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[alt.hypertext] Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ list)

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Archive-name: hypertext-faq
Posting-Frequency: every two weeks
Last-modified: 21 March 2006 (previous was 07 May 2004)
Created: 2 February 1997 by J. Blustein
Maintainer: J. Blustein <>
Copyright: (c) 1997-2006 Jamie Blustein, all rights reserved. See part C of question 6.1 for details.

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
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  This document is my personal attempt to answer some of the most
frequently asked questions in alt.hypertext and provide some necessary
background.  Although I am solely responsible for its content I've tried to
keep it close to what I think of as the consensus view on all the topics I
discuss.  I welcome all constructive criticism (and compliments).  Please
send them by e-mail to <>.  Do not send me junk mail!

Subject: Document format Each question begins with `Subject:' on a line of its own. If you have a suitably equipped newsreader then you can automatically skip to the start of the next section, e.g. trn will display the start of the section when you press ^G (control-G). Of course if your newsreader won't do that automatically, you can still use a search command to find the next question: For example, to find the answer to question X.Y (where X and Y are numbers) search for a line beginning with `Subject: QX.Y)', there will be only one. The character sequence `QX.Y)' appears only in the table of contents and at the beginning of question X.Y. Recently updated questions are marked with a `*' at the beginning of the line in the table of contents. An HTML document, based on this plain text list, is at <URL:>. To find out what other versions of this document there are see question 6.1.
Subject: Table of Contents A `*' at the beginning of a line in the table of contents marks a recently updated question. See question 6.4 for a list of recent updates. About The alt.hypertext Newsgroup Q1.1) What is alt.hypertext about? Q1.2) Is it okay to post about new hypertext software, titles, etc. here? Software, Literature, Conference Announcements Q1.3) Is there an archive of alt.hypertext postings? Q1.4) Where are collections of postings about specific topics? * Link types Hypertext In General Q2.1) What are hypertext and hypermedia? How do they differ? Q2.2) What are some historical milestones about hypertext? Q2.3) What conferences are there about hypertext? Hypertext Models Q3.1) What hypertext systems I can read about online? Hyper-G, Microcosm, Storyspace, Webthing, World Wide Web, Xanadu Q3.2) Are there any hypertext standards? References to other electronic resources Q4.1) About hypertext/hypermedia Q4.2) About electronic publications Q4.3) About human-computer interaction I've fallen in with the wrong crowd. Please help me out. Q5.1) Help! I'm new to this whole Usenet/'net thing Q5.2) I just want to know about WWW/HTML. Where should I go? Q5.3) Gosh, this group is noisy. Are there any mailing lists? Hyper-theory, ht_lit, EJournal/EJRNL About this document Q6.1) Where can I get a copy? (and some legal niceties) Author/Owner, Versions/Availability, Distribution rights * Q6.2) Future plans Q6.3) Acknowledgments Thanks, Citations for quotations * Q6.4) Recent changes ---------------------------------------------------------------------- ** Section 1: About The alt.hypertext Newsgroup ** Subject: Q1.1) What is alt.hypertext about? alt.hypertext is a Usenet newsgroup intended to support discussion of, and dissemination of information about hypertext and hypermedia. alt.hypertext is not a suitable forum for discussion of WWW-specific issues. If you would like more information about what a Usenet newsgroup is then you should read question 5.1. If you are looking for information about the World Wide Web (WWW) or its associated hypertext markup languages (HTML, XHTML, etc.) then you should read question 5.2. The answer to question 2.1 defines hypertext and hypermedia.
Subject: Q1.2) Is it okay to post about new hypertext software, titles, etc. here? A. New software Announcements about new hypertext products are welcome in alt.hypertext. If hypertext is only a minor part of the product then please consider setting the Follow-up header to point elsewhere. If you are unfamiliar with that way of working then we'd all benefit from you reading some of the postings in the news.announce.newusers newsgroup. B. New hypertext literature (fiction and non-fiction) Announcements and discussion of works in hypertext and about hypertext are both appropriate in alt.hypertext. C. Conference announcements Many conferences have some hypertext components. If you have a conference announcement that you think will be of interest to the hypertext/hypermedia community then please post a copy of it to alt.hypertext. The news.announce.conferences group is another good place for such postings. Question 2.3 is about conferences related to hypertext.
