The fate of Go magazines
John F.: A more interesting question - why has Charles chosen not to publish in the BGJ any more? It's in trouble and needs help. He's been a stalwart there for a long time. I started a thread on r.g.g. on "The end of books" Are magazines doomed, too? The AGJ has gone already, I believe. If mags are out, do we need a web alternative (I might be interested in contributing to a webzine again)? And what about people who have no internet access (both of them)?. Happy Christmas!
Bob McGuigan: Happy holidays to all! The AGJ has ceased quarterly paper publication but the weekly E-Journal continues and, as far as I know, submissions are welcome. A paper yearbook containing the "best" of the year's E-Journal material will also be published.
Dieter: We've had the discussion two years in a row now: whether or not to replace the Belgian magazine by some webzine. If partly, which parts, etc...
I find it much easier too to post articles on SL than having them published in Belgo. There seem to be two main arguments in favour of a magazine:
a) Many people still prefer reading articles in a paper issue to reading them on a screen. That goes for computer illiterates as well as for professionals who after a day job in front of a screen, like to spend their leisure time elsewhere.
b) If you publish something on the web, people have to go there and look it up. If you send them a magazine through ordinary mail, they are pushed to read those very articles. It's the old pull/push discussion.
Anyway, the bottom line for the Belgian Federation has been to continue the magazine, harvest from web sources (like SL) and publish an online version in pdf on our website. An example of a difference: in the paper issue we will refer to a pro game, in the webzine we will include the game record.
Bob McGuigan: There have been upheavals in the go magazine world before this. Going rather far back we have the demise in the early 1970's of Go Review, the first serious go magazine in English. Of course it was replaced by Go World but even it changed from bimonthly to quarterly publication fairly soon in its history. And even in Japan there have been problems, witness the demise of Kidou and Igo Kurabu. They were replaced by Igo Warudo (Go World).
I think the issue for the American Go Association was financial, as well as the amount of work needed from a volunteer work force to produce the AGA Journal. The AGA E-Journal is not a web-zine but rather an e-mail journal. It appears weekly. The basic newsletter is available free to anyone with an e-mail address. There are various supplements (commented games, problems, articles) which are sent to AGA member subscribers. Initially the supplementary material had to be in SGF format but lately articles in PDF form have been added, broadening the possibilities. There will be an annual paper yearbook containing "the best" of the E-Journal and a CD-ROM containing the entire year's E-Journals will be included.
DrStraw In my opinion, the demise of the AGA Journal was a terrible step. I hate reading material online and rarely do so, so I just simply ignore most of the content of the e-Journal and never open the attachments. An end-of-year CD-Rom does not solve the problem. I understand why it was done and cannot argue with the logic behind the decision, but I most certainly hope it is not an indication of things to come. I cannot imagine having to read "Go World" online. I actually cut back my membership of the AGA from sustainer to sponsor because of the decision.
Bob Myers: On-line go content in its current state completely fails to leverage the medium. It's nothing more than the old print metaphor of text and diagrams slapped up onto a computer screen. Then we have SGF files and SGF viewers, which are fine for giving the moves in a game and even some scattered commentary or variations, but don't provide the narrative, didactic approach which is so clearly needed to communicate go knowledge.
This is the issue that underlies the problem. It is not just a matter of whether or not go publications should go on-line, but rather this: is there a publishing platform or technology for go which will truly make it worthwhile to do so?
That's what Igowalker is trying to do. I lay no claims to it being the be-all and end-all to go publishing on-line, but I am convinced the idea at its core is correct and important.
Most of the go publishers I've spoken to immediately understand what Igowalker is doing and why it is meaningful. Several of them are considering pilot projects. But using Igowalker to publish book-like materials entails major ramifications to the go publishing economic model, so perhaps the established publishers can be excused for not rushing into the on-line world. They might move more quickly when they discover that it is a great way to squeeze additional revenues out of old properties, especially since they could be sold by the chapter, say for $1.
At the same time, I think it's likely that the new on-line technologies could drive the emergence of new players, a phenomenon often seen at times of technological discontinuity.
