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All You Ever Wanted to Know about WAIS

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All You Ever Wanted to Know about WAIS
--------------------------------------


From: [email protected] (Jeff Kellem)
Subject: WAIS, A Sketch of an Overview

The following is something I threw together, in the time it took to type
it, for some friends that had shown an interest in WAIS at one time or
another.  It may be of interest, for those that are curious about WAIS.

Jeff Kellem
Internet: [email protected]


                 WAIS, A Sketch Of An Overview
                 =============================
               Jeff Kellem, Beyond Dreams
                    23 September 1991


So, what is WAIS?
-----------------

    First off, WAIS stands for Wide Area Information Server.  And, just
what the heck is a "Wide Area Information Server"?  It's a set of programs
(or, more specifically, a protocol) that allows users to search and access
different types of information from a single interface.  This information
can be practically anything, from text to sound to images to whatever you
can think up.  The information can reside anywhere and on many different
computer systems.  The WAIS protocol is an extension of the ANSI Z39.50
information retrieval protocol.  (WAIS is pronounced "ways", BTW.)

How does one access info from a WAIS server?
--------------------------------------------

     You'll need a WAIS client.  There are a few sample clients (user
interfaces) provided with the WAIS distribution available from Thinking
Machines (TMC) [see below, "How do I get the WAIS distribution?"]: a GNU
Emacs, a shell, and an X Windows interface.  A Mac interface is also
available from TMC.  Other interfaces are currently "in the works", such as
a Motif interface, one for the NeXT, a dumb terminal interface, among
others.  Once you start up the WAIS client, you specify what's called a
source to search upon.  [A `source' specifies a server of information and
how the client can contact it, along with some other information.]  You can
ask multiple sources for information.  Then, you ask the source(s) a
question/query.  A question consists of a phrase.  With the current sample
server/client implementations, this phrase is basically considered a set of
keywords to search for, based on weights/percentages of each word in the
documents (you're searching upon).  But, since WAIS really just specifies
the protocol for the client and server to use for communication, the
underlying search on the server could just as well use various natural
language queries upon its information.  The information on the server could
also easily be some arbitrary database, as long as the server knows how to
understand a WAIS question and send back a response.  The user never has to
see this part of WAIS.  All s/he see is the client side of things, the
choice of a source(s) and the posing of a question.  Once the user has found
some relevant documents, s/he can ask the source(s) for other documents
"similar" to the ones found.

Well, what type of information is available?
--------------------------------------------

    All kinds and more are being added all the time.  Here's a list of the
current server names (taken from the release announcement of version 8 beta
3.1), organized by topic:

Biology:
 biology-journal-contents.src
 biosci.src              Molecular-biology.src

Usenet and internet archives:
 comp.graphics.src       comp.admin.src
 comp.db.src             comp.emacs.src
 comp.multi.src               comp.archives.src
 rec.pets.src            comp.sources.src
 usenet-science.src
 user-contrib-cookbook.src    usenet-cookbook.src
 homebrew.src
 info-mac.src            sun-spots.src

Frequently Asked Questions:
 NeXT.FAQ.src            unix.FAQ.src
 ibm.pc.FAQ.src               mac.FAQ.src

Connection Machine info:
 CM-applications.src
 CM-tech-summary.src
 CM-fortran-manual.src        CM-paris-manual.src
 CM-star-lisp-docs.src        CMFS-documentation.src

Books:
 jargon.src
 bible.src               koran.src
 sample-books.src
 MIT-algorithms-bug.src  MIT-algorithms-exercise.src
 MIT-algorithms-suggest.src

