Current Cites (Digital Library SunSITE)

Volume 11, no. 8, August 2000

Edited by Roy Tennant

The Library, University of California, Berkeley, 94720
ISSN: 1060-2356 -

Contributors: Terry Huwe, Michael Levy, Leslie Myrick , Jim Ronningen, Lisa Rowlison, Roy Tennant

Editor's Note: WIth this issue, we lament the retirement from Current Cites of our Editor of six years, Teri Andrews Rinne, and also celebrate ten years of continuous monthly publication. Teri was one of the original six contributors to Current Cites, and remained with the publication since it's inception, except for maternity leave. She guided us through a period of growth and solidification as a thoughtful, critical, and down-to-earth review of the best that we could find in information technology literature. She will be sorely missed, but we wish her well in her new endeavors.

Over the past ten years we have strived to fulfill our vision of a current awareness publication that helps busy professionals focus on the best information technology literature. Our sources include popular magazines, peer-reviewed journals, books, and web sites. We don't guarantee complete coverage of everything that you may find interesting, but what we do feature here are some of the best, most current sources we have found. We do not shrink from being opinionated, nor from comparing one source to another. Our database of citations now numbers over 1,000, and is searchable at We call this service "Bibliography on Demand" because it can be easily used to create printable or linkable bibliographies on information technology topics. Another service we offer is full-text searching of all cited articles that are freely available in full-text. To provide this service, we "crawl" the remote articles and index them using Harvest. You can try it out at Please do not hesitate to let us know how else we can improve Current Cites so it can better serve your current awareness needs. Thanks! — Roy, for the Cites crew

Belkin, Nicholas J. "Helping People Find What They Don't Know" Communications of the ACM 43(8) (August 2000):58-61 ( - When we read about efforts to increase the responsiveness of computer systems to their users, it's usually the flashier stuff that gets put in bold face, like the MIT Media Lab's efforts to sharpen the computer's senses through cameras for vision, microphones for hearing, increased touch sensitivity, etc. But no matter how 'sensory' systems may become, language is still going to be the primary human/computer interface for information exchange. Projects which attempt to refine the exchange so that a shared vocabulary achieves optimum understanding are always of interest to information providers. This article is about a Rutgers research group which is developing recommendation systems which allow a program to reply to a query with a helpful set of suggestions, focusing on the choice of terms to be used to achieve the desired result. The author describes their efforts to go beyond relevance feedback, which allows the user to rank relevance but does not promote user understanding and customization of the process itself. An alternative, term suggestion devices, could promote greater precision, and also, as the title suggests, help the user find out whatever he or she doesn't know which is relevant to the query. The group appears to be paying as much attention to human behavior as syntax and thesauri, as they have examined the features of such systems which could sidetrack users and cause them to ultimately lose confidence in the interaction, at which point the system would have to be called a failure. - JR

Cooper, Jeffrey. "The CyberFrontier and America at the turn of the 21st Century: Reopening Frederick Jackson Turner's frontier." First Monday 5(7) (July 3rd, 2000) ( - Like so many other articles published by First Monday, this one draws on familiar metaphors to describe the promises and pitfalls of our cyber-futures. Excessive eloquence comes with the territory, but in this case the analysis is first rate and provocative. In the describing the new "boundlessness" of the Internet, the author identifies several quintessentially "American" traits, like self-reliance and risk-taking. He also argues that surging Internet stocks do not a South Seas Bubble make. This sunny forecast can be found among stock analysts and futurists in ample supply, but this article takes a closer look at history as an indicator of what might evolve on the Internet. - TH

"Developing a Digital Preservation Strategy for JSTOR, an interview with Kevin Guthrie" RLG DigiNews 4(4) (August 15, 2000) ( - JSTOR is an innovative project to centrally archive journal literature on behalf of libraries. In this interesting interview with RLG DigiNews, the director explains the mission of JSTOR and the strategy they are using to fulfill that mission. Guthrie details five primary components: 1) Technological approach, 2) Preservation and back-up plans, 3) Relationships with content providers, 4) Relationships with users/libraries, and 5) An economic model with a reasonable probability of reaching self-sufficiency. - RT

Guterman, Lisa. "As Expert Call for a Chemistry Preprint Server Elsevier Unveils its Own" Chronicle of Higher Education (August 22, 2000) ( - This article explores recent developments in Web-based pre-prints of chemistry articles, focussing on remarks made by librarians at a meeting of the American Chemical Society. Elsevier Science has unveiled a new Web site that posts preprint articles and enables readers to form online discussion groups addressing the research presented in each paper. Librarians argue that the American Chemical Society's reticence in starting their own site places the scholarly debate about the merits of new research in a commercial sphere. They further argue that managing the discourse about new research is best left in the hands of the society, since it may be difficult to identify truly important new research among the vast offerings that will like appear on pre-print servers of this nature. - TH

