by Jack Kessler, firstname.lastname@example.org
3.00 FYI France: Enewsletter and archive
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From: Jack Kessler
Subject: Europe, at least, discovers the users -- Parts 1 and 2 (15 Nov 92) November 15, 1992 FYI France: Europe, at least, discovers the users -- Parts 1 and 2 by Jack Kessler email@example.com === | | ...The "OSI Seven-Layer Model", as seen by a ======= pretty rowdy crowd of networkers, librarians, || || 7! and Italian waiters at the banquet of the ======= Network Services Conference at Pisa, || || 6 November 2-4... ======= || || 5 ..Hey, it was late at night, and we'd all ======= worked long and hard, and the food was good, || || 4 and there was lots of wine... ======= || || 3 ======= Conferences in Europe are a little different || || 2 from conferences in other places. Ever try to ======= build ten different six-foot towers-of-Pisa out || || 1 of place cards, while "O Sole Mio" is crashing out from the tables at the back? The idea of a "Network 'Services' Conference" came to Europe last week. It hasn't arrived in the US or elsewhere, yet, and in all cases is a bit overdue. There was much of interest for anyone who loves libraries, books, networked information, or European ways of looking at things, and for anyone blessed or cursed with the need for working on a computer. The Pisa conference brought some leading lights from North American information networking -- Peter Deutsch, creator of "Archie" (not the comic book, although he carries that with him), and John "Matrix" Quarterman -- together with network leaders from all over Europe, to discuss what to do about a new topic: the users. There were many librarians there: most of us were left fascinated, but also shaking our heads and groaning. It seems that the great amount of work so far done to help users on the networks leaves much still to be done, in both Europe and elsewhere. The conference, sponsored by "EARN / the European Academic and Research Network" and a group of several other organizations, attracted 360 participants, from 46 countries, and by all accounts was highly provocative and successful. There will be another one next year, it seems. Sessions covered "New Global Information Tools" (World-Wide Web, WAIS, Gopher, "Hyper-G", Archie, and the "Soft Pages Project"), "Beyond ASCII" (imaging, and ISO standards), "The Electronic Library" (projects in Israel and France, "The Virtual Library", Project "PegUn/Janus" at Columbia U.), "Delivering Messages to the Desktop", "Central and Eastern Europe", "User Support", "Special Interest Communities" ("Electronic Pierce", biology, chemistry, "Human Genome"), "Managing Network Information Services", and "Information Overload". It was fascinating to see, with my American eyes, the new work and different approaches being adopted in Europe, and to appreciate the very different European version of the birthpangs of this technology's application. Keynote: Peter Deutsch, of "Archie" The first keynote speaker, Peter Deutsch, delivered a fascinating and funny talk -- speaking at his accustomed rate, described as "56k with no flow-control" -- about the necessity now for "building networks, not just network links", for "real services, not just projects", and for "not explaining, but hiding" ftp and the various other user's tools so far developed. "Noone ever wanted a 1/4 inch drill bit," he asserted, "they wanted a 1/4 inch hole." The time has come, he said, to provide real information on the networks, and not just tools for getting there. Deutsch distinguished four purposes for existing network tools: 1) Class Discovery -- more tools are needed, he said, 2) Instance Location (indexing tools) -- we have lots now, 3) Access (ftp, etc.) -- lots, 4) Management of Information (WAIS, 3W/WWW at CERN) -- we could use some more. The tools and projects which exist, he said fall into four groups: 1) Interactive Message Systems -- (telnet, rlogin, talk, chat, MUDD / "Multi-user Dangerous Dragons"), 2) Store-and-Forward -- (e-mail, news), 3) Information Delivery (anonymous ftp, Gopher, 3W/WWW, Prospero, WAIS, ALEX) -- the point being now to begin hiding these, hide the network, make it transparent, and, 4) Tools for Finding Things -- Peter's "own particular sandbox" at the moment, he says, in which he's finding that, a "gigabyte no longer is that big of a deal". But the networks will be "useful only if populated with useful information", Deutsch said. "Librarians," moreover, "should be running the networks, not the UNIX weenies." He is concerned about the latter's penchant for reinventing the wheel first developed by the former. "It's going to be services," he concluded, "if someone around you starts talking technology, watch out." Imaging Projects Anne Mumford, in "Beyond ASCII", pointed out that the problem with images arriving now is their use, rather than the more technical problems of their storage: image users will want to cut and paste, insert, catalog, index, and change formats, just as they now do with ASCII, she said. She mentioned CARL's Group 3 fax format journal project, "CORE / Chemistry Online Retrieval Experiment" which stores the page and ASCII and a picture caption index, Northern Telecom's "CGM / Computer Graphics Metafile"format, and Elsevier's project for issuing 35 imaged journals on cd-rom. Standards: first round Borka Jerman-Blazic described the Herculean / Augean effort currently going in to develop international standards for software. The world has over 3000 spoken languages, she pointed out, over 100 of these written: 50% use the Latin alphabet, but the other 50% use over 23 different alphabets, counting only those which have over 1 million users. So users come to the networks familiar with Latin diacritic and non-diacritic alphabets, non-Latin alphabets (Cyrillic, Greek), diacritical scripts (Arabic, Hebrew), and syllabic (Kanna Japanese) and ideographic (Chinese) written modes of expression. One might just make them all learn American English, but then again they might not want to, and they simply might not. ISO 10646, a standard on which she's working, specifies over 65,000 characters in world languages: she bravely asserted both that it will accomodate UNICODE, and that conforming commercial products will begin to appear next year. The French -- libraries, and ILL Christine Deschamps delivered an elegant overview, despite technical / microphone interruptions, of the vast array of current events in France. She described their work on a national ILL "union catalog": SQL request handling, an X.25 ILL system which batches requests, and a project to develop an "OSI / Interlending OSI Network" (ISO 10161 and 10162) to connect their effort to similar projects in the Netherlands and the UK. In document delivery, she mentioned the now-ended "FOUDRE" project, which used digital scanning and attempted to capture and store text, as it was scanned, for future digital use: this ran into both money and copyright problems. A newer "EDIL / Electronic Document Interchange for Libraries" project, with the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, and Portugal is proceeding, although there still are copyright problems, she said. Users Jill Foster, one of the Conference organizers, emphasized the pc background of users, in her presentations on "User Support". She mentioned the large and expanding work group on User Support, "RARE ISUS WG", which now draws from many different international groups, and itself supports user-support work groups in fields as diverse as cetacean studies, developmental psychiatry, diabetes studies, and marine technology. An excellent report edited by Foster, which arrived belatedly after wrestling its way through Italian customs, summarizes European efforts in the user support area ("User Support and Information Services in the RARE Community -- A Status Report", RARE Technical Report 1, RARE Working Group 3, Subgroup USIS, 1st edition, March, 1992). Taking a phrase from her countryman, Lorcan Dempsey, Jill tirelessly reminded the conference that the networks now, "present users with a flea market, when what's needed is a department store": user support badly needs some such network organizing, she said. User Support at Cornell Carole Lambert, from Cornell, described the hard-nosed managerial analysis to which they subjected their local version of the "computer-center-versus-library" competition in information provision which plagues every campus. "We hit the wall," she said, "with a service that wouldn't scale": 1) systems consulting services were one-on-one, 2) classroom training focused on skills rather than on use and resources, 3) documentation was labor- intensive, with limited distribution, and 4) accounting went to and not always through a central bottleneck. Their new model, she said, presents a "scalable method of delivery": they decided to, 1) leverage the technology -- use their own computer and network technology to develop and disseminate user tools, 2) leverage the human resources -- they build campus coalitions, shared solutions, use e-mail and other techniques to sustain campus contacts, and "eliminate redundancies" (dangerous-sounding term, I think, for cutting out duplications). Most of all though, at Cornell, they are trying to change the attitudes and expectations of the users: "we want to make independence easier than dependence," said Lambert, "we teach the users problem diagnosis and resolution along with traditional user skills...we will be there, but we want them to rely on themselves more than they rely on us." Costs -- an idea whose time is about to arrive T. Johannsen, originally of Dresden and now of just-north-of- Tokyo, made a fascinating presentation of "SoftPages", his "distributed database for fileserver contents" (e.g. Archie, WAIS), which has a built-in module for computing usage "cost", in terms of "economic distance" -- using speed, tariff, traffic and priority parameters. Johannsen's presentation struck a chord in the conference: everyone is getting a new awareness of usage costs, as the "academic test-bed" history of the networks recedes and the "commercial" age dawns, and you could see many minds in the audience quickly considering the logistics of building in similar "costing" modules to other tools, following Johannsen's suggestion. (The NREN legislation in the US calls for precisely this sort of new approach: "The Network shall...have accounting mechanisms which allow users or groups of users to be charged for their usage of copy- righted materials..." High Performance Computing Act of 1991.t.1,s.102,c,6.) in Part 2: Preservation and a comprehensive approach at Columbia Law, Quarterman, and, "Conclusions?". *** November 15, 1992 FYI France : :Europe, at least, discovers the users -- Part 2 of 2 by Jack Kessler firstname.lastname@example.org _________________________ This is the second of two parts of a report on the "Network Services Conference" held at Pisa, Italy, November 2-4: a