Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Matt Unger on Article Links

Matt Unger has been kind enough to send his ideas on article links within transcription software. I've posted my plans here before, but Matt's ideas are borne of his experience after six months of work on Papa's Diary. Some of his ideas are already included by my link feature, others may inform FromThePage, but I think his specification is worth posting in its entirety. If I don't use his suggestions in my software, perhaps someone else will.
One of my frustrations with Blogger (and I'm sure this would be my frustration with any blog software since my coding skills start and end with HTML 2.0) is that I can't easily create/show the definitions of terms or explain the backgrounds of certain people or organizations without linking readers to other pages.

Here's what my dream software would do from the reader's point of view:

Individual words in each entry would appear in a different color if there was background material associated with it. On rollover, a popup window would give basic background information on the term: if it was a person, there'd be a thumbnail photo, a short bio, and a link to whatever posts involved that person if the reader wanted to see more; if it was the name of an organization, we might see a short background blurb and related links; if it was a slang term from the past, we might see its definition; if it was a reference to a movie, the popup window might play a clip, etc.

Here's how it would work from my perspective:

When I write a post, the software would automatically scan my text and create a link for each term it recognizes from a glossary that I would have defined in advance. This glossary would include all the text, links, and media assets associated with each term. The software would also scan my latest entry and compare it to the existing body of work and pick out any frequently-mentioned terms that don't have a glossary definition and ask me if I wanted to create a glossary entry for them. For example, if I frequently mention The New York Times, it would ask me if I wanted to create a definition for it. I could choose to say "Yes," "Not Now" or "Never." If I chose yes and created the definition, I'd have the option of applying the definition to all previous posts or only to future posts.

The application would also display my post in a preview mode pretty much as a regular reader would see it. If I were to roll over a term that had a glossary term associated with it, I'd see whatever the user would see but I would also have a few admin options in the pop-up window like: Deactivate (in case I didn't want it to be a rollover); Associate A Different Definition (in case I wanted to show another asset than usual for a term). If I didn't do anything to the links, they would simply default to the automatically-created rollovers when I confirm the post submission.

So, that's my dream (though I would settle for the ability to create a pop-up with some HTML in a pinch).
Matt adds:
One thing I forgot to mention, too, is that I would also want to be able to create a link to another page instead of a pop-up once in a while. I suppose this could just be another admin option, and maybe the user would see a different link color or some other visual signal if the text led to a pop-up rather than another page.


Kathleen said...

Hi there-- I was wondering if you've looked at or heard about the CommentPress theme for the Wordpress blogging engine. It's aimed at social texts, but I think could have implications for scan-based, image-driven projects as well. Also, have you explored footnote.com at all? That's got a really interesting interface as well, though I'm personally turned off by it being subscription-based for "premium" content.

I'm an archivist interested in how these types of tools might make the materials in our repository more useful to scholars, by allowing collective transcription and annotation of scanned documents. You might find that there are others interested in the field, which is closely aligned with family history.

I am really excited about your project, and in following your progress. Good luck with your work!

Ben W. Brumfield said...

Thanks for your encouraging words!

Commenting is the next feature on my to-do list to tackle after I finish implementing subject categories.

Commenting on a page a pretty basic feature, and I've been planning comments at higher granularities (i.e. work, collection, user), but it had never occurred to me to support commenting on individual paragraphs. I can't imagine that the data model would be too hard -- the difficulty comes from the UI, and CommentPress presents a pretty good model.

Do you have any thoughts on image-based comments, akin to what Flickr does?

I haven't looked at footnote.com's UI yet, but will try to check it out next week.

Thanks again for the feedback. I'd be happy to correspond at my gmail address, which is benwbrum.