Subject: Q1.3) Is there an archive of alt.hypertext postings? I know of no publicly accessible archive of alt.hypertext postings. But there are some small collections of postings about specific topics. They are listed in question 1.4. If there was an alt.hypertext archive then I'd expect to be able to find it in Cameron Laird's List of Usenet Archives at <URL:http://> or Kevin Atkinson's Usenet Info Center at <URL: home.html>. To find old postings and discussions you could use a search engine, such as Deja News <URL:> or Alta Vista <URL:;what=news>. You might also find something at Infinite Ink's Finding News Groups (use <URL:> or <URL:http://www.>) or Yahoo! <URL: com/text/News/Usenet/> helpful. Cameron Laird provides more suggestions in his above mentioned List. If anyone wants to create an archive, please tell me.
Subject: Q1.4) Where are collections of postings about specific topics? So far I only know of collections of postings about link types. If you know of anymore then please tell me so that it may also be included here. Question 4.1 lists some online hypertext resources, not just postings that appeared in alt.hypertext. A. Link Types (What they are and how many are enough) Thomas Trickel has compiled and edited a discussion of link types from 1993 in various hypertext systems into <URL: thomas/hypertext/usentlnk.htm>. He has also written a short related essay about link properties at <URL: thomas/hypertext/linkprop.htm>. J. Blustein also has a summary of the discussion at <URL: LinkTypes/alt.hypertext-link.type-summary.html>. [These links were verified on 2006-03-21, 21 March 2006] ---------------------------------------------------------------------- ** Section 2: Hypertext In General ** Subject: Q2.1) What are hypertext and hypermedia? How do they differ? The OED Additions Series defines hypertext as Text which does not form a single sequence and which may be read in various orders; specially text and graphics ... which are interconnected in such a way that a reader of the material (as displayed at a computer terminal, etc.) can discontinue reading one document at certain points in order to consult other related matter. [See Q6.3 for complete citation] Theodore `Ted' Nelson, who first coined the terms hypertext and hypermedia, wrote in _Literary Machines_ that `As popularly conceived, [hypertext] is a series of text chunks connected by links which offer the reader different pathways.' Neither hypertext nor hypermedia require the use of links. Hypermedia is similar to hypertext but includes media other than text, e.g. a hypermedia document could include text and graphics, or sound and animation. Mark Bernstein has pointed out that, in practice, many hypertext documents have some graphical content (just as texts often include illustrations). Note that the definition quoted above makes the same point. The distinction between hypertext and hypermedia is so blurry that some authors call them both hypertext.
Subject: Q2.2) What are some historical milestones about hypertext? Vannevar Bush is often credited with describing the first hypermedia system, named memex. He wrote about it in his 1945 article _As We May Think_. There is an HTML versions at <URL: unbound/flashbks/computer/bushf.htm>. Paul Otlet has also been credited with the development of what we now think of as hypertext, in 1934. See <URL:> for a version of an article from the Journal of the American Society for Information Science v.45 pp.235-250 for more details. Ted Nelson coined the terms hypertext and hypermedia to describe his proposed system called Xanadu. According to an article in Vassar College's Miscellany News, he used the term hypertext in a talk there in 1965 <URL:>. The Xanadu homepage is at <URL:>. His book _Literary Machines_ is largely about Xanadu. Douglas Engelbart demonstrated the first computerized hypertext system, called NLS/Augment circa 1968. He also invented the computer mouse, graphical user interface, etc.! For more information about Englebart and his projects see the Bootstrap Alliance homepage at <URL:>. Randy Trigg wrote the first Ph.D. dissertation based on hypertext circa 1986. The first hypertext conference was held in 1987. The alt.hypertext newsgroup was created in 1992. _Memex and Beyond_ is a major research, educational, and collaborative web site integrating the historical record of and current research in hypermedia: <URL:>. Jorn Barger's hypertext timeline is at <URL: web/timeline.html>.
