ADASS 97 (adass@eso.org)
Sat, 23 Aug 1997 16:38:58 +0200


Invitation to join the preliminary Email discussion.

FADS stands for `The Future of Astronomical Data-analysis Software'.
It is the somewhat flippant title of a special session at the yearly
ADASS conference. In an open debate the participants try to figure out
what the future of our trade will look like, and whether there is
anything we can and/or should do about it. After all, our community is
greatly admired for adopting the FITS standard, and perhaps there are
more things that we can do collectively.

The dominant FADS theme that has emerged over the years is (roughly):
'the prospects of building customised software systems more or less
automatically from existing modules'. Ultimately, things might work
similar to a travel agency: The user interactively explains his/her
requirements in functionality, user interface, data interface etc to a
(software) agent on the net. This agent knows what is available
worldwide, and how to put it together. After agreeing a price (!),
the agent goes away and delivers a working system. Users will love
this, because it liberates them from dictatorial creators of `ultimate
software packages'.

Obviously, we are far from a situation like the one sketched above,
which might be impossible or even undesirable. It is also unclear
what the intermediate steps might be (CORBA?), or whether our community
can have any impact on it, or what the role(s) of the future software
writer will be. This is the subject matter of the FADS debate.

Thus, FADS is about interfaces and interoperability, and not so much
about technology. FADS is also about the impact of the future on each
of us professionally. Because the only thing we know for certain is
that things will change more rapidly than we ourselves....

As organisers of FADS-III, we hereby invite you to participate in the
traditional preliminary email discussion, prior to the actual session
at the upcoming ADASS'97 conference. Experience has taught us that
such a preliminary discussion greatly enhances the quality of the
debate. The reason is that at least some of the participants have
taken the time to put their views into a coherent form. An email
discussion also helps the organisers to identify the issues that we
should concentrate on.

In order to subscribe, please consult the FADS home-page:


This page also provides access to summaries of the two earlier FADS
debates, and an archive of contributions to their email discussions.

We are looking forward to a lively and stimulating FADS-III. Do not be
shy, and do not stand too much in awe of established pundits. They are
as much in the dark as you are, and tend to be blinkered by vested

Jan Noordam
Peter Teuben