Re: Tag proposal

Ethan Roberts, Taylored Designs (taylor@execpc.com)
Fri, 8 Mar 1996 08:26:47 -0600 (CST)


Date: Fri, 8 Mar 1996 08:26:47 -0600 (CST)
Message-Id: <v01510102ad659b3f206b@[206.230.192.225]>
To: Zenon Panoussis <oracle@stockholm.mail.telia.com>, www-html@w3.org
From: taylor@execpc.com (Ethan Roberts, Taylored Designs)
Subject: Re: Tag proposal



>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.
This sounds more like a problem with the individual(s) making the manual
than a fault of the web itself.  Links are not made by "reference
searching" a person or work or phenomena, unless you're using a search
engine.  Why someone would incorporate this into a manual is a bit beyond
me.  If you're writing a manual, you include appropriate links to
supporting or contradicting viewpoints, but as the author you yourself are
responsible for making these links.
>
>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.
Again, the author is responsible for where the links go.  I suspect that if
you have followed a link to someone's "silly home page," this may be the
result of the author trying to enact a fail-safe against broken links.  For
example, if you are citing work from another website, and you want some
moderate guarantee that the other webmaster won't randomly reorganize and
rename his pages, you link to the author's home page, expecting the reader
to do the work of finding what your original point of the link was.  I'm
not at all suggesting this is the best way, just a possible explanation of
what you seem to have encountered.


>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.

A manual would seem the most likely place that a reader would have trouble
following an author's line of thought.  If the reader just isn't getting
it, and follows more links in the hope of a little comprehension, they may
have no clue where the author is heading when the link was originally
created.  "Back" and "Next" offer the choice of rereading the last section,
trying to pick the thread up once you're hopelessly lost.

I don't mean to suggest that your idea is not valid.  I would consider
this: Authors who cannot effectively use a link to carry a reader logically
forward in an explanation are not going to more effectively use a wide
number of reference choices when they can't make good use of two (Back and
Next).  Meaning no disrespect to the community, but a nuclear phycisist
writing a paper may feel that a side issue, like gravity, does not deserve
a direct link to what he's discussing, so he puts an ANG reference on it.
The first-year physics student trying to follow what the physicist is
saying won't follow the angular link and spend his day trying to figure out
what's holding everything *down*, for pity's sake.  Was the physicist
better served by having the ANG option, and, more importantly, was the
student?

Placing a "hard cover" on a website means not linking beyond the site
itself.  Enforcing that would seem more effective at this point than
offering more choices to those who are having difficulty with the options
they have now.

One effective use of your idea might be as a Reference section, or a
Bibliography of sorts.  At this point the reader will want to follow up,
and perhaps the multitude of choices you are offering would let them know
what, in the author's opinion, is directly relevant and what is not.
Having read through the manual, the reader is now in a better position to
understand the author's thought process and his feelings of relevancy.

I hope this has helped.  I come from the school of thought that if you
follow a footnote, you should stomp on its head and kill it before it
breeds.  Many hours have been lost in libraries following outdated or
improperly documented footnotes, and the web offers an even more global
possibility for this.

Best wishes,

Ethan

"Someday...when I've got kids, a dog, a mortgage, liver pate rotting in the
fridge and a Chrysler Mini-Van in the garage, I'll say to myself, 'Binkley,
you poor, miserable, bored Yuppie, ...you never went for the gusto.'"
-Michael J. Binkley, Bloom County

***************************
Ethan Roberts
Taylored Designs
The future is what you make it ...
taylor@execpc.com
http://www.execpc.com/~taylor
311 Riviera Lane
Watertown, WI  53094