Network Working Group D. Crocker
Request for Comments: 585 UCLA-NMC
Category: Users N. Neigus
NIC: 18259 BBN-NET
Arpanet Users Interest Working Group Meeting
A new group, the Arpanet Users Interest Working Group (USING) is the
outgrowth of a meeting held in Boston on May 22-23, 1973. The
meeting, cochaired by Dave Crocker, UCLA-NMC, and Nancy Neigus, BBN,
followed BBN's Resource Sharing Workshop.
The USING meeting was seen by the members as a forum for Network
Users to air complaints, exchange information, voice desires, and
present concrete proposals for the design and implementation of
user-oriented Network capabilities.
The group will devote itself to lobbying on behalf of user interests,
to promoting and facilitating resource sharing, to improving user
interfaces (support), and to studies of standardization. The
ultimate goal will be provide users identification of, and
facilitated access to, whatever resources on the Network they might
wish to use.
Neigus, Crocker, and Iseli of MITRE were selected to define the
objectives and goals of USING in more detail, and they will present
their discussion in a later publication.
Dave Crocker, UCLA-NMC, Co-Chairperson
Nancy Neigus, BBN, Co-Chairperson
Ken Bowles, UCSD-CC
Frank Brignoli, NSRDC
Jim Calvin, CASE-10
Jake Feinler, NIC
Wayne Hathaway, NASA-AMES
Jean Iseli, MITRE
Mike Kudlick, NIC
Mike Padlipsky, MIT-MULTICS
Lee Richardson, USC-ISI
Ron Stoughton, UCSB
Jim White, NIC
Steve Wolf, UCLA-CCN
Joe Wyatt, Harvard
CATEGORIES OF CONCERN
The meeting began by attempting to create a relatively complete list
of topics directly relevant to users. The intention was to then
discuss some of these categories in detail. The categories of
concern to users are listed here along with a brief outline of the
discussion and recommendations associated with each category. Not
all topics were discussed fully due to time limitations. It was
acknowledged that some of the recommendations were quite extensive,
but that they should be mentioned even though their implementation
would be far off.
1. Online and Offline Documentation, Information Sharing, and
a. There is a general need to upgrade the quality, technical
accuracy, timeliness, dissemination, and format of both online
and offline documentation.
b. Documentation should avoid "buzz" words (jargon), and should
follow easily understood syntax conventions, abbreviation
standards, reference citation rules, etc. However, there
probably cannot be a standard format for writing documentation.
c. Offline documentation should be well indexed, should contain a
good table-of-contents, and should be written in an easily
browsable format. Online documentation should be presented in
a browse mode with well-labeled categories of information as
well as a keyword search capability.
d. Documentation should be identified with date/author/version
information, particularly in large online documents, so that it
is easier to keep the most current version of a document and to
query the author, in the event of problems with the
e. Network news needs to be gathered and intelligently distributed
to users (Network PR).
f. Users need several levels and styles of access to
documentation, whether online or offline, based upon their
experience, interests, and preferences.
g. Each server site should also provide some degree of information
variety in online "help" mechanisms, tailored to fit the needs
and experience of different user types.
In addition, entering "Help" from the EXEC level of a system
should direct a user to ALL procedural-type information.
h. New users should be carefully introduced to the Network by way
of a New Users Packet (NUP). Since the MITRE-TIP group is the
official contact for new users, they should design such a
packet and incorporate suggestions from USING.
This packet should eventually contain, among other things:
a definition of, and introduction to the Network
a list of sites
step-by-step scenarios for accessing functional documents an
related online items
a definition of who can get on the Network
some quick-reference charts showing a list of Network
services available to new users
and an introduction to Network groups, including USING, as
well as the names of Network consultants, assistants, and
i. Information-accessing mechanisms should be provided for users,
including interactive tutorials, user scenarios, and other
j. A Network-wide "who, what, where and when" information system
should be implemented. (This was nicknamed the Network Yellow
Pages.) Discussion of support for such a system focused on
obtaining some form of central funding.
k. The concept of `Regional Agents' for collecting information for
the Resource Notebook was discussed.
Several felt that what was really needed was a `rebirth' of the
original concept of Technical Liaison as the person who
provides information to the NIC and technical assistance to
There was concern voiced about the number of people collecting
information and the redundancy of the requests received by
There was also concern about what incentives there are (or
should be or can be) for Liaisons to perform their tasks
adequately by providing truly up-to-date and complete
information (carrot vs. stick).
l. Server Sites should provide a variety of consulting services to
supplement `help' and general information services.
Consultants could represent the whole Network, a group of
sites, a single site, general areas such as software, or
specific applications processes. This could fit into the
workings of the Network Servers Group.
2. Standardization for the User
a. If they so desire, users should only have to learn one
Executive (command) language, rather than 20. Rather than have
every site change its interface to the user, it was suggested
that there be a Network Common Command Language Protocol which
is translated to/from the host's own Executive command
As with FTP and RJE, a human user should be able to type in CCL
Protocol directly, though many sites may want to allow a local
user to type in their local Executive language, and then they
will translate it into CCLP, for the foreign host.
Any Network Common Command Language should be compatible with
batch systems as well as with interactive systems, and should
provide an effective means for batch job submission and
Bowles, Hathaway, and Stoughton volunteered to outline specs
for Network command language that would be compatible with
ideas suggested by Padlipsky and discussed at the meeting.
b. One of the functions to included in a Common Command Language
is a simple editor, which Padlipsky has outlined. The editor
should be easy for users to learn as well as for servers to
implement or interface to their own editors.
3. Status/Measurement of Site Performance
a. A variety of performance measures, for the individual sites,
needs to be derived, acquired, maintained, and made available
This could include some attempt to measure average "response
time", relative costs (relative to type of task, that is),
b. Mechanisms are needed for software certification and for
measuring and verifying the accuracy and/or reliability of
systems, hardware, protocols, applications software, etc.
4. User Feedback Mechanisms
a. There is a need for a uniform Network gripe/suggestion
mechanism. This should cover several types of gripes,
including program bugs and service complaints.
b. Each user registering a complaint deserves immediate
acknowledgement and some indication of what, if any, action
will be taken.
c. The NIC should set up Network ident groups for Principal
Investigators, Liaisons, Station Agents, Accounts
Administrators, Consultants, etc., so that users can easily
direct their comments, inquiries and mail to these groups.
d. A Network Servers Group should be started, to coordinate the
activities (to the extent possible) of the servers (a Server's
Cartel?). It would also provide a focus for user complaints
(The group was originally dubbed the "Tobacco Institute". The
Tobacco Institute acts as a representative for the disparate
Tobacco companies, and attempts to convince the public that
smoking is good for them.)
The point of the Servers Group -- rather than trying to
convince the Network public that servers are good for them --
would be for servers to help each other with common tasks (such
as documentation) that are too big for each to handle alone.
This eventually works in the users interest, because the
servers (in the Network free-market economy) are dependent
upon the users for their livelihood.
There should be cooperation between the Server Group and USING,
but the groups would NOT be comprised of the same people. They
are on opposite sides of the product.
e. Station Agents should supply users with information of a
clerical nature such as names, phone numbers, titles,
documentations, etc. To be able to do this, the Agents must
first HAVE this information.
5. Messages to Users
a. Messages to users, such as error messages or diagnostics,
should be simple, clear, and meaningful to users.
b. The user should have the ability to control notifications given
to him, by being able to queue messages or refuse them.
c. Users should be able to suppress diagnostics or to specify
abbreviated or expanded versions.
6. Tailoring of Resources for Users
a. Interfaces to users should support different levels of user
proficiency, without being a burden to the more proficient
That is, a new user needs more prompting, etc. A more
experienced user does not need and DOES NOT WANT such
prompting. So the capabilities of the interface, which are not
needed by a specific user, should be transparent.
b. A method for work flow management that permits a user to set up
a sequence of computer tasks that are contingent upon one
another is needed. The user should be able to describe this
sequence interactively and then be able to detach and continue
with other work while the sequence of tasks is being carried
7. Personal Information Management System
a. Users need a system for managing all types of machine-based
contacts such as mail, links, journal items, etc.
Such a system should `log' what has been received and allow the
user to keep a copy, if desired.
It should also provide the user with options for organizing his
b. A personal `calendar' or reminder system would be handy,
especially if it allowed one to look ahead to coming events as
well as to check events for the current day or week.
c. A `return to sender' feature is needed in the Network-wide mail
d. (Discussion of the current work on the Mail Protocol indicated
that some of these ideas are already being considered)
8. Uniform Accounting Procedures and Online Status of Accounts
a. This topic was covered in detail by sections of the Resource
Sharing Workshop. It is mentioned here only because it is a
problem of real concern to users.
9. Trial Usage and Browsing
a. Ideally, users should be allowed some `free' sampling of
systems and features available at each site. Practically, this
presents problems of space allocation, accounting, consulting,
etc. Although none of these problems are easy to solve
equitably, an attempt should still be made to provide some free
usage to everyone.
b. Several types of trial usage should be considered, such as for
those who will make an immediate commitment and those who wish
merely to sample, without making any commitment.
10. Prelogon Facilities
a. Some facilities should be available as prelogon facilities, so
that any user can access them whether or not he has an account,
directory, etc., at a given site. Some sites will not be able
to support many of these functions, so a required set must be
kept to a minimum.
11. Remote User Facilitation
a. Users not only need help with actual use of systems from a
remote site, but they also need facilitation of administrative
tasks. Station Agents should be able to handle most of these
problems or transfer the user to the proper person. System
access requirements, account and billing problems, and document
acquisition need particular attention.
b. There should be a simple mechanism for users to acquire/update
information in functional documents such as the Resource Note-
book and in files such as identification files. Publications
or files of this sort should combine the collective input of
all the users.
12. Transportability of Resources and Information
a. Users should be able to easily transfer information, such as
files, memos, mail, online documentation, (programs?!?) etc.,
from one site to another.
13. Network Utilities
a. Should distributed data banks and similar features be
considered Network utilities that can be used by all?
The idea of "Network Utilities" was recognized as an
interesting one by the group, but there was little agreement as
to what constitutes Network utilities or how they should be
1. Neigus, Crocker, and Iseli will draft the scope, objectives,
goals, and priorities of USING and will submit their
recommendations for approval by the members.
2. MITRE will design a New User's Packet incorporating ideas from
3. Bowles, Hathaway, and Stoughton will write preliminary specs for a
Network Common Command Language Protocol. All members should
suggest a list of commands for consideration.
4. Padlipsky will produce specifications for a simple, standard
editor (NETED) which could easily be implemented by server hosts.
5. A general Users Group (NIC ident = USERS) will be formed, to allow
any interested person to monitor user-oriented activities,
especially those of USING. Anyone interested in being in USERS
should contact Dave Crocker (DHC).
6. Activities of the group will be reported in the ARPAnet News, and
a user's forum column will be made available for user's comments.
7. The group will meet again in the Fall of 1973 at the Network
Information Center in Menlo Park, California.
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