Monthly Archives: August 1992

comp.infosystems.gopher new group message, 1992

Article: 19 of comp.infosystems.gopher
Path: usenet.ucs.indiana.edu!sol.ctr.columbia.edu!usc!sdd.hp.com!nigel.msen.com!nigel.msen.com!not-for-mail
From: emv@msen.com (Edward Vielmetti)
Newsgroups: alt.gopher,comp.infosystems.gopher
Subject: Welcome to comp.infosystems.gopher!
Followup-To: comp.infosystems.gopher
Date: 7 Aug 1992 01:18:35 -0400
Organization: Msen, Inc. -- Ann Arbor, Michigan
Lines: 57
Message-ID: 
Hello, and welcome to comp.infosystems.gopher.  The newgroup message went
out yesterday, and we're going to migrate traffic over from the old
alt.gopher group into the brand new "official" group.
gopher is a distributed information system.  The best phrase I've heard to
describe it is as "internet duct tape" - wrap a little bit of gopher
protocol around some files or some databases and hey presto you have an
Internet Service.  As most people know information services on the
internet are traditionally held together with spit and bailing wire, well,
duct tape is an improvement.
The newsgroup basically covers four areas of gopher development, which I'd
list as
gopher clients.  Things that users run to connect to gopher servers.
There are lots of these out there right now; most of them follow pretty
closely in spirit to the original unix and mac gopher clients, though some
radical ones ("gopher in a forest" for NeXT) push a different approach.
The issues here are design, documentation and built-in help, bug fixes and
improvements, human factors analysis, speed, robustness, and such.
gopher servers.  Systems that speak the gopher protocol.  There are rather
less server designs than client designs; most servers present essentially
a file system point of view to the user, tho some are driven from
databases.  A number of other data resources have been gatewayed into
gopher (e.g. netnews) with interesting results.  The issues here are
maintainability, shared resources access, logging and stats gathering,
index and other wayfinding aids, etc.
gopher protocol.  What clients and servers send back and forth to each
other.  The gopher protocol is a ferociously simple ASCII protocol
designed to make constructing clients and servers in an afternoon possible
and even likely.  Various extensions to the base protocol have been
proposed to handle more client feechurs, with varying degrees of
acceptance.  Issues here are staying close to the One True Gopher Way
with simple clients and servers without stopping people who want to do way
cool advanced things from interoperating.
gopherspace engineering.   This is a problem completely separate from any
sort of technical issues; it's a question of how gopherspace should be
designed, what it feels like, who has control, how easy is it to move
around, what kind of cooperative systems-building can we end up with.  The
questions here are those of groupware and computer-supported collaborative
work, human factors and information systems design, resource discovery and
current awareness tools, and so on.  Even if we end up throwing away the
protocol and all of the clients the question of systems design (for the
Internet, I suppose, and not just gopherspace) is a big one.
Thanks to all 300+ who voted for the new group.  I'm going to ask some of
the people who have built systems using gopher to speak up and say their
piece about current projects and try to figure out where we go from here.
Edward Vielmetti, vice president for research, Msen Inc. emv@Msen.com
Msen Inc., 628 Brooks, Ann Arbor MI  48103 +1 313 998 4562
"my other computers are in Minneapolis, Lansing, Cambridge, Reston, ..."