Re: UMI Dissertation Abstracts

>      To: emj@listserv.albany.edu, www-math@w3.org
>      Subject: Re: UMI Dissertation Abstracts
>      From: "William F. Hammond" <hammond@csc.albany.edu>
>      Date: Tue, 6 Jul 1999 13:27:50 -0400 (EDT)
>      From www-math-request@www10.w3.org Tue Jul 6 13: 37:42 1999
>Previously in www-math@w3.org:
> >    http://wwwlib.umi.com/dissertations
>A reply:
> >  Yes, it looks like AAP Math to me
>Let's call the SGML language X-Math for now.  I gather that these
>translations to X-Math, which have superseded the TeX source, can only
>be viewed by subscribers.  The question then is whether UMI will
>provide subscribers either with viewers or with formatters that
>produce DVI for viewing.
>How is the translation from TeX to X-Math done?
>Is there someone close to UMI reading either of these lists?

Hi! We Bell & Howell (formerly UMI) employees stumbled on this list on the 
Web while researching other things. I can explain (but not defend) a little 
bit the format of the online text. Hopefully I won't get in big trouble for 
this reply; this is a thoroughly B&H-unauthorized posting. I'm not a 
developer, just an end user.

What you see is SGML formatted according to an internal DTD developed for 
Bell & Howell by ArborText specifically for publishing the print version of 
Dissertation Abstracts International. The raw ASCII of that SGML (which we 
process using ArborText's semi-WSIWYG Adept Editor) is what gets uploaded 
to the online sources. As I say, I can't defend it...it looks horrible and 
I'm sure in math is incomprehensible. Alas, we in my department are just 
peons here and have no influence over what goes online. My understanding is 
that there is work on a translation utility which will strip and/or convert 
the SGML before we put the abstracts online. I hope that's true; I have no 
idea what the timeline is for that. There is definitely an awareness of the 
problems with the current online format; customer service gets many 
vehement (and deserved) complaints.

Incidentally, it isn't translated from TeX. What you see online is totally 
based on the system used to publish our print products. We changed from a 
TeX publishing system to an SGML publishing system (not in the least 
related to Y2K, just because the old system was decrepit); all abstracts 
subsequent to the change are keyed by us (from the author's original 
formatted copy) in SGML, and are thus online as SGML.

Hope that clarifies the "what-is-it" of all this; I know it won't make 
anybody any happier.