Re: Automatic Entry and Forms

Robert Hazeltine (
Sun, 25 Feb 1996 10:58:00 +1100 (EST)

Date: Sun, 25 Feb 1996 10:58:00 +1100 (EST)
From: Robert Hazeltine <>
To: Mary Holstege <>
Subject: Re: Automatic Entry and Forms
In-Reply-To: <199602231621.IAA14129@athena>
Message-Id: <>


On Fri, 23 Feb 1996, Mary Holstege wrote:

> Automatically filling in hidden fields is a pretty lousy idea.  Automatically
> filling in non-hidden fields is a less lousy idea, but there is a big (big)
> unanswered question for me:  What's the use model here?  

Thank you for your considered reply.  I have added some of my own ideas 
which I hope you agree with.

I believe that you have identified the crux of the problem on the design 

Let's put aside for a moment, all the possible *kinds* of businesses that
are on the Internet already or that will find their place beside them -
the data set for each individual business must differ - you are dealing
with individuals who have their own priorities, their own set of values,
their own information requirements, etc, etc. 

Certainly, one insurance company is different to another and which of the 
many forms that they use in their business and whose business are you 
going to pick to represent the whole.

Of course, it can be done.  We could use some of the international and 
national standardisation bodies and force every one into a mould.

If that the Internet community and W3 in particular really want to do 
while ensuring input from the world wide users of the system, then do so 
with your eyes open - not this immature approach of sneaking it in.

For example, if you are unaware (when you receive this posting) of
international efforts to facilitate trade and the sorts or effort that has
gone on over the last say 20 years, it's no wonder this group is heading 
"where angels fear to tread".

> Does the browser cache all filled in fields and automatically reuse them when
> presented with a field defined according to the same template?  Caches on disk?
> (Caching only in memory won't do unless you have your browser up for weeks at a
> time.)  With what protections against others finding and misusing it?  Is this
> really implementationally viable?  Identifying 'sameness' sounds like a
> nightmare, but I'd have to see the spec on these templates.  I could see you
> chewing up a lot of disk space and memory over these field caches.

Yes exactly.  Because something can be done, does not mean it has to be.
> Or there is some "personal information" preferences page in which you fill in
> a few standardized fields?  This is naive. I have written a lot of programs of
> one sort and another that want name (and maybe title), address (two address
> lines? three? four? country? postcode or zipcode? city-state-zip as a line
> or separate fields...), and telephone (country code? separate area code? how
> many digits? and maybe fax and maybe pager and maybe email...) and not one uses
> the same set of fields.  Throw in an international environment and all bets are
> off.  When I've designed fill-in forms for our customers, they almost always
> want specialized drop down menus for some of these fields -- how does that fit
> into this model if the predefined value doesn't match the menu values?

If you get obdurate people in the one organisation, which I have often 
come across in my working career, it can be just as difficult as 
intergovernmental or international organisations.
> I'm just not convinced that retyping in some information once every couple of
> weeks or so is worth all this.

This proposal requires a lot of trust in the way that other people's systems
would transfer information - both personal and business - without human 
intervention.  I agree but I would go one step further and say that the 
potential abuse is not worth all this.


Robert Hazeltine          
Library Web Support