A cynic's review of WAIS

David Kristofferson kristoff at genbank.bio.net
Tue Oct 8 12:20:36 EST 1991

>               A Cynic's Review of WAIS

I am still in the midst of database release work but I wanted to get a
comment out before this item gets too stale.

Having known David Steffen for several years, the title above has to
be a misnomer.  David couldn't possibly be a cynic (unless one takes
Webster's definition from the old school of Greek philosophy "an
adherent or advocate of the view that virtue is the only good and that
its essence lies in self-control and independence" 8-) ... interesting
how we "cynics" pervert the meaning of words in the 20th Century).

The main problem that David mentions is the installation of WAIS.
Frankly, the fact that David installed the beta version of a program
that utilizes the network through his own efforts should be cause for
congratulations and a demonstration that it is possible to do.  IMHO
8-) biologists need to recognize that a specialist should be available
in their department to handle computer networking issues.  I wouldn't
expect "the typical working biologist" to have to handle installation
of experimental software such as WAIS any more than I would ask one of
our systems programmers to run a sequencing gel.  Nonetheless if
something offers the potential opportunities that WAIS provides, it's
worth devoting some departmental or university resources to
investigate it; perhaps you could get your local librarian
interested?!?  I realize that some people will cry poverty, but a
choice must ultimately be made about resource allocation.  To add a
second IMHO, those who continue to ignore the advances in computing
risk being left behind.  Remote access to information resources over
the Internet (later NREN) is coming whether you are ready or not.
Currently WAIS offerings are small, but the idea that WAIS represents
has the kind of "inexorable logic" about which even Karl Marx would
wax poetic.

My thanks to David for his excellent explanation of how WAIS can be
used to retrieve topics of interest out of the METHODS-AND-REAGENTS
newsgroup.  He also mentioned the new source here at genbank.bio.net
which indexes the individual articles in the table of contents
postings.  While I agree that this is no match for Medline or other
bibliographic services (the thought of even comparing them makes me
smile) I will note that the TOCs typically come out a couple of weeks
BEFORE the hardcopy journals are received by readers so the WAIS
biology-journals-contents source here can be viewed as a handy
"preview of coming attractions."


				Dave Kristofferson
				GenBank Manager

				kristoff at genbank.bio.net

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