Re: SETI Helping outsiders learn, while focussing ourselves.

Dr. H. Paul Shuch (
Sun, 25 Jul 1999 09:13:15 -0400

At 12:19 AM 7/25/99 EDT, wrote:

>I have read the several replies to Paul's request for members input on the

As have I, and I want to thank all of our members who have replied. This
kind of input is really valuable.

>The search function may be hard to implement.

True. Most of the search engines I've seen sites implement require CGI
(Common Gatwway Interface). This is not an option for us, because of our
host's firewall and their very valid security concerns. (For those of you
who were not aware, our webspace is contributed, on a comercial supporter's
business server. We will do nothing to jeapordize our generous host's
        The best compromise I've ben able to come up with so far is to place
hundreds of key words in a straight HTML alphabetical index, which is
linked from the bottom of every single page (and headlined twice from the
home page). But even that, people don't seem to use. Two examples: the
FAQs that people say they can't find are listed in the Index under "FAQ",
and the world map that shows where our members are (which one of our
members was looking for) is indexed both under "world map" and under "map,
world." Every single Index page has an email link back to me, soliciting
suggestions for other key words or pages to add. So far, hardly anyone has
used that link!

>I propose that we explicitly remove the "outside email response" function
>from Paul's job. I propose that we set up another email list just for this
>function, and allow volunteers to subscribe to the list.

I would think the open SETI list could serve this function. Many of the
questions from nonmembers get posted to this list, and I can easily forward
to the list those that come addressed to me. Unfortunately, with no
individual assigned to answer a specific question, list members may either
(1) assume somebody else is answering it, or (2) overwhelm the inquirer
with multiple responses. And assigning a specific question to a specific
person is an administrative nightmare I don't even want to contemplate.

>I also propose that we put the FAQ on the home page, and work on filling it
>in more. Basically every pertinent question asked by anybody should be put
>into the FAQ. Questions that have been asked and answered could be put in

The FAQ page was originally prepared as a printed document, to hand out at
conferences and mail to people requesting more information. As such, it
was length-constrained to one double-sided page. When it was webbified, it
stayed pretty much unchanged. To handle additional questions, I started
the "Ask Dr. SETI" column (now at nearly book length). We could link Ask
Dr SETI from the bottom of the FAQ page, of course, but again, people don't
seem to be interested in navigating its chapters (which are organized by
subject) to find the information they seek. They'd rather ask me where to
find the info. I've been sending out a lot of URLs as my answers to
people's questions, it that takes time for me to navigate to the page in
question and cut=-and-paste the URL. I think from now on I'll just make a
form-letter reply which gives the Ask Dr. SETI URL and say "it's in there."

I do appreciate the time our members are taking to contemplate and comment
on the question of SETI League services to non-members.

All best, Paul
H. Paul Shuch, Ph.D., CFII, FBIS
Executive Director, The SETI League, Inc.
433 Liberty Street, PO Box 555
Little Ferry NJ 07643 USA
voice (201) 641-1770; fax (201) 641-1771
Project Argus station FN11LH

"We Know We're Not Alone!"

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