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Welcome to Class

Hello IND E 498A students. Welcome to Class. I am asking you to read this document very carefully as you will be responsible for its contents. Please print a copy of the syllabus to refer to when thinking about your time management for this class. Do note that the syllabus will change according to any in-class announcements (I will e-mail you with major change notifications). Time management is crucial to receiving a high grade, but I don't think it is crucial to learning the course material. Should you run out of time in this class and not receive the grade you hoped for at the beginning, you will be happy to know that I won't hold that against you nor think you aren't still likely to be the most successful student in class for the long-term (meaning that after the class is over and you may put these skills to work personally or professionally). So, as an elective course, I suggest the grade should be a short-term goal, but mastering the content should be a much longer-term goal. The material in this course changes quite rapidly and, as a result, the Web is the best place to go for references when you are trying to keep up with the changes.

I know this class has been very successful in the past and that the skills you will gain and practice are very valuable. How valuable depends on whether you put the time in and whether you agree with the motivation I will try to reinforce over and over as we go through a journey together. Believe it or not, twice I was unable to be in Seattle for the start of the class. Two Springs ago, I was in New Zealand and then gave seminars at the University of Southern Australia and University of Queensland before I returned to start our in-class lectures. This year, I am pleased to kick-off the quarter with you in person :-).

Usually, a course would be off to a very poor start with the professor missing the first two weeks of a course. But, in this case, the course is about Web-enablement and as such you can learn material without an instructor by diligently studying material on the Web. My goal is to motivate you and make you self-sufficient in terms of Web skills by the end of the quarter. I believe it is partially to a student's advantage when they are forced to learn how to self-educate themselves via the Web. This is most relevant when it comes to Web technologies. I feel confident that your Web technology knowledge can be best gained by studying Web tutorials, forums, and on-line reference materials. I have watched many students succeed beyond my expectations by taking on the challenge of self-guided learning. In fact, I am self-educated in Web technologies. I started investigating HTML 2.0 in 1993 and then have spent three to four hours a week pursuing skills related to Web technologies. Thirteen years later, I feel quite tuned-in to Web technologies. You can be just as skilled by making a similar commitment. My primary goal over the next eleven weeks is to motivate you to enjoy such an opportunity of self-discovery and creative output. In the meantime, and perhaps without even thinking about it, you will gain great insights into how e-commerce is enabled via the Web.

I will provide you a unique opportunity you will have this year that previous classes have not had. You'll learn a bit about Earth's environment and gain access to daily environmental earth science data that is provided by the UW PRISM Project. Together, we will find innovative ways to weave environmental data into on-line organizations that manage and depend on such data. If the exploration is as motivational to you as it has to me over the years, you'll walk away thinking about our planet in a new way. Hopefully, you'll agree that everyone should think about the planet more often. We are heading into a very critical time for earth science management. Data is in high demand for helping us humans manage our behavior for the betterment of the environment.

If you take a look at my home page, you will find that I have wanted to enable three-dimensional Web pages as the primary experience for an international Web audience. I am currently limited to focusing on that goal with the science visualization community, but I still dream big about the future (I like to think about one hundred years from now). My dreams for a 3-D, Web-enabled cyberspace have been tarnished a bit, but only because the large software companies have not worked together to provide it and because the content battles are being won by the large, corporate content providers. On a bad day, it is easy to imagine the future of the Web as a broadcast medium for the same companies that currently broadcast on cable TV. That is a very sad future for me. I hope by the end of this course, you will be inspired to not accept such a one-way medium for the Web. On a good day, I see people from all around the world connected to a killer suite of applications that let us overcome our geographical distance (and political cultures) and let minds work out the problems affecting global quality of life in the future. Although your project will entail mastering some simple first steps toward such a lofty goal, I hope you will at least share my aspirations as to what could be and agree that the technological challenges are nothing compared to cultural ones. All too many days, improving the Web seems to be a fight against gravity itself (meaning, not one easy to win without rocket-boosters). But, I am convinced it can be done technologically (and, I think you will also if you invest the time to reach that conclusion).

I hope the above few paragraphs are enough to get you interested (the goal of any first contact in a technology-focused class). If not, please interact with me in class to help you motivate yourself. I am interested in any social or ethical discussion regarding Web-enablement (from Big Brother to unreliability of information concerns). I will suggest such discussions from time to time, but will not fully engage in them without your show of interest. My personal history tells me most students in this class prefer to build stuff and not as much discuss the ramifications to society of doing so. Just remember all those brilliant physicists who built the atomic bomb. Many of them had nightmares thinking of the power they unleashed. You most likely want your participation in Web media to be something you look back upon with pride.