Libraries:
 online-libraries.src
 tmc-library.src

Misc:
 open_systems_calendar.src    matrix_news.src
 astro-images-gif.src         astro-images-fits.src
 nsf-bulletins.src
 midi.src
 unimelb-research.src (Australia!)
 supreme-ct.src
 NIH-Guide.src
 UNTComputerDoc.src
 US-Gov-Programs.src
 UiO_Publications.src (Norway!)
 cosmic-abstracts.src         cosmic-programs.src
 directory-of-servers.src
 eff-documents.src       eff-talk.src
 empire.src              empire20.src
 internet-documents.src       internet-drafts.src
 internet-resource-guide.src  internet-rfcs.src
 patent-sampler.src
 poetry.src
 risks-digest.src

 sample-pictures.src
 unix-manual.src
 wais-discussion-archives.src wais-docs.src
 wall-street-journal-sample.src
 weather.src
 world-factbook.src

How do I find out about these and other WAIS servers?
-----------------------------------------------------

    Thinking Machines runs a WAIS server, directory-of-servers.src, which
is a "white pages" of other WAIS servers.  You can query this WAIS server
to find other servers and new ones that pop up.  When someone creates a
server that they want others to know about, s/he registers that server
with the directory-of-servers.  Directions on how to do this are given
in the WAIS distribution from think.com.

Okay, so how do I obtain the WAIS distribution?
-----------------------------------------------

    The WAIS distribution, currently at version 8 beta 3.1 is available
via anonymous ftp from the:

     think.com:/public/wais

directory.  The filename for WAIS version 8 beta 3.1 is:

     wais-8-b3.1.tar.Z

and, for the Mac client/interface:

     WAIStation-0-62.sit.hqx

A bibliography of WAIS related articles is included below.  If additions
are made to this bibliography, you can obtain a fresh copy via anonymous
ftp from:

     quake.think.com:/pub/wais/wais-discussion/bibliography.txt

If you have further questions about WAIS, feel free to send me a note.

What about mailing lists or newsgroups related to WAIS?
-------------------------------------------------------

    There are three mailing lists, maintained at think.com, regarding
WAIS.  They are:

    [email protected]   announcements of new releases for the
                    Internet environment.  One message a
                    month or so.
    [email protected]     To join, send mail here.


    [email protected] Moderated digest of mail from users and
                    developers on Electronic Publishing
                    and other WAIS related topics.  Includes
                    all from wais-interest.
    [email protected]   To join, send mail here.

    [email protected]       unmoderated list for implementors and
                    interactive discussions.  A couple notes
                    a week, depending on activity, of course.
    [email protected]         To join, send mail here.


As a reminder, requests for additions/deletions/etc. should go to

     wais-<foo>[email protected]

where `<foo>' is one of `interest, `discussion', or `talk'.  Archives are
available from WAIS server, wais-discussion, or anonymous ftp from

     quake.think.com:/pub/wais/wais-discussion

The USENET newsgroup, alt.wais, is also devoted to discussing WAIS and
related items of interest.  It is disjoint from the above mailing lists.

If you have any further questions regarding WAIS, feel free to send me a
note.  I can be reached via e-mail at:

     [email protected]

Hope this was of some help.  This document is an extreme rough draft,
typing from a stream of consciousness.


Jeff Kellem
Composer of Dreams / Dream Maker
Beyond Dreams
Internet: [email protected]

[ The above document is Copyright (c) 1991 Jeff Kellem/Beyond Dreams,
  except for portions taken from other related documents, as noted.  You
  have permission to freely redistribute this for non-commercial and
  non-profit purposes.  It would be nice if you let the author know
  about any redistributions that are expected to reach more than a
  single person. :)  Please contact the author if you wish to use this
  document in any other fashion.  Most likely, there won't be a problem. ]


WAIS Bibliography (attachment)
==============================

       Wide Area Information Servers (WAIS) Bibliography

           Barbara Lincoln ([email protected])
                      8/23/91

------------------------------------------------------------------
Hard copies of the following documents are available.  Some
documents are available electronically, as stated, but contain
figures which are not reproduced in the ascii version.
Email, fax, mail or phone your name, address and phone number to:
Barbara Lincoln, Thinking Machines Corp., 1010 El Camino Real, Suite
310, Menlo Park, CA,  94025,  phone: 415-329-9300, fax: 415-329-9329,
email:[email protected]
-------------------------------------------------------------------

