Tag proposal

Zenon Panoussis (oracle@stockholm.mail.telia.com)
Fri, 08 Mar 1996 07:26:32 +0100


Message-Id: <313FD318.421D@stockholm.mail.telia.com>
Date: Fri, 08 Mar 1996 07:26:32 +0100
From: Zenon Panoussis <oracle@stockholm.mail.telia.com>
To: www-html@w3.org
Subject: Tag proposal

New HTML link tag proposal.

I am new to the web. The first time I came in contact with it was less 
than
three months ago. Also I am 39 and I grew up with paper books. These 
facts
may have some bearing on the validity of my opinions.

For the past 3000 years, humans have been accustomed to the book 
structure of
information. Books divided in chapters, chapters in sections, mostly with 
a
predictable balance between depth and width. It can be assumed that the
common structure of information has high relevancy to the common 
structure of
human thought and to the human methods of information absorption. By this 
I
do not imply that one method of presenting information is "better" or 
more
"correct" than the other. I simply face the fact that most people in our 
era
are used to book structures and that they face difficulties to absorb
information presented in other ways. Time may change this.

The web, in its very essence, upsets and defies every single rule of the 
old
school of information presentation. I will not enumerate the web's crimes
here; they should be well known to everybody that uses it. The one sin 
that
concerns me now is the lack of delimitation of the information presented. 
The
lack of a hard cover on the book.

Bad encoding is probably a big part of the problem. I try to study an 
on-line
manual on some issue that is not readily available on paper and that is
evidently intended to be a delimited work. It builds on links from 
chapter
one to chapter two and the like. Still, I invariably find myself staring 
at
something that has nothing to do with the issue at hand and more often 
than
not, I also loose the URL-trail. More often than not this happens just
because a person or a work or a phenomenon named in one document also 
happens
to appear in another. Without real relevancy. Which makes me realise that
everything that can be a link doesn't necessarily have to be marked as 
such.

The trouble with links is that they can take you anywhere, and you never 
know
beforehand where that will be. What hides behind a link can be the final
answer to the main question, or a silly connection to somebody's silly 
home
page. You never know beforehand.

This is the reason of and meaning with my proposed standard. Having 
concluded
my initial rhetorics, I propose that links should indicate the angle from 
the
actual subject to the linked subject. 3-dimensional terminology serves 
this
purpose fine and coincides with common language usage. "Side issues" and
"depth matters". A suitable tag is ANGLE or just ANG and the number of
possible values is infinite.

Initially, the two directions that are already in wide use in the 
documents
themselves, could be used on links too. "Back" and "Next", meaning that 
the
linked document leads towards a subject that lies earlier or later on a
linear line of thought.

This notion of a "linear line of thought" is extremely subjective, but 
not at
all hard to follow. The reader of a document has usually a fairly good 
idea
about the author's lines of thought. Interpretation is a natural and
integrated part of understanding. Just the way we interpret the same 
words in
diametrically opposed ways when we hear them from the mouths of 
diametrically
opposed politicians, so can we also interpret "Back" and "Next" 
relatively
when they come from the keyboards of different web authors.

Three more directions are useful. "Up", which is also used in documents 
today
in the sense of "towards the more general", "Down", indicating a dive in 
a
particular issue that is deeper than the general scope of the actual 
document
and "Sideways", which could indicate either a side issue within the scope 
of
the document or an interesting but totally different issue. "Sideways" 
could
be split in its two possible meanings or not. Appropriate tags would then 
be:

ANG=BK  ANG=FW  ANG=DN  ANG=UP  ANG=SD  or
ANG=BK  ANG=FW  ANG=DN  ANG=UP  ANG=SD  ANG=OU

meaning respectively back, forward, down, up, sideways and out. Embedding
these tags in HREF-statements should present no problems.

What does present problems is the presentation of the tags. Colours 
should be
out of the question. With all texture and other coloured backgrounds that 
are
used, it is already hard to pick suitable colours for links. What next 
comes
to mind, that should be easy to present in a standardized way, is 
character
set graphics. Practically all sets contain some "funny characters" that
should be easy to use. Left arrow or left angle bracket for back, right 
for
forward, arrow down or V for down, arrow up or circumflex for up and 
circle
and square for side and out. Or any other method that a bright mind 
hatches
some bright day.

Ending this, I should once again stress that the characterisation of 
links -
if ever implemented - should be subjective and relative to the actual
document. This means that a link to the general minutes of the supreme 
court
would be indicated as BK in a specific case, as FW in the court's home 
page,
as DN in a general legal discussion, as UP in a footnote of the same 
minutes,
as SD in a computer topic with legal aspects and as OU in a concluded
political or economical article.

Stockholm, 8 Mar 96
Zenon Panoussis



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