UPDATE at December 11th 1994

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Registration and selection:

Student registration opened 7 days ago and we have been overwhelmed with applications and excitement. There have been about 170 applications from 24 countries (a small number of these are consultants). Students have been extremely disciplined in their applications and all have used the FORM for their submission (except a few who had technical difficulties which we are trying to resolve). We are all really excited about the interest and feel that this, in itself, makes the course a certain success.

If applications continue at the usual diminishing rate, I'd predict about 250 by the end of next week. Unless I hear from anyone, I suggest we post a closing date of Friday 16, 2400 GMT. We then need to think about a selection proceedure.

On the positive side, the more people on the course the more we can expect to learn and achieve. I'm very optimistic about getting a critical mass to take part in discussions and to get projects off the ground. Also there are obviously more people who can help with preparing hyperarticles, the glossary (see below) and other material. It's also more likely that people with organisational skills or complementary experience will come forward.

Certain aspects of a virtual course (reading hyperpages and home study) carry no overheads, but unfortunately all other aspects of the course do.

The following are demands on resources:

There is also the 'feel' of the course. It is NOT intended to be elitist, but we want members to be able to get to know one another. Too many people writing to a listserv will swamp it, and too many in a MOO render it impossible. Also you may feel anonymous if there are so many people that you can never remember whether you have met someone.

Our present intention, therefore, is to limit numbers to about 100. (Marcus took 80 in his C++ course). We have not yet read your applications in detail, but there is clearly a lot of diversity in where you are, your experience, and your subject areas. We'll try to retain this diversity in the selection.

PLEASE don't feel that you have been REJECTED if you are not selected. We are NOT selecting on some absolute criterion of merit. We'll keep you on a list in case there are people who drop-out, and it may also happen that there are 'learning projects' which you might wish to be involved with later. All of the course material will be posted, and you'd still be very welcome to post stuff. The only things that you won't be able to do are to have a formal call on consultants' time, to take part in formal MOO sessions, and to mail to listservs (though the output will be posted).

Please tell us specifically if you are teaching or intending to teach a course. In that case we'll see whether other ways of running things are more appropriate (e.g. by having an intermediary of some sort). We also would like to have some formal feedback.


AlanM's BACKBONE is proving to be exactly what is required for the course to anneal around and material of high quality is continually being added. Of course, as this is the first time, there will be GAPS but I expect that most of his placeholders will have *something* by the time we start. Alan is also twisting a few arms :-). Some of the material will arise out of the course itself, so you should regard gaps as opportunities! There will be an important input from crystallographers and modellers at Birkeck on various protein FAMILIES, but this is an area which deliberately relies on what YOU have to offer.

The GLOSSARY is now very exciting. We have a committed curator, Lesley West, who is a professional information scientist. The glossary will be collaborative, since *you* will be able to add the terms. For most of these only a few minutes work is required, so that if every course member spent, say, 15 mins/week adding ONE new glossary item, that would give over 1000 terms. Such a glossary would then become a very valuable resource beyond the course!

I have also just completed the technology to manage the glossary, and it promises to be very exciting as well. Using standard (graphical) forms it's straightforward to add small images as well, and also to edit and update material remotely. This means that the glossary can have, say, chemical formulae or *small* maps of cellular location. Also it is possible for you, as authors, to have your local html marked-up with glossary terms *automatically*. (Although this seems magic, it's actually quite simple technically and essentially uses a remote script, running remotely with the glossary, as a filter for html.) This means that all authors can have hypertext documents which link to the same resource and so we both simplify the navigation, and produce a consensus of what we use as terms.

The glossary will be a very important experiment, as it's extensible to many other fields. We can also add a computer glossary and perhaps a simple organic chemistry one. It would then be possible to see something like the Virtual Library emerging, produced entirely by collaborative work!

Other Info

The listservs and mail have been set up at Birkbeck and we shall be offering them to you as soon as registration has finished. Many thanks to Richard Westlake and Dave Houldershaw - also to help from Diego Zamboni. If you have mail problems (unavoidable occasionally), try to detail what is wrong and include headers of any bounces.

Course mail and enquiries should go to:


and not to ME or AlanM or the tech/admin/offers lists. (I only have to reroute these and it doubles the trafiic at least). I shall hope to have some forms running at BBK in the next few days for feedback, but the CERN server is different from the NCSA that I am used to, so please be patient.

We hope to have a party in BioMOO, probably before the end of the year 1994, but after registration has finished - maybe about Dec 20-22. We remind you that in this country (and some others) there is a religous/commercial festival which effectively stops work for many from about 20 Dec to 3 Jan 1995. I shall probably logon moderately frequently, but you can expect machines to be less supported or shutdown. I therefore hope that we can get most of the admin tidied up before then.

We intend to 'launch' the course, probably around the 3rd week of Jan 1995. Because of the great diversity of nationalities, it's an excellent opportunity to show people the value of the Internet. (Not all politicians are aware that the Internet *exists*, and think the the superhighway is simply for extra TV channels). We'd like to put on a demonstration in Birkbeck to show them what we have done with their support, and possibly invite some visitors as well. It would be really nice to have a link-up with sites round the world (though getting a good time and bandwidth is a problem) and to show them some interactive work. Ideas are most welcome!

Finally I must pay tribute to the work that AlanM has already put in and without which the organisation and content would be a shambles! It isn't easy to find people who are both expert in protein structure and prepared to take part in such a new venture.

December 11 1994

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