Ideas for improving network use

This section outlines a number of ideas for software, instruction, management, etc. for access to networked information services. The ideas assume an academic environment, for example a single faculty.

Set up a networked information experts group

A few individuals (3 to 6) should come together to form an experts group on networked information services. Their task would be to keep each other informed of developments that affects their department or faculty. They do not have any responsibility nor a plan to execute; they should simply keep an eye on developments inside and outside their own group and give (unasked for) advice. They could help to setup instruction courses, some of the members could even teach such courses, but not on behalf of the group.

The group could try to suggest and advise on a uniform information system throughout the faculty, taking into account the different needs of users and the variations in hardware. People that need a specific service or that want to publish information themselves should try to cooperate with the experts group, so that their information services can be intergrated and find as wide an audience as possible

The experts group could also double as the
`FSC' (Faculty Standards Committee) that is described in the proposal.

Uniform bibliographic software

Different wordprocessors offer different ways of dealing with bibliographic data. Since this data is so important in academic resarch, special consideration should be given to this problem. On the one side there is the large catalogue of the university library (or libraries), on the other side there are the personal bibliographic databases of individual people. Since it is difficult to use the library catalogue directly as a source of bibliographic data for inclusion in a document, many people have set up their own databases.

It will be difficult to modify the library catalogue, but it should be possible to standardize on a common database format among small groups of people involved in similar work. The solution could consist of a specialized (WWW) server that manages a database of references. Users could use their normal WWW client to browse this server when looking for interesting references, or when submitting new data. In addition, there should be specialized, non-interactive clients that resolve citations in documents by querying the same server.

For example, users of LaTeX could use a version of BibTeX that does not read from BibTeX databases, but that queries the server for data corresponding to certain cite keys.

For other wordprocessors and formatters there would need to be specialized clients as well. Most of these clients are fairly simple, at least under Unix. The HTTP code is common to them all, only the format of the input (LaTeX .aux files, WordPerfect documents, files tagged according to TEI) and the format of the output may be different. The output would be a LaTeX .bbl file, a WordPerfect document, or even a Refer-style bibliography. Software like this could be made by students.


In the commercial world, the fax machine has gained widespread popularity. It is an easy and relatively fast way of sending information that includes text and graphics. Compared to E-mail, it has clear advantages and disadvantages.

Some of the advantages of the fax can be added to E-mail, if people are given easier access to scanners or still cameras. If there were a scanner (and appropriate software) for every handful of users, E-mail could be much more useful still. A good average could be one device in every other room, or even in every room.

Other stuff

This section contains some interesting applications of hypermedia. There are many other services that can illustrate the power of, in particular, WWW, but the following four should suffice.

Rank Xerox offers the Xerox PARC PubWeb Server an interactive map display program. Users make contact with the server using a WWW browser and enter coordinates and other commands, the result of which is a map of some area of the world. All this can, of course, best be done with a mouse.

GNN Magazine is an electronic magazine, published on WWW by O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. Apart from editorial sections, it also includes advertisements.

A concise, yet clear introduction to the WWW is Kevin Hughes' Entering the World-Wide Web: A Guide to Cyberspace

At the university of Passau (Germany), Andreas Gehmeyr and others have prepared a hypermedia version of a tour through Passau in the Nazi time. There is also other historical material about Passau available.

Jeff Barry and Frans van Hoesel have collected links to a number of on-line exhibitions, including some with spoken descriptions, into a `virtual museum park,' called the EXPO. There is a `ticket office,' a car park, a bus service, even a museum shop, that sells books and offers free leaflets (``the supply is unlimited'').