Writing for the Community Web

Writing for the Community Web is probably unlike anything you've ever done before. For the first little while you might be having some troubles getting adjusted. Perhaps you are so overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of the web that you decide to hide out in one small corner and stick to what feels safe. You do this by writing in a rather ordinary way, much as you would in any other medium, only embellished with the occasional link whenever you run out of space on the current page. Or perhaps you are the other extreme. You stay out late nights on raucous "webcrawls", drinking up "what's new" until till your forehead hits the keyboard. You end up so intoxicated that you never get around to writing anything original at all, just endless lists of "hot" sites. Whatever path you've been down in your efforts to become "one with the Web", I will attempt to be the calm voice of reason that leads you back home!

The first step in integrating yourself into the Community Web is to link to your immediate surroundings. It won't be long before we make placing a link to the Chebucto Community Net on information provider home pages a requirement, and there is a benefit to doing this beyond the obvious one of giving credit where credit is due. The primary reason is the path that a wanderer of the Web takes to reach your site may not be the one you expect. They may have found it through an indexed search, or by following a link from some other site's pages. You just don't know. It helps the wanderer get their bearings when you provide links into the pages that one would normally follow to get to you.

Make a link to the Chebucto Community Net home page and also to the page under which your organization is listed. For example, link to the Science page, if your organization is listed under Science. Having made these "back-links", the wanderer now has a context in which they can find other resources in our community related to the kind that your organization offers. Apply this principle throughout all of your other pages, always giving back-links to your own home page and to whatever page is "above" the current page, so the wanderer always has a context to work with that can be approached from any direction on the Web.

Now, as for where to place these links on your pages, you will need to give them some kind of form, a structure. I suggest you place these links on every page at the bottom along with useful resources that someone browsing your pages might need at any time. Some Web authors place these links at the top for easy access, but I find that reduces the space available for new information and turns out not to be such a big help after all. Along with the back-links, consider also adding two other links, one that will help the Web wanderer connect with all of your pages, and another which will help you to connect personally with everyone who browses your pages.

Nightly, every page is indexed on Chebucto Community Net so that people can search for pages using a search form. You can make a search link that searches only your own pages. For instance, to search all of the pages of the Ecology Action Centre, the link would contain the URL: http://www·ccn·cs·dal·ca/cgi-bin/search-form/Environment/EAC. In a similar manner, the full text of all of the files within any directory on the Chebucto Community Net and all of its subdirectories may be searched by placing the directory name after "search-form/" in the above URL.

When someone stumbles across your pages in their travels, they might want to contact you to praise you, to point out something on your pages that is broken or confusing, or to make contact with your organization. The way to do this is to provide a comments link on every page. For instance, on my pages I have a comments link that uses the URL: mailto:aa458@ccn·cs·dal·ca. Just insert your e-mail address or your IP's e-mail alias (e.g. "ip-eac" for the Ecology Action Centre in our example above) after "mailto:" in the above URL.

Finally, you are a member of a Community Web, networked to people and organizations that you can work with. Be aware of other organizations that do similar work to your own or which can provide you with information to supplement your pages that is not in your area of expertise. A Community Web helps to nurture awareness and cooperation in our community. If you provide "cross-links" within your pages to other people's pages in the Community, the end result is the Community Web working together as one large, organic unit. Each corner of the Web adds something unique to the whole, and each page on the Web depends on all the others to make it richer and more meaningful.


is edited by Ben Armstrong
who is happy to receive
Questions, Comments or Suggestions.
If your browser does not support mail, write to Ben later at aa458@ccn·cs·dal·ca.

Next Month: September 1995