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Communication Protocols for Keeping Information Alive

March 1991

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of electronic conferencing -- an aspect that takes it a qualitative step beyond fax communication -- is that the information communicated through it is, in a sense, kept fully alive.

A document sent by fax or mail can be photocopied or re-faxed, however, this results in a progressive deterioration of its appearance and readability, especially if the original print was small or of poor quality. Even more importantly, the document can only be reproduced in its original format, except for minor changes using a cut-and-paste process, unless one goes to the trouble of re-entering the text into a computer.

However if the same document is received electronically, one can reprint the document in a format of one's choice. It can be incorporated in a newsletter, key points can be excerpted or highlighted, and it can be presented in a consistent format with other related documents that have also been received electronically.

Even more significant is the power of electronic conferencing to simplify, by an order of magnitude, the process by which a group of two or more people in widely separate locations can collaborate on the preparation of a report, proposal or policy paper, through editing and revising documents received electronically.

Central to this power of keeping the information alive, of maintaining it in a format in which it is malleable and responsive, is the ease with which a document can be converted from an "ASCII" or "DOS Text" into a word processing format.

The following guidelines, or "communications protocol" are recommended for posting messages to this conference -- or to any others -- in order to simplify the conversion of downloaded documents from ASCII to word procesing.

When posting responses, or new topics, to this conference please use the following guidelines:

    a. Use single spacing for documents /1

    b. Use double space between paragraphs /2

    c. Avoid the use of indented paragraphs /3

    d. Turn right justification OFF /4

    e. Turn hyphenation OFF /5

If this protocol is followed, it makes it very easy through a simple sequence of search and replace routines described below to convert ASCII text files -- that have a carriage return at the end of each line -- into a format that can easily be edited or formatted for printing with a choice of margin settings and print (font) size or style.

In addition: A long comment, or new topic -- two pages or more of normal text -- should be preceded by a brief summary of no more than one screenful, so that someone can have a reasonable basis for deciding whether to take the time to read or download it.

Conversion routine -- that can be incorporated into a single "macro" in programs such as WordPerfect:

    a. Search and replace [Enter][Enter] with [New Page]

    b. Return to beginning of the document

    c. Search and replace (with confirm to be on the safe side) [Enter] with [Space]

    d. Return to beginning of the document

    e. Search and replace [New Page] with [Enter][Enter].


    1/ In addition, single spacing allows more text to be displayed on your monitor while you are receiving documents electronically.

    2/ Double spacing between paragraphs makes it much easier to distinguish between a new line and a new paragraph.

    3/ If the text uses an indented paragraph, like this      one, when you change margins or fonts or      edit the text you are likely to end up      with strings of blank spaces in the text.

    4/ Using   right     justification may mean that     extraneous       spaces are   inserted between words.

    5/ Using hyphenation means that extraneous "- " strings are inserted in the middle of hyphen- ated words.

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Web page updated: 2002.04.29