On Writing Online Hytertext Articles


While browsing my recent paper, my colleague complained that I had no references at the end of my document. I said I didn’t need one. References are just a poor man’s way of creating hyperlinks when he has no hypertext.

However, we both agreed that having a list of cited resources is useful. I suggested (in Mozilla) selecting View Page Info - Links to get a list of hyperlinks of my document. This would be my references section. My colleague rightly noted that not all of my hyperlinks are for citations.

Agreeing, I decided to mark all my citations with a specific REL attribute. I also added a full bibliographic reference in the TITLE attribute. I feel a little bad about this last bit, because a bibliographic reference is something that should be full of markup and metadata; such is the price to pay when using a generic hyperlinking language.

What remains is to choose an appropriate name to place in the REL attribute. Clearly the place to go was to The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative. Sadly Dublin Core is only about document metadata and doesn’t support fine grain metadata.

I suspect that Dublin Core is made by librarians that want to replicate the document metadata that they are used to in an electronic document environment. They are too blinded by this to take advantage of the new possibilities offered. Authors are even worse; I doubt they think of metadata at all. C’mon, let have some vision people! Unfortunately it is too late for me to comment on Dublin Core’s Guidelines for Encoding Bibliographic Citation Information in Dublin Core Metadata.

That being said, Dublin Core’s References term seems like the best thing to put into the REL attribute. Follow the guidelines for using Dublin Core metadata in HTML; add all the link elements and profile attribute.

Unfortunately Mozilla’s Page Info won’t list only links which are References. Worse, Mozilla won’t even tell you links which are References. But I consider this a bug with the user agent. One cannot code to a user agent; one must code to a standard.

In a related story, I suggested to another colleague that one ought to have internal hyperlink back to a definition of a term every time that term is used. He said that this would be way to much typing. I told him to use some sort of short cut (entity or macro) to stand in for the hyperlinked term. This can be done when both creating HTML and writing LATEX. He thinks this is a good idea and is going to try it out.



Russell O’Connor: contact me