Theo Todman's Web Page - Notes Pages
(Text as at 14/08/2007 09:43:12)
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Web Tools for Philosophy
This was alluded to briefly in my Research Proposal1 under the head Research - Internet Technology2. Items undertaken so far:-
Items outstanding for immediate progression, in no particular order:-
- MS Access database built and substantially populated for the following objects, lists of which (catalogued by author or title) are available on the web:-
- Website-generation routines built in MS Access VBA. Basically, web-page templates are held in the database, and are used to format documents, also held in the database, and create all the interlinking between them. See this picture for the front screen (hopefully, if you click on the image it’ll expand so you can read the text on the controls!).
- The publishing of website to the commercially-hosted domain is via AceFTP. In practice, I use a local copy of the web-site when at home (though the performance of the web-based copy is excellent with 2mb broadband), and republish the site to the Web once a week.
- Some attention has been paid to usability on mobile hand-held devices, with alternative “cut down” lists for easy hand-held access.
- I have developed some rudimentary document formatting capabilities.
- Automated hyperlinks.
- Bulleted lists.
- Blank lines.
- Embedded HTML tags have to be used for other functions like emboldening and underlining.
- There is document versioning in place:
- to protect against accidental overwriting of the various objects, and
- for performance reasons (so that only changed web-pages are regenerated).
- My pride and joy is the two-way hyper-linking within the Notes arena, and between the Notes and the Papers/Abstracts database, which was the original motivation for the whole project. The ID of the linked document is keyed into the text and the website generator maintains the superscripts, document sectioning and the forward and backward hyperlinks.
- Lists created of web-sites relevant to Personal Identity research and of the location and associated content-range of electronic journals.
Items for progression longer-term, again in no particular order:
- Add easily-visible "quality markers" to notes/abstracts.
- Investigate FTP directly from MS Access. Currently it’s a bit of a pain doing the copies manually. As the web-pages are generated from a database, I can easily determine which of the currently 18,000 pages need re-publishing. The issue is (I imagine) writing the FTP software to manage line-failure recovery efficiently.
- Enable generation of printable version of Notes. Because these are held within the database in a format the web-generator can use, they cannot be directly printed, but have to be cut-and-pasted from the web-page to MS Word. This works fine, but is rather tedious for multiple footnotes. Of course, hard copy is contrary to the whole web-based approach. What I intend to do is just use the generator to concatenate a page with the pages of its immediate references, and then cut-and-paste this into MS Word, pending a more elegant solution occurring to me.
- Create "Books by Subject" and "Books by Title" lists.
- Add collection of "non-identity" weblinks.
- Create Second-Level Jump (+ maybe split pages) for Philosophy / Identity Papers / Books Full - similar to BlackBerry lists
- Create lists of "Identity" papers / books “to obtain / borrow”. Currently my lists are only of those I can immediately lay my hands on.
- Add a "hot topics" link - things that I'm currently working on and want feedback.
- Improve the sub-topic hierarchy.
- Improve the “straight through processing”. Currently there is the need to manually copy from MS Access to MS Word and back to edit abstracts of papers, and also the publication of the site is manual.
- Introduce Style Sheets (though the use of templates makes this less critical). One day I hope to make the site more “professional-looking”.
- Create a search facility. Currently this facility exists only within the MS Access database. The fact that it does so means that the absence of a web-based search facility is no great hardship for me.
- Investigate alternative technologies. It may seem eccentric to redevelop a whole host of web products that are commercially available, but this approach provides a lot of flexibility. However, I ought to check up on what’s already out there. In particular, investigate:-
- Wikis (WikiWikiWeb) – I have a private license for Confluence (Link (Defunct)), with the system installed and running under Apache Tomcat.
- CMSs (Content Management Systems): eg. Plone (Plone). These seem remarkably similar to Wikis. See Robert Frazier’s (Link (Defunct)) site for an example.
- Windows Help Files: the software to create these is commercially available and is routinely used by technical authors.
- Run my own local web-server. This should only be necessary if I choose to run a CMS or Wiki. Currently the only driver for this is the search facility.
- Increase use of Frames. This is a mixed blessing.
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