WAIS Documents
---------------

- "Wide Area Information Servers", (overview sheet) Brewster Kahle,
Thinking Machines, April, 1991.
One page overview of the Internet release of WAIS.
Available via anonymous ftp:
/pub/wais/wais-discussion/[email protected] or
WAIS server wais-discussion-archive.src

- "An Information System for Corporate Users: Wide Area Information
Servers", Brewster Kahle, April, 1991. Thinking Machines technical
report TMC-199.  Also in ONLINE Magazine Aug 1991.
Report on the system constructed for Peat Marwick and other corporate
users.  Has screen shots of WAIStation.
Available via anonymous ftp:
/pub/wais/doc/[email protected] or WAIS server
wais-docs.src

- "WAIS Bibliography", Barbara Lincoln, Thinking Machines, August,
1991.
Available via anonymous ftp:
/pub/wais/wais-discussion/[email protected] or
WAIS server wais-discussion-archive.src

- "Wide Area Information Servers Concepts", Brewster Kahle,
November, 1989,Thinking Machines technical report TMC-202.
Early draft of paper outlining how a Wide Area Information System
could grow.
Available via anonymous ftp:
/pub/wais/doc/[email protected] or WAIS
server wais-docs.src

- "Wide Area Information Servers: A SuperComputer on Every Desk", Brewster
Kahle, Thinking Machines, August 1991.  This is a set of overview
presentation slides for WAIS.

- "WAIStation, A User Interface for WAIS", February 1991, Thinking
Machines technical report TMC-203.
User interface documentation with screen shots.
Available via anonymous ftp:
/pub/wais/doc/[email protected] or WAIS
server wais-docs.src

WAIS-related articles/publications
--------------------------------

- "For the PC User, Vast Libraries", New York Times, pg.C1 John
Markoff, July 3, 1991.
Overview of WAIS Internet experiment.

- "Browsing Through Terabytes", Byte Magazine, Richard Stein, May
1991, pp157-164.
Readable article on what a large WAIS system looks like.

- "WAIS Promises Easy Text Retrieval", MacWeek, Henry Norr, May
14, 1991, pg22.
Report on the Peat Marwick WAIS system.

- "Release 1.0", Esther Dyson, April 1991, entire issue.
In-depth article on commercial systems and protocols, featuring
WAIS.

- "Network to Unite Data Bases", San Jose Mercury News, John
Markoff, July 21, 1991, page 1F.
Rewriting of the "For the PC User, Vast Libraries," New York Times
article with emphasis on Apple component.

- "Designing a Desktop Information System: Observations and Issues",
Thomas Erickson & Gitta Salomon.  Human Factors in Computing Systems,
CHI '91 Conference Proceedings  (pp. 49-54) April 1991, New Orleans.
New York: ACM, 1991.
Early paper on the Apple interface for WAIS.

- "Z39.50-1988: Information Retrieval Service Definition and Protocol
Specification for Library Applications".  National Information Standards
Organization (Z39), P.O. Box 1056, Bethesda, MD 20817.  (301) 975-2814.
Available from Document Center, Belmont, CA.  Telephone 415-591-7600.

- "Z39.50-1991 Version 2", May 1991.  Electronic version of the working
copy of the Z39.50 implementors group.  Anonymous FTP:
/pub/wais/doc/[email protected] or WAIS server wais-docs.

- "The Z39.50 Information Retrieval Protocol: An Overview and Status
Report", Clifford Lynch, Computer Communication Review ACM SIGCOMM
Introduction to the the protocol of WAIS.

- "WAIS Interface Protocol, Prototype Functional Specification", April
1990.
Our Changes to the Z39.50-1988 specification.

