Jill Foster's IETF Trip Report

This is Jill Foster's report from the IETF . I have just formatted it a little and added a few links - TBL.
Jill Foster - Newcastle University, UK

Chairman: RARE WG3 User Support and Information Services Subgroup


The 23rd meeting of the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) took place in San Diego. Apart from the weather, which was very pleasant and enabled coffee breaks and breakfasts to be taken outside in the sunshine, there were two interesting points: My main reasons for attending (thanks to funding from RARE) were to: The following informal report is in note form and deals mainly with the areas of User Support and Networked Information Retrieval. Whilst it is as accurate as I can make it, it is naturally a personal account and may be inaccurate due to lack of background information or misinterpretation of what I heard. Corrections of fact are welcome, but any discussion of items contained here would be best directed to the appropriate mailing lists. This report will be stored on the UK Mailbase Server. To retrieve a copy, email to Mailbase@mailbase.ac.uk with the following command in the body of the message: send rare-wg3-usis ietf.03.92

User Services Working Group


RARE WG3 USIS (User Support and Information Services) members in attendance included myself, Anders Gillner (SUNET) and Tim Berners Lee (CERN). There was no official report made on WG3 USIS activities at this session, although of course mention was made of such activities as appropriate. I had given a fairly full (45 minute) presentation on USIS activities at the last IETF I had attended (in Atlanta in July).


Joyce Reynolds (IETF User Services area coordinator) reported on her visit to the RIPE meeting. RIPE are setting up a user support and information services group. This is chaired by a Hungarian representative, I believe. Joyce had suggested they contact RARE WG3 USIS. In fact I have contacted them, given them information on USIS activities and invited them to RARE WG3 USIS meetings. Anders Gillner and I talked with Daniel Karrenberg (RIPE NCC) about working together in this area.

User-Doc WG:

This group had been revived and were looking at updating the FYI (informational RFC 1175) which was the User Doc Bibliography. They will collect updates to the Bibliography and then reissue the RFC. There was a discussion on whom this was aimed at: new user, technical expert? It was quickly decided that this bibliography was too much for a new user. There was a need for a 2-3 page non-technical summary which described the functionality a new user could expect to get from the Internet as well as a shortened new user bibliography. The answers to "commonly asked questions" (FYI) and the User-Guide "Zen and the Art of the Internet" were mentioned as good material for new users (and therefore for the new user bibliography). The mailing list for this WG is user-doc@merit.edu Peter Deutsch (archie/McGill) promised to mail the group with a newsletter article on using the network. Ellen Hoffmann (Merit) would send the new user bibliog (short list) to us-wg with details on a new mailing list for discussing this.

ISOC training programme:

The ISOC Secretariat are supposed to be doing training for new users on how to connect to the Internet and want a DNS "Cookbook" to help local sites configure their DNS. The meeting felt that "connecting to the Internet" would be better left to the Regionals (where they exist!) as the Regionals already have training programmes and they tailor these to the local situation. The need to have core information in different languages was mentioned.

Connecting to the Internet:

A paper had been drafted on Connecting to the Internet and requires input from RIPE and RARE. A list of addresses of network providers is required. RARE WG3 USIS have just put together a status report on User Support and Information Services in RARE countries. This contains contact details on most European national networks. (This will also be the first ever RARE Technical Report). Once this report is finalised (in the very near future), it will be sent to April Marine.


Other odd points worth mentioning: o NSFnet are to provide funding for discipline related NICs (no further details available). o NIC Solicitation is out. o Farnet are trying to merge 3 good resource guides into one.

NISI WG Session

Network Information Services Infrastructure Working Group. This group is concerned mainly with NIC information and coordination, rather than networked information infrastructure related to resource discovery (search and retrieve etc). This group had produced an FYI RFC and had debated whether to disband or to turn to other topics. A long rather unfocused discussion ensued. The idea of a nethelp command (mentioned at the Atlanta IETF) was suggested again. This could be set up to: o give local helpdesk contact details (as a minimum) o optionally to give more structured help on: - etiquette/guidelines - new user guide - user policy - access information - services - answers to commonly asked questions - list of lists/newsgroups It should be structured so as to answer the questions: who is? what is? where is? how? where? where am I? An on-line tutorial was suggested. Someone suggested that there was a need for a stand alone tutorial so that prospective new users (particularly K-12 school students) could experiment in a controlled environment. Mailing list for group: NISI@merit.edu to join: mail nisi-request@merit.edu A subgroup was formed to discuss producing a list of services etc. (Information Services, mailing lists etc.) and to draw up a wish list of information provider tools. Another subgroup was to work on the nethelp requirements. There were no details on a mailing list for this discussion.

USAC: User Services Area Council

Joyce Reynolds had set this up. I am afraid that I am still unclear as to its role and membership! I believe one aim is to help coordinate user services activities on an international level by providing a small forum for discussions. There was some discussion on "Global Information and Directory Servers" - but nothing that was not repeated (and reported) in later sections. The needs of East Central Europe for information on user support and information services were reported. I mentioned the various European initiatives to help East Central Europe. The need for liaison between the Coalition for Networked Information, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the IETF was noted. ISOC have just issued their first newsletter. There is a User Services Area Section in each edition (approx. 450 words) and the possibility of a longer feature article.

User Glossary Working Group

The Glossary was 154 pages long! It contained several duplicate/alternative definitions. Two sessions reduced the number of items substantially. It was felt that such a glossary was too long for a new user. A subset of the glossary should be made available for these.

