2.8 User Services Area

USV Area Report

April Marine, USV Area Director, chaired the meeting and presented a brief report on the
status of the Area. The report highlighted the status of pending Internet Drafts and noted
when working groups were meeting that week.

Drafts that were pending were:


Of these, the first and last are in the final stages.


In the absence of anyone from the TERENA ISUS (Information Services and User
Services) Working Group being able to attend IETF in Chicago, April gave a brief update
on TERENA activities, with thanks to email from Peter Valkenburg. Peter is the ISUS
Project Development Officer. Information on TERENA can be found at
http://www.terena.nl/working groups/wg-isus/.

Brief updates were given for the following 4 task forces:

ETINU. This task force is just completing their project on Evaluation and Recommendation
of User Support Toolkits. An interim report can be found at

CHIP. Clearing House for Internet Projects is just getting under way. The goal of this
project is to start a pilot service with information on Internet related projects in the area
of research and education. The original proposal is available at

CHIC-pilot. Cooperative Hierarchical Indexing Coordination. This pilot project brings
together several indexing technologies to run search services across multiple indexing
technologies. A pilot service has been set up at http://www.terena.nl/cgi-bin/chic-search.cgi.
This work also came up in a BOF in Chicago called METAD (MIME Enabled Textually
Accessed Directories).

Guide to Network Resource Tools has been printed as a book by Addison Wesley Longman
(http://www.awl-he.com/titles/08224.html). However, the online version will be kept up
to date and the newest version is always at http://www.terena.nl/gnrt/. Translation rights
to the guide have been handed out for 6 languages. Peter made the point in a separate email
that this Guide may server as a good model for future publications by USV.

Progress of FYI4 Update

Ray Plzak lead a discussion of the work on the FYI4 update. Some of the discussion echoed
previous similar discussions, but volunteers were found to help get a new draft out. They
were Phil Nesser, Amy Tracy Wells, Ed Krol, and Albert Lunde. Their goal is to have a draft
for comment out by mid-October. If there is a substantive draft for discussion in Orlando, April
will consider giving this effort its own meeting slot so they don't have to share USWG. But
that won't be done without a draft. The consensus was basically to start from scratch since
the "new user" audience had substantially changed in the several years since the doc was first
written. The References/Bibliography section will be retained, but those present voted to
eliminate the current Reading List and Glossary sections.

Status of other FYI docs

Phillip J. Nesser volunteered to look at all the FYIs and present an opinion of what should
be done with them. He had recently had cause to look for some material appropriate for
presenting when introducing the Internet and was disappointed to find many of the FYIs
to be on good topics, but out of date. His suggestion is that we move some to Historic,
and update others, notably FYI4. During the discussion, the suggestion was made that
while previously we had FYIs for "new" and "experienced/intermediate" users, that now
we may need more flavors than just two. Phil said he would send a list of docs to the list
with his recommendations of which should move to Historic and which others we might
have to do something else with. (I don't think it is an issue to move FYIs to Historic, but
I will check with the IESG.)

Based on Phil's topic of "what should we do" many people had excellent suggestions for
better ways of presenting information. In the past, USV has tended to do rather large
documents, which are daunting to work on and even more daunting to try to update. One
suggestion was to do shorter, more focused documents which would be quicker to write
and easier to update, if necessary. Phil's topic led nicely to the next one.

Evolving to Dynamic Document Formats

In addition to the "what should we do" question, we also asked "how shall we do it?"
There was very strong support for moving away from sticking strictly to the text RFC
document format, while recognizing that there was also a lot to be gained from retaining
that format in parallel of anything new. RFCs, for example, are readable by everyone
online and are nice hardcopies to give to areas of the world that are in the early stages of
setting up Internet connectivity. However, much of today's audience will not read an online
RFC; they are used to a more Web/HyperText presentation and possibly only have the
attention span for smaller chunks of information. Plus, they like pictures. More to the point,
they really expect pictures these days. So the group wanted to expand our presentation
choices to HTML and possibly PDF; they challenge is how to attain these goals while not
totally abandoning the RFC process; i.e. how to mesh the two objectives. No concrete
answers to that, but new work will definitely face this challenge, starting perhaps with FYI4.

In addition to this narrow question, some ideas were discussed of a broader nature. Among
the suggestions for USV roles was that USWG could be a "standing committee" that would
help IETFers understand some of the ins and outs, not only of the work of the Areas, but of
common questions, like how best to set up a terminal room. We could present tutorials on
the other Areas. USV could be like an archive resource or keep some of the institutional
memory of the IETF. Also we could host a kind of "hot topic" series that was more like
articles or features that did a short topic update of a current idea or trend. Also, that we could
act as a "swat team" to get info together for press releases on breaking issues. Also that we
could publish docs differently, possibly by having a voting mechanism on the Web for
gathering consensus regarding the information presented. There were several creative ideas
and a lot of energy for trying something new.

Project Isaac - Call for Collaboration

Susan Calcari of the Scout Project then spoke of a new Project currently called ISAAC
(but whose name may change), which is a resource discovery tool to search already
established local, quality collections of resources that use metadata to describe their
contents. She explained the architecture of the service and the types of collaborators they
are looking for. Basically, collaborators may join as a collection node, i.e. a site that hosts
a collection and describes it via metadata; or one may join as a "full node" and offer a
gathered index and search interface, as well as (optionally) a resource collection. (The
metadata in question here are things like "author" "title" etc. that may or may not also be
present in the resource itself, but which are presented along with the resource collection in
a format that can be gathered and indexed by the tools the project is using.) Current partners
are SSGFI in Germany and Cornell Law's Insight project. More information can be found
at http://scout.cs.wisc.edu/scout/research/ or email to scout@cs.wisc.edu.

User Services in Developing Countries

Zita Wenzel, wearing her Network Startup Resource Center hat, has done some work in
writing up a guide to administrative procedures of the Internet infrastructure, aimed at
assisting organizations in developing countries to navigate the challenge of getting online.
She basically wished to understand the role of USWG in supporting developing countries
and to know if we could act as a resource in her work in this area. The group mentioned
some efforts along these lines, some of which she was already aware (such as the ISOC
Developing Countries Workshops). Plus, the point was made that some of the FYIs were
of use to all new users, even though we had never really targeted users in developing
countries specifically. At any rate, she was reassured that the group definitely had an interest
in assisting efforts in this area, that the topic fell within the scope of the group, and that
people would be happy to help.

Next Steps and Wrap Up

Finally, we spent some time wrapping up. The action items for each topic were reiterated:

- Ray, Amy, Phil, Ed, Albert: FYI 4 draft by Oct 12
- Phil: list of "historic" FYIs to list soon
- April: check re HTML RFCs and publishing in various formats;
- develop a draft suggestion for how to manage the FYI docs;
- develop a draft of what information needs to be created;
- develop a draft suggestion of steps re how to do the above.