now available online from APA, including 1.7 million PsycINFO abstracts and 21,000 full-text journal articles. In 1997, we published our first electronic journal, Prevention and Treatment.

Communicating by e-mail

E-mail and listservs have also changed the way APA conducts business. E-mail helps significantly in communicating with members, other organizations and in international communication. Any member can contact the Executive Office, or me personally, and many do. I get more than 200 e-mail messages a day, with about half coming from listservs. I also receive e-mail from staff, other organizations, commercial groups and the public.

Before e-mail, I kept two secretaries busy with correspondence. Now I type all my own e-mail and have the part-time use of one secretary. I believe I send more messages per day now than I used to do in a month. Of course, e-mail can be both a blessing and a curse. I sometimes spend as many as six hours a day on e-mail, and it has become a major part of my work as CEO. On the other hand, it makes me much more accessible to members and to staff.

I participate in about a dozen listservs. The Board and Council listservs are particularly valuable. They permit rapid feedback and sharing of ideas that influence policy development and give early warning signals of potential problems. I often sign on to a listserv for a limited period just to get a feel for the group's interests and concerns, and I've probably been on 20 to 30 listservs at one time or another. I am a member of all APA divisions and many of the listservs are division sponsored. It was Marty Seligman's idea some years ago for APA to make it possible for any division or group of members to have an APA operated listserv. I strongly supported the idea and we now sponsor 350 listservs and 32 division Web pages.

Communicating with the public

The public's interest in APA's Web site has always been keen and has grown steadily over the years. Collectively, our sites now receive more than 3.5 million hits per week and over 3 million individual visitors per month. APA's site ranks within the top 100 worldwide. With the appearance of major news stories, such as the Oklahoma City bombing or the shootings at Columbine High School, the number of visitors to APA's Web site jumps dramatically. This fact graphically illustrates the power of the Internet as a public information tool for APA. And unlike messages delivered through the media, on our Web site we have 100 percent control over the information we provide.

I strongly suspect that in one month we now communicate with more people than we did in our first 100 years. Of course it's no accident that APA is on the cutting edge with the Internet. Much of the credit goes to the leadership and hard work of Gary VandenBos and his staff, including Hal Warren and Barbara Emshwiller, as well as to Jerry McGlaughlin. They continue to explore new products and services, working to ensure that APA will always be at the forefront of using this powerful communications tool to serve our members and inform the public.