An Electronic WBG?

Leon Avery leon at EATWORMS.SWMED.EDU
Tue Aug 2 14:34:31 EST 1994


As a result of a conversation with David States (Institute for
Biomedical Computing, Wash U), I've been thinking about the
possibility of an electronic WBG.  My conclusion is that it's not
practical yet, but it might be in a few years.  I would like to hear
reactions to these ideas.

Distribution: 

    How do we get an electronic Gazette out to everyone?  One
    possibility is diskettes.  I don't think the CGC could make a
    thousand copies of a diskette, but I'm guessing that there are
    companies that will do this for a price.  (Anyone know if I'm
    right?)  A second possibility is via the Internet.  The CGC would
    put the Gazette on their server, and people would read it by
    gopher or WWW, or download the whole thing by FTP.  A third
    possibility is by e-mail.  To allow for text formatting and
    graphics, the Gazette would have to be encoded (for instance
    stuffit and binhex for Mac users, or tar, gzip, and uuencode for
    Unix), then the recipient would have to unpack the e-mail message.
    In a few years MIME might be sufficiently widespread to replace
    that awkwardness.

    I don't think any one of these will reach everyone who wants a
    Gazette subscription.  Perhaps the best way to start would be with
    options 1 and 2: publish on the Internet (that's easy, and anyway,
    it's one of the main reasons for wanting an electronic Gazette),
    and have diskette subscriptions for people with poor Internet
    connectivity.

Publication Format:

    The most universal format is straight ASCII text.  But without
    text formatting and without graphics, the electronic Gazette would
    be so drastically inferior to the paper version that no one would
    agree to it.  (I wouldn't, anyway.)

    We need a format that allows graphics and text formatting, but
    that everyone can produce and everyone can read.  There's only one
    that I can think of: HTML, the format used for WWW documents.  A
    program to read it, mosaic, is free and comes in Mac,
    IBM-compatible, and Unix versions.  Its formatting capabilities
    are good enough for WBG abstracts.  The problem is that almost no
    one writes documents in HTML.  The answer is that there are free
    converters available for translating output from any common word
    processor into HTML.

    I'm sure there are some Word Perfect and some MS Word users out
    there who are going to insist that everyone in the world has their
    favorite program and loves it.  It just ain't so, folks.  They
    cost money and there's not one that everyone likes.

Submission Format:

    Although I favor HTML as the format for publication, I'm not so
    dumb as to think we could get the worm community to convert
    everything to HTML before sending it in.  So, we have to allow
    people to submit files created by their favorite word processors,
    and then the CGC would have to do the conversion.  Messy.  I can't
    think of a good solution to this one. 

Submission:

    People could submit by e-mail, FTP, or on diskette.  Then the CGC
    would have to mung all the files into one place before conversion.
    Basically the same problem as submission format: a lot of
    complicated work for the CGC, with a little fewer possibilities
    for things to go wrong.

It appears to me that to produce an electronic Gazette, we need
someone at the CGC who knows computers and is paid to put a lot of
time into producing each issue.  A lot MORE time, that is, than is put
into producing each issue now.

Leon Avery					   (214) 648-2420 (office)
Department of Biochemistry			            -2768 (lab)
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center             -8856 (fax)
5323 Harry Hines Blvd				   leon at eatworms.swmed.edu
Dallas, TX  75235-9038




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