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NOF-DIGI  February 2002

NOF-DIGI February 2002

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Subject:

Re: pre digitised conversion to html

From:

Chris Meaney <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Chris Meaney <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 22 Feb 2002 11:39:19 -0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (133 lines)

Dear Brian,

I understand the issue concerning proprietary formats and that an aim is
preservation. I've said all along that masters should be stored in a neutral
format. My issue concerns what happens at a presentation level. Acrobat and
Flash have clear value in delivering material, they do things that HTML can
(and never will) do. This is why they are so widely used..., by Government
departments as well as private sector organisations.

A major weakness of HTML delivery is the control that the user has over the
display of a page. This is a great strength for those with accessibility
issues, but for the designers of the pages, it is a major headache when
looking at how the pages will display as the results cannot be guaranteed.
If someone is trying to recreate a page in the style of the original just
using HTML, it will not work. This is where Acrobat scores heavily as the
results are predictable, cross-platform, every time. It is also portable and
will work on PDAs, offline, etc.

On the issue of IT developers hijacking users - can you name one instance
where this has ever happened? The BT example is not strictly the same issue,
as this was a patented technology that they registered and by all accounts
is very weak if challenged legally anyway as researchers in Xerox actually
"invented" hyperlinking about 20 years previously. The only comparable
occurrence is with GIFs where Unisys have enforced their rights to the
underlying compression algorithms - not on the users of the files, but on
the companies that make the tools to create them - as long as you are using
a tool that is licensed to create GIFs, you are OK.

I think the nervousness over proprietary formats is unjustified - formats
such as PDF are so widespread, that Adobe would be committing commercial
suicide if they were to try to introduce charging. Again, I ask the question
raised in a previous e-mail - if proprietary formats are to be avoided does
this mean that NOF-funded projects should avoid using: cassette tapes, CDs,
DVDs (invented by Philips), DV video tapes, VHS video tapes (invented by
JVC), 8MM video tapes (invented by Sony), APS film (invented by a consortia
of film companies)?

I am also concerned that we are losing sight here of the end users - surely
these projects should also be about opening access to and delivering
vibrant, exciting, educational content. There is a risk that in the desire
to chase ultimate non-proprietary, standards-based delivery (which is a
great aim), the end result could be bland or geared to the lowest common
denominator. The "shareholders" here are the population of the UK - what do
they want?

Acrobat does not specifically benefit developers/consultants either - we use
it, but I would not dream of charging someone to convert a document, as the
software is available and cheap and it is as easy as printing a document.
The whole point with Acrobat is that you use an original (non-Acrobat)
document to create a PDF, thereby solving the issue of preservation and
enabling enhanced presentation for those users that need it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big supporter of NOF, UKOLN and the NOF Digi
funding stream and do firmly believe there should be standards, but I'm just
concerned that the NOF projects could spend a lot of time (and money)
chasing some standards or trying to overcome some of the limitations of
HTML, when there are widely used technologies out there that do the job
well/easily.

I'm just keen to stimulate debate - any thoughts/comments?

Regards

Chris Meaney (AIMC)
Managing Director

 ========================================================================
Harvard Consultancy Services Ltd, Bexin House, 2/3 St. Andrews Place
Southover Road, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 1UP
Tel: 01273 897517, Fax: 01273 471929, E-Mail: [log in to unmask]

Registered in England & Wales no. 3766540
Registered Office: 50 Harvard Close, Malling, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 2EJ


-----Original Message-----
From: Brian Kelly [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 22 February 2002 11:00
To: [log in to unmask]
Cc: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: pre digitised conversion to html


> QUESTIONS TO ASK ABOUT HTML:

Deleted questions which aim to make proprietary formats seem a better
choice than HTML.

Nobody is arguing that proprietary formats do not have their advantages.
If they didn't there wouldn't be lively discussions on this subject!

However you seem to be missing an important factor of the NOF-digitise
programme which is the digitising of our cultural heritage for long term
preservation.

Proprietary formats are, by definition, owned by someone, normally large
commercial companies.  Such companies have to act on behalf of their
shareholders  e.g. to maximise dividends for them (I'm sure other are
more au fait with relevant Companies acts).

Ownership of proprietary formats is a potential gold mine for companies.
We have a clear example of that at present with BT claiming the patent
of hyperlinks in the US (the patent has expired elsewhere).  They are
claiming royalties from one of the large ISPs in the States and if they
are successful they will chase others.

There is nothing to stop other companies doing likewise - and indeed one
good argue that companies are obliged to maximise dividends as BT are
trying to do.

So the key issue isn't the functionality, widespread deployment or
accessibility of proprietary formats, but being hostage to fortune to
the business decisions of mainly large American IT companies (which, as
we have seen has taken a downturn in recent years and post Sep 11).

It's also worth pointing out that use of proprietary formats is not only
beneficial to the companies owning the formats, but also software
developers, consultants, etc. who have expertise in the formats.
However what is good for these groups is not necessarily good for the
content owners of the funders.

Brian

---------------------------------------
Brian Kelly
UK Web Focus
UKOLN
University of Bath
BATH
BA2 7AY
Email: [log in to unmask]
Web: http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/
Phone: 01225 38 3943

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