archive: Re: SETI element sets and satellite orbits

Re: SETI element sets and satellite orbits

David Woolley ( david@djwhome.demon.co.uk )
Sat, 19 Sep 1998 14:27:32 +0100 (BST)

> Recall what the world was like before the Internet? Where is it that we
> found articles? I remember ... libraries!

I think you are falling into a similar trap to the one that another
professional researcher fell into recently on this list in assuming that
people without an academic research background are familiar with how to
obtain original research material. (I realise that this article was in
a semi-popular magazine, but the same principles apply, I think.)

Although I went to one of the most prestigious universities in the
UK, as an undergraduate, I was never formally taught how to use the
library system there, and, in my first job with a major software house
it was very difficult even to get adequate supplies of vendors' manuals.
The current employer is much more into getting books, but even then they
are only really buying in the popular computing market, not the academic
side, and it is only the web that gives access to some source material
(e.g. W3C, IETF and ECMA but not ISO or ITU documents). Most commercial
products claiming conformance to standards is actually sold by people
who have never seen the standards!

I think, therefore, that you have to assume that if the material is
not in the town public library or the bookshop in your local mall,
most readers of the list will not know how to get to it.

I think the real benefit of the web is that it has brought abstracting
services and access to original papers to the masses and to ordinary
commerce, whereas researchers will have known how to access this
material for decades. (However the pollution of the seach engines by
links to what is essentially advertising may eventually take us back to
a position where real information is only available at a price and to
those who know how to work the system. I don't mean the banner adverts
but the fact that you can need to trawl a 100 hits before you find a page
that isn't hype for a particular product.)