What, when, and where of web pages

tree-of-practices-screenHow do we find an entry on a website? Usually, we do it either from a general search or by a link from another entry. But both of those are enabled by the fact that the entries are connected in some pattern.

What

One such pattern depends on what the entry is about. When we focus on the what, we call the entry a page. The main page on a topic (the parent) then links to sub-topics (the children). An example of this is my page on Teaching, which has several children pages. There can be many generations of pages, resulting in complex family tree of pages. Of course, with hyperlinking, it’s not strictly a tree structure, but the fundamental idea isn’t that different from the kinds of outlines we were taught to do in school.

ribbon

When

A second way to organize pages has become so common that many people use its name to refer to any website. That’s to focus on the when of an entry. In that case, the website becomes a blog and the entries, now called posts, are organized by their time of creation into a chronology, usually with the most recent first.

Image at left, showing geologic time, courtesy of the Indiana Geological Survey.

world_mapWhere

So we have a conceptual organization and a temporal one, what else is there? Well, another that is emerging now is a spatial organization. In this case, the entries, now called place-descriptions(?), are organized by their geotag, or where they occurred. For example, my entry on Aughavannagh and Glenmalure is more about the place than about the particular time our visit occurred. Just as pages can be grouped into a tree structure or posts into a chronology, place-descriptions can be grouped into a spatial map using their geotags. So, this site now has a world map, with place markers indicating the place-descriptions.

Things get messy in practice. We also use the less-structured tags and categories as other ways to find entires. A given entry might serve as a page, a post, or a place-description. And none of this works if the entries aren’t marked appropriately.

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