Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online
Hundreds of WAISed information collections are available via the Internet, including everything from lists of Usenet newsgroups to scientific and government databases, as well as numerous books and lists. WAIS can be used to provide search access to collections of audio, video, image, and multimedia information.
WAIS has demonstrated that it's possible to do fairly powerful searches with remarkably less computer power than was once thought; and equally, that it's possible to do a full-text search of vast data holdings (for example, several years' worth of the Wall Street Journal) if you've got the right software and a big enough computer.
These files may be local to your own hard disk, such as five years' worth of accumulated e-mail messages, or nearby files (stored on your host) such as your company's memos and policy handbooks. Or these files may be across the Internet, such as the Internet's Jargon File, technical abstracts, or any of hundreds of other free-for-access, pay-for-access, or private datasets.
For example, suppose that you're looking for an Internet FAQ that talks about TCP/IP for PCs. If there's a WAIS database available containing the FAQs, you could do a WAIS search looking for FAQs containing TCP/IP and PC (or perhaps you'd try Windows and DOS). You'd get back a list of results, weighted (sorted) by how well they match. You would then select one or more of these to be displayed, saved to your account, e-mailed, or whatever.
Some versions of WAIS support a feature called relevance feedback, which basically means find me more like this one. If a search gives one result that you particularly like, you can use that result as the search criteria for the next search, against the other results or against new datasets.
There are ASCII and other clients available for WAIS. Most popular Internet navigators and front-ends, such as Gopher, Mosaic, and most other WWW clients, initiate WAIS searches.
In this example, the database of WAIS databases at wais.com harbors 476 troves of information.
SWAIS Source Selection Sources: 476 # Server Source Cost 001: [ archie.au] aarnet-resource-guide Free 002: [ndadsb.gsfc.nasa.gov] AAS_jobs Free 003: [ndadsb.gsfc.nasa.gov] AAS_meeting Free 004: [ munin.ub2.lu.se] academic_email_conf Free 005: * [ archive.orst.edu] aeronautics Free 006: [bruno.cs.colorado.ed] aftp-cs-colorado-edu Free 007: [nostromo.oes.orst.ed] agricultural-market-news Free 008: [ wais.oit.unc.edu] alt.gopher Free 009: [ wais.oit.unc.edu] alt.wais Free 010: [ munin.ub2.lu.se] amiga_fish_contents Free 011: [ coombs.anu.edu.au] ANU-Aboriginal-EconPolicies $0.00/minute 012: [ coombs.anu.edu.au] ANU-Aboriginal-Studies $0.00/minute 013: [ 220.127.116.11] ANU-ACT-Stat-L $0.00/minute 014: [ coombs.anu.edu.au] ANU-Ancient-DNA-L $0.00/minute 015: [ coombs.anu.edu.au] ANU-Ancient-DNA-Studies $0.00/minute 016: [ coombs.anu.edu.au] ANU-Asian-Computing $0.00/minute 017: [ coombs.anu.edu.au] ANU-Asian-Religions $0.00/minute 018: [ coombs.anu.edu.au] ANU-AustPhilosophyForum-L $0.00/minute Keywords: <space> selects, w for keywords, arrows move, <return> searches, q quits, or ?
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