My background in a nutshell consists of four degrees and four epochs of working with organizations to reach organizational goals. I have a background in Accounting and Finance, a background in Information Science, a background in Computer Science, and most recently, a background in Industrial Engineering. I believe experience with each of those bodies of knowledge has helped me understand the Web better. I am thankful the Web emerged fifteen years ago instead of fifteen years from now. You live at a very exciting time when it comes to computer-mediated communications. I ask you to engage me in discussion about the Web in regard to any of the perspectives from my formal education and work life, for the Web is a by-product of financial, informational, computational, and industrial themes flowing through society.

You will have to master certain skills in order to deliver Project 1 to me. If you try your hardest and feel like you have failed yourself, you will be able to rebound on Project 3 as it continues from where Project 1 starts and is graded as a combination of both. I can reward you for doing a great job on Project 3 if you were not happy with your grade from Project 1. And, since you are not all majors in earth or ocean science domains, I provide an intermediate project (project 2) that you can work on in groups.

Again I note that grades should be the least of your worries in this class. Grades are tied to the 'old status quo' and the Web is a new frontier. All over the world, young adults aged fourteen and fifteen are succeeding at Web technologies even though they are not succeeding within the structure of a formal grading environment. They have a new medium at which to be successful and financially independent. Perhaps the Revenge of the Nerds will be an ongoing phenomenon forever now.

Please verify that you have purchased the books required by the syllabus if you do not already know HTML and XML. Your first exam will come completely from the material in these books. After those books, you will have no more required readings - just suggestions regarding environmental data, Java Server Pages, PHP, and SQL (the Structured Query Language). We will hash through those technologies together in a more traditional manner, heavily mediated by lecture. Please read the two books from the syllabus. Read the HTML book completely to get off to a good start in the class.

History tells me most students in this class already use the Web a great deal. While you take this class, please look at the source code behind every Web page that interests you. You can always do that for the public domain technologies (of which HTML, XHTML, and XML are examples). Just select the Source menu option from the View pull-down menu in your favorite Web browser (or the equivalent if you use a very unique one). I will be viewing your Web pages with Internet Explorer 6. As the market leader (Firefox has only reached 9 percent of the market as of early 2006), that browser is the status quo for Web site reviewers. I would love for you to participate in the next browser that becomes the market leader (I really like the Mozilla-based Fox browser). Of course, Microsoft is not going to let that happen very easily. I don't want to send you to the poor house en route.

You will be tested on the most basic ideas regarding HTML. You can do all your project work in XHTML if you prefer that technology (we now use that most often in our Web production facility in Ocean Sciences). XHTML is just an XML encoding of HTML. You will know what that means when we have XML lectures together. But, if you already know, you are welcome to use that as Internet Explorer 6 does a decent job of presenting it. That should be clear: For your projects, you are allowed to use any technology that works within Internet Explorer 6.

Please read the instructions for Project 1 carefully and ask your colleagues in class to explain things to you that you don't understand. If everyone in class misunderstands something, you have nothing to worry about as I won't mark you down for it and will be sure to clarify misunderstandings during the quarter.

If you get bored with the HTML book and want to skip ahead to more Web-enablement technologies, by all means continue reading about other Web technologies the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) is working to standardize for interested users. The W3C Web technologies are listed at, in the first column on the page entitled W3C A to Z. Note HTML is listed there (we are officially using release 3.2 of the HTML standard for testing purposes) as well as XML (we are officially using release 2.0 of the standard for testing purposes) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). I find it interesting to look at (and read up on) the purpose of each of the technologies listed on the W3C home page. I hope you will too.

OK, so we are off and running. Let me recap the most important points from this introductory text:

  • You will read the HTML 4 for the World Wide Web book immediately upon starting the course with me. Please consider learning via the author's examples (note she puts them on the Web at, see the Examples link on the left).
  • You will read the Project 1 Requirements page on-line and begin to create Web pages that will fulfill those requirements.
  • You can always reach me via e-mail at:, but I apologize in advance if I can not get to my e-mail in a timely fashion (I almost always do though). Please do consult with your classmates to get answers to questions that you can't seem to answer yourself.
  • I have many interesting tales to tell of working in industry as well. Through such stories, I aim to give you some insights into how the real world (non-academic) implements and responds to technology projects. Feel free to follow up with any ideas from e-commerce in industry with me via email.