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   Academia needed the Web (Re: Success factors for the Web and SemanticWeb

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  • From: David Megginson <david@megginson.com>
  • To: xml-dev <xml-dev@lists.xml.org>
  • Date: Thu, 21 Dec 2000 20:44:38 -0500 (EST)

Robin Berjon writes:

 > That's why I think Uche is right when he says that there probably
 > wasn't a "real" need for the www when it was created.

I cannot speak for the corporate world, since I was not a part of it
in 1989/90, but there was a loud, screaming need for something like
the Web in academia, especially for publishing and sharing teaching
material.  People were spending more and more time developing
proprietary tutorials and courseware with Toolbuilder and similar
platforms, and had a lot of trouble sharing it (if the students tried
to take it home, tech support was a nightmare).

Still, I was reluctant to start with the HTML, because it seemed
extremely weak compared to what I expected for Hypertext and
courseware; as a medievalist, however, I had had it drilled into me
that low-quality/high-volume *always* wins (i.e. crowded school and
chancery scripts over elegant monastic scripts, paper over parchment,
printing over calligraphy, American culture over ... oops, sorry), so
in 1993 I decided to bet that HTML would win in exactly the same way
(Gopher was too brain-dead to even consider): I led a team of four
teaching staff to write a complete basic-level English grammar for the
University of Ottawa's Writing Centre, then shocked the administration
by insisting on releasing it for free on the Internet rather than
trying to sell it on floppies (standard practice at the time).  We
finished, I think, in 1994, and it's still online (it looks like
someone has gone in and fixed some of the typos since I left the
university in 1996):


As an historical footnote, we did the whole thing as a single SGML
document and then used Perl to generate the 1,000 or so
intensely-linked HTML pages -- that was my motivation to write

All the best,


David Megginson                 david@megginson.com


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