MIME (Multi media mail)

The problems of mapping between MIME and X.400 were discussed. Two documents had appeared just before the IETF which presented different solutions. The problem of encapsulation versus mapping was discussed. There is a need to map between X.400 (88) body parts and MIME. It was agreed that a small core set should be mapped by a gateway and the others should be tunneled.

ROAD (Routing and Addressing WG)

Peter Ford reported at a Plenary Session on the problems of dealing with scaling and the rapid growth of the Internet. Class B addresses may well be exhausted in the not too distant future. There is a need for better routing and architecture and input is required from all parties (including the Intercontinental Engineering Planning Group, CCIRN etc). There will be a draft document made available soon for discussion. Phil Gross continued the session and talked about CIDR - Classless InterDomain Routing; the need to plan the usage and assignment of the remaining IP addresses; that addresses should be assigned with regard to the routing topology; interdomain routing protocols will aggregate network numbers along topological assignments etc.

Automatic Mailing List Server WG

This group met in Atlanta and tried to define a baseline user interface. WG list: ietf-listserv@utdallas.edu (ietf-listserv-request@utdallas.edu for new membership requests) Following the WG meeting, discussion failed to focus on Phase 1 issues and ranged around the longer term more controversial (more interesting?) issues. Discussion rapidly got off track and the list and group became unproductive. The group currently has no chairman - but we still have a list. There was no meeting either at the Santa Fe or San Diego IETF meetings. There are currently a couple of people considering taking up the chairmanship of this group. So I hope to hear some news on this front soon.

Networked Information Retrieval

This was discussed in the following groups: IAFA (Internet Anonymous FTP archives), Living Documents BOF and WAIS/X.500 BOF. Each and every network user has the possibility of publishing information widely on the network. As the Internet grows rapidly, the problems of resource discovery and networked information search and retrieval increase daily. Several groups have (initially) independently tried to tackle some of the problems. One of the major attractions of this IETF (from my point of view) was that many of the major players in the NIR arena would be in attendance and that two BOFs (Living Documents and X.500/WAIS) were being held to discuss various aspects of NIR. The groups concerned included: Archie people: Peter Deutsch and Alan Emtage World Wide Web: Tim Berners-Lee Prospero: Cliff Neuman Gopher people X.500 group: Steve Kille, Paul Barker, Wengijk Yeong as well as representatives from CNI architectures group: Clifford Lynch Leading up to the BOFs there were several informal sessions over lunch and dinner and in the terminal room.

Living Documents BOF

See minutes The Living Documents BOF was originally intended to address the problem of managing documents that are continually updated (such as the NOC-tools RFC, the user-bibliography, user-glossary etc). However it developed (as expected) into a wide ranging discussion and brain storming session on the problems of resource discovery and information retrieval. There had been long discussions on a number of mailing lists leading up to the IETF. Peter Deutsch had proposed a UDSN (Universal Document Serial Number) which should be the equivalent of the ISBN for books. This would be a contents ID or fingerprint and would enable several instances of the same information to be recognised as being equivalent. There was discussion on what constituted equivalence rather than a derived work. Were postscript and ascii versions of the same file equivalent? (Most thought yes). But what if the postscript versions contained diagrams or graphics not in the ascii version. (What if it was translated into another language? etc.....) For each "document" there was a need for: o Catalogue information (Title, author, creation date etc.) o Location and access information Also required: o USDN o UDI (Universal Document Identifier (See later)) o Authentication and access control o Version control o Editorial control o Discovery mechanisms o Ability for information providers to publish/ announce items/document One possible USDN would be a MARC record, however there are several standards here (US (several) UK ...etc.) Clifford Lynch (CNI architectures group) felt that use of MARC was not really appropriate here in any case. Amongst other problems discussed was the need to refer to bits of documents. However this discussion was shelved as the problem of dealing with complete documents should be addressed first. There is a real need for librarians to bring their expertise to these issues. The Coalition of Networked Information (CNI) is working on doing just that. There is a short term need to be able to determine whether two documents are the same (UDSN) and the need to have a top level globally unique name to refer to one instance of a document (UDI). It was agreed to set up an nir discussion list nir@cc.mcgill.ca to discuss these issues further.

IAFA: Internet Anonymous File Archives Working Group

See minutes .

A document had appeared shortly before the IETF. Briefly it detailed how information about the files in a public file archive could be made available. The current problem is that tools such as Archie are not able to discover automatically detailed information about a file (apart from its name). The proposal is to have information about the file archive and a "file catalogue card" containing various attributes of the file (including keywords and a description or abstract) available as a separate file either in the same directory as the file or in a shadow directory. The various attributes to be included on this catalogue card were discussed and the paper will be updated in the light of this.

I mentioned the Draft RFC from the OSI-DS WG on "Representing Public Archives in the Directory", and recommended that the attributes required for registration in the directory should be included in the IAFA Archive description file. I suggested the idea of a Quality of Service attribute. Some Services have a high availability and are run by professionals, other archives are run on a best endeavour basis by volunteers. A further suggestion was the need to be able to register logical archives. That is separate archives that happen to reside on the same machine.


This is decribed at some length separately .

Concluding Remarks

So all in all a very worthwhile meeting. The problems of NIR have been aired. The various players in the field have been made aware (if they were not) of the work of the others. Some plans for practical collaboration have already been formed.

These issues will be discussed further at the Joint European Networking Conference in May, RARE WG3 USIS meetings, future IETF meetings and of course on the various mailing lists.

Further links have also been made between the IETF User Services Area people and RARE WG3 USIS members, which will enhance collaboration.

Finally, a reminder that these notes are my view of the IETF. They may not be an accurate view, and certainly do not cover the wide range of topics discussed at the workshop.

Jill Foster