Editorial Introduction to Issue 23: Ariadne's Thread
Readers of this issue may have arrived expecting to read an article on the forthcoming DNER service; an article which was heavily trailed in issue 22. My apologies to you if you are among them. However, the pace of development of the DNER over the past few months has been so great that we decided, late in the editorial process, to postpone the publication of an article on the subject until issue 24. This is also in the interests of accuracy and detail.
In the editorial for issue 22 I mentioned that the DNER, which is to be launched during the next academic year, has as its ultimate goal (to be implemented in stages) the provision of customisable interfaces for individual users, so that they will always have easy and quick access to the resources they need most frequently. The article will address the question of what such an access 'portal' might actually look like in the context of the DNER.
The lead article for this issue is Matthew Dovey's 'So you want to build a Union Catalogue?' It used to be the case that, if a group of libraries wished to offer a single online catalogue to their collections, they had to adopt a physical union catalogue model, i.e. they would have placed their catalogue records into a single searchable database. More recently there has been much work in virtual union catalogues, whereby the user interface offers integrated access to a multiple number of catalogues as if it were a single catalogue. Neither of these approaches is a panacea, however – both have certain pros and cons, which makes the decision of which to adopt, dependent on circumstances. Matthew is one of the few people who can give an intelligible presentation on Z39.50 using less than 72 powerpoint slides, and is the technical specialist for the Music Libraries Online project (which uses the Z39.50 protocol. It uses Z39.50 because it allows cross-searching of remote databases of bibliographic information). His article gives a theoretical overview of the issues involved.
We have two articles on the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary: one from Juliet New, who is involved in the project, and a user review by Peter Cliff (of UKOLN and the RDN).The online version was launched successfully on the 14th of March. So far the main downside to its availability is the staggering cost for individual users. Hundreds of pounds of annual subscription seems a bit over the odds, and the general view seems to be that they might get millions of individual takers if they charged something more like ten or twenty pounds for the privilege of individual access. We have no idea how they worked out the economics of the online versions availability, but surely there has to be another model. Imagine the success or otherwise of Amazon, if you had to pay a standing charge of 400 dollars before you could access their databases and buy things.
John Kirriemuir (former editor of Ariadne) has contributed an interesting article on the convergence of games consoles and other information access systems, which contains as an introduction a good overview of the history of games consoles since the early 1970s. The article contains the astonishing statistic that one in four households in the UK owns a Sony Playstation. Given the nature of current developments therefore, it could be that in a very short time most Internet access in the UK may occur via a games console, rather than the traditional PC.
Peter Stubley gives his current view of the CLUMPs projects with the benefit of a large helping of historical perspective. This is based on the remarks he gave in his closing address to the CLUMPs conference in Goldsmiths College, London on the 3rd of March. A report on the conference, with photographs, has been provided by Ariadne and is available in the At the Event section of the magazine. Paul Miller reports on the latest MODELS workshop (now up to number 11 in the series). I have followed my 'Tiny TV' article in issue 22 with another on Broadband video streams available on the Web (ranging from 56kilobits per second up to 420kbs). It covers only a part of what is available, given the enormous speed of change in the world of streaming video, but it contains a number of interesting sites, particularly for those interested in foreign news broadcasting, and educational resources. Stuart Peters writes about EPRESS text management software tools, which are designed to streamline publication of electronic documents on the web. The final article in the Main Articles section is by Eddie Young, who spent Christmas day 1999 wiring up a computer in Honduras, in a wooden house on stilts. The article contains some of the thoughts provoked by the experience of connecting a remote community to the World Wide Web.
This issue also contains the usual Regular Columns section, and the Get Tooled Up section. This month the latter section contains two articles by Brian Kelly: one on the use of third party web services; and the other is a survey of links to UK university web sites. The Odds and Ends section (which I'm thinking of renaming 'Review' shortly), contains the usual cartoon, the caption competition, plus two book reviews, as well as access to the old Checkout Archive.
Enjoy Ariadne issue 23.
Editor of Ariadne