End User's Corner - January 1998

Jack SolockFrom The Internet Scout Project Year in Review

1997--A Year of Growth and Development

Jack Solock, Special Librarian

January 1998

The year 1997 was a blur of growth and development for the Internet Scout Project (http://scout.cs.wisc.edu). In May of 1997, the Project received three years of continued funding from the National Science Foundation. This funding was obtained to support continued and new work in networked information discovery for the US higher education community, including new current awareness and selective dissemination of information (SDI) services, disciplined classification of networked resources, and research into new methods of resource discovery and delivery.

A few numbers effectively demonstrate the Internet Scout Project's growth over the past year. At the beginning of 1997, the project had seven full time employees, one student worker, seven computers, and was housed in four rooms in the Computer Science Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At the beginning of 1998, the project has ten full time employees, five student workers, 24 computers, and is housed in ten rooms of the Computer Science Department.

At the beginning of 1997, the project consisted of three publications, The Scout Report (http://scout.cs.wisc.edu/scout/report/), Net-Happenings (http://scout.cs.wisc.edu/scout/caservices/net-hap/), and KIDS (Kids Identifying and Discovering Sites) (http://scout.cs.wisc.edu/scout/KIDS/). At the beginning of 1998, the project supports six publications, the above three and Scout Reports for Science and Engineering (http://scout.cs.wisc.edu/scout/report/sci-engr/), Business and Economics (http://scout.cs.wisc.edu/scout/report/bus-econ/), and Social Sciences (http://scout.cs.wisc.edu/scout/report/socsci/).

At the beginning of 1997, the project supported one Web-based service, the Scout Toolkit (http://scout.cs.wisc.edu/scout/toolkit/). At the beginning of 1998, the Project supports two Web-based services, the Toolkit, and a Library of Congress Classification scheme of organization for Scout Report annotations that we call Signpost (http://www.signpost.org).

At present, the Project uses email as its preferred method of delivery, although all of its services are available via the Web, and selected services are also available via other access protocols such as gopher and FTP. In this way, it attempts to make its services available to as many users as possible.

As 1998 begins, the Scout Report, the Project's flagship publication, has almost 41,000 direct subscribers, and parts or all of it are seen by well over 100,000 people per week. Net-Happenings has just under 9,000 subscribers, and KIDS just under 800. The three new Subject-specific Scout Reports, in publication since mid September of 1997, have slightly under 8,000 total subscribers. Scout publications and services receive over 4,500 page views per day on the Web sites. The project publishes three reports per week.

Signpost, the cataloging and classification arm of the Project, has, since its opening in June of 1997, made 3,300 Scout Report annotations dating back to 1994 available via its quick search index. In addition, as 1998 begins, over 1,300 annotations are available via the advanced search mechanism. These records have been fully cataloged according to Library of Congress classification. Approximately 40-50 annotations per week are fully catalogued, and 60-70 annotations are added to the quick search index.

The Project continues its main task of filtering and presenting the best of new and newly discovered research and education related sites in a timely fashion to the community. As the Internet continues its exponential growth, this function becomes more and more important. It is our philosophy that the educator's time should be spent using the Internet, not searching it. To that end, we intend to continue to improve in the discovery, delivery, and classification of useful Internet resources in 1998.

One of the ways we will do that is through the continuation of our new current awareness services. By teaming the understanding of information that librarians have with the subject knowledge that subject specialists have, we feel that a more in-depth and targeted current awareness service can be presented to the community. To that end, our Subject-specific Scout Reports have been established. They are intended not only as site review publications, but also as guides to network current awareness in such areas as literature, data, publications, employment and funding opportunities, and conferences and meetings. These reports are but the first step in an attempt at targeted, timely, specific information delivery.

Staff from the research side of the project are investigating current technologies, such as "push," and making plans for research into new technologies, such as searching over geographically distributed information sources. The research project, code-named Isaac, will use Signpost as the cornerstone of a testbed composed of highly selective information sources on the Web, such as those now being built by libraries and academic institutions all over the world. The goal is to provide end-users with a single interface to search multiple collections, while leaving the collections and the metadata about their resources near the owners of the collections, rather than constantly gathering data about the resources into a centralized index, such as is done by the current search engines on the Internet.

Isaac will build on the original work done by the Internet Scout Project related to the formal cataloging of Internet resources. The project will also investigate and build on previous work related to metadata, shared indexes, and distributed directory service protocols.

For example, the ROADS project (http://www.ilrt.bris.ac.uk/roads/) in the United Kingdom has built an experimental service using early implementation of the Whois++ protocol that allows cross-searching between some of the highly-developed collections within the eLIB (http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/services/elib/) Project, such as EEVL (http://www.eevl.ac.uk/), SOSIG (http://sosig.ac.uk/), Biz/ed (http://www.bizednet.bris.ac.uk:8080/), OMNI (http://omni.ac.uk/), and ADAM (http://www.adam.ac.uk/). The Internet Scout Project has begun investigating the possibility of a collaboration with the ROADS project.

The Internet Scout Project passed several milestones in 1997. Net-Happenings, one of, if not the oldest publication of its type, celebrated its fourth birthday in May. Gleason Sackman, who we like to call the human computer, has made one slight concession to his being a person and not a computer. He now posts network related announcements only five days a week rather than seven, but on those days, subscribers can still expect to receive 50 to 70 messages a day, meaning that since its inception, he has sent about 90,000 announcements to the community.

The Scout Report celebrated its third birthday in May as well. By the end of 1997, 165 reports had been delivered, and with the production of the new Subject-specific reports, the Project averages 70 to 80 site and current awareness annotations per week.

The KIDS report also celebrated a birthday in May, its first. So far, fifteen issues have been published in this collaborative effort between K-12 schools in Madison, Wisconsin and Nederland & Boulder, Colorado.

The Project looks forward to 1998 as another busy year of research and information delivery in its efforts to continue the process of network resource discovery.

InterNIC News

This article originally appeared as part of the End User's Corner, a featured column of InterNIC News, which was published monthly by Network Solutions, Inc. and InterNIC from May 1996 through March 1998. As of April 1998, End User's Corner will be published by the Internet Scout Project.

Copyright Susan Calcari and the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, 1994-1998. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of the End User's Corner provided the copyright notice and this paragraph is preserved on all copies. The Internet Scout Project provides information about the Internet to the US research and education community under a grant from the National Science Foundation, number NCR-9712140. The Government has certain rights in this material.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Wisconsin - Madison or the National Science Foundation.

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