navigating the waves of the WWW

This from our NET11 course curriculum:

Once we began to store and access documents electronically, it became possible to deal with non-linearity in a new and exciting way. There was no longer any necessity to create a physical document with pages in a particular order. Instead the separate elements which made up a non-linear document could be stored as separate packages of information, which might consist of a single paragraph, a single image or (as computer systems became powerful enough to deal with them) a single moving image or sound. The user would be enabled to move from package to package in an order chosen by the themselves, accessing information as desired and ignoring that which was unnecessary.

I rather enjoyed the analogy which followed, describing the method of accessing information as a personal journey. Did you ever read those Choose your own adventure stories as a kid? Disappointed when you got to the end because your journey was over? Well fear not sea-faring adventurers, for this W3 is the never ending story.

The analogy which was employed to express this new method of accessing information in documents was that of a personal voyage through a world of information, different for each reader. Because of this, the process of moving through the information is described as navigation, and the methods used to help the reader to do this are called navigation tools.

compassHang on sailors. We read earlier that the path was chosen by the user and that we are helped by navigation tools.

Well hyper-links, the #1 WWW navigation tool, may be a little better than the old compass, but we’re really at the mercy of the link manufacturer. So we are not exactly choosing our own adventure after all. Rather we are following a guide on a well trodden path that has already been explored.

Site maps aren’t much easier. When did you last navigate via a site map? It’s a known fact that many people can’t read maps! Actually, site maps aren’t really for human eyes anyway. As one can discover on the website, Sitemaps are an easy way for webmasters to inform search engines about pages on their sites that are available for crawling.

The well known search is our #2 navigation tool. The speed of your voyage is now entirely dependent on your telescope skills. You’d be stunned at just how many people will click-and-trawl 1-by-1 through search results. Talk about sailing against the wind! Read some of that meta-data (title, description, and address) before clicking over to your next port.

Of course some telescopes are better ‘n others. GooglePreview is a Firefox add-on to clear things up a bit. Combine this with your metal detector, namely your browser’s Find feature, you’ll soon know where to dig for treasure. Unfortunately the engine no longer seems to be around.