Subject: Q2.3) What conferences are there about hypertext? Hypertext is used in many computer-based technologies and so you can find hypertext in many fields of inquiry. For example you can find articles and presentations in about hypertext in conferences about: digital libraries, documentation, education, literature, and user interfaces. There are however two main conferences for the discussion and study of hypertext in general: the Hypertext conference (HT) and Digital Arts and Culture (DAC). Of course the World-Wide Web (WWW) and Annual Conference on World-Wide Web Applications (ACWWWA) will be of interest to many people who read this document as well. Hypertext is a broad-based conference for exchanges about hypertext. It draws artists, developers, and researchers. According to the DAC 2001 homepage, DAC `aims to embrace and explore the cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural theory and practice of contemporary digital arts and culture.' Information about those conferences, or links to that information, can be found at * Hypertext: <URL:> * DAC: <URL:> * WWW: <URL:> * ACWWWA: <URL:> ---------------------------------------------------------------------- ** Section 3: Hypertext Models ** Subject: Q3.1) What hypertext systems I can read about online? It seems impractical to list all of the myriad of hypertext/hypermedia systems available today. I've included some major systems here. If you feel that some other system has been unfairly excluded then please write me. If this list grows too long then it might become a separate posting or removed altogether. See also HyTime in question 3.2 below. The Electronic Literature Organization might have a list of hypertext tools and systems available at their website <URL:>. * HyperWave (formerly Hyper-G) <URL:> HyperWave is a sophisticated Web document management system for large information spaces. The project began under the name Hyper-G in 1990. Among other things, it features hierarchical structuring, link management, attribute and full text search, access control, and interactive link and document editing. See also the comp.infosystems.hyperg newsgroup. * Microcosm <URL:> An open and extensible hypermedia system designed for managing and disseminating unstructured digitally encoded files. [URL updated 11 Jan 1998] * Storyspace <URL:> A commercial product described as a `writing environment designed for the process of writing. Storyspace is especially well suited to working with large, complex, and challenging hypertexts.' According to Mark Bernstein, its most distinctive features are its hierarchical backbone structure and dynamically flexible links with `guard fields', i.e. conditional links (links that are available only if certain nodes have been visited. * Webthing <URL:> Webthing's Holistic Hypertext is an object-oriented hypertext system designed for collaborative authoring and implemented on the WWW. Documents in Webthing generate HTML links from other documents on-the-fly, relieving authors of the need to manage HTML links, and eliminating the problem of outdated or uncoordinated references. [URL updated 27 Jan 1998] NB: This system will be unavailable for an unspecified time. For more information send e-mail to <> or see the Webthing, Ltd. website at <URL:>. A search for WWW-based wikis will likely turn up systems with related functionality. A search for the term open hypermedia sytem will likely turn up more systems and architectures. [Note added 08 May 2002] * World Wide Web <URL:> A very popular link-based hypertext system based on a client-server architecture running on the Internet. See also question 5.2 for some other resources. * Xanadu <URL:> The system Ted Nelson wrote about in his ground breaking book _Literary Machines_. See also the Xanadu FAQ list (posted to several newsgroups, including alt.hypertext, and available: (a) in text form from <URL:ftp://rtfm.>; (b) and HTML form from <URL:>).
Subject: Q3.2) Are there any hypertext standards? Yes, the extensible markup language (XML) and its related standards are rapidly being taken up and will all be official very soon. Some of those related standards include XLink and XPointer (for linking and related activities) and the synchronized multimedia integration language (SMIL) for synchronized events. Robin Cover has an outstanding index of XML material at <URL:>. There is also a, mostly outdated, ISO standard for describing hypermedia called HyTime. The full title of that standard is _Information Technology - Hypermedia/Time-based Structuring Language (HyTime)_ (ISO/IEC 10744:1992). It is an international standard for describing hypermedia. The original standard (not including the Technical Corrigendum) was edited by Charles F. Goldfarb (with assistance from Steven R. Newcomb). The standard was published in Geneva by the International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission in 1992. Many pointers to HyTime information are available from the HyTime User's Group homepage <URL:> and Robin Cover's HyTime webpage <URL:>. Both the comp.text.sgml and alt.hypertext newsgroups host HyTime discussions. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- ** Section 4: References to other electronic resources ** Subject: Q4.1) About hypertext/hypermedia There are far too many online resources about hypertext to list here so only the most major ones are included here. As with all sections of this list, your suggestions for additions are welcome. * SIGWEB (the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Hypertext/Hypermedia) has a WWW homepage at <URL:>. * The Open Directory Project <URL:> lists hypertext in at least these four categories: Critical (literary) theory, Information overload, Fiction E-zines, and Ted Nelson's multi-dimensional data organizing system, Zig Zag. * LINKBase is a bibliographic reference system for hypertext-related publications at <URL:>. * The Hypertext/-media Resources at the University of Konstanz are quite good: <URL:>. * Eastgate Systems's Selected Hypertext Resources on the Web is a compilation of resources on hypertext theory, hypertext fiction, and criticism, including many original essays and reviews. It is at <URL:>. * BowerBird was a specialized search engine on hypertext topics. The engine was created by Adrian Miles. It used to be at <URL:> but has been indefinitely suspended. * Collections of previous alt.hypertext discussions are listed in question 1.3.
