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RFC 585 - ARPANET users interest working group meeting


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Network Working Group                                         D. Crocker
Request for Comments: 585                                       UCLA-NMC
Category: Users                                                N. Neigus
NIC: 18259                                                       BBN-NET
                                                              J. Feinler
                                                                 SRI-ARC
                                                                J. Iseli
                                                               MITRE-TIP
                                                                6-Nov-73

              Arpanet Users Interest Working Group Meeting

   A new group, the Arpanet Users Interest Working Group (USING) is the
   outgrowth of a meeting held in Boston on May 22-23, 1973.  The
   meeting, cochaired by Dave Crocker, UCLA-NMC, and Nancy Neigus, BBN,
   followed BBN's Resource Sharing Workshop.

PURPOSE

   The USING meeting was seen by the members as a forum for Network
   Users to air complaints, exchange information, voice desires, and
   present concrete proposals for the design and implementation of
   user-oriented Network capabilities.

   The group will devote itself to lobbying on behalf of user interests,
   to promoting and facilitating resource sharing, to improving user
   interfaces (support), and to studies of standardization.  The
   ultimate goal will be provide users identification of, and
   facilitated access to, whatever resources on the Network they might
   wish to use.

   Neigus, Crocker, and Iseli of MITRE were selected to define the
   objectives and goals of USING in more detail, and they will present
   their discussion in a later publication.

ATTENDEES

      Dave Crocker, UCLA-NMC, Co-Chairperson
      Nancy Neigus, BBN, Co-Chairperson
      Ken Bowles, UCSD-CC
      Frank Brignoli, NSRDC
      Jim Calvin, CASE-10
      Jake Feinler, NIC
      Wayne Hathaway, NASA-AMES
      Jean Iseli, MITRE
      Mike Kudlick, NIC
      Mike Padlipsky, MIT-MULTICS

      Lee Richardson, USC-ISI
      Ron Stoughton, UCSB
      Jim White, NIC
      Steve Wolf, UCLA-CCN
      Joe Wyatt, Harvard

CATEGORIES OF CONCERN

   The meeting began by attempting to create a relatively complete list
   of topics directly relevant to users.  The intention was to then
   discuss some of these categories in detail.  The categories of
   concern to users are listed here along with a brief outline of the
   discussion and recommendations associated with each category.  Not
   all topics were discussed fully due to time limitations.  It was
   acknowledged that some of the recommendations were quite extensive,
   but that they should be mentioned even though their implementation
   would be far off.

   1. Online and Offline Documentation, Information Sharing, and
      Consulting

      a. There is a general need to upgrade the quality, technical
         accuracy, timeliness, dissemination, and format of both online
         and offline documentation.

      b. Documentation should avoid "buzz" words (jargon), and should
         follow easily understood syntax conventions, abbreviation
         standards, reference citation rules, etc.  However, there
         probably cannot be a standard format for writing documentation.

      c. Offline documentation should be well indexed, should contain a
         good table-of-contents, and should be written in an easily
         browsable format.  Online documentation should be presented in
         a browse mode with well-labeled categories of information as
         well as a keyword search capability.

      d. Documentation should be identified with date/author/version
         information, particularly in large online documents, so that it
         is easier to keep the most current version of a document and to
         query the author, in the event of problems with the
         documentation.

      e. Network news needs to be gathered and intelligently distributed
         to users (Network PR).

      f. Users need several levels and styles of access to
         documentation, whether online or offline, based upon their
         experience, interests, and preferences.

      g. Each server site should also provide some degree of information
         variety in online "help" mechanisms, tailored to fit the needs
         and experience of different user types.

         In addition, entering "Help" from the EXEC level of a system
         should direct a user to ALL procedural-type information.

      h. New users should be carefully introduced to the Network by way
         of a New Users Packet (NUP).  Since the MITRE-TIP group is the
         official contact for new users, they should design such a
         packet and incorporate suggestions from USING.

