Editing and Publishing Guidelines
Copyright © Marc Millon 1999
How to order
Today even in the world of print, such thoughtful stages, once part of a books production cycle, may no longer be carried out. The technology now exists in theory to go direct from authors disk to printers plate, and as exciting as this prospect is, it inevitably means that some of the basic editorial tasks and intermediate and final stages of proofing will be lost, to the possible detriment of the finished work.
Similarly, it is easy when publishing on the web to overlook some of the basic tasks that are, or at least should be, part of any editorial project. Many of the same rules apply to publishing on the web as to publishing in print, yet it is disappointing how often they seem to be disregarded. Perhaps because the medium is so new, and because it represents such a different approach to publishing, content creators and publishers alike often seem more than happy to let poorly written copy find its way on to the web.
Most web editing programs may have spell checking programs which ought to be used as a matter of habit (though check to make sure the dictionary is English, American or whatever your requirements). Text furthermore needs to be copy-edited not simply to ensure that it is well written and free of errors, but also to ensure that it is structured most effectively for the web, bearing in mind some of the suggestions given above. And attention should be given to such typographic design matters as consistency of type size, typeface, headings and sub-headings.
Since a hypertext document, by its very nature, is linked to other hypertext documents, it is essential to check all internal and external links to ensure that they are functioning correctly. These are all part of the web copy editors tasks.
navigation and overall appearance
If you only test on the latest browser versions, or those that you yourself use, then you wont really have any idea of how the same material will appear on many other browsers and computers. Mosaic, Lynx, Opera and other alternative browsers are still in use, while new browsers for hand-held appliances are appearing or set to appear in the very near future. Its not just the browser software that has an impact on web appearance, either. PCs may render colours and default type altogether differently than Apple Macintosh computers.
The content creator and editor must be aware of such factors and try to conceptualise how a site will look in different configurations and set ups. Web TV will furthermore result in users sitting considerably further away from the screen than from a computer monitor. So the caveat is, always test on different browsers and platforms, then test again and again. And always give consideration to your various users requirements and expectations, now and in the future.
meta-information to a hypertext document
Every document, for example, needs to have a title, as indicated by the <TITLE> tag element. Such titles, furthermore, ought to be absolute, not relative to a web site. When a browser such as Netscape or Internet Explorer displays a hypertext document, the title of that document appears at the top bar of the browser window; if the user bookmarks that document for future reference, it is stored under this title name. It is important therefore to choose titles that accurately reflect and if possible summarise the contents of the page. Subsequent page titles in a web site should be absolute not relative so that in instances where users choose to bookmark a page, the title will be comprehensible (for example Teotihuacan Ceramics index rather than simply Index or even Ceramics index).
Some search directories utilise the opening text on a web sites Index or Welcome page to extract key words and site description. Many, however, depend on the invisible <META> tags that sit at the top of a HTML document so before registering, it is essential to give considerable thought to these tags. Particular attention therefore needs to be given to the following, inserting your own particular content within the "":
<META NAME="KEYWORDS" CONTENT= " ">
<META NAME="DESCRIPTION" CONTENT= " ">
Choose keywords with care, considering how potential visitors to your site might find you if using a search engine (what keywords they would type in?), and include all possibilities. Different <META> tag key word content and descriptions should be used for each different page or section of a web site, if relevant.
with search engines helping users to find your site
Before registering with a search directory, therefore, it is always worth spending some time exploring how that directory is organised. Try it out, check out sites that are similar in content to yours, see which categories and sub-directories they come under, and give considerable thought to your description, keywords, and, perhaps most important of all, from where or how a user is likely to search for a site such as yours. Then, only once you have a clear strategy for attracting users (and have included the <META> tags in your site as outlined above), register manually with each of the main directories. And remember, once you have registered a site, it may not be easy to change your entry, so it is worth getting it right the first time.
In addition to registering with search directories, there are a number of Whats New announcement pages to whom you should submit your site, as well as numerous web awards. In order to be considered, it is merely necessary to spend some time checking out those which are most relevant to your content and then informing them of your sites URL.
Another way to promote your web site is to subscribe to relevant newsgroups or e-mail discussion lists; become an active member of these communities, include your signature together with your web site URL on any postings, and whenever relevant, point people to pages on your site that may contain information that is of use to them. And of course, dont forget to include your web site URL address on all printed material, including letterheads, visiting cards, bills.
credit; dont plagiarise
On the web, there can be fine lines between linking and plagiarising. The use of frames in particular can cause problems wherein material created by others can be opened within a new window and presented in such a convincing manner as to seem part of a different site altogether. Honesty and integrity are as important on the web as they are in traditional publishing and pirates who steal others copyright material for their own use or profit should rightly be regarded as the parasites of the industry. If you are offering extensive links to other sites, always make clear what you are doing and where you are coming from, and above all give credit where it is due.
Naturally the definition of what is acceptable and unacceptable regarding web content varies considerably from individual to individual. But as human beings, surely we ought to inhabit some common moral ground. Certainly there is a great deal of gratuitous obscenity and pornography on the web, but so is there in the real world. Where the web is at its most dangerous is not simply as the purveyor of offensive material, but rather, much more dangerously, through its interactive and community-building capacities, those same powers which we elsewhere applaud as a powerful feature of the new medium. Thus, those obscene sites and user groups that encourage the creation of communities that revel and traffic in paedophilia and the sharing of child pornography must be universally shunned, I imagine, by most decent human beings. Similarly, those web sites that serve as an active and literal call to arms for extremists, racists, bigots, terrorists, football hooligans and the like are abusing the power of the medium for unacceptable ends.
It is sometimes hard to draw the line as to what is acceptable and what is not. On the one hand, we may applaud the use of the web as a medium for rallying support for freedom fighters. But what about its use by those sectors or sections of society whose beliefs and values we dont share? Right wing militia, criminals, child abusers, bigots and racists, anti-western fundamentalist terrorists? Is it fair to celebrate the power of the medium only when we agree with what it is being used for?
The right to freedom of expression and the control over the dissemination of dangerous and unacceptable content are difficult issues that we as content creators and users of the web must consider deeply, searching our own consciences as we grope to find a middle way that does the least harm.
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