first effort, in Europe or elsewhere, to address "the users" as a formal part of networked information. A Comprehensive Approach at Columbia Law Willem Scholten presented Project Janus, Columbia University law library's effort to, 1) avoid microforms, 2) bring the library to the user (Manhattan presents critical space problems), and, 3) adapt to changing patterns of information distribution. The project involves participation by Thinking Machines Corp., the university's main and health sciences libraries, the law library, and the United Nations library human rights collection. One critical goal was preservation of the law library's unique and rapidly-deteriorating collections of Nuremberg trial (375,000 double-sided pages) and Rosenberg trial (250,000 double-sided pages) documents. Their solution uses a special "XWAIS", a highly-customized version of the publicly- available WAIS tool, digitization with ocr, optical and magnetic tape, and Z39.50 and ISO's SR/1, two "Sun Sparc workstation networks", a "Xerox Docutech 7000 scanner and ocr system", and a "CM2-32K Thinking Machines parallel processing super-computer": all the latest stuff. Many hands have been in on the project: the law school publishes 13 legal periodicals, for example, and the goal of getting such publishing costs back in-house is being approached through SGML and e-publishing on the system. The reference desk is interested in information which has time value and takes too long to get into print: the system loaded the North American Free Trade Agreement recently and at last count was getting 200-250 "hits" per day on that resource, and similar figures have been achieved for online versions of the Maastricht Treaty and the papers of the Rio Conference on the Environment. One other library dream, of loading fulltext direct from commercial publishers, also at least is under discussion with Simon & Schuster: user licences for the library, based on a flat fee with royalties for downloading. Closing: John "Matrix" Quarterman -- the Global view John Quarterman began his conference-closing keynote address with the warning that he wouldn't make predictions -- "my crystal ball's kinda cloudy", he said -- and then proceeded to make them. He has put together a wonderfully-interesting series of maps, all using data taken from various domain-name registries and servers, showing where all the network use is taking place in the world (surprising activity patterns in Iceland, Australia, Moscow, Hong Kong), and suggesting a continuing rate of usage growth so phenomenal as to be catastrophic for both the networks and librarians. It seems still that only Quarterman, despite his good influence exerted since the 1988 publication of his book, "The Matrix", has the breadth of vision, and the patience, to look at all the world's information networks -- Internet, EARN, BITNET, etc. -- as a whole. Conclusions? 1 -- the impending invasion of the commercial market The real problem, lurking behind most of the conference talk, is what to do about the impending invasion of the commercial market. The commercial publishers are poised to plunge into the little world of academic networking, we heard again and again. Quarterman showed us a fascinating map, on which the portion of world network use devoted to "purely academic" activity -- which represented ALL network use a short time ago -- now is small and is shrinking rapidly: "academic use" will become an insignificant part of networking as a whole, shortly, he asserted. Conclusions? 2 -- the "academic model will not scale" The problem, then, acknowledged again and again by US and non- US attendees, is that "the academic model will not scale": as network use grows, the tools and structures and carefully-developed "standards" -- think of MARC, SGML, ftp, telnet, opac user interfaces, even ASCII -- will not satisfy a non-academic, international, user public: a despairing conclusion -- one which left several librarian-users in the audience feeling a little abandoned. "Information overload" then, inevitably, was debated: several people felt that a bad network situation in this respect is about to get much, much, worse. Conclusions? 3 -- "the academic model had BETTER scale" Some braver souls, though, insisted that private industry will need some standards as well: if not necessarily for sharing information easily as an altruistic goal, as the academic world wants, then at least for ensuring the compatibility of its own hardware, software, and services with a particular marketing structure: IBM products and services talking to each other, Siemens' doing the same, all the components of a local or wide-are network -- serving fulltext newspapers to northern California, Shakespeare to the entire Ivy League, or Montaigne (or Simenon) to Touraine -- able to communicate among themselves. Private industry will have to start somewhere in all this, and that beginning may well be made with at least some of the elaborate tools and standards which have been assembled by the careful academic community today. Such, at least, is the hope. Conclusions? 