Hafner, Katie. "Saving the Nation's Digital Legacy" New York Times Technology Circuits (July 26, 2000) ( - The Library of Congress' digital preparedness is at issue in a 260-page report released last month by the National Academy of Sciences. Report Committee Chairman James O'Donnell cites inadequate infrastructure and lack of strategic planning, coupled with the need to work collaboratively with other large institutions, whether other libraries or private funding institutions such as the National Digital Library Program. With the help of the latter, the library's American Memory site ( has mounted some 5 million of its 119 million items on the web. But the race to preserve America's cultural heritage of the past decade or so, appears to have come down to an either/or situation: between digitizing extant analog material such as posters and baseball cards, and the archiving and preservation of emerging digital artifacts, such as CD-ROMs, digital images, and websites, themselves. - LM

Leibovich, Lori. "Choosing Quick Hits Over the Card Catalog" New York Times Technology Circuits (August 10, 2000). ( - Leibovich tracks a disturbing trend amongst students who are increasingly avoiding traditional library research methods altogether for the quick fix of web search engines. But inevitably, Leibovich asserts, what they believe they will gain in reduced exertion is often lost in bad search practices. UC Berkeley's own Ellen Meltzer corroborates, adding that the problem extends to college-age searchers who are often deficient in the finer points of boolean logic or controlled vocabulary. Most of the librarians and educators quoted cite a pressing need for teaching new research methodologies to optimize the use of the web for research. The paradigm of a solitary web surfer who does online research from his/her dorm room or bedroom without availing him/herself of the guidance of educational professionals is one worm in a whole can. Is the library slated to become an internet hub, merely, where young minds will at least find some guidance in the form of a librarian? In my mind, at least, the question remains: how can we make the internet a research supplement for young people rather than a perceived replacement? - LM

Mann, Charles C. "The Heavenly Jukebox" The Atlantic Monthly 286(3) (September 2000) p.39-59 ( - Napster has been receiving a lot of press coverage lately, for making it possible for millions of Internet users to ignore copyright by trading digital music files. If this was only an issue of importance to the music industry and music consumers, it would still be an interesting and important one. But it is much, much bigger than that. There is a great deal more at stake here, and Mann does a better job than anyone I've seen at uncovering the issues, the players, and even the historical context. If you want to know what all the fuss is about (and we haven't seen anything yet), then this article will get you up-to-speed faster and better than most. Mann asserts that the music industry (and perhaps the movie and publishing industries to follow) have only two possible courses of action in the face of Napster, Gnutella, and other peer-to-peer applications: 1) "prepare for a world in which copyright plays a much smaller role", or 2) "change the Internet. The first alternative is problematic, to say the least. The second could be much worse." If you don't think it's possible that we could be on the verge of a post-copyright world, you should check out Gnutella. Unlike Napster, there are no responsible organizations, no central servers, no people to sue. You do the math. - RT

"Napster's wake-up call" The Economist Vol. 355 (No.8176) (Jun 24, 2000) p. 23-24 - Although it was written before current legal developments, this article presents the best synopsis of the technological, legal and cultural issues raised by Napster. In addition to describing the technology, it analyzes the intellectual property issues surrounding music file sharing, which pose a new ideological challenge to other information industries. It also recognizes the emerging cultural phenomenon of a file sharing community. - TH

Spooner, John G. "Intel: The Future is Peer" ZDNet (,4586,2619470,00.html). - It's clear Intel can't stand to be too far away from the Next Big Thing, since in the wake of Napster's popularity it has put together an industry peer-to-peer networking group of 18 companies, including IBM and Hewlett-Packard. Peer-to-peer networking (also called "P2P"; see other cites on Napster in this issue of Current Cites) has skyrocketed into the popular press as a method for the masses of Internet users to share files (most notably illegal music cuts) with one another. But Intel and other industry leaders are more likely to see P2P as a method for corporate users to quickly and easily share information from behind a firewall. - RT

Wagner, Dirk Nicholas. "Software agents take the Internet as a shortcut to enter society: A survey of new actors to study for social theory" First Monday 5(7) (July 3rd, 2000) ( The author argues that new perspectives on the social impact of technology are now vital. It makes sense to recast the social science of men [sic] and machines as men [sic] and agents. Agents operate as players in society, with substantial impact, and when society is inhabited by many different kinds of software agents, the effect is intensified. However, a general theory of multi-agent environments — complex domains where people and software interact in new relationships — is absent. Such a theory would substantially improve perceptions of person-machine interactions, and the power of the Internet to influence society. - TH

Current Cites 11(8) (August 2000) ISSN: 1060-2356
Copyright © 2000 by the Library, University of California, Berkeley. All rights reserved.

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