Bob Myers: It's a bit of a mystery to me as to why you would spend your time being so negative. Consider:
1. The Igowalker concept is independent of the computing platform used to implement it, so please spare me the snide anti-Windows comments. Igowalker will be implemented on all major platforms as soon as there are reasons/time/people to do so.
2. Igowlker or any other on-line go publishing approach is not based on any assumption that ink-on-paper go publications should or will go away. That medium will certainly continue to be one of the major ways go information is provided for decades to come, hopefully including your fine publication.
Velobici: Bob, I can't get SVG based Igowalker to work. Perhaps, I am the only one. Perhaps this issue of more widespread. You may have a great way of communicating go content. Unfortunately, if it is not accessiable to folks, for any reason, including reasons that are beyond your control, the acceptance of Igowalker in the go community will be severely limited. I am using, for this attempt, Windows XP, Explorer 6.0...., and SVG Viewer 3.0 downloaded from the Adobe site and installed. Bob Myers: Thanks for the report. Could you contact me at the address given on my web page so we can sort this out?
John F. I'd be interested to hear the outcome, Bob, as I have the same setup. Some feedback from me. I did try Igowalker on my previous machine and didn't like it one little bit. Partly that was because it didn't fit right on the smaller screen - common and irritating assumption by computer professionals, and Americans, in general, is that everyone else has the latest equipment with all the bells and whistles. But I didn't like what I saw of the concept, either, I'm afraid. I agree with you entirely about the need to find the best way to exploit the technology, and that - as you say - the core idea at the heart of Igowalker is important. But the concept still stands or falls on the implementation, which means you have to consider it from the user's side.
These are only my views, which carry no authority except that of being an informed but non-technical user of on-line information. It seems that ease of installation and the ability to run in virtually every environment are essentials from the beginning, not desirable add-ons according to demand. The need to download and install third-party software is a gigantic turn-off.
A second requirement is to engage the user. What I saw of Igowalker was not proper use of new technology. It was no more than a graphic enhanced display, but the tricks only entertain once or twice then become very irritating. It did not engage the user. In crude terms you need to create more clicks. Everyone I know hates pdf files. OK, you can print them out (and sometimes the printed version even looks like the screen version), but you can't do anything on screen. I can't see the straight transfer of existing books to the screen being very popular. No clicks. I suspect text for future e-books is going to have be made into something like multiple-choice questions to get the click-rate up.
A third requirement is to promote not just communication, but transfer of knowledge to the user's brain. I don't think the web does a good job of this anywhere yet. It's good at transferring knowledge to a different static storage format, but to properly engage with the brain for active use, either talking or paper format still seem necessary. I'm judging by a large number of people in my office, which (surprisingly to me, initially) includes young people. The expense of IT was often justified as a paperless office. In fact, the printer is the busiest object in our office. However, little of this paper is stored, so to that extent we have saved on storage costs. Mostly it is read and then shredded - just a way of avoiding reading on screen, in other words. My observation is that when people are engaged with a screen, reading is secondary - they want to be active, either typing or clicking, and obviously either activity interferes with reading for comprehension.
My analysis of what is needed for an ideal Igowalker type program therefore runs as follows:
2. It should engage the user with lots of clicks and buttons, and some typing.
3. To aid comprehension it should offer information that can be either printed out, or there should be some incentive with the on-line version to repeat the exercise.
Keeping within the constraints of known models, consider GoScorer? or its clones. It meets requirement 1 obviously.
Requirement 2 is met but poorly - the user gets to click on every move, but that's all. One way it (or just viewing a game) could be mightily enhanced would be for the program (and this would more properly justify the "intelligent" epithet) to determine which type of move each move was (hane, keima, etc) and to offer the user the opportunity to click on a button to view e.g. proverbs associated with such terms. A program that can pick out moves like this can obviously be set to work to create a database of favourite moves used by various players, or associations of move types. Again lots of buttons making this info available increase the engagement factor. Various question modes, e.g. multiple-choice questions, also help.
