Burton H. Lee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dept. of Mechanical Engineering
US-Japan Technology Management Center
Yasuhisa Sakamoto <email@example.com>
Atsuhiro Goto <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) Software Laboratories
Ayako Yamazaki <email@example.com>
Greg Harris <firstname.lastname@example.org>
US-Japan Technology Management Center
Japan Window is a nonprofit Internet research collaboration between Stanford University and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT), under the sponsorship of Smart Valley, Inc. Officially released to the public on 1 March 1995, Japan Window (http://jw.nttam.com, http://jw.stanford.edu) is a one-year-old experiment in organizing and building country-level Japan information services on the Web. The project team is composed of Japanese and U.S. nationals--together with three interlinked Web sites--based in California and Japan, and represents a unique binational collaboration project between a university and corporate software laboratory.
During its first year of operation, Japan Window has successfully demonstrated improved access to Japan information and innovative high-demand content for U.S. users, and enhanced communication and dialogue between U.S. and Japan user communities. The project has been cited for consistent excellence in Web site design, user services, and maintenance. Primary user communities are from the United States and Japan. Average daily user access levels have gone from 16,000 "hits"/day (March 1995) to 55,000/day (March 1996), with strongest growth from our Japanese user base. Registered users total over 3,250, with 61percent from the United States and Canada.
Major content areas and interactive services include the JW Chat Forum, the "Democratic Wall" discussion groups, Japan Web site directories, weekly "Top 10 Japan Web Site List" e-mailings to registered users, and a Japan Events Calendar. Registered users can customize certain JW services via the User Cockpit. Third-party-provided content includes daily Japan news from JiJi Press, science and technology information, Kid's Window, and information for foreigners working and traveling in Japan. We have developed new interactive Internet technologies for U.S. users.
This paper provides the international Internet community with a first-anniversary review of Japan Window's progress and accomplishments in content strategy, technical architecture, and features, user community services and relations, and Web site administration. Significant lessons learned include understanding the importance of interactive, dynamic content for building an international nation-to-nation Web site of this sort. Future research directions are discussed.
The Japan Window project is an Internet research collaboration of Stanford University's School of Engineering, US-Japan Technology Management Center, and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation's (NTT) Software Laboratories, under the sponsorship of Smart Valley, Inc. The project celebrated its first-year anniversary in March. Japan Window is a leading nation-to-nation experiment in organizing and building country-level information services on the Web. Under the direction of Atsuhiro Goto (NTT) and Burton Lee (Stanford), the Japan Window team aims to improve Japan information access and U.S.-Japan exchange and communication on behalf of the U.S. user community.
Graphics by J. Hong, Stanford University
Figure 1: New Japan Window Homepage
Japan Window's principal objective is to grow a network of distributed and integrated Web sites useful to U.S. corporate, academic, and government organizations in their daily U.S.-Japan activities, be it hi-tech R&D, product development, electronic commerce, export promotion, or technology management and policy. This is achieved by concurrently developing (1) a spectrum of new and timely third-party, community and interactive Japan information sources for the U.S. high-technology community and (2) innovative Web site automation and human/computer interface techniques that encourage and facilitate use of Japan information by the U.S. Internet community.
Japan Window is investigating the following issues of particular interest to the U.S.-Japan and WWW/Internet communities:
Relatively little is known about the U.S. market for Internet-based dissemination of Japan information. The project collects and analyzes detailed access log statistics and comments to understand patterns of usage and demand by U.S. users, to assist in ongoing site design and expansion, and to develop U.S. user demand for Japan information in specific selected domains.
Difficulties with obtaining information content from third-party organizations (e.g., copyright permissions) have led the project team to focus on alternative sources of content provided directly from the distributed Japan Window user community. Community-provided content via interactive services such as JW Chat, discussion groups, and our Event Calendar have reduced our dependency on third-party content.
Automation and customization of Web site maintenance for system administrators, information content providers and users is essential. Our objective is to off-load much of the daily and repetitive administrative burdens from system operators, and to also give Japan Window content providers and users secure mechanisms for directly customizing and managing their own information from remote locations (see also Section 5.0). Our recently released "Users Cockpit," for example, permits users to select services they receive from Japan Window.
Japan Window's information content strategy is designed to appeal to a broad base of U.S. users with varying Japan information needs. By adopting innovative approaches to the packaging and bundling of information content, such as mixing interactive and noninteractive content with dynamic and static news sources, we attract the casual browser of Japan information, as well as the serious repeat user who frequently needs in-depth information in one or more subject areas.
Japan Window's information content focuses on the following major information categories and features:
Below, we describe the particular type of information content in each category and profile user responses in the most interesting cases.
Interactive content, which is derived directly from the inputs of our many thousands of users, has proved to be extremely successful as a content source of continuing interest--and hence frequent site revisits--to our user base. This class of content is most dynamic, and always current, as it is built from the daily inputs and interactions of users with each other and with Japan Window staff. Most of our interactive content and services have been designed, written, and developed by NTT and Stanford staff; as such, it represents a very large portion of our proprietary intellectual content.
During the past six months, user demand for interactive content has far outpaced that for noninteractive content, principally as a result of the growth in popularity of our JW Chat Forum. From a site administration perspective, interactive content places very different burdens on staff time and skills mix in site development and maintenance, compared to more traditional static content classes. Static content typically involves substantial up-front intellectual property negotiations and regular addition of formatted HTML pages and graphics. Interactive content poses interesting staffing and ethical issues regarding the ongoing monitoring of "acceptable" content.
Japan Window currently offers an online Chat Forum, based upon the "Webchat" technology developed by the Internet Roundtable Society. The Chat Forum promotes user-to-user interactions around Japan-oriented subjects, at moderate additional cost in time or resources to system administrators. We place no limit on the number of people who can simultaneously participate. Users may include links to photographs and other pages to provide extra information, and they may chat in both English and Japanese. Since September 1995, this has been the fastest growth section of our Web site, with over 200 people accessing daily this unique area to meet people interested in Japan.
User response and moderation: The growth and maintenance of a healthy Japan Window user community requires regular monitoring by system administrators of Chat Forum content for inappropriate comments, language, and graphics. In response to reports received from other users as to chronic offensive behavior by certain persons, JW staff initially utilized server access control to prohibit access from troublesome host machines. As a result of our efforts, the number of improper accesses has decreased greatly, and a good relationship between regular users and JW administrators has been established. This host-based access control, however, sometimes unfairly denied access to innocent users who share the same host/domain name with problematic accounts.
To solve this problem, since March 1996 Chat Forum is made available only for authenticated registered users. Administrators may block abusive users on an individual basis. Appropriate Chat management policies and tools such as these should be prepared prior to initiating Chat services.
Starting in September 1995, Japan Window initiated a new and popular discussion forum--the "Democratic Wall"--in order to facilitate asynchronous user-to-user communication. The "Democratic Wall" is a Web-based bulletin board where Japan Window users share ideas, opinions, and questions in a non-real-time format via Web browsers with forms capability.
Any user can propose a new topic for discussion; other users respond by submitting their personal opinions on topics of interest. Each discussion thread is displayed on one page; users can move to other threads easily as all pages have a topic index. Each time a new topic is posted to the Wall, system administrators receive an automatic notification. The administrator assesses whether the topic is suitable and either opens it to public discussion or blocks it if deemed improper.
User comments and e-mail feedback have led JW staff to make continuing improvements in service. As the number of topics increased, for example, we split each topic into a separate page, added a topics index to each page, and have now begun to date all postings. These improvements were achieved within a month of receiving relevant user requests.
User Response: The Democratic Wall receives approximately 40 new topic proposals and 150 responses each month, from an average monthly host base estimated at 80 persons. About 5 percent of total topic postings are removed by JW administrators, confirming the effectiveness of Web-based moderation. Examples of popular topics proposed include those listed below:
Sorted by number of responses (as of 31 March 1996)
Number of Responses Topic Title --------------------------------------------------------------- 60 Meeting Japanese people through the Internet 39 Are the Japanese eating dolphins? 34 Why do Americans wear shoes even in house? 28 Japanese marrying non-Japanese 24 American military rights in Okinawa 22 A long-distance love between Japan and America 20 Anyone want to make Asian International Club?
The Chat Forum and Democratic Wall discussion groups complement each other very well. The Wall is most suitable for deep, continuous, and long discussions about serious topics. It is also very useful for overcoming large timezone differences between United States and Japan users. Chat, in contrast, is better suited for short, real-time dialogue.
Dealing with occasional inappropriate and offensive user comments on the Wall has led us to develop a Web-based discussion moderator function to assist our administrators in monitoring user inputs. Technical measures alone, however, such as restricting user access by IP address, domain name, and/or user name, cannot provide a fully satisfactory solution. Japan Window staff remain very sensitive to the ethical, free speech, and censorship issues inherent in the monitoring of user interactive content; balancing individual rights against electronic community well-being requires the continuing exercise of good and cautious judgment. Based on our experience, once a positive, friendly atmosphere is established in a discussion group, the frequency of offensive users typically decreases.
The Japan Events Calendar is an example of a community-serviceable database that provides an important U.S-Japan community benefit. The English-language calendar lists Japan-related events in Japan and the United States and includes information on the event date, time, location, contact information, and a short description. Users can search the events database by keyword, date, sponsor, and/or location. The database presently includes approximately 40 event records per month provided by 12 organizations. NTT and Stanford input most event information from third-party sources, as many of these either do not have Web access to do it themselves or cannot afford the staff time to manually input records.
Viewing of calendar events is accessible to the general public. Editing of calendar events, however, is restricted to Japan Window members through password access. New members can sign up and set their passwords through an auxiliary forms interface. Once a member logs in, they are only allowed to edit events sponsored by themselves such that everyone can contribute to the database without jeopardizing other parties' information.
March 1996 witnessed the start of a new e-mail-based user service intended to promote greater interaction between Japan Window and our users, and to keep users regularly updated on our activities. Users who register in our "User Cockpit" and select the e-mail subscription option now receive a weekly e-mail listing of the "Top 10" most visited Japan Web sites from our Japan Web site directory. This service has been very well received; over 90 percent of registered users have signed up for these weekly notifications. We plan to add calendar events notification and other similar update services of interest to users.
Japan Window maintains a comprehensive and current directory and archive of newly released Japan-related Web sites. Based on public Web site announcements provided to the NTT-Tokyo Web site (http://www.ntt.jp), the JW directory is mirrored daily to our NTT Palo Alto server. Scripts for mirroring and automated reformatting are invoked every three hours and update the Japan Window "What's New" Web site directory pages.
The number of English-language Japan Web site listings has increased rapidly, from around 20 in 1993 to more than 100 in 1994 and over 1,400 in 1995; twice as many Web site listings are available in Japanese. Japan Window users can access all information archives from 1993 both via our "What's New" menu and keyword search.
This content class refers to noninteractive information that is updated on a regular basis, usually daily or weekly. It is not interactive, in that the actual final content does not depend on user inputs in any way, but is instead furnished by a third-party information provider organization. Information sources typical of this category include news providers and publishers of magazines.
NTT provides Japan Window with its English-language City Source telephone directory for Tokyo and Osaka. It is searchable by keyword and remains a high-demand content source.
Daily news features are essential to providing Japan Window users current and timely information from original news sources in and about Japan. "The Weekly News," provided courtesy of JIJI Press Japan, offers Japan-related worldwide news information both in English and in Japanese. Updated daily, users can read around 50 news articles each day for the most recent 7 days. Articles are classified by areas such as financial, industry, Tokyo stock market, etc. Japan Window's keyword search function helps users look for past articles from the "Weekly News" archives, which accumulate about 300 news articles each week.
JIJI Press news articles, provided as ASCII text from JIJI Press Tokyo, are sent to the Japan Window server every day for conversion to HTML files with article index and menu files. Processing is done almost automatically by a set of scripts, with a final visual check by an NTT Japan Window staff member.
This content class refers to noninteractive information that is updated on an infrequent, irregular basis. It is not interactive, in that the actual final content does not depend on user inputs in any way, but is instead furnished by a third-party information provider organization. Individual documents, which are updated only every 6 or 12 months, represent the largest information source in this category.
Japanese science and technology information (JSTI), in English and Japanese, continues to be an important Japan Window subject area. Japanese intellectual property restrictions and practices, however, have delayed our progress here. Domain and discipline areas currently under long-term development include Japanese manufacturing, environmental and energy technologies, and telecommunications and computer networking R&D information. We expect continued progress in our JSTI content offerings, as Japanese publishing houses become more comfortable with online publishing.
Despite the high demand for Japanese business information by our user community, because of the rapid emergence of Internet-based commercial business and financial news providers in Japan, it has proved to be far more difficult than expected to develop significant Japanese business, economics, and financial information sources for Japan Window.
The recently released "Directory of Sources of Japanese Information on Trade and Technology," provided courtesy of the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation in Tokyo (http://www.iac.co.jp/~eujapan/index.html), however, is one example of an English-language directory, compiled and published on a noncommercial basis, that is extremely useful for the non-Japanese business person. Strong competition among Japanese and U.S. providers of Japanese business information will continue to impact our progress here.
This subject area includes practical information for Americans who plan to go to Japan. At present, visitor information is provided for Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara. Current information providers here include the Japan National Tourist Office (via NTT), the Japanese Redcross Society Volunteers, and the Osaka Prefectural Government.
This section is very popular among U.S. users. The content, however, changes sufficiently rapidly as to make portions of it difficult to maintain current all the time.
Kid's Window aims (1) to introduce Japan to children in a fun and interesting way, (2) to promote children's understanding and appreciation of foreign cultures, and (3) to serve as a communication bridge between children in America and Japan. Colorful pictures and audio throughout the section keep children interested and motivated and give them the opportunity to explore the Web world easily by themselves without adult assistance.
The Library, the newest and the most popular place in Kid's Window, introduces traditional Japanese folktales "Momotaro" (Peach Boy) and "Omusubi Kororin" (Tumbling Rice Balls), which have been passed down from generation to generation. The online versions of these folktales are simplified stories with heart-warming illustrations and audio in both Japanese and English. The Kid's Picture Dictionary teaches simple vocabulary with illustrations and sounds and also compares interesting animal sounds in Japanese and English.
At the Restaurant, one tastes virtual Japanese cuisine while learning pronunciation and useful phrases. The menu has over 15 Japanese dishes including sushi, soba, and other traditional dishes with brief explanations. Vivid color pictures of dishes, sound files for pronunciation of the name of each dish, as well as frequently heard phrases at Japanese restaurants or at the dinner table give visitors a personal experience with Japan's eating culture.
The School offers beginning Japanese lessons as well as a chance to explore kanji, hiragana, and katakana writing systems. Each language page has one character on the blackboard that illustrates the stroke order of the character and sound files for pronunciation. The "Let's Discover Kanji!" section features excerpts from "Kanji Pict-O-Graphix" by Stone Bridge Press of Oakland, California (USA); book materials explain the structure and meanings of frequently used kanji characters with comprehensive, unique pictures to help non-Japanese people remember characters. The School also has origami lessons that demonstrate how to fold traditional origami including cranes and other figures, with color pictures and easy-to-follow instructions for children.
Figure 2: The Momotaro "Peach Boy" Story Page
User Response and Awards: Kid's Window is one of our most popular sections. Both children and adults seem to enjoy KW's warm, friendly atmosphere and simple, fun way of learning designed for children. For March 1996, 55 percent of KW accesses came from the United States, 30 percent from Japan, and a significant portion from Western Europe and Canada. Over 90 percent of comments received reflect extremely positive feedback.
Figure 3: Kid's Window: User Access Profiles by Directory and Country
Kid's Window has also received numerous awards and favorable reviews from other Web developers, Internet-related magazines, and publications in 1995-96. Notable recognition comes from Point Communications (top 5 % of all Web sites), Magellan, Internet Surfer, iGuide, Learning in Motion, the WWW Yellow Pages, and the recent Iway 500 award for children and family sites.
Since its March 1995 release, Japan Window has been well received within its primary target audience (U.S.-based organizations) as well as by Japanese and worldwide users. Major U.S. user communities targeted include high-technology industry; regional and community Japan societies; researchers at government, corporate, and university laboratories; and U.S. government agencies.
Following an initial six-month period of relatively slow growth in user traffic, since September 1995 we have received particularly strong growth (averaging over 15% per month) in total user traffic, corresponding to new popularity in live chat services across the entire Internet and the debut of our Democratic Wall service. Figure 5 details the growth in user accesses in conjunction with our schedule of new content/service introductions over our first year.
Total traffic across both the NTT and Stanford sites rose from an average of 16,000 "hits"/day (~1,300 hosts) in March 1995 to 55,000 hits/day (~2,500 hosts) in April 1996, an increase of 340 percent ("hits" include images). Total traffic for March jumped from 400,000 "hits" (1995) to 1.7 million "hits" (1996), or 425 percent over one year. This strong growth reflects improvements to content and services on our Web sites, but also significant increases in the Japanese and U.S. Internet user base.
During the past year, we have experienced an increase in usage by U.S.-based users relative to Japanese and other-world users; usage volumes have increased across the board for all major user origin categories, with strongest growth from North America. User accesses for March 1996 break out as follows: United States (40%), Japan (22%) and Other-World (15%); in June 1995 these numbers were United States (35%), Japan (35%) and Other-World (7%) (see Figure 4). Unresolved domain names account for the balance. Given that our services are mostly English-language, we have been somewhat surprised at the growth in usage by Japanese clients, who remain primarily interested in our Daily News, Japan Directory, and Chat Forum services.
Figure 4: Breakdown of Japan Window User Access Statistics: Total User Accesses, Registered Users, Referring Sites
Figure 5: Summary Access Statistics and Content/Service Timeline
Extremely valuable user feedback is received via the User Comments section; Japan Window servers receive about 10 valuable comments on content, formatting, and collaboration each day.
The NTT-Tokyo Web site (www.ntt.jp) remains the single most popular Japan Window jump-off point for users, ranging from 45 percent to 65 percent over the past year (Figure 4 above depicts referrals for December 1995). The Stanford U.S.-Japan Center home Web page (fuji.stanford.edu) comes in second place, with 8 percent to 15 percent for the same period. As Japan Window has become better known, the percentage of accesses originating outside the NTT and Stanford home sites has significantly increased.
Technical innovations and proprietary Web site technologies that the Japan Window team has developed include some of those discussed below. Inquiries about licensing of this software should be directed to NTT and/or Stanford.
The "Democratic Wall" is implemented as a set of Perl scripts working through a CGI interface and text-based database system. Scripts for user services manage input/output to the database and dynamically generate HTML pages from imported format templates. Templates--simple HTML documents--allow administrators to update page layouts efficiently without changing scripts.
We have also developed scripts for moderating discussions and for automatic archiving of discussion threads. The moderation function assists administrators in monitoring user inputs and in removing undesired topics or comments. The archiving scripts, run on a periodic basis, automatically retire a discussion thread that has not been updated for the past 21 days. These scripts are highly reusable and are easily applied to other Web-based interactive services.
The interactive Japan Events Calendar is implemented as a custom CGI-database using TclTk. The interface model for the calendar is that of a filtered list that allows screening of events by date, information source, and location. WAIS search is also possible via a calendar script that automatically generates HTML files. To deal with the dynamic nature of event information, all calendar pages and input forms are "virtual" pages generated on the fly.
The Japan Window "Cockpit" pages, presently accessible only to authorized Japan Window site administrators, provide a single point of entry and centralized control board for running site operations such as database updates, status reports, question and comments answering, user access statistics, WAIS administration, mirror arrangements, etc. Eventually, we anticipate that system administrators will use the Cockpit interface to perform additional functions, such as sponsor account creation and maintenance, for example.
The Perl-based "Users Cockpit," released 1 March 1996, allows the individual user to register with Japan Window and gain access to particular JW services such as the Chat Forum and our e-mail-based notification services. Cockpit user records are secure and can be edited only by the individual owner.
E-mail services are presently limited to weekly/biweekly or monthly "Top 10 Japan Web Sites" list e-mailings to users who have registered for such service on their individual User Cockpit preferences page. The script has four modules: (1) generate the mailing list from the registered users database, (2) find and rank the "Top 10" Web sites, (3) generate the file to be sent out, and (4) mail the file. Users specify their e-mail subscription and frequency (weekly, biweekly, or monthly) preferences in the "User Cockpit" from where they control their JW services preference profiles. Personal user IDs and passwords, assigned for each user at registration time, are required each time a user "logs in" to his/her own Cockpit. We use HTTP/1.0 basic authentication scheme for the user identification.
The selection of the "Top 10" most visited Web sites is accomplished by comparing Web site announcement listings in our "What's New" database against our user access log over past weeks; we thus track--and rank--which external Web sites are accessed most often from the "What's New" database Web pages. G. Harris of Stanford University authored the prototype of this e-mail service in C shell, with B. Lee providing the overall service design and structure; Y. Sakamoto of NTT wrote an improved Version 2.0 in Perl.
Japan Window servers at NTT and Stanford presently coordinate their content through a series of freeware and proprietary FTP mirror scripts that run daily. We are additionally investigating the use of "spider" technology such as HTMLgobble, and other "bots," to coordinate, index, and copy Web site content with third-party servers.
Japan Window celebrated its first anniversary on 1 March 1996. During this period, the project has achieved widespread recognition in Japan and the United States for the consistent quality of its content, user services, architecture, and graphics design. Most important, our user base has expanded significantly since our inception and continues its steady growth. Essential to this success have been the following factors:
Important lessons learned to date from analysis of user access statistics, and in the development and administration of the Japan Window Web site, include the following:
Improvements and additions we hope to implement in the coming months include the following:
Organizations interested in learning more about the Japan Window project should contact either Stanford University or NTT as follows:
Japan Window was co-founded by Atsuhiro Goto, Burton Lee, Michael Bayle, and Yasuhisa Sakamoto. Ayako Yamazaki and Kathryn Kada co-founded and designed Kid's Window.
The Stanford authors wish to thank and acknowledge the U.S.-Japan Technology Management Center for its support of this research project. The Center is a member of the U.S.-Japan Industry and Technology Management Program, which is supported by the U.S. government and by U.S. and Japanese industry.
Thanks to JIJI Press, the Japanese Red Cross Society, Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), and the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation for their excellent information content contributions to Japan Window.
Thanks to Regis McKenna for his continuing interest and support of this project and to Smart Valley, Inc., for their vital sponsorship of Japan Window in Silicon Valley.
Thanks to Junhe Liu for his contributions to early versions of this paper; Kazuya, Alice, and Kathryn Kada for Kid's Window graphics; and Michael Bayle for his continuing online support for the JW Chat Forum and for his contributions to a friendly atmosphere for our Chat users. Mr. Jack Hong designed the original Japan Window graphics and logos.
 Lee, B., Goto, A., et al., "Japan Window: A US-Japan Internet/WWW Collaboration for Japan Information," in Proceedings of INET '95, Internet Society, Honolulu, Hawaii, June 1995.
 Lee, B., Bayle, M., Goto, A., Sakamoto, Y. et. al., "Japan Window: A US-Japan WWW Collaboration for Japan Information," in Proceedings of the 2nd International WWW Conference, Chicago, Illinois, 1994.
 Lee, B., Bayle, M., "Internet X-Guide to Japan Information Exchange," in Proceedings of the Workshop on Technical Requirements of Accessing Japanese Information: Problems and Solutions, Library of Congress, Washington D.C., March 18, 1994.
Burton Lee, Japan Window Project Manager-US, is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University, with research interests in intelligent embedded product agents, product population management, and environmentally conscious design.
Yasuhisa Sakamoto, Associate Project Manager-Japan, is a software engineer with NTT Software Laboratories, Palo Alto, California.
Atsuhiro Goto, Japan Window Project Manager-Japan, is a Senior Research Engineer, Supervisor, with NTT Software Laboratories, Palo Alto, California.
Ayako Yamazaki is Web Site Coordinator for the Stanford University US-Japan Technology Management Center.
Greg Harris is a senior at the University of California, Santa Barbara, majoring in Psychology.
He served as webmaster for the Stanford US-Japan Technology Management Center during 1995.