Thank you for your email of 2004-02-03 about the withdrawal of the current Personal Information Providers (PIPs) web service on campus and its replacement by a more tightly controlled service hosted by the Corporate Web Service of IS.
I find it difficult to see how the business of the university will be safeguarded by its taking legal responsibility for personal web sites in this way, that is by authorising their content, instead of just providing the server (as a sort of 'Internet Service Provider' for the university community). No doubt the University legal office is happy with this approach instead of continuation of a 'suspend and investigate' method of dealing with potential misuses.
In addition, I deduce from the 'Terms and Conditions of Use' at http://www.webteam.bham.ac.uk/pwoterms.htm that authorised CGI scripts will be permitted on the new service. This will make it less secure than the existing sun7 server, on which no such scripts are permitted to PIPs users.
Unfortunately, because the new PIPs service is only for users whose "information ... is relevant and legitimate to their academic or administrative work" I am prevented from applying for continutation of my well established personal sites. My job has no academic content, or at least it didn't until the Pension fund situation meant that the University could save money at my expense by offering transfer to an 'Academic related' grade! I have only ever written one web page for my administrative work but, as it classifies library catalogues by system supplier and by whether the host institution has used the interface "out of the box", improved it or made it worse(!), IS probably _wouldn't_ want me to publish it this instead of keeping it on my PC.
The new policy seems to assume that (a) Academic staff will have no academic interest outside their professional field, which seems unlikely, and (b) no support staff will have any academic interests at all, which just seems an insult to our intelligence.
This very restrictive policy will mean the disappearence from the web of sites which, while not relevant to the current work of this University, benefit the wider academic community. This seems a strange attitude when forward-thinking universities in UK, USA and Australia are providing all _students_ with free web space, usually 5MB, allied to their automatic email registration. Also, it hardly squares with the University's stated mission to "maintain an unswerving commitment to truth, wisdom and academic freedom", whilst it will probably damage the "international reputation for the highest quality of scholarship and research" which the University seeks to maintain (both quotes from _Our mission at The University of Birmingham_ http://www.about.bham.ac.uk/mission.htm, visited 2004-02-19).
A prime example of these losses will be my Henry James website (http://web.bham.ac.uk/doveral/james/). This is one of the two major sources of scholarly electronic texts and indexes to the writer Henry James (1843- 1916) in the world; the other is hosted at the State University of New York, New Paltz, on the personal website of Professor Richard Hathaway, at http://www2.newpaltz.edu/~hathaway/
My site currently comprises 'editions' of the texts of five novels and some 40+ short stories, with more in progress. The majority of these titles are unique on the web, but even where not, the edition is unique (James was an inveterate reviser) and no other site offers linked notes, introductions, textual commentary and bibliographies as does mine.
Also on the site are annotated texts of the majority of James's 'Prefaces' to his New York edition, a major source of twentieth century literary theories, not otherwise available electronically. Their recent appearance in this form was welcomed by a published James scholar.
A computer generated concordance to the fiction texts on the site is maintained with a custom written script run when required by the operator (CGIs are not used). A separate concordance to the prefaces was being planned.
An index to printed collections of James's short stories and an index of his notebook name-lists are also available. These unique indexes are not available in any other form, printed or web.
In addition to links from Henry James courses' websites, at least one of my editions has been cited in the peer-reviewed journal _The Henry James review_. The site appears high among the results sets of search engines under relevant terms and receives about 1000 hits per month (excluding web crawlers).
At 70MB (and growing) the site is too big to be hosted by most domestic ISP accounts, which impose a 50MB limit per site. The tone of the site is not suited to advertisements (which James hated anyway) and, of those free ISPs who currently don't have adverts, none offer the 'bulk updates' via ftp which would be necessary to maintain the concordance, most of whose 220+ pages need updating when a new source text is added. Thus there is little possibility of the site being hosted elsewhere in the near future.
I go into this detail about _Adrian Dover's Henry James website_ to make the point that its disappearance from the web, and of other PIPs sites like it, is likely to create a negative impression of this University internationally. Wider consulation on and a subsequent broadening of the policy might have avoided this.
This page is maintained by Sue Blackwell
Last updated: 29th February 2004