For requirement 3, GoScorer? offers a score than can be stored, so offers an incentive to come back and beat it. Fine, but limited. For game commentary type software, I'd suggest that the minimum an "intelligent" program should offer is the ability of the user to mark up parts of the explanation and/or sideboxes (e.g. proverbs) and to add scribble notes, this all being printed out at the end as an aide-memoire. (This, of course, enhances the engagement factor of requirement 2 as well).
Note that none of this requires animations, cartoons, sound effects or any other whizz bang effects. Good presentation matters. Most of us would gravitate to an illustrated colour magazine rather than a B&W tome of solid text, but we'd be irritated by too many scratch'n'sniffs, fold-outs, cutouts or inserts. And just think how much more we all value a book that has its own equivalent of clicks and buttons - a good index!
BTW Is it not the case that the success of SL is that you get to type? As to communication, I read it daily for entertainment, but not for knowledge. When there is something there that I don't know, I turn to a book, or at a pinch a dedicated web site.
Dieter: John's opening on the general issue of knowledge transfer provokes many thoughts of mine but few of them are backed up by profound experience, in spite of my career as a teacher. I'll fire off one question: maybe computers haven't been around long enough for mankind to find effective use of it in the area of knowledge transfer.
Back to our field, the game of Go, I must say that I find gobase.org, the GTL, SL and goproblems.com and the technology behind, a major improvement on their paper counterparts. I use writing on SL much more as way to learn than as a way to teach, too.
Bob Myers: I'd like to thank John F. for taking the time to share his thoughts on everything from Igowalker specifics to the philosophy of knowledge acquisition, and his agreement that we need to find the best way to exploit the technology, and that the core idea at the heart of Igowalker is important. Myself I have no vested interest in Igowalker other than hoping that it can serve as a stimulus for people thinking about the best kinds (plural!) of ways to present go information on-line.
Concerning one specific he brings up, it should be easily possible to come up with a good Igowalker-based presentation for a smaller screen.
But more generally, I think what's really required here is to define a matrix of approaches for different types of materials, objectives, and audiences.
For instance, goproblems.com has already pretty much nailed the right approach for presenting pure problems and their solutions.
John in his comments above seems to be proposing a very interactive , computer-based learning approach. I think that is extremely useful, and something highly meaningful to support via some kind of on-line authoring and presentation technology; but we need to keep in mind that the authoring effort involved for that is extremely high.
This dimension of "authoring effort" is one way to categorize various on-line publishing approaches. Putting up flat text and GIF diagrams of existing commentary involves low effort. Rearchitecting or reauthoring content to be very CBT-like involves high effort. Igowalker as it currently stands is somewhere in the middle--medium re-authoring effort for medium on-line communication efficacy. We need a range of authoring approaches reflecting the level of effort that an author is willing to spend.
But I do have the following objections to points that John made:
2. John says that Igowalker is "no more than a graphic enhanced display", whose "tricks" only entertain once or twice then become very irritating. I understand that Igowalker is not a radically new way to communicate go information; it's an adaptation of the paper-on-ink model to the web page, which simply animates the go board in conjunction with the sentence being read. These limitations being admitted, I can't really agree with calling them "tricks". For one, I have gotten *really* tired following five or ten or twenty moves in a printed diagram with my eyes, or trying to locate move 69 in a printed figure with 50 numbered stones. How about you? In a sense, replacing the effort required by the human eye in following diagrams or locating moves therein is the purpose of Igowalker. Maybe you've gotten used to doing this after reading go books for 2 or 5 or 10 or 25 years, but what about newcomers to go?
Think also about diagrams with letters like a, b, and c. Then we have text in the commentary to the effect that "If White a, then Black 3, White 7, Black b, and White captures with 2." If that is easy to understand, then I am George Bush. Please tell me having this played out on the screen for you is just a "trick", and not actually useful.
A diversion: when I presented Igowalker to the publishing department of the Nihon Ki-in, the department head immediately reacted that by by removing the need for the reader to actively seek out each move in the diagram accompanying the text, the learning effect could actually be reduced! If this is the case, we'll just have to stick with paper books!
