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Class 2: Implementing hypertext: HTML, XML, and information structure

Summary | Activity 2 | Activity 3 | Readings

In the first part of this class we will briefly review the development of the World Wide Web, but our focus will be on HTML, in particular on the underlying concepts rather than on the syntax of the language. However, we will attempt to (i) understand how some of the concepts map onto HTML elements, (ii) in Activity 2, examine the different ways that HTML documents are produced - please download the MSWord file and the corresponding HTML document, and (iii) in collaborative Activity 3, produce basic linked documents in the class.

Activity 2

This is a short set of exercises to explore the basic syntax and elements of HTML. Please download the MS Word file.

In the second part of the class, we draw together findings from the Activity in Class 1 (about the variety of link types that might be desired), together with a discussion of the inadequacies of HTML (and perhaps, in relation to its current www implementations). Taken together, these two areas lead us to consider XML: why it has been proposed, its basic concepts, some example documents and software.

Shortcomings of HTML

  1. Presumes limited document types
  2. Limited expressivity of tags
  3. Not adaptable by users
  4. Tags mix logical and formatting functions
  5. Tag and document syntax too loose (from specification inherited from SGML, and from browser tolerance) - web as "knowledge base" is very weak
  6. Link mechanism too weak
  7. Formatting options limited
  8. Can't express generalised format across sets of documents (style sheets)

XML advantages

  1. represent structured data (knowledge structures)
  2. part of ISO standard - is archivable and will be supported (~~HTML)
  3. authors can write own knowledge structures
  4. can be written (and even read) without special software (=HTML)
  5. strict syntax: easy to write parsers

How to create and view XML

  1. Word processor (esp with macros and styles)
  2. Spreadsheet (esp with formulas and macros)
  3. MS XML Notepad
  4. MSIE 5 browser
  5. Specialised, eg Panorama
  6. Other ...
In the next Class, we will look more closely at XML, examples, and related aspects, DTD (document type definition) and XSL (eXtensible stylesheet language).

For Credit students, for others optional: Activity 3

In the final part of the class, students can discuss and start to plan a small hypertext document(s). Draw on at least 3 of the following:
  1. different genres of text (eg list, narrative/sequential)
  2. different media (text, image, sound)
  3. links between your own generated materials
  4. links to other materials - eg already on the web, course resources (** use at least 1 of the resources provided for Activity 1)
  5. links to the work of OTHER groups in this class
This Activity may be allotted a short time for further development in Classes 3 and 4, but students are asked to prepare if possible between classes.

Reading items for this class

2Harold, Elliotte Rusty 1998 XML: Extensible Markup Language. Foster City, CA: IDG Books.Ch 1 An Eagle's Eye View of XML 3-15
11Pardi, W. 1999. XML in Action: Web Technology. Redmond: Microsoft PressCh 2 Enter XML 16-27
9Nathan, D. 1966. "Caught in a Web of Murri Words: Making and Using the Gamilaraay Web Dictionary", in Library Automated Systems Information Exchange, Vol 27 No 4 (December 1996), pp 35-42
10Nielson, Jakob. 1995. Multimedia and Hypertext: The Internet and Beyond. Cambridge, MA: AcademicCh 12 Repurposing existing content 323-361
- Nielson, Jakob. 2000. Designing Web Usability. Indianapolis: New Riders
- The World Wide Web Consortiumw3.org
See also: web links page.

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