[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Author Index][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: What should hyperlinks do? What attributes should they have?

On Thu, 14 Mar 1996, Art Pollard wrote:

> In article <Pine.SUN.3.90.960313112452.9896A-100000@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>,
> KIRTO  <olson@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> >...But chains construct an endless array of possibilities.
> O.K., what actions would be useful for "chains" to carry?  

If the hypertext is a closed system, the function I would most like would 
be chains that effectively open it to annotation and external markup such 
that the original remains untouched, but my representation may have marks, 
links, and commentary that was not originally there. I would like those 
added items to be in some open form such as HTML, so I might share them.

If the system is an HTML browser, the function I most need is the ability 
to tell the browser that the target is M monospace characters by N lines 
and is to be positioned starting at row,column on the screen using 
preformatted text. I would have no objection to calling this a figure of 
type text.

While you're at it, could I have one that tells the browser to use a
character set (typeface) that matches the original <machine x> character
set. My choice would be the original IBM PC, but others may want the 
Commodore Pet, or some other machine. It would be so nice to see what the 
author actually created. Some may not like this, but they need not use 
it; let them have their default characters by setting some switch.

More generally,I would try to classify chain possibilities in three ways 

	Cyberspace or Realspace

	Relational type (as in database relations)

	Open-loop or closed-loop interaction

There are, no doubt, other useful classifying themes.

Cyberspace or Realspace

By cyberspace I mean the part of the system in which the things 
manipulated are digital, as are the results. Viewing a .GIF file 
exemplifies this portion.

By realspace I mean the part of the system in which the things 
manipulated are not digital, and the results may not be digital either. 
Sending an X-10 control signal to a group of controlled lamps exemplifies 
this portion.

Relational Type

Here I would be characterizing the relation of starting links to ultimate
targets as: 

One to Many   Examples include multiple meanings of one word, (dictionary)
      multiple words to express one concept (thesaurus), or meanings of
      an acronym (glossary). 

Many to One   Like the Flambeaux alias scheme; many links lead to one 
      result. Area codes to states behave this way in the US.

Many to Many  Employee names to projects in a large engineering firm, last
      names to telephone numbers in a major city, synonyms, or word
      substitution through a thesaurus. 

One might also wish to consider whether the ultimate target provides any 
feedback to the initiating process or not--is it an open-loop or 
closed-loop system. 

Here are a some interesting (at least to me) tasks to contemplate, that 
lead to required capabilities.

On an {MS,PC,DR,4}-DOS machine, one has a CONFIG.SYS file and an 
AUTOEXEC.BAT file. Both may have an active version and one or more 
inactive versions, usually characterized by altered extensions. Let's 
imagine a link that says "Examine Startup" and acts as follows. 

Locate all instances of such files, eliminate CONFIG.XXX files that
clearly configure something other than DOS, convert the remaining set to
HTML linking the commands to the DOS helpfile (internal if there is one, a
default external one otherwise), create another HTML file that contains
every command or driver that might be placed in either config or autoexec
including its current location and link that to discussions of the
comparative advantages of using one location or another, Then examine the
system in terms of loading order of drivers, etc. 

Although the first link innocently calls some executive program without 
carrying any info, thereafter we need to locate drives, find files across 
drives, discern one kind of config from another, create HTML from 
plaintext, create new files from existing files, and link the same file 
name to many different resources (some of which might be on the WWW as 
opposed to local), externally mark the DOS help file (because of the 
switches or parameters chosen for a driver), and very likely display 
split screens. In this case, parameters carried by some of the links are 
derived from the actions of programs intermediate to the process.

Then one must consider where to put various capabilities. For example, I 
believe split-screen displays need to be in the display engine, but 
parsing device driver lines belongs in an external application analogous 
to a DOS external command. File-finding and generating HTML links seems 
to me to be a complex of external commands, as is disk-finding. 

Although I believe that a link with a container still serves all the 
needs I've raised here, some mechanics raise their ugly heads. Operating 
System error messages need to be handled now, and they must be handled by 
the local browser because it is the only thing guaranteed to be present. 
It must deal with any error message the link can generate, and probably 
should deal with any the helper apps can generate to provide uniform 
error recovery. "File not Found" clearly belongs to the browser, but what 
of "Sector not found" or "Error {reading, writing} device whatever"?

Extensions of this kind to Unix or Windows can also be contemplated.

I have no idea how such a link ought to display in the texts.

What I want from chains is flexibility to let me add stuff to the system 
that remains integrated with the hypertext. Maybe there are really good 
universal chains to be implemented in an application because everyone 
will want them, but I cannot imagine what they are. Maybe a graphics 
viewer system that would let me look at graphics generated by other 
systems without first going through some conversion process, but my sense 
is that's better implemented as an external helper app.

I would also like not to be locked out of applications I know and love,
like DOS outliners, smartnotes, tornado, Xbase database engines, batch
files (Unix types read this as shell scripts) and spreadsheets, as well as
the OS command set.