Interactive Web Support for QIP

Esma Aïmeur (U. de Montréal), Gilles Brassard (U. de Montréal),
Dominic Mayers (U. de Sherbrooke) and Sébastien Paquet (U. de Montréal)

0. Introduction

In this document, we describe an initiative to provide Web support to enhance the experience of participants in the 2003 Quantum Information Processing Workshop (which is actually held in December of 2002).

The overall goal of the initiative is to enable the members of the quantum information processing research community to take fuller advantage of the capabilities of the Web to share knowledge more effectively, both internally and with outsiders who might want to get involved in research in the field. This is a social experiment that should strenghten the community if we can convince enough people to try it out.

The initiative features two components:

  1. A personal knowledge publishing network, which enables participants to share notes and have conversations using personal Web spaces;

  2. A shared knowledge repository, which enables participants to collaboratively "map out" the field of quantum information processing for the benefit of all.

In both cases, getting involved requires a very small time investment and doesn't imply any commitment to continued participation. Enthusiastic participants are of course encouraged to contribute as much as they want. Below, we describe each component, outline its benefits for participants, and point to examples of similar initiatives in other communities to give a better idea of what we have in mind.

1. A personal knowledge publishing network


Personal knowledge publishing is an activity that is enabled by a tool called a weblog. You might already know about the first really popular weblog - its name is Slashdot and it was created by Rob Malda.

Roughly speaking, weblogs are personal news sites consisting in series of hypertext posts that are presented to the reader in reverse chronological order, with the most recent material at the top. The content of posts is entirely up to the author. Weblogs provide an easy way for an individual to share notes with others and point to relevant reading material.

Another example might help at this point. You can reread the above paragraph while looking at Sébastien Paquet's weblog, Seb's Open Research, which chiefly focuses on the evolution of scholarly communication. (Here is an introduction to that weblog.)

Weblogs are similar to "home pages" but they differ in several respects, the most obvious being the chronological structure and the fact that the site's front page changes every time a new post is added. Older posts are archived but can still be linked to individually even after they've rolled off the front page.

Reading someone's weblog lets you know what topics are currently of interest to that person and see what they have to say on those topics. Conversely, by having your own weblog you can let others know what interests you, which is a first step toward establishing collaboration relationships. This can be particularly useful for people who aren't yet very well connected within the community.

Weblogs are useful as stand-alone tools, but become even more effective when they form an interlinked network because they enable interesting ideas to visibly bounce around from one person to the other. Because you can reply to other people's posts in your own weblog by linking to them and adding your comments, they also enable conversations. By sampling only a few weblogs it is possible to get a sense of what ideas people in a group are excited about.

Weblogs are rapidly becoming the medium of choice for open, high-signal, informal discussions because (1) they give a sense of personal ownership and (2) because of their decentralized nature, they do not suffer from the scaling and noise problems of other Internet collaboration tools such as discussion lists. By contrast to informal face-to-face communication, the contributions of participants in this medium have potentially greater reach and greater value to the wider community because they are more accessible both across space and time.

We've only covered the essentials here, hopefully enough to spark your interest. A more in-depth analysis of weblogs and personal knowledge publishing with particular attention to their uses in research is presented in the document Personal knowledge publishing and it uses in research by Sébastien Paquet.

Examples of weblogs

Here are links to a few instances of personal knowledge publishing that further illustrate the kind of content we have in mind.

You can find more links to weblogs by researchers starting from Sˇbastien Paquet's Research Blogs page.

The weblog component of our modest proposal

What we propose in the context of the QIP Workshop is to invite interested participants to set up a personal weblog and use it to share their thoughts and react to interesting content from other participants.

We will maintain a directory of participants to ensure that QIP weblogs are easy to find. It should be clear that the weblogs exist independently of the workshop, so that discussions and sharing can go on after the workshop is over. We encourage you to set up your weblog and experiment with it a bit before coming to the workshop. This way, you can already start meaningful conversations with other researchers before you actually meet them.

The easiest way to set up a weblog is to visit and to set up an account there. You'll be asked for a title for your weblog. You can choose anything you like, but if you lack inspiration at that particular moment, you can simply pick a title such as "John's QIP Weblog". Within a few minutes you'll be able to post whatever's on your mind using an easy-to-use interface.

What would you post? Here are a few ideas. You could point to archive preprints that caught your attention. You could tell about your pet hypotheses, about why you find a particular idea interesting. You could explain what you're trying to figure out at this moment. Don't worry about getting into specifics if you feel like it; you won't bother anyone - only curious people will read what you wrote, and possibly come up with related ideas on their weblog. Also, don't worry about going off-topic; your weblog is entirely yours. There are no minimum or maximum length restrictions and no schedule or deadlines. It is a good idea to post questions, because it is an easy way to get conversations started.

One of the most interesting effects of weblogging is that it gives you a chance to discover interesting people you might have never talked to without the aid of that tool. This has been called "manufactured serendipity".

Most weblogs carry a list of links to "neighbor weblogs" called a blogrolling list in a sidebar. This serves as a kind of public bookmark list and helps other people find weblogs related to yours. We encourage you to set up a blogroll. provides an easy-to-use blogrolling service which additionally indicates which weblogs in your list have been updated recently, so you know which ones to visit for fresh content.

Participation is of course entirely voluntary. If you find you don't like weblogging, you can stop at any time. Some people may be content with only reading what others have to say, but the experience is much more rewarding when you express yourself.

2. A shared knowledge repository

A shared knowledge repository is a web site that is grown by a group of people with a common interest, to help organize the knowledge that relates to that interest. Several tools exist that enable such repositories to be built collaboratively using only Web browsers. Wikis are among the simplest and most popular kind of such general-purpose tools.


A wiki is simply a web site where visitors can add pages and edit any page. In the most open implementations, any visitor may edit any page, without even logging in. Revision histories (including authorship information) are accessible, making it easy to restore an earlier version of a page to correct erroneous information or to undo a deletion. A simplified HTML syntax enables easy formatting and facilitates hyperlinking within the site. Backlinks enable visitors to obtain a list of the pages that link into any particular page. A continuously updated list of the recently changed pages lets them locate activity in the wiki.

The first wiki was created to help the community of specialists in software design patterns organize their knowledge. Wiki technology is increasingly being used by other communities of interest to pursue collaborative knowledge or information structuring activities. For instance, the open content encyclopedia Wikipedia {}, which relies on this technology, has grown to over twenty thousand hyperlinked articles over its first year of existence.

Handing page ownership to the community, instead of having the original author keep it as is the norm on the Web, has the following advantage: any contributor can directly pick up on another's work and improve or complement it in-place without having to contact the previous editor (who might be unavailable or have lost interest). This helps keep information fresh.

Examples of wikis

Here are links to a few existing shared knowledge repositories that further illustrate the kind of resource that we hope to build collaboratively.

The wiki component of our modest proposal

What we propose in the context of the QIP Workshop is to set up a wiki devoted to Quantum Information Processing and invite interested participants to visit it and use it to share pointers to useful content: books, journals, journal articles, etc. Ideally, the result would be a useful "living roadmap" for the field of quantum information processing. In our wildest dreams, the wiki could also be used to grow a specialized mini-encyclopedia of the field. We can use the wiki to organize whatever information we wish to share.

Participating in the wiki is even simpler than weblogging. You just need to point your Web browser to the QIP wiki's front page. Surf around, and click the "edit" link at the bottom of any page where you could add useful information or correct mistakes. Edit the page, then click a button to save it. That's all there is to it.

We hope you'll take the time to try out these tools, preferably before coming to QIP, and will enjoy using them!

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