4 -- the Atlantic is a very wide pond It was very interesting for this American to note the fundamental difference between the US and the European approaches on the standards point. Much good work on standards is being done on both sides of the Atlantic. But the intense preoccupation with standards and consensus-building in general is markedly different in Europe than it is in the US. Great levels of bureaucracy, much tedious negotiation, and great levels of frustration, all are devoted to accomplishing the smallest point of agreement in Europe, ruled constantly by the conviction that without some sort of "top-down" agreement, no "bottom-up" effort will succeed. Not that bureaucracy and haggling don't take place in the US context but there seems to be more in Europe, and it's much more intense, and deemed to be much more necessary. Law students everywhere learn that Anglo-American law may be built piecemeal, upon the "Common Law", and upon individual cases, while Continental law is a seamless web of "codes", which are thought to cover all conceivable instances. There is this same longing for "codification" in European networking standards work: piecemeal, such as has characterized the evolution of the Internet, will not do in Europe -- they need "top-down" codes and standards, before they can proceed rather than after -- a major difference from the US approach. Conference chair Jennings mused about this, pointedly, to the several US attendees and speakers: "You must remember that you are one, gigantic, country, while we are by comparison a very large, but still very disunited, collection of very small countries." It is interesting to consider whether the US or the European "consensus-model" will more readily "scale up" to the rapidly-evolving world information Matrix. "Information Overload" "Network Services '92", then, came to the conclusion that it may well become impossible to service the networks during the next few years: too many, too much, understood and aided by too few. The glass which appears half empty, however, also is half full. There will be many more users and many more things to do. Conference chair Jennings also pointed out, however, that the evolution of the telephone was aided by a paradigm shift: fears early in this century that there never would be enough telephone operators were answered by the users becoming the operators themselves. Just so, Jennings insists, a paradigm shift will occur in networked information. The bottlenecks which exist today -- of costs and hardware capacities and user training and clumsy interfaces -- may be resolved ultimately by similar shifts: "transparent" interfaces, "invisible" technologies, "paperless" libraries, "hypertext" organization and access -- it's hard to tell what from here, but something. A Role for Librarians -- the librarian's glass may be half full One final optimistic note sounded by the conference left the librarians in the audience feeling smug. Already, no one can FIND anything on the "nets", and it seems that this problem is not going away: it seems, in fact, that the entry of the commercial market is about to make the "navigating" problem much, much, worse. Navigating through information resources is what librarians do: it's what we've done for centuries. It is nice to feel needed: it's reassuring to discover how badly we're going to be needed by the information network users in Europe and elsewhere during the next few years. Italy, and Europe An American can't attend a conference in Pisa without noting that the leaning tower still is leaning -- more, these days -- and that the streets of nearby Florence have suffered a discernible increase in their level of dirt since the '60s. The hotel we were in could lose four of its three stars easily. Still, there's never been an era in its history when Italy hasn't been described by foreigners in terms of its dust and its noise and its chaos: capable of great heights and great depths, like any other human hive. And still, as an American, it's hard to get used to the idea that you can walk down a dark, deserted urban street at night without incredible fear. There are many US-European differences, among them differences in approaches to networked information. Any US reader of this is highly recommended to take a look at what is happening in information networks on the European side: they are looking at users, they are more concerned -- perhaps wisely, perhaps not effectively, so -- with standards, and they sponsor conferences which feature good food, good parties, and Bach in the Pisa Duomo. *** ISSN 1071 - 5916 end XXX FYI France (sm)(tm) e - newsletter ISSN 1071 - 5916 * | FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic newsletter, | published since 1992 as a small - scale, personal, | experiment, in the creation of large - scale | "information overload", by Jack Kessler. Any material / \ written by me which appears in FYI France may be ----- copied and used by anyone for any good purpose, so // \\ long as, a) they give me credit and show my e - mail --------- address and, b) it isn't going to make them money: if // \\ if it is going to make them money, they must get my permission in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their permission. FYI France archives are at http://infolib.berkeley.edu (search for FYIFrance), or via gopher to infolib.berkeley.edu 72 (path: 3. Electronic Journals (Library-Oriented)/ 6. FYIFrance/ , or http://www.univ-rennes1.fr/LISTESemail@example.com/ (BIBLIO-FR econference archive), or via telnet to a.cni.org , login brsuser (PACS / PACS-L econference archive), or at http://www.fyifrance.com . Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison - pen letters all will be gratefully received at firstname.lastname@example.org . Copyright 1992- by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved.
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