Surfnet TEI Workshop

University of Groningen

A TEI Workshop was organized by Harry Gaylord at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands 21-22 November 1995. The workshop was hosted by Harry's department at the University, with additional funding from SURFNET (the Dutch equivalent of JANET) and attracted an impressively large number of delegates, not all of them Dutch (there was a small group of Francophones, Swiss, Belgian and French; also some Spanish and Portuguese; but no visible Germans, no doubt owing to the similar event in Tuebingen the week before). I counted about 120 during the opening plenary, and even by the final session there were well over fifty. Although dogged by administrative and technical mishaps, ranging from the collapse of one of the presenters with influenza 24 hours beforehand to the dispatch of the printed course materials to some other conference in an adjacent province, I'm glad to report that the event appeared to have been very well received by all who attended, with much discussion and questioning, both enthusiastic and intelligent, during the sessions and afterwards.

Day 1 began with a series of plenary lectures: I gave the celebrated "Gentle introduction to SGML", followed by two other invited speakers: Bert Bos from the W3 Consortium spoke illuminatingly about the relationship between SGML and HTML, and the great hope afforded by the proposed stylesheet mechanism in HTML3; Gert van der Steen gave an exhaustive overview of SGML software, characterized by its functions. After a break we were joined (virtually) by Rich Giordano, who gave a very impressive lecture on the TEI Header and his thoughts about its relationship to projects in resource discovery, by video tape recorded in his office in Berkeley. We knew it was live because at one point the phone rang (it was Harry reminding him to make the video) and at another someone tried to walk into the office.

The TEI Workshop proper began with a presentation of the TEI architecture (regrettably using my fallback set of overheads, rather than the nice new version I'd prepared for use with Panorama), followed by a group document analysis, using as vehicle some pages of the Sherlock Holmes story "The Red Headed League". In the absence of printed handouts, at that time finding their way back to us from the aforesaid adjacent province, Alan Morrison and I had to perform this text as well as elicit discussion of its chief features -- which turned out to be quite an amusing experience for all concerned. Whether for this reason or not, this session was very lively raising a number of fundamental encoding issues in a satisfactory manner. The day concluded with a presentation of the standard TEI document analysis slides, which I gave from paper notes in the absence of anything flashier.

Day 2 was to have begun with the first of three graded exercises on using Author/Editor and Panorama, but it became apparent fairly rapidly that the teaching room allocated for this purpose was simply not set up correctly. Delegates seemed philosophical about this, occupying the time in such characteristically Dutch habits as checking email and strolling down the corridor for a smoke, while we re-arranged the timetable to allow a further hour's installation time. I gave (again from backup slides) the overview of TEI Lite and discussed briefly ways of using it to implement the features we'd identified the previous day. After lunch we divided the group up, with those uninterested in Author Editor being free to go and inspect the various demonstrations of student projects and other software (notably Near and Far and Explorer).

The rest repaired to the PC room and drove out a few hopeful students who thought it was theirs. Alan and I then walked through our Author Editor exercises successfully. In the first, we imported a "plain ASCII" version of the Holmes text, tagging it as a single div, then as a paragraph, then split the paragraphs. This taught use of the surround, remove, split, and joint options. Then we exported the text, looked at it in Write, and reimported it. In the second exercise, we started from a blank new document, and built the skeleton of a full TEI conformant text, using the "Insert markup" option to teach something of the TEI header at the same time. In the third exercise, we imported a version of the tale which Alan and I had tagged in some detail earlier, with all direct speech identified and allocated to speakers. We then showed how this markup could be displayed in Panorama, using previously prepared stylesheets and navigators. This programme of work was fairly exhausting for the 30 or so participants who stayed the course, and entirely so for the two of us trying to give it, but it seemed to go down well. I did finally manage to see some of the work which students at Groningen have been doing -- an illustrated version of the Christmas Carol; a morphologically analysed version of Hiawatha -- but not as much as I'd have liked.

I was greatly impressed by the energy and enthusiasm of the Workshop participants. They were very tolerant of the technical mishaps which prevented the event from being as great a success as it deserved to be. The local team, particularly the students, also deserve commendation for their great resourcefulness in the face of adversity. I hope that Surfnet will be willing to sponsor another such event in the near future.