Electronic Proceedings (Eprocs) for IWANNT'93

Robert B. Allen
MRE 2A367
445 South Street
Morristown, NJ USA
Tel. +1-201-829-4315


1. Abstract

An electronic proceedings for the 1993 International Workshop on Applications of Neural Networks to Telecommunications (IWANNT) was presented in the SuperBook[TM] text browsing system. The proceedings were available on workstations during the workshop and they are now available via the Internet. In the one month following the workshop, 285 logins were recorded from 28 countries. Respondents to an email questionnaire were generally favorable with 87% stating they would like Eprocs to be available for future conferences.


Electronic Proceedings, Information Retrieval, Information Systems, Internet, Hypertext


Scientific research is an information intensive form of collaborative work. Electronic publication of scientific papers has many advantages. Publication may be rapid, widely disseminated, thoroughly indexed, include links to resources not usually available in paper proceedings, and annotations and links to other relevant literature may be easily coordinated. In this project, SuperBook [2] was used to present electronic proceedings (Eprocs) of the 1993 International Workshop on Applications of Neural Networks to Telecommunications [1]. SuperBook is a document-browsing system with an expandable table of contents and full-text indexing. SuperBook has a client-server architecture and the front-end can run under various window managers (e.g., Xwindows) or in a character-based interface. The configuration used in this project exports access to the interface by redirecting its display across the network.

Figures, tables, footnotes, annotations, and other diversions from the text are accessed by clicking on icons. SuperBook is a rapidly evolving package and the version used in this project did not support all fonts. Thus, many equations were printed as bitmaps and displayed for users in diversions. A unique aspect of SuperBook as an Internet publication system is that annotations are public. This can give the annotated text the flavor of a peer-commentary journal.


The electronic proceedings included 42 technical papers and abstracts from the 1993 workshop. One paper that was too late to be included in the paper proceedings was able to be included in the electronic proceedings. In addition, abstracts of the invited talks, the workshop schedule, and a list of attendees were also included in the electronic proceedings. In one paper Xgobi (an Xwindows data viewer) was included to give readers an interactive view of the raw data. Digitized photographs of many speakers and attendees were obtained at the workshop and inserted into the proceedings prior to presentation. Abstracts from a related workshop that was held in 1992 were also included.

Along with notification of acceptance of their manuscripts for the conference, the authors were invited to submit electronic versions of their papers in LaTeX, RTF, Troff, Postscript, or ASCII format. Of the 42 conference papers, electronic versions of 40 were returned. However, the authors did not always use a standard template and considerable effort was required to reformat the material.

Two types of logins were created for access to the Eprocs. The first group consisted of workshop attendees and content-area specialists who requested logins. The second type were public logins. Shortly after the close of the workshop, the electronic proceedings were made available to the workshop attendees and were announced to them via email. Approximately one week later, an announcement about the availability of the proceedings was made to the larger neural network community through the connectionists@cs.cmu.edu email group.


After three weeks of public access, there have been 285 logins from 28 countries. Approximately 75% of the logins used the Xwindows front-end. The average login time was 58 minutes, but this included some logins of more than 1 day. The median login was 7 minutes. While some users logged in and then almost immediately logged out, nearly 72% were logged in for more than 3 minutes.

Email questionnaires were sent to the 160 readers with the public login who entered valid email addresses during system login; about 50 of these were returned. Responses to several of these questions are presented in Table 1. It can be seen that most of respondents felt that the Eprocs would be useful in their work, that they would be likely to login again, that they would like future proceedings to be made available with SuperBook, and that use of SuperBook was reasonably self-evident.

Are you likely to login to the IWANNT Proceedings again? 65 %
Would this text be helpful in your work? 83 %
Is this service likely to make you participate in future IWANNT meetings? 33 %
Would you encourage the next IWANNT proceedings to be made available with SuperBook? 87 %
Were there significant lags in system/network response time? 54 %
Was the use of the interface reasonably self-evident? 79 %
Would you be willing to pay a small amount for a service such as this? 37 %

Table 1: Selected questionnaire results (percentages are for affirmative responses).

Transcripts of a few randomly selected logins were stored. Examination of these suggests that readers did more than casually browse the Eprocs and several instances of searching for specific terms (e.g., "optics" and "ATM") were seen. This is also supported by a questionnaire item on which 54% of the respondents said they had used the interface's searching capability.

Printing of articles was not possible from the Eprocs interface. However, at least one reader is known to have made five reprint requests by email after viewing the proceedings. On the other hand, the Eprocs have not, apparently, had a serious negative impact on sales of the paper proceedings. 60% of the questionnaire respondents stated that they "would be inclined to order the printed version of the proceedings". In addition, reports from the publisher state that sales of the paper proceedings have been quite satisfactory.


Electronic presentation of scientific information in not new. However, recent advances include the ability to present massive amounts of scientific information to the desktop with an effective interface [2]. The present work goes further to show that scientific information can be made widely available very rapidly. Moreover, we can expect further evolution. For instance, with the proliferation of laptop computers and ubiquitous high- bandwidth communications, conference attendees can have access to large archives even while they are listening to technical presentations.

These developments will also have a major impact on scientific professional societies. On one hand, electronic publication may have serious implications for current publication practices. An effective economic model for electronic publication by professional societies remains to be developed. In this context, it is worth noting the last line in Table 1 which shows very little willingness to pay even a small amount for this type of service. On the other hand, electronic publication creates new opportunities. For instance, professional society membership could grant permission to make annotations in an electronic archive.


Instructions for logging into the IWANNT Eprocs can be obtained by sending a null email request to: iwannt_instr@bellcore.com


I would like to thank Josh Alspector, Tim Brown, Dennis Egan, Selma Kaufman, and Carol Lochbaum for their assistance. I would also like to express my sincerest thanks to the authors and to Lawrence Erlbaum and Associates, the publishers of the paper IWANNT'93 proceedings, for permitting us to reproduce the material electronically.


[1] Alspector, J., Goodman, R., and Brown, T.X., Proceedings of the International Workshop on Applications of Neural Networks to Telecommunications, Erlbaum: Hillsdale, NJ, 1993.

[2] Egan, D., Lesk, M.E., Ketchum, D., Lochbaum, C.C., Remde, J.R., and Landauer, T.K., Hypertext for the Electronic Library? CORE Sample Results. Hypertext'89, (Nov. 1989, Pittsburgh), 299-312.

[3] Egan, D., Remde, J.R., Gomez, L.M., Landauer, T.K., Eberhardt, J., and Lochbaum, C., Formative design and evaluation of SuperBook. ACM Transactions on Information Systems 7, 1 (1989), 30-57.