Thinking Machines Technical Reports
-----------------------------------

- "Parallel Free-Text Search on the Connection Machine System",
C. Stanfill and B. Kahle, 1986.  Thinking Machines technical report
TMC-72.  Communications of the ACM, Volume 29, Number 12, December 1986.
How a signature system can be used on a parallel machine.

-  "Massively Parallel Information Retrieval for Wide Area Information
Servers", C. Stanfill, Thinking Machines, October, 1991.  Paper presented
at the IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics.
Charlottesville, Virginia.
Technical paper on Connection Machine servers on the WAIS system.
Postscript copy available via anonymous ftp:
/pub/wais/doc/[email protected] or WAIS server wais-docs.

- "A Parallel Indexed Algorithm for Information Retrieval", C. Stanfill,
R. Thau, December 1990.  Thinking Machines technical report TMC-67.
Appeared in Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Research
and Development in Information Retrieval SIGIR-89.

- "Extracting Content Bearing Terms in Parallel on the Connection
Machine", S. Smith, 1987.  Thinking Machines technical report TMC-71.
Submitted to ACL.

- "Very Large Database Applications of the Connection Machine System",
D. Waltz, C. Stanfill, S. Smith, R. Thau, 1987.  Thinking Machines technical
report TMC-70.  Appeared in AFIPS/1987 NCC Proceedings, July 1987.

- "Parallel Computing for Information Retrieval: Recent Developments",
C. Stanfill, January, 1988.  Thinking Machines technical report TMC-69.

- "An Analysis of the Effects of Data Corruption on Text Retrieval
Performance", S. Smith, C. Stanfill, December 1988.  Thinking Machines
technical report TMC-68.

- "Information Retrieval on the Connection Machine: 1 to 8192 Gigabytes",
C. Stanfill, R. Thau, December 1990.  Thinking Machines technical report
TMC-66.  To appear in Information Processing and Management, 1991.

- "WAIStation, A User Interface for WAIS", February 1991, Thinking
Machines technical report TMC-203.
User interface documentation with screen shots.
Available via anonymous ftp:
/pub/wais/doc/[email protected] or WAIS
server wais-docs.src

- "An Information System for Corporate Users: Wide Area Information
Servers", Brewster Kahle, April, 1991. Thinking Machines technical
report TMC-199.  Also in ONLINE Magazine Aug 1991.
Report on the system constructed for Peat Marwick and other corporate
users.  Has screen shots of WAIStation.
Available via anonymous ftp:
/pub/wais/doc/[email protected] or WAIS server
wais-docs.src

- "Wide Area Information Servers Concepts", Brewster Kahle,
November, 1989,Thinking Machines technical report TMC-202.
Early draft of paper outlining how a Wide Area Information System
could grow.
Available via anonymous ftp:
/pub/wais/doc/[email protected] or WAIS
server wais-docs.src

Electronic Services
------------------

- [email protected]: Weekly digest of mail from users and
developers on Electronic Publishing.
Anonymous FTP access to archives:
/pub/wais/wais-discussion/*@quake.think.com

- [email protected]: announcements of new releases for the
internet environment.  A message every month or so.  Anonymous FTP
access to archives:
/pub/wais/wais-discussion/*@quake.think.com

- [email protected]: interactive list of developers.  A couple
notes a week.

- WAIS Unix Release: Freeware release of client code (X and gnu-emacs),
protocol code, and server code for accessing existing servers or starting
new servers.
Available via anonymous FTP:
/public/wais/[email protected]

- WAIStation Macintosh program:  Freeware client program for accessing
servers over tcp/ip.  See WAIStation documentation above (included in the
release).
Available via anonymous FTP:
/public/wais/[email protected]

- Macintosh demonstration screen-movie: Steve Cisler put together a short
screen-recorder movie for seeing some of what WAIStation does.
Available via anonymous FTP:
/public/wais/[email protected]