         This packet should eventually contain, among other things:

            a definition of, and introduction to the Network

            a list of sites

            step-by-step scenarios for accessing functional documents an
            related online items

            a definition of who can get on the Network

            some quick-reference charts showing a list of Network
            services available to new users

            and an introduction to Network groups, including USING, as
            well as the names of Network consultants, assistants, and
            the like.

      i. Information-accessing mechanisms should be provided for users,
         including interactive tutorials, user scenarios, and other
         training mechanisms.

      j. A Network-wide "who, what, where and when" information system
         should be implemented. (This was nicknamed the Network Yellow
         Pages.)  Discussion of support for such a system focused on
         obtaining some form of central funding.

      k. The concept of `Regional Agents' for collecting information for
         the Resource Notebook was discussed.

         Several felt that what was really needed was a `rebirth' of the
         original concept of Technical Liaison as the person who
         provides information to the NIC and technical assistance to
         users.

         There was concern voiced about the number of people collecting
         information and the redundancy of the requests received by
         sites.

         There was also concern about what incentives there are (or
         should be or can be) for Liaisons to perform their tasks
         adequately by providing truly up-to-date and complete
         information (carrot vs. stick).

      l. Server Sites should provide a variety of consulting services to
         supplement `help' and general information services.
         Consultants could represent the whole Network, a group of
         sites, a single site, general areas such as software, or
         specific applications processes.  This could fit into the
         workings of the Network Servers Group.

   2. Standardization for the User

      a. If they so desire, users should only have to learn one
         Executive (command) language, rather than 20.  Rather than have
         every site change its interface to the user, it was suggested
         that there be a Network Common Command Language Protocol which
         is translated to/from the host's own Executive command
         language.

         As with FTP and RJE, a human user should be able to type in CCL
         Protocol directly, though many sites may want to allow a local
         user to type in their local Executive language, and then they
         will translate it into CCLP, for the foreign host.

         Any Network Common Command Language should be compatible with
         batch systems as well as with interactive systems, and should
         provide an effective means for batch job submission and
         control.

         Bowles, Hathaway, and Stoughton volunteered to outline specs
         for Network command language that would be compatible with
         ideas suggested by Padlipsky and discussed at the meeting.

      b. One of the functions to included in a Common Command Language
         is a simple editor, which Padlipsky has outlined.  The editor
         should be easy for users to learn as well as for servers to
         implement or interface to their own editors.

   3. Status/Measurement of Site Performance

      a. A variety of performance measures, for the individual sites,
         needs to be derived, acquired, maintained, and made available
         to users.

         This could include some attempt to measure average "response
         time", relative costs (relative to type of task, that is),
         availability/reliability, etc.

      b. Mechanisms are needed for software certification and for
         measuring and verifying the accuracy and/or reliability of
         systems, hardware, protocols, applications software, etc.

   4. User Feedback Mechanisms

      a. There is a need for a uniform Network gripe/suggestion
         mechanism.  This should cover several types of gripes,
         including program bugs and service complaints.

      b. Each user registering a complaint deserves immediate
         acknowledgement and some indication of what, if any, action
         will be taken.

      c. The NIC should set up Network ident groups for Principal
         Investigators, Liaisons, Station Agents, Accounts
         Administrators, Consultants, etc., so that users can easily
         direct their comments, inquiries and mail to these groups.

      d. A Network Servers Group should be started, to coordinate the
         activities (to the extent possible) of the servers (a Server's
         Cartel?).  It would also provide a focus for user complaints
         and suggestions.

         (The group was originally dubbed the "Tobacco Institute".  The
         Tobacco Institute acts as a representative for the disparate
         Tobacco companies, and attempts to convince the public that
         smoking is good for them.)

         The point of the Servers Group -- rather than trying to
         convince the Network public that servers are good for them --
         would be for servers to help each other with common tasks (such
         as documentation) that are too big for each to handle alone.

            This eventually works in the users interest, because the
            servers (in the Network free-market economy) are dependent
            upon the users for their livelihood.

         There should be cooperation between the Server Group and USING,
         but the groups would NOT be comprised of the same people.  They
         are on opposite sides of the product.

      e. Station Agents should supply users with information of a
         clerical nature such as names, phone numbers, titles,
         documentations, etc.  To be able to do this, the Agents must
         first HAVE this information.

   5. Messages to Users

      a. Messages to users, such as error messages or diagnostics,
         should be simple, clear, and meaningful to users.

      b. The user should have the ability to control notifications given
         to him, by being able to queue messages or refuse them.

      c. Users should be able to suppress diagnostics or to specify
         abbreviated or expanded versions.