Subject: Q4.2) About electronic publications There are so many documents about electronic publications that it is very difficult to list even one that is of particular interest for hypertext. The description of alt.etext in the Usenet Info Center at <URL:http://> contains references to some sites. EJournal (which is discussed in question 5.3) is particularly occupied with electronic text. SIGWEB members have access to electronic copies of most of the ACM Hypertext and Digital Libraries proceedings. (See question 4.1 for information about SIGWEB.)
Subject: Q4.3) About human-computer interaction There is much information and opinion about HCI available electronically. I expect that from what is listed here you will be able to find what you want. Keith Instone maintains Usable Web (a guide to WWW usability resources) at <URL:>. Gary Perlman's _what's happening_ column in _interactions_ magazine is a great place to find out about HCI resources on the 'net <URL:http://www.>. He suggested the following newsgroups are relevant for HCI researchers: comp.human-factors, comp.cog-eng, sci.cognitive, sci.psychology, and comp.groupware. The human-factors group has an old FAQ list at <URL:>. The WWW Virtual Library once had sections for HCI and Cognitive Science (at <URL:> and <URL: /pointers/cognitive.html> respectively). Noted hypermedia expert Jakob Nielsen writes a monthly column, called Alertbox, about HCI with a particular focus on the WWW. Articles are available at <URL:>. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- ** Section 5: I've fallen in with the wrong crowd. Please help me out. ** Subject: Q5.1) Help! I'm new to this whole Usenet/'net thing The following two newsgroups contain some excellent introductory postings: news.announce.newusers and news.newusers.questions. Whoever is providing you with access to Usenet should be able to give you some basic introduction or instruction. This isn't because they are necessarily nice, but because if they don't at least attempt to tell you the basics then they can't blame you when you do something awful. If they haven't offered you any advice or instruction then ask someone responsible for some pointers to useful information. I advise you not to ask another newcomer -- that is a great way to propagate misconceptions. There are many introductory books about the global Internet and Usenet. If you learn well from books then you might consider buying one or borrowing it from a library. Some books are available for free, others are available for sampling online as an enticement to get you to buy them. For a fuller discussion of such books see: (a) the misc.books.technical newsgroup; (b) the Unofficial Internet Book List at the FTP site <URL: book-list>.
Subject: Q5.2) I just want to know about WWW/HTML. Where should I go? There are several newsgroups devoted exclusively to discussion of the WWW. For an overview of those groups see Thomas Boutell's FAQ list at <URL:> or in one of the comp.infosystems.www newsgroups, alt.culture.www or in an archive of news.answers postings such as at <URL:>. There are many online resources about HTML. I have no particular one to recommend however. If you are looking for information about ease of use then you might be interested in: * All Things Web which calls itself `A collection of resources for Webspinners & authors' at <URL:> (but which doesn't seem to have been updated in a few years); * Rapid Navigation in Online Documents: Design of documents and viewers to support structured hypertext and easy skimming (Michael Hoffman's collection of opinions and pointers) at <URL:>; * Question 4.3 about human-computer interaction.
