Re: Let's hear more about CD-ROM publishing.

Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Sun, 12 Jun 1994 20:28:13 +1000

> Al Billings suggested looking into CD-ROM publishing. I haven't yet
> installed my NEC Multispin CD-ROM player, but it's just under my overdue
> library books, so it's coming. The convenience of storing graphic files is
> definitely a plus.

Heh, I'm looking forward to my CD-ROM player too.

> I guess I'm attracted to Read-Only document for publishing, probably
> because of the issue of authentication. Paper and CD-ROM documents can be
> signed, certified and sealed. Forgeries are at least costly. But the run of
> the mill e-mail, bulletin-board, sig-L, and FTP documents are usually just
> ASCII streams, printable by any device, and translated to paper provide
> relatively less assurance of authenticity. Certainly, headers provide an
> audit trail, but how many of us are willing to double check those IDs and
> routing records? It is easy to forge one of these documents.

CD-ROM replication is not that expensive (around A$200 I think),
and will certainly get cheaper. And the cost of hard disk drive
capable of storing an entire CD-ROMs worth of data is around US$500
(compare that with the asking price for some CDs, e.g. OED or HRAF).

A combination of digital signatures with suitable eschrow systems can
provide guaranteed authenticity for electronic documents - potentially
MUCH more reliable than paper signatures.

> Hypertext introduces not only a problem of authentication, but those of
> authorship and a changing evolving text. How do you reference with
> scholarship a paper created by unspecified individuals which exists in an
> assortment of versions none of which is likely to be the same when
> re-referenced?

You reference an old version - reference "snapshots" of documents
will almost certainly be taken at intervals for just this purpose,
as well as for ordinary backups.

> The costs of publishing bound books and journals on paper ups the stakes for
> accountability. The spirit duplicator, gestetner, and Xerox have
> democratized paper publishing by keeping the investment low. But do we give
> much credibility to those publications? Similarly, CD-ROM would seem to up
> the stakes for electronic media, giving more credibility to what is
> otherwise in many ways a low stakes form of publication (this post is being
> published to 600 people after all).

I'm with the previous poster who suggested a move to prestige being
assigned on content, not on form. If necessary, documents can be
evaluated by everyone who reads them. So everyone who reads a paper
adds their name to a list associated with it, along with optional
ranking/comments; if I'm on an employment committee, I can then look
at this list and see that persons X, Y and Z, whom I really respect,
think it's wonderful (or awful), and judge its value accordingly.

> It may not be wise to rely too heavily on military and corporate surplus
> technology, to include the Internet, and upon Intel and Motorola for our
> vehicles and repositories of scholarly communication. Paper is relatively
> safe. It survives better in the field than any electronic device I've seen.

But some electronic information, at least, is damned hard to destroy -
the Internet was designed to survive a nuclear strike taking out large
portions of it, and distributed systems generally have high robustness
to failure. Once we've got the hardware and the protocols there's not
much Intel or Motorola or DARPA can do about what we do with them...

Paper will live on because it's convenient; until there's a computer
terminal I can comfortable access while sitting on the toilet I'll need
books to read there!

Danny Yee.