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Re: [OM] re: FAQ

Subject: Re: [OM] re: FAQ
From: "R. Lee Hawkins" <lhawkins@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 12 Jul 1998 19:25:08 -0400
Cc: lhawkins@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
In your message dated: Sun, 12 Jul 1998 17:41:28 CDT you write:
>I question somewhat your assumption that hyperlinks discourage people from
>reading through an entire document. *Length* discourages people from

Well, trust me, it does.  Most people tend to "hop around" and end up
missing much of the document.  Can you honestly say you've read 100%
of every website you've ever been too?  Also, the FAQ is not lengthy.
It could be read in through completely in around an hour.

>reading through a document in its entirety. While it's true that the WWW
>creates a desire for quick gratification, a document which provides
>worthwhile information establishes by its nature a context for more
>disciplined reading. Personally, I think the FAQ is very worthwhile; it has

Exactly, which is why I think the "monolithic format" works fine.  The
material is interesting, so people will be likely to read the whole

>literally affected how I have spent some of my time and money.  As such I
>think it provides its own context for disciplined and sustained reading.  I
>don't think you need to worry that hyperlinks will subvert your aims.  One
>might also argue that allowing something to be more awkward in order to

Did you find the last book you read awkward?  I didn't (well, I just finished
_Foucalt's Pendulum_, and it *was* awkward, but books aren't generally
thought of as awkward).

>force readers to regard or engage it in a particular way is unworthy of a
>high-quality piece of work. In the rhetoric of hypertext, hyperlinks, used

But, you see, we have different visions for what works best and why.

>judiciously, have a formal logic which interweaves with and enhances the
>content of a piece;  not to provide these links and exploit them can be
>construed as obscurantism.

Humm.  Are you seriously proposing that these links would give the FAQ
more informational value than it otherwise contains?  I dispute that.
It *would* make the FAQ easier to use for those who had read it already,
and it would make it *appear* to be easier to use for others.  But new
readers would probably end up missing much.  Furthmore, to break it up
into little pieces would make it *very* hard to print out as a
monolithic document, which would discourage one of my main visions for
the use of the FAQ, use in the field.

>Furthermore, it is clear from the number of questions on the list about
>information provided in the FAQ among people who should be aware of the FAQ
>that your intentions are not being realized. Therefore, I would urge you to

I obviously can't "force" anyone to read the FAQ throughly before
posting to the list, nor would I want to.   I also don't believe the
current version of the FAQ is as hard to read as you imply.  You make it
sound as if it occupied 1000+ pages.  A quick count shows that it is
currently at about 33 60-line pages.  This is shorter than many
magazines we all read *each month*.   It does not seem that the FAQ is
as large and hard to get through as you imply.

>reconsider the assumption that holding back hyperlinks forces people to
>read more carefully and at length. I'm not saying the opposite assumption
>is true, but it might be worth the experiment to find out.  Even if it's a

It's a time-expensive experiment to do right.  And we don't want to do
it wrong, do we?

>toss up, things are no worse and the end product is probably better in itself.

Nope, it's worse, cuz it makes it hard to print out.  Or if I maintain
two separate versions, it introduces the possibility of small

>As you say, however, it's a LOT of work. If you don't wish to do it for
>that reason, I don't blame you. Why should you have to?  But the other
>reasons you give for not doing so I don't think hold up well. 

I watch my students every day "jumping around" the web.  While
hyperlinks do give them a much wider exposure to topics, their depth in
a given area suffers.  I am guilty of this too.  If I am forced by
format reasons to read through a monolithic document, I always feel I
get more from it than I do if I end up jumpping around all over the

Everyone has a different vision for what works best, and I agree that
hyperlinks would make things more handy.  I don't agree, however, that
they would make it better than the sum of its parts, at least at this

Finally, please don't get the idea that this is the first time I have
considered hyperlinks for the FAQ.  I have been wrestling with the issue
since the first version that I put up on our web server years ago, and
the jury is not in yet on whether I will add them or not.  


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