Subject: Q5.3) Gosh, this group is noisy. Are there any mailing lists? Yes, there are some mailing lists about the issues which are also appropriate for alt.hypertext. Specifically, there are the HYPER-THEORY and HT_LIT lists. EJournal (an electronic journal) has discussion of hypertext issues, but it is not a discussion list. Details of all of those mailing lists are below. You might also be interested in the list of conferences related to hypertext (in question 2.3). At the Hypertext 2000 Authors' Workshop about twelve lists were mentioned that might be of interest to hypertext authors. If you are want to learn more about those lists then I suggest that you check out the Electronic Literature Organization's website, at <URL:>, because they have a much better chance of keeping up with the ever changing world of mailing lists than I do. For a more complete list of mailing lists see _Publicly Accessible Mailing Lists_ and _Mailing Lists Available in Usenet_. Both are available through Usenet and are archived at many sites. Details about all of those lists are also below. A. HYPER-THEORY The hyper-theory mailing list was created to serve as a medium for discussion on hypermedia theory, to help researchers, developers, and users pursue their interests in the field of hypermedia theory and implementation details, this list was created to serve as a high signal to noise ratio resource. The list owner, Art Pollard, reserves the right to move the mailing list into a moderated format if it is necessary to maintain the list's focus. TO SUBSCRIBE: Send an e-mail message to containing: subscribe hyper-theory <your e-mail address> in the *body* of the message. After subscribing, you will receive this description of the list as well as additional instructions for unsubscribing. B. HT_LIT The ht_lit mailing list is for the discussion of hypertext fiction, hypertext theory, and hypertext and literary studies. There is an archive at <URL:>. Kia Mennie <> is the list owner. Feel free to contact her for more information before subscribing. TO SUBSCRIBE: Send an e-mail message to containing: subscribe ht_lit in the *body* of the message. C. EJournal (aka EJRNL) From the homepage: EJournal is an all-electronic, e-mail delivered, peer-reviewed, academic periodical. We are particularly interested in theory and practice surrounding the creation, transmission, storage, interpretation, alteration and replication of electronic `text' -- including `display' -- broadly defined. We are also interested in the broader social, psychological, literary, economic and pedagogical implications of computer-mediated networks. The journal's essays are delivered free to Internet addressees. TO SUBSCRIBE: Send an e-mail message to with the following as the first (and only) line of text: SUB EJRNL Your Name . Further details about the journal and its archives can be found on its homepage at <URL:>. Publicly Accessible Mailing Lists Posted to news.lists, and news.answers by Stephanie da Silva. Archived at <URL:>, <URL: answers/mail/mailing-lists> (and mirror sites). Mailing Lists Available in Usenet Posted to the following newsgroups: news.lists, news.groups, news.announce.newgroups, bit.admin, and news.answers by Dave Lawrence. Archived at <URL: mail/news-gateways> (and mirror sites). Electronic Literature Organization website The ELO is a not-for-profit organization with a mission `to facilitate and promote the writing, publishing, and reading of literature in electronic media'. They might have a list of mailing lists of interest to readers and authors of hypertext and hypertext-like literature. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- ** Section 6: About this document ** Subject: Q6.1) Where can I get a copy? (and some legal niceties) A. Author/Owner This document was written by J. Blustein. Please send constructive criticism (and compliments) by e-mail to <>. The author completed a Ph.D. (about hypertext) in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Western Ontario in 1999, and has been studying hypertext since 1991. B. Versions/Availability It is posted infrequently to alt.hypertext, alt.answers and news.answers by the MIT faqserver. It is updated even less often. HTML versions should be available at: * The Internet FAQ Consortium <URL:> specifically as single part <URL: hypertext-faq/> or as a multi-part <URL: preamble.html> * Utrecht Univ. (in the Netherlands) <URL:> specifically <URL: hypertext-faq.html> * Ohio State Univ. (in the USA) <URL:> specifically <URL: usenet/hypertext-faq/faq.html> * Univ. of Michigan (in the USA) <URL:> specifically <URL: hypertext-faq> * Oxford Univ. (in the UK) <URL:> specifically <URL: /hypertext-faq.html> and perhaps other locations too. I've prepared a HTML version of this list at <URL:>. I try to update the versions in sync but I can't promise that they'll always be exactly the same. C. Distribution rights You are free to use this document for your own personal use. You are free to distribute it in its entirety. If you wish to distribute an incomplete version of the document you must include the following information: * A note to the effect that the version you have is excerpted from the entire list; * The entire list is a creation of J. Blustein <>; * The entire list is copyright by J. Blustein (all rights reserved); * The entire list is posted infrequently to the alt.hypertext Usenet newsgroup and is intended for free distribution; * The location where and date when you obtained a copy of the entire list. I would also appreciate receiving a note (by e-mail) that you are using an excerpt from the list. If you want to distribute a modified version of the list, not just excerpts from the list, then you must obtain permission from J. Blustein in advance.
