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E-mail Plea Saves 26th HowToGAMIT

By Daniel C. Stevenson
Associate News Editor

The 26th edition of HowToGAMIT was saved in the nick of time by a electronic mail plea for help, according to Editor Traci L. Williams '95. After an "overwhelming" response from students willing to help, the book was largely updated and published in time for the arrival of the Class of 1998.

"Due to a dearth of writers and enthusiasm, How To Get Around MIT, that oh-so-helpful guide to campus that has been published by the Technology Community Association for the last 25 years, will not be published next year, nor, most likely, ever again," Williams wrote June 28 in an e-mail message and a posting to a discuss meeting, an on-line bulletin board used in the Athena Computing Environment.

At the end of spring term last year, "I didn't feel like doing it again," Williams said. "The way it was, there wasn't enough help to do it." Only seven people helped on the previous edition, and only Williams and Advertising Manager Lori A. Weldon '95 showed up to work on this year's book.

Williams received over 60 positive responses to the initial message, and one day later announced a July 5 organizational meeting. Enough people showed up so that the decision was made to update and publish the book, Williams said.

After the July meeting, 18 additional people were recruited to work on the guide. Outside help was also solicited - the Campus Police helped review and update the law chapter, for example.

"Many people helped to revise almost all the sections of the book, especially those sections that were most outdated," Williams said. All but one chapter was updated, she said.

"We did a lot more in a lot less time than before," Weldon said.

About 3,500 copies were printed, according to Advertising Manager Lori A. Weldon '95. The guide sells for $4 from the TCA, and is funded equally by advertising and sales. Free copies are provided to all freshmen.

On-line edition considered

Responding to Williams' initial message, Carl R. Manning G suggested putting the book on-line using a World Wide Web interface. The World Wide Web is a popular Internet information protocol that uses linked hypertext documents. An on-line edition can be updated at any time, Manning said, and the publishers can "get feedback on what sections people are interested in."

Matthew K. Gray '95, a former chairman of the Student Information Processing Board, offered to "assure that any necessary server side support would be provided" for on-line editions.

HowToGAMIT "would have gone on-line if it couldn't be published," Williams said. "People wanted it published instead, but it might go on-line later."

One problem with only publishing the book electronically is advertising, Weldon said. Another is that an on-line edition "doesn't offer the flexibility the printed book does," she said.