John F. Just a quick reply, Bob, before I'm dragged off to the supermarket.
1. Html pages don't need to be downloaded. Adobe is respected but maybe not as much as you think. In my experience, pdf files are hated - used faute de mieux in some cases, but hated. Other Adobe programs seem to interfere with registry settings or behave erratically when installed/unistalled in ways that make the computer unsophisticates (the majority) very nervous. Most of us need kids to operate the video. (PS I don't know what CBT is.)
2. You are comparing Igowalker with paper and missing out the long-established intermediate: standard sgf or Ishi readers. They look good now, with grained stones and boards, and will get better with 3D types. For the past decade already they have obviated the need to strain over paper versions. The new "tricks" (I can't thing of a better word, I'm afraid) don't add that functionality. So I still maintain that the graphics element of these "tricks" will annoy very quickly. Don't you remember the messages that came with early chess programs - after, "Hey, you're Paul Morphy" after every third move you got a bit fed up. Modern chessware still seems to offer these comments but with the option to turn them off. I don't know anyone who doesn't turn them off. BTW, I can't hear properly, so I rely entirely on the graphics element of software. E.g. On IGS I can't hear the beeps that say my opponent has moved. Yet I find the current displays provide everything that I need - even I don't need flashing arrows to show me the last move.
3. You concede that the authoring effort is high with the approach I commend. Well, yes. Isn't that what building a better mousetrap is all about?
mdh I am finding this discussion very informative and reasoned out. I hope it continues. Economical issues tend to force one's hand when deciding what to concentrate on. I may be a little biased since I am one of the AGA E-Journal folks. I designed the CD that is coming out with the Yearbook. When designing the CD, I had to think about platforms and lowest common dominiator for browser capabilities. So there is a lot of basic HTML, standard file formats and no bells and whistles. I would like to see ideas here that I might be able to use for next year's CD.
My personal opinions: I do like something in my hand if I am reading so that is a vote for paper but not when it comes to games and problems. I find the ability to walk through a game via a SGF viewer to be an improvement over the paper versions. Comments and variations are all there and I can follow my own thoughts on a position. As for everyone hating PDF, I for one don't mind them. My office uses them extensivly. In my case, they tend to get printed out when I get them instead of read on the screen. If it is important or interesting, it goes in a binder or folder. Otherwise it is trashed
CBT is Computer Based Training. My wife's field. Or as they call it in her office, E-Learning.
Bill: For some reason I cannot run Igowalker, even after checking the box for GIFs and reloading the page. I get an "Object Required" error message.
I certainly think we could have better interactivity for online game review and pedagogy. Look at one of the Ongoing Games to see how messy things get here.
Since I cannot run Igowalker I cannot assess it, but I have been wondering about Rebol. I just heard about it last week and know next to nothing about it. I do know that it seems to provide for scripting of graphics and support distributed programming. There are several good programmers on SL. To any of them, would it be a good project to write some Rebol scripts for replaying and discussing games online? Maybe they could be used in conjunction with SL or incorporated into it?
Finally, John raised the point about SGF viewers. Indeed, they are a capable way of presenting game records. In that role, they are fine. For a game with no comments, or with sparse comments and fewer variations, they are indeed the preferred methodology. But Igowalker is trying to solve a different problem, namely how to present the book "Invincible" on-line. If you think about it, you'll see that it doesn't really fit into the game-record-based paradigm. It would literally be impossible to put "Invincible" into SGF format. In "Invincible", the narrative has a primacy you don't find in merely presenting game records with interspersed comments.
