The Differences Slavery Made

16 03 2010

Edward Ayers is at it again.  Check out this interesting project.  Be sure to click on the “Presentation” view to get some background on the history of digital history.  You might be surprised by just how long people have been thinking about it.

I dabble in hyperlinks.  I tried in my own ham-handed way to expand their use in my transcription of John Hennessy’s article on the “naming” of Stonewall Jackson.  Potentially I could use hyperlinks to connect references in after action reports to the AARs of others (I’ve done so on occasion), and in and between other entries in the resources section.  But that’s a whole lot of work.  I wish there was an easier way – there probably is, but I’m afraid I’m not equipped for it.  But you can see the potential.  Instead of a footnote that tells one where to look, a hyperlink grabs you by the hand and takes you there.  An added benefit is that this makes it a lot more difficult for an author to “shine you on” by citing something that really doesn’t support what he’s saying.  It takes the reader behind the curtain, so to speak.  Try to find a book that can do that.

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3 responses

16 03 2010
Craig Swain

Harry, I’ve used some “smart” utilities that recommend links based on key words and context. The logic works like the “possibly related post.” Personally I’ve never been pleased with the results. On platforms I’ve used, easily half the recommended links are to a resource like Wikipedia (in other words a lazy response). Many of the others I’ll reject as off topic. While I would not go as far to say the software apps were broke, I just didn’t see any added value.

Regarding citations in our HTML environment, I’ve tried several approaches. I’m not fond of standard MLA style footnotes for a blog entry, but use them where nothing fits. In line citation remarks just seem distracting for readers. But the hyperlink, particularly to a specific page on a resource like Google books, is powerful.

However, I’ve been burned by pure hyperlink citations. I do a lot of IT related technical writing, where content turn over is high. Often a resource has a shelf life of six months or less. So to cite a source for for a particular conclusion might work fine today, but a year later the reader gets a redirect to some top level vendor site. Or worse, a 404 error.

Such leads to 1D10T allegations.

16 03 2010
Harry Smeltzer

Yes, for pure citation I think we have to stick with the author, title, publication format. But you can also insert a hyperlink to that. For online only sources (as opposed to online versions of printed material) you have to be sure to include the date the document was accessed. Way Back Machines can offset the effects of the disappearing URL.

If Google Books goes bye-bye we’re all screwed.

16 03 2010
Brett Schulte - Beyond the Crater

Harry,

I’ve been doing this with all of the primary sources I’ve been posting to Beyond the Crater, including the Official Records. It is definitely a time-consuming process, but I’m determined to link everything either to other primary sources posted at Beyond the Crater or to other sources like Google Books so people could, like you say, follow the trail. Craig’s point about disappearing hyperlinks is a good one, but I’ll deal with that when the time comes. I will definitely be screwed if Google Books goes away, though!

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