A HyperReference is a reference work that is not meant to be
read from beginning to end, but from wherever you start
to wherever that leads you. In fact there is no particular reason
for a HyperReference to have a beginning or end,
or a ``table of contents'' specifying the sequence in which its
components are meant to be read, because there is no such intended
sequence. It is best approached from its index,
or (better yet) from a search engine.
Why do it this way? Because, if you think about it,
the whole idea of a reference work is that you
suddenly conceive a need to know about something in particular,
and so you go look it up. When was the last time you started
reading a reference book (for example a user's manual) from
the front page and continued through to the last page?
Certainly not when you were trying to find the answer to
a specific question! This is the difference between a
reference work and a teaching text:
the latter may have valid pedagogical reasons for leading the
student through its contents in a specific sequence, but this
intention is lost on the spontaneously curious.
I am assuming that most people who visit a Web site are, in fact,
driven by either spontaneous curiosity or some practical need
to know a particular thing, which they would like to get to in
the most efficient and convenient way possible. Hence the
HyperReference, which is meant to be used as follows:
Obviously this will only work when the HyperReference
in question contains a good enough index (or search engine)
and has adequate embedded hyperlinks on every page to ensure
that you get to what you need in a few steps. This is not easy
to create! The HyperReference you are using now may not
have reached a satisfactory level yet, in which case you will be
experiencing some frustration. Please take it out on the author,
but in a constructive way: send an e-mail (using the mailto
link on the Web page) suggesting any specific improvements or
changes that would make it work better for you. Naturally,
anti-testimonials like, ``This sucks!'' are not much help and
will just get chucked out with the trash. But if you really
want to see things get better, make some suggestions!
- Go to the index and find a keyword that suggests
the subject in which you are interested; or (better yet)
use a search engine provided with the HyperReference
to find topics related to a keyword (or words) you enter.
When you find a likely topic, click on it!
- When you arrive at the page containing the linked information,
see if it satisfies your curiosity. If not, try step 1 again.
If it is the right subject but you are having trouble following
the discussion because of unfamiliar terminology or concepts,
click on the embedded hyperlinks in the text that will lead you
to explanations of those terms or concepts.
- Repeat step 2 as many times as needed to achieve full
satisfaction, or until you get bored and go away.
(Curiosity is a powerful motivator, but it can get used up.)
Jess H. Brewer
Last modified: Wed Nov 26 17:31:22 EST