John F. I certainly agree that both the sgf format and the viewers that use it are susceptible to radical improvement, but I have to say that it's not impossible to put Invincible into sgf format. Mark Hall did it years ago, for his own use, and was happy with it. I've seen it as a spectator and it looked usable to me - though again I'm sure it can be improved. I think the main point is how much space the viewer leaves for comments. A book needs a lot of space, I think. Most viewers seem miserly with comment space, but this is an easy thing to change, especially with today's larger screens. (Caveat - Mark may have actually done his work in .GO format as it was so long ago, but conversion to sgf is trivial)
Update: I subsequently spoke to Mark about Invincible. He confirmed it was orginally in .GO format. He said it was easy. He thinks he also did the Honinbo Tournament. But he found Sakata Joseki & Fuseki too hard and gave up (lack of a sequential narrative).
As a PS, I think it's worth remembering that in some go publishing architecture of the future the same material shouldbe able to be presented in different formats so that it can reach the widest range of people with all their preferences and platforms. In an ideal world, there would be some single-source approach where a single input file could produce flat HTML, PDF for printing, Igowalker for semi-interactive on-line presentation, and even a very CBT (computer-based training)-oriented version.
Bob McGuigan: There are good features of SGF-format presentation and good features of book format. In SGF format it is easier to play find-the-next-move as you play through a game. I remember there used to be some informal measure of go playing strength based on how long it took to play through a game given as one diagram. Finding the next move is to some extent a function of playing strength. However, as with Mark Hall's experience with the Sakata books it is clear that SGF viewers do not now have the functionality needed for in-depth commentary. Really deep commentary goes far beyond simple variations.
Dieter: The invention of book print demoted songs and poems to cultural objects, removing their functionality of saving a story for the ages. People still love songs and poems. The computer age has the same effect on books and magazines. Much of the functionalities will move to the computer technology driven area, but people will still be wanting to read a book.
PatrickB: Mark me down as one of the Luddites in this case, even though I am a Computer Science professor. I use the computer for practicing go problems and playing a range of opponents online, but I'd rather settle into a cozy chair with a good go book for some study than read it at a computer. Likewise, when I'm playing through a professional game, I both enjoy sitting with a board and book more, and find having to locate the move on the diagram and physically place the stone on the board is much more effective as a study technique. Maybe I'm just weird.
Bob Myers: You're not weird, but you're also not really a Luddite in the true sense of the word (I hope). A real Luddite would deeply distrust technology and its impact on human culture, and would actively seek to sabotage and destroy it, as the original Luddites destroyed kntting machines.
PatrickB: I know. It was a minor joke. :)
But back to go publishing technologies. Imagine yourself curled up on your couch with your go book. Then imagine that the diagrams in the book were animated and the moves played themselves on the board right in the book, like something out of a bad Harry Potter movie. Would that work for you?
PatrickB: In a word, no. It sounds much like a gimmick that gives more flash that actual useful information.
MichaelE?: Actually, I think this sounds great, except instead of being animated, imagine that each diagram was a fully-functional SGF browser/editor, so you could play through the moves and branches described in the text.
PatrickB: Oh, if it was something that took advantage of the information density of the printed page and gave real hypertext-style navigation facilities to present information more densely, then it could certainly be great. More discussion below.
Elements of the technology required to do this are already being invented, notably ultra-thin paper-like double-sided high-resolution display surfaces. We could probably have a book like this in a decade or a little more. In that respect, CRT-based go "books" like Igowalker is trying to make possible are little more than early transitional steps towards the animated go book you can once again read on the couch.
Bob McGuigan: I applaud attempts to make truly functional viewing platforms. I'm not a Luddite, but I am terminally nostalgic where books are concerned. I like the feel of them in my hands, the sound of pages being turned, the look of them on my table and in their shelves, even the smell (some kind of mold??) of libraries. I note that the Nihon Ki-in publishes formal game collections in old-fashioned traditional bindings (very expensive!), perhaps feeling that this is better for archival purposes. There are serious issues regarding whether electronic media are suitably archival. I imagine we will have books on paper with us for quite some time to come.
I can imagine some really great possibilities becoming available with improved electronic modes of presentation. I enjoy watching the Japanese TV games in the NHK tournament. There is video of the players, real-time commentary by noted pros, all very entertaining. It isn't great for studying, though, because things go by too fast, the commentator might not investigate a variation you are interested in, etc. I can imagine a DVD-based medium, say, in which all the live entertainment of the NHK tournament shows is available and also in-depth analysis of variations or joseki and the ability to explore variations on a display the way server clients and SGF viewers permit.