Subject: Q6.2) Future plans I'd like to have some discussion of hypertext models (such as Dexter) and an explanation of what open hypertext is. Since those questions aren't asked (or answered) much I guess those sections can wait. Wikis and other collaborative writing environments deserve serious attention here. The section about mailing lists should be updated to point to Wikis too. There needs to be more about the role of the WWW (as a hypertext system and an enabling technology). Some discussion and draft Q&A appeared in the newsgroup in August 2002 and 2003. The part about non-linked hypertext needs more details. An early draft was posted on 13 August 2002. New notes appeared exactly a year later too. Some URLs need updating and some need replacing. The HCI section in particular needs work. Postings from early August 2002 contain the new URLs.
Subject: Q6.3) Acknowledgments A. Thanks I am grateful to Mark Bernstein and Kia Mennie for their helpful comments. I am solely responsible for the content of this list. Question 1.2 was included at Thomas Boutell's suggestion. Kivi Shapiro caught some typos that I'd missed. Jorn Barger has made many suggestions for changes. Some of those changes are yet to be implemented. B. Citations for quotations Document Format was adapted from similar text in the alt.backrubs FAQ list, with the author's permission. Question 2.1 The definition of hypertext is quoted from Oxford English Dictionary Additions Series (volume 2), edited by John Simpson and Edmund Weiner. It was published in 1993 by Clarendon Press. The quote from Ted Nelson is from page 0/2 of _Literary Machines_ (edition 90.1) published by Mindful Press in 1990. The earliest copyright date in my copy is 1980. According to the definition of hypertext in the OED Additions series (see previous reference), he first introduced the term in 1965 at the 20th National Conference of the ACM. Question 2.2 lists some other historical milestones about hypertext including an (earlier) 1965 publication of the term `hyper-text'. Question 2.2 The article about Otlet is entitled `Visions of Xanadu: Paul Otlet (1868-1944) and Hypertext'. It was written by W. Boyd Rayward and appeared in JASIS v.45 on pp.235-250, in 1994. [I took these bibliographic details from the WWW version referred to in the question and have not confirmed them.] Question 3.1 The description of Hyper-G and Hyperwave was supplied by Keith Andrews. The description of Storyspace was quoted from the web page on 2 February 1997. The description of Webthing was adapted from a submission by Nick Kew. Question 3.2 The entry was updated on 10 Feb 1997 with information from Robin Cover's _SGML Bibliography: Part 4, I - L_ (last modified February 07, 1997) at <URL:>. Question 4.1 The descriptions of the two Easgate Systems resources were adapted from text suggested by Mark Bernstein. Question 4.3 The newsgroups and FAQ lists in the Usenet section come from the what's happening column in interactions vol. i no. 4 (Oct. 1994) by Gary Perlman. Question 5.1 (about Usenet) was taken from an almost identical question in the alt.backrubs FAQ list (with the author's permission). Actually, the alt.backrubs FAQ maintainer and I are quite close. :) Question 5.3 (about mailing lists) The description of the HYPER-THEORY list is taken from an announcement about the list posted by Art Pollard to alt.hypertext, comp.infosystems.hyperg, comp.infosystems, comp.infosystems.harvest, comp.text.sgml on 17 May 1996 with Message-ID: <> The description of the HT_LIT list was taken from the entry in PAML (see question 5.3) and updated by Kia Mennie. The description of EJournal was quoted from the 2 February 1997 version of the EJournal homepage. Question 6.4 On Andre Deparade's suggestion I began including a list of recent significant changes to the list on 27 Jan 1998.
Subject: Q6.4) Recent changes 21 March 2006 * Q1.4 updated links to Thomas Trickel's link type resources 13 August 2003 * Q1.1 included reference to XHTML * Q6.2 includes reference to post from 13 August 2003 -- J. Blustein <> `We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars' -- Oscar Wilde

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