   6. Tailoring of Resources for Users

      a. Interfaces to users should support different levels of user
         proficiency, without being a burden to the more proficient
         user.

         That is, a new user needs more prompting, etc.  A more
         experienced user does not need and DOES NOT WANT such
         prompting.  So the capabilities of the interface, which are not
         needed by a specific user, should be transparent.

      b. A method for work flow management that permits a user to set up
         a sequence of computer tasks that are contingent upon one
         another is needed.  The user should be able to describe this
         sequence interactively and then be able to detach and continue
         with other work while the sequence of tasks is being carried
         out.

   7. Personal Information Management System

      a. Users need a system for managing all types of machine-based
         contacts such as mail, links, journal items, etc.

         Such a system should `log' what has been received and allow the
         user to keep a copy, if desired.

         It should also provide the user with options for organizing his
         personal information.

      b. A personal `calendar' or reminder system would be handy,
         especially if it allowed one to look ahead to coming events as
         well as to check events for the current day or week.

      c. A `return to sender' feature is needed in the Network-wide mail
         address system.

      d. (Discussion of the current work on the Mail Protocol indicated
         that some of these ideas are already being considered)

   8. Uniform Accounting Procedures and Online Status of Accounts

      a. This topic was covered in detail by sections of the Resource
         Sharing Workshop.  It is mentioned here only because it is a
         problem of real concern to users.

   9. Trial Usage and Browsing

      a. Ideally, users should be allowed some `free' sampling of
         systems and features available at each site.  Practically, this
         presents problems of space allocation, accounting, consulting,
         etc.  Although none of these problems are easy to solve
         equitably, an attempt should still be made to provide some free
         usage to everyone.
      b. Several types of trial usage should be considered, such as for
         those who will make an immediate commitment and those who wish
         merely to sample, without making any commitment.

   10.  Prelogon Facilities

      a. Some facilities should be available as prelogon facilities, so
         that any user can access them whether or not he has an account,
         directory, etc., at a given site.  Some sites will not be able
         to support many of these functions, so a required set must be
         kept to a minimum.

   11.  Remote User Facilitation

      a. Users not only need help with actual use of systems from a
         remote site, but they also need facilitation of administrative
         tasks.  Station Agents should be able to handle most of these
         problems or transfer the user to the proper person.  System
         access requirements, account and billing problems, and document
         acquisition need particular attention.

      b. There should be a simple mechanism for users to acquire/update
         information in functional documents such as the Resource Note-
         book and in files such as identification files.  Publications
         or files of this sort should combine the collective input of
         all the users.

   12.  Transportability of Resources and Information

      a. Users should be able to easily transfer information, such as
         files, memos, mail, online documentation, (programs?!?) etc.,
         from one site to another.

   13.  Network Utilities

      a. Should distributed data banks and similar features be
         considered Network utilities that can be used by all?

         The idea of "Network Utilities" was recognized as an
         interesting one by the group, but there was little agreement as
         to what constitutes Network utilities or how they should be
         supported.

CURRENT PLANS

   1. Neigus, Crocker, and Iseli will draft the scope, objectives,
      goals, and priorities of USING and will submit their
      recommendations for approval by the members.

   2. MITRE will design a New User's Packet incorporating ideas from
      USING.

   3. Bowles, Hathaway, and Stoughton will write preliminary specs for a
      Network Common Command Language Protocol.  All members should
      suggest a list of commands for consideration.

   4. Padlipsky will produce specifications for a simple, standard
      editor (NETED) which could easily be implemented by server hosts.

   5. A general Users Group (NIC ident = USERS) will be formed, to allow
      any interested person to monitor user-oriented activities,
      especially those of USING.  Anyone interested in being in USERS
      should contact Dave Crocker (DHC).

   6. Activities of the group will be reported in the ARPAnet News, and
      a user's forum column will be made available for user's comments.

   7. The group will meet again in the Fall of 1973 at the Network
      Information Center in Menlo Park, California.

          [ This RFC was put into machine readable form for entry ]
              [ into the online RFC archives by Via Genie 3/00 ]

 

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