John F. I think I'm exactly in synch with Bob and a few others here. Our joint view seems to be: yes, let's keep searching for technical improvements, we'll try them when they come along, but they are going to have to be *** good to overcome our love of books. But I wonder whether this books/IT or Harry Potter vs. comfy armchairs dichotomy is a bit of a red herring.
At one extreme I can get up early, give up a precious chunk of weekend to go into the University library in the city, look up one thing, and come back buoyed up for the whole day because I've learned something. At the other extreme, a throwaway remark on r.g.g. or SL by someone may suddenly enlighten me in the same happy way. I don't think it's the medium that matters, it's the information. But these satori moments are much more frequent with books. Why?
I suspect that the reason books score high with us is not really convenience, feel, cheapness, availability - though these are all powerful pluses - but because they are the best medium for transferring information from it to us. Books do this better not because they have pages and nice bindings, or are cheap, but because (a) they've been around for so long that we have a lot of experience on how to make them effective, and (b) they are a simple format where gimmicks do not get in the way of information transfer.
So when we say we prefer books, I believe we are really just playing the percentage game and saying that we believe (at the moment) that we are much more likely to get what we really want - if it's ideas/knowledge, not entertainment - from books. Infotainment, however, is another issue...
Bill: I think that the main reason that books are generally better than most online material for transmitting information is that books currently pack more thought per word or image than online material. However, I think that the promise for online or computer presented information transfer is great. Not so much because of animation and bells and whistles, but first, for graphics. Pictures are much cheaper for computers than books, although that may change. And, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Second, for interactivity. Computer presentation can be much more flexible and responsive to the reader. It can be easier to meet the reader where he is. (Setting this up, OC, requires more work than a normal book, but is worthwhile.) Third, hypertext can provide a better structure for material than linear text (besides improving interactivity).
Most hypertext documents do not do that very well, but it will get better. People have been thinking about hypertext for almost 60 years. In the 50s and 60s there were some books that attempted a hypertext like structure, but flipping through pages is too inconvenient. Especially compared with clicking a link. As people learn to write and edit hypertext, the utility of online documents will improve greatly.
Japan4 To add to what Bill pointed out is that "setup" on the computer usually needs to happen once, ie. programming an environment that is versatile enough to accomodate the information and be flexible enough to present in multiple ways so the user can pick the presentation. Books/Printed material gets setup once but only has one presentation face. Take it or leave it. While SGF viewers and Wiki come close we just have not had a breakthrough environment created that has all of that in one easy package.
PatrickB: As I've added above in my comments above, I completely agree with what Bill says here. The printed page is a remarkably good format for presenting information in a dense but readable format - if you can effectively combine that density and convenience of the printed page with the non-linear structure that something like hypertext can provide, the results could be wonderful. Sensei's Library is the best step I've seen in that direction so far, though it's obviously not there.
I've had a little experience in this area, as I did the work transforming Jim Z. Yu (ZHuge)'s wonderful commented Go Seigen SGF files into a book format; the result as a book is not that good - it still needs a lot of work - but I still find it much more useful for study than the original SGF/MGT files. It might be nice to write an interactive tool for marking up SGF files to transform them into format that could be both navigated hypertext-style or turned into an actual printed book. Hmm...
Bob Myers: Perhaps you've seen that the latest and greatest version of Igowalker is now out in beta, you can see it at the Kiseido Digital Books site. This is a pure HTML version which works in any modern browser with no downloads or plug-ins. Although I doubt it satisfies John F.'s criteria for a full-fledged learning environment, it does support links for vocabulary etc. to SL and other sources.
A lot of effort has gone into making the authoring/coding process as easy as possible. For instance, move numbers and ranges in the text are automatically picked up without any special additional coding required.
I'd be interested in the wisemen's comments, on usability, features, use cases, etc. etc.