RE: inline links (Re: Online help access question)

Subject: RE: inline links (Re: Online help access question)
From: <mbaker -at- analecta -dot- com>
To: "'Chris Despopoulos'" <despopoulos_chriss -at- yahoo -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 5 Oct 2016 13:00:31 -0400

âI think you're too fast to dismiss dynamically generated content, dynamically generated relationships, and dynamically generated links.â



Iâm not dismissing them. I am saying that static hypertext should be our default and that any other approach needs to justify itself in terms of being a better response to the readerâs default information finding behavior for a specific kind of information seeking.



It also depends on what you mean by âdynamically generateâ. I believe all links should be dynamically generated at build time from subject-domain markup in the source files as this greatly simplifies the authoring and link management processes.



But dynamically generating links at read time is complex and requires data input that is not simple to get. It is not clear (to me, at least) how it performs any better than static hypertext for most situations.



âAt the same time, you don't say how statically created links in a "topic" (or whatever you call the unit that is a hypertext "page") are inherently better than any other static method of expressing relationships.â



Well, as I said, dynamically created static links based on subject-domain markup.



âI can try and do it for you... By placing links in each topic, you can set up more dimensions of relationships... Topic A might have links to X, Y, and Z. Topic Z might have links to A, B, X, Y, and W. By going from topic A to topic Z, you might find a completely different thread in the link to topic W.â





Yes, exactly. There are more valid and interesting relationships than you express in a tree.



But I think it is important to make a distinction here. The relationships that matter are the relationships between subjects. The relationships between subjects are inherently very varied and complex and are in many cases ad hoc. A link between topics does not express a relationship between topics but a relationship between the subjects of those topics, a relationship that exists whether it is expressed by a link or if a topic on that subject even exists.



Inline linking is preferable (for the most part) because it expresses the nature of the relationships between subjects in context and in the location at which it occurs. It also allows for the expression of ad hoc relationships between subjects that may not occur in ever topic of the same type.



âHow is this inherently better than dynamically generating links? How is it better than dynamically generating content? Do you think these techniques can't add the same value -- that they can't increase the dimensions of relationships?â



Again, it depends on what you mean by dynamically generated (when the generation happens). Static hypertexts are superior to dynamic ones in that they are simpler and easier for the reader to understand. And because the relationships that links express are relationships between subjects, they donât generally change based on who the reader is.



Who the reader is affects how they traverse the subject space, not how the subjects in the subject space are related to each other. In this sense, links allow the reader to dynamically create a personal path through the subject space, but the content set does not have to be dynamic itself to support this. (There is a broad realization of this which has led to increased use of static site generators.)



This is not to say that there is never a case for the dynamic generation of links at read time. There may be cases where it is appropriate. Iâm simply saying that the default against which that assessment is made should be static hypertext. Too often today, the default against which that assessment is made is a static document, with the result that static hypertext is overlooked when it is really the best and simplest solution.



âAnd if you were to dynamically generate trees (say, from the current topic, generate a tree that walks all the linked topics 3 levels deep), yet keep all the static links in each topic within that tree, how is that inherently less valid than jumping one topic at a time? In fact, wouldn't the generated tree reveal patterns in the links you set up? And wouldn't it give the reader the option to skip one or two topics away from the current topic?â



Iâd say it is inherently less valid as a default because it is more complex and less familiar than static hypertext. It can also create a âwho moved my cheeseâ problem as artefacts of a dynamic process lack permanence and can be hard to recreate or refer back to. It may be perfectly valid for cases where static hypertexts donât provide effective support for information seeking.



Mark









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References:
RE: inline links (Re: Online help access question): From: Chris Despopoulos
RE: inline links (Re: Online help access question): From: mbaker
Re: inline links (Re: Online help access question): From: Chris Despopoulos

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