Michael Grobe: Web-related activities at KU

I have been involved in Web development from 1992 on, even, I like to say, BEFORE I knew about the Web. This is possible because Lou Montulli, Charles Rezac and I built a "distributed hypertext system" during 1992 and 1993 and used it to build the first KU campus-wide information site.

Herb Harris, Assistant Director of ACS User Services, wanted a "Campus Wide Information System," which in those days was conceived of as a menu-driven information system housed on a single host. In contrast, we built a hypertext client named Lynx to interact with one or more Gopher servers housing interlinked hypertext documents coded in a Lynx-specific hypertext format.

Our system had document addressing and hypertext linking schemes similar to THE Web, though ours were not as well developed. Since we used Gopher servers for document delivery, we developed nothing analogous to HTTP.

We developed a crude kind of server-based script execution facility, that we used to develop a searchable online event calendar that was later modified to become one of the earliest CGI scripts ever written, and gave us a headstart in CGI use, design and training.

We developed training materials, collaborated with several campus users and conducted campus-wide forums on site development. Our collaborators during this time included:

When we discovered Tim's work and began to collaborate with Mark Andreessen, et al. at NCSA, we modified Lynx to work with THE World Wide Web, at which point Lynx became quite widely employed as a WWW browser by the users of graphically-challenged display devices (VT100s and the like).

Lynx is probably available on well over a million systems today, since it is distributed with several Linux products.

The KU Web site was originally developed within my group by Chales Rezac and received honorable mention as Best Web Site at the First International World Wide Web conference in Geneva in 1994. Martha Bryant took over from Charles in 1995 and we put it through a good makeover or two working with the KU Web Advisory Committee over the next few years, before it was moved to a different reporting line.

For more information on Lynx history see The Early History of Lynx.

During 1993 we developed a comprehensive Lynx Users Guide and a short online Quick reference guide to HTML. The Quick Reference has been accessed over a million times since, and included in numerous CD compilations of web documentation.

In addition, Keith Parkins updated this document to become a HTML 3.2 Quick Reference, and I made a small contribution to the HTML 3.0 Specifications via Dave Raggett.

I described our work and the Web in general through presentations to our regional networking group, MidNET, during 1993 and 1994:

From 1993 through 1998 we constructed a series of Web-related tutorials and classes, including tutorials on various browser, HTML, HTTP servers, CGI scripting, and the integration of databases with the Web.

I, personally, developed a number of local Web tutorials over these years:

as well as several invited tutorials presented at conferences:

My group continued to provide the technical underpinings for the official KU web site, as well as advice and suggestions for the delivery of web-based services within the University until 2004. In particular, we installed and operated HTTP servers on most ACS systems along with the campus-wide search facility. We implemented the first campus-wide search facility using HT-Dig in 1995, and switched to AltaVista in 1997. AltaVista was used until we contracted with Google for a local "appliance."

To help users build search engines for their own sites, Shawn Gregory and I developed Scout, a script which searched our campus-wide document database, but returned only documents within a user-defined set of servers and/or directories. Using this tool, individual departments and/or users, could deliver search results restricted to their content without developing their own search facilities.

Inspired and encouraged by Lynn Nelson, Shawn and I also developed the Virtual Office which allowed instructors to conduct online "office hours," and collect assignments via Web-based file uploads. The Virtual Office supported multi-participant Web-based chat sessions, and organization of web-based publishing.

During 1999 and 2000 Jeff Long and I collaborated extensively with the Gary Hawke and Chris Ryan of the KU School of Journalism, as they developed the KU Digital Jayhawk.

For related activities, see my WAN activities page.

I suggested assigning computing accounts via the Web in 1995, wrote a prototype called the Departmental Account Management System (DAMS), and a web-based account registration system was implemented in 1996 by KU's Administrative Computing group. Online registration has since been extended to the entire University community (by other groups within ACS).

During 1995 I suggested the construction of what became known as a "portal" for KU in Toward a Unified Online Academic Presence for the University of Kansas , which suggests a model interface designed to organize network resources for students, faculty and staff.

I pondered campus-wide authentication issues in A Model for an Enterprise-wide Authentication Service.

I developed several widely-accessed online documents:

The CGI script tutorials have each gotten several hundred thousand hits over the years since their development.

In addition I supervised the development of tutorials or documentation on several topics:

We put Lynx under GNU General Public License in 1996, after negotiations with many-several stakeholders.

I have also written scripts to

During 1998 and 1999 I supervised the conversion of my Course Catalog scripts for the 1998 and 2000 Catalogs by Hassan Nazeer and Dan Thomasett.

Finally, during 1999, I conceived of, and directed Jan Gryzmala-Busse in the implementation of, two Web-based systems with potential usefulness in our setting: MyKU and WebWindows.

MyKU allows KU users to build customized views of online resources related to KU and/or useful in their work at KU.
WebWindows provide a Web-based view of a user's UNIX file system. WebWindows display files as icons that can be selected and modified via mouse-clicks, much as they would on a PC desktop.
These applications were never deployed, but their functions were eventually implemented by the KU Portal, "Kyou," first deployed sometime during 2003.

I have also built some simple tools for monitoring activity on our Web servers:

and have prepared occasional reports on www.cc.ku.edu traffic patterns for various administrative groups.

Finally, I have written several Java applications to help learn the language:

Relatively recent (c. 2004) work has included the creation of an introduction to XML called "Displaying XML files using XSLT, Perl, and Java", and investigation of the structure and function of various portal products for possible use at KU.

More recent work (c. 2007) includes: