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Authoring and Design for the WWW



The control of interlinked information

We have emphasised the potential for interlinking information. For example, in institutional information the pages about programme, set, school, faculty, and so forth can be unified for the user, but served from separate, appropriate locations. Likewise alternative perspectives can be provided, such as an institutional view and a Student Union view.
However, issues of control arise: These are not questions which can be answered by this handbook, varying as they will from institution to institution, case to case.

Example internal guidelines

As an indicator of the level of detail involved in some of these issues, we cite a few informal guidelines which have been used for one particular departmental server:

Technical and editorial control

Even though we have advocated that many voices should be represented in HEI documentation, we cannot escape the responsibility for ensuring that correct information is accessible to students. This implies an editorial role.

If information is stored on servers, those machines are from a technical point of view often the responsibility of computing services staff. Some technical expertise is required to maintain the information on servers incorporating new documents, updating hypertext links when new documents have been appended, writing scripts to handle user-interaction, and so forth. As a result there is a risk that editorial decisions about the information will be made by those who are providing the technical service often inappropriately. The shortcomings of many HEI Campus Wide Information Systems are almost certainly the result of their being written, edited and designed, as well as implemented, by computing support staff. Our indebtedness to the enthusiasm and expertise of computing staff should not blind us to the fact that they are not necessarily the best editors of documentation.

It is important therefore that the use of technology does not cause dependency on technologists. Currently, most academic staff have insufficient knowledge to be able even to specify what they want, let alone to attempt to construct it for themselves. Ignorance of the possibilities is preventing them from having a policy. There are staff-development implications.

A note on the Web and the law

This is not the place to discuss the huge subject of the relationship between Web activity and the laws concerning intellectual property, defamation, obscenity and so forth.

Perhaps the most important point is that the Web is not exempt from any of the laws of publishing or public utterance. The fact that the law is currently regularly flouted on the Web, for example by people publishing works which they do not own, does not mean that it can be done with impunity. As the Web moves from a fringe activity to a mainstream form of publishing, governments and other bodies take an increasing interest in policing it.

A SIMA project which deals with a wide range of legal issues is listed under Web Resources.

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