What is...? Text Editing Maintenance Words Related Material


"This document is under construction." Of course it is. The World Wide Web is changing; new browsers appear; the language HTML changes; people change jobs and homepages; and writers learn more about their subject. The World Wide Web's ability to adapt to all this is one of its true advantages over written text.

Maintain your links.

If you link somewhere, be prepared to revisit the link's target regularly, checking for changes and updating or augmenting your link if necessary. If you don't do that, you'll miss it if the document moves, vanishes, or becomes irrelevant, and end up with a sugar-coated heap of junk instead of a subtree.

(Tools like momspider can automate the verification and notification to a certain degree, but they can't read the page for you.)

Keep old URLs valid.

Even if you reorganize your document structure, keep the old URL valid. A good organization is nice, but the overwhelming interest of people accessing your site is with content, not with file names.

If your document can be accessed through multiple pathways, use the <base> header element to explicitly tell browsers about the preferred URL of your document.

   <base href="http://www.my.org/path/file.html">
Some browsers will display the <base> URL in place of the one actually used to fetch the document; and all will interpret links from within the text relative to the base.

Invite your readers to criticize you.

To get feedback about your documents from its readers, you need to make an effort. In your own interest, announce that you appreciate comments on stylistic as well as on technical issues, and make sure that readers know where to send them.

(However, if you provide as much as a single mailto: link that readers can click on to send you mail from their browsers, be prepared for a daily onslaught of automated business solicitations from scum who gather such links from web pages.)

If you can, get your web-literate friends to read and criticize your pages; they are far more likely to complain than strangers are.

I'm a fairly vocal critic and nitpicker, particularly of sites I like; but some things have stopped even me in mid-complaint:

Separate evaluation from information.

Do not use built-in forms if you want to receive honest opinions about your work; let the readers use their own email front-end. People are polite to the software they are using. If they perceive a program as "asking about itself," they judge it less harshly than if "another program" asks them about the first program.

Read the logfile.

Most HTTP servers log every access to every document on that server with the time, the hostname of the client machine that requested the document, and the name of the document. This information is written to a logfile. From it, you can see If you understand HTTP response codes, and if these response codes are logged, the logfile also tells you if your documents contain links to nonexistent other documents on your system - the requests to fetch these documents will show up as errors in the logfile.

Some server-maintainers make tools available that count logfile entries for a given page, and list them with number of accesses and hostnames. If you can, ignore them. They're almost worthless. You don't just want to know how many people came by; you want to know their route and timing, too.

In a more fundamental way, the trace in the logfile, but for very few emails, is all the feedback you will get for a non-interactive site; it is your applause (or your "boo"s), and listening to it will almost certainly change how you feel about your documents.

Give something back.

To a certain degree, the World Wide Web is a public place where everybody maintains everybody else's documents. If you enjoyed reading a paper, and you see a typo, a link that points nowhere, a mark-up error - don't be polite and silent; tell the maintainer about it. In almost all cases, they will be happy to receive feedback, and grateful for the work you've saved them.

What is...? Text Editing Maintenance Words Related Material