Geoff Chappell - Software Analyst
This website has existed only since January 2007. Only then did I finally get round to realising that I ought to have a “proper” presence on the World Wide Web. There was an old site from ten years earlier, but it was just a folder at an Internet Service Provider, without even its own domain name. It was never intended as more than a loose collection of occasional writing to help promote my consultation services. Even then, it lay dormant for nearly five years until revived in 2004 for a research project that I tried to write-up-as-you-go-along. After another such project a couple of years later, the old site had grown to a thousand pages. (For the record, the old site was accessible as www.ozemail.com.au/~geoffch until its discontinuation in April 2011.)
Formal help for my readers to find their way around all that material at the old site had always seemed well beyond my means. After all, I am not an “HTML author” or “web designer” and haven’t any more interest in becoming one than I have in becoming an expert at the macro language of any word processor. The best it seemed I could do was to place at the top and bottom of every page a chain of up-links through the site’s directory tree.
That truly was unreasonable of me. I myself dislike intensely those many websites that exist to present reference material yet constrain their readers to follow links from page to page with no overview easily to hand. The whole point to reference material, at least in a subject that is rich in interesting content, is that readers may connect information in ways that the author thought unlikely, or even in ways that simply never would have occurred to the author. It just does not make sense to me that the links on each page of a large collection can be the sole guide to that page’s relationship with other pages.
Unsurprisingly then, I have gone to the other extreme and removed all navigational support from all document pages. Of course, where the text of a document cites something that is described in greater detail on another page, there is a link in place. Such links are surely the essence of the web. But those clumsy chains of up-links are gone, as are any other links that looked like inventions of necessity. Instead, I provide you with what I think are easy means to see what’s here. A dynamic table of contents (TOC) lets you take in my arrangement of the site but also concentrate on whatever bits of it interest you.
Much to my surprise, it turns out that a satisfactory table of contents is far from trivial for a web site, at least it is if you want useful behaviour without expecting your readers to let you keep your TOC’s state—or, worse, execute your code—on their machines. Though the old site was very near to being completely dumb, this new site does have browser requirements.