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Special Interest Networks (SIN) - a summary
David G. Green,
School of Environment and Information Sciences,
Charles Sturt University,
PO Box 789 Albury NSW 2640 AUSTRALIA
What is a SIN?
A Special Interest Network (SIN) is a set of network sites ("nodes")
that collaborate to provide a complete range of information activities
on a particular topic.
A more complete description can be found in the
"A Web of SINs - the nature and organization of
Special Interest Networks.", which is available from
What do they do?
The main functions of a SIN are:
e.g. mailing lists, news, contact registers
- network publication,
including ANY form of material, not just text
- virtual libraries,
i.e. organized links to useful information
- special services,
such as on-line data processing.
Why have SINs?
As the volume of information on the Internet literally explodes,
several needs become ever more urgent and obvious.
SINs help to address some of the most urgent problems
associated with network information, including:
The SIN concept is based on the assumption that the volume
of information is too great for any one agency or site to
control. We therefore have to adopt the principle that
those who produce information should also publish it.
The great advantage of a SINs approach is that it encourages
participation and accommodates growth.
- Organization - how to find material, how to link it together
- Stability - ensuring that sources do not disappear
- Quality Control - ensuring that information is reliable
- Standardization - ensuring that information can be combined
- Duplication - reducing wasteful duplication of effort;
- Scalability - Ensuring that the network can cope with growth.
How do they work?
- One node acts as a secretariat for the network.
- Each node serves some special function, such as acting
as coordinating centre for one or more SIN projects, or acting
as a regional centre.
- Each node mirrors a set of basic documents and/or menus
that define the basic services offered by the SIN.
- Maintenance of each project and/or document is supervised by a
coordinating centre (not necessarily the same for every activity).
- Material for publication may be submitted to any node (or perhaps
to some subset).
- The coordinating centre for a given project regularly
harvests incoming items from other nodes, carries out quality
control procedures, and prepares updates.
- Each node carries out a mirroring operation regularly
(say once per day) to retrieve up-to-date, local copies of
updates and other new information from coordinating centres.
Many of the above steps will be automated.
Are there any examples?
Many organizations are adopting the de facto SINs approach
as suggested here. For example: