Re: My Friday-Before-Labor-Day Diatribe [Was: Frame document structure]

Earl Hood (
Sat, 31 Aug 1996 17:45:58 -0500

Message-Id: <>
To: (Murray Altheim)
cc: Walter Ian Kaye <>,
Subject: Re: My Friday-Before-Labor-Day Diatribe [Was: Frame document structure] 
In-reply-to: Your message of "Fri, 30 Aug 1996 11:08:32 CDT."
Date: Sat, 31 Aug 1996 17:45:58 -0500
From: Earl Hood <> (Murray Altheim) writes:
> How often when reading a reference does one need to have the table of
> contents (or index) and the reference material viewable at the same time?
> With hyperlinking, since it's simple to link back to the TOC, index or a
> search engine, why waste screen space? It's confusing to the eye and robs
> the user of screen area that could be devoted to the content one is trying
> to view.

That is your opinion, and may be applicable in some situations.
But I have seen where a toc (or similiar view) is beneficial, in
my opinion.  As you can see, it is all subjective.  Why should I be
denied the choice to have toc and content together when it provides
use for me?  Sometimes an index view gives me a relational context
of the content I am reading, especially if the content can be reached
from multiple points.

> I have yet to see the "necessity" of frames. 

And I have yet to see the "necessity" of "hot" hypertext links since
the link can be applied by the reader.  Hardly anything is a necessity
except for food and water.  Many of the features associated with
electronic publishing are not necessary, but they provide navigational
and contextual aids to documents that makes documents more accesible
and usable.

> IMO it's another whiz-bang
> gizmo that makes people feel their documents are more sophisticated.

That appears to be the case in many documents on the Web.  It
appears you have not see good examples, or seen on-line (SGML)
browsers whose behavior is analogous to frames.

> And we
> have spent entirely too much energy on whiz-bang gizmos at the expense of
> creating a Web capable of building an information infrastructure for our
> expanding knowledge base.

So.  People are going to do whatever they want.  Instead of trying to
change them, concentrate your efforts on doing what you believe is
right in your work.  Lead by example.

I always avoid sights that are all glitz (I still use Lynx alot to
navigate the web), but I do not complain about it.  It is their choice
to put whiz-bang gizmos in their content.  I can choose not to read it.

> The Web is a victim of the same obsession with appearance that erodes the
> value we place on true content. An order of magnitude greater effort has
> been spent on getting the "look" right, rather than concerning ourselves
> with the structure of online knowledge and information. It's as if our
> browsers and documents were busy getting breast implants and liposuction,
> rather than concentrating on improving their content, personality, utility,
> wisdom.

I like to compare the web to computer games.  Computer games with
the hottest graphics, sound, animations get alot hype when the
games first come out.  But if there is no "meat" to the games, then
games die quickly.  Look at Nethack, a great game with only an
ASCII interface.  

People like glitz, it attracts them.  But it is content that keeps
them.  There is a need for both.  As of now, I do agree that glitz
gets too much weight.  People will eventually get tired of seeing the
same old whiz-bang gizmos and seek substance.  The only time whiz-bang
succeeds is when it has never been see before, or seen very little.
Look at the movie industry as an example.  Special effects can only
carry a movie if millions are dollars are eaten up, and the effects
are cutting edge technology.  Eventually, the movie will fade with
time as new technology obsoletes it.  Movies that stand the test of
time are those with substance.  The same can be said about documents.

> How can we expect the Web to function as a repository of human knowledge,
> our future libraries (rather than simply another advertising landscape), if
> an online encyclopedia looks the same structurally as Babes on the Web?

Welcome to capitalism.

> Rather than spending so much energy on trying to make our screens jump,
> spin and bark, lets all demand greater tools, a greater concentration on
> document quality, integrity and longevity, and markup languages to support
> it.

Amen brother,


    Earl Hood                  |   ISOGEN INTERNATIONAL CORP           |   dba Highland Consulting
    Phone: 214-953-0004 x127   |   2200 North Lamar #230
    FAX: 214-953-3152          |   Dallas, TX  75202