Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine / Volume 1, Number 6 / October 1, 1994 / Page 11

Challenges for Web Information Providers

by John December (

Continued from page 10 / Link to article's front page

Presenting Information: Formats, Usability, And Design

With the growth of my list, I've made changes in its format and design. The format of my early list included a short name for the resource, then its location in terms of an FTP site or email address. I distributed my list as in the form of an ASCII file, using a scheme for formatting the information into three columns, with dividers to help the user distinguish between sections, subsections, and divisions of the information of the file:
This section lists information about the Internet, services available
on it, and topics related to computer networking.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
New User's Questions    fyi/fyi4.txt
Hitchhikers Guide    rfc/rfc1118.txt
Gold in Networks!    rfc/rfc1290.txt
In the fall of 1993, several people asked if I had an HTML version of my list. Kevin Hughes (at that time at Honolulu Community College) created a version of my list in HTML that he had generated using a C program he'd written. Although I had not planned for it, my list's fairly consistent format made it possible for him to write software to scan my list. However, I realized that my list could be improved greatly by making my format more consistent to permit an easier way to accomplish this (and other) translations.

Based on the idea that I wanted to create a database for my list's information from which I could then generate a variety of formats, I devised a simple markup system for the "raw" data for my list. Using this system, I marked the entries in my list by semantics. For example:


#SUB-SECTION Introduction


#FTP "Gold in Networks!:a description of gold nuggets in the network, by J. Martin"
   %HOST  %FILE documents/fyi/fyi_10.txt %CHECKED 02-Oct-93

#HTTP "Internet: a column about the Internet from the Magazine of Fantasy and
   Science Fiction, Feb 1993, by Bruce Sterling" %HOST
   %PORT 7500 %FILE etexts/the_internet.html  %CHECKED 25-Mar-94


#FTP "Hitchikers Guide: describes the Internet (circa September 1989), by Ed Krol"
   %HOST  %FILE documents/rfc/rfc1118.txt %CHECKED 11-Oct-93

#FTP "Surfing the Internet: a narrative of what the Internet has to offer, by
   Jean Armour Polly" %HOST
   %FILE pub/resources/guides/surfing.2.0.3.txt %CHECKED 11-Oct-93

#FTP "What is the Internet?: by Krol and Hoffman" %HOST
   %FILE documents/fyi/fyi_20.txt %CHECKED 11-Oct-93
I wrote a Pascal program to use this marked-up version of my list as data and then generated HTML, LaTeX (typesetting language), and text versions of my list. The figure below illustrates this multi-format generation process.

Figure showing the Information Sources List generation

Using my translation program, I could easily generate an ASCII list in a format similar to what I had previously been offering my users:

* Section -2- INTERNET
o Introduction
- Motivation
Gold in Networks!:     ftp      documents/fyi/fyi_10.txt
Internet:              http :7500/etexts/the_internet.html
- Overviews
Hitchikers Guide:      ftp      documents/rfc/rfc1118.txt
Surfing the Internet:  ftp       pub/resources/guides/surfing.2.0.3.txt
What is the Internet?: ftp      documents/fyi/fyi_20.txt
The HTML version of the list proved to be very useful, as it not only listed the resources, but gave the user the links to retrieve the resources through hotspots in the document.

Continued on page 12

Copyright © 1994 Sams Publishing. All rights reserved. Printed by Permission.

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