The www as an interface

We started using the www as an experimental platform in Florence for practical reasons. The IUE in Florence did not have a dedicated laboratory but they had a computer pool with some Macs and some Windows computers. Hence we had to find a software that would run on both systems. Netscape came in as a suitable choice, in particular, since it was already installed. Hence, there was no need to convince the administrator of the computer pool to allow us to install possibly dangerous experimental software. As a server we used a Mac running MachTen during the development of the exeperiment. Lateron we could easily switch to the HP-Unix server of the computer pool. When we did the same experiment in Mannheim we used Windows95 as clients and Linux as a server. To do it in Pavia we used a DEC Alpha as a server and Alphas and Macs as clients. This experience convinced us that the www offers interesting possibilities for experimenters.

A major advantage of choosing the www as an interface is that all elements that we need for user interaction in our experiments (buttons, text-fields, pop-up-menus, etc.) are already present in a professional quality in the www.

Further, the www offers a technical flexibility. www clients and servers run on almost any platform. Accessing servers immediately through the Internet allows us to transgress the boundaries of the laboratory.

Further, this technique is not only suitable to design experiments, but for all other kind of Internet interaction as well. We will briefly discuss how participants for our experiments can be recruited and organised with little effort.

Oliver Kirchkamp 2013-04-15