Q & A
Everyone keeps telling me I need something called lynx. What is it and where do I get it?
Lynx is a basic text browser. You can use it to surf the Web and it will present information only in text. One of the big reasons many Web developers like it is that it can be used as a surrogate for testing for accessibility. That is, if the text version makes sense, then the site will make sense for almost any user. Using Lynx also highlights the advantages of semantically correct HTML. For example, it's easy to see why it is important to use <h3> to head a page section rather than just using CSS to style the text to look good.
You can download a copy of Lynx at http://csant.info/lynx.htm. Be sure to read the readme file and follow the instructions there.
I’m learning CSS and am confused about something. Does the div tag replace the p tag for paragraphs?
This is a common mistake because from a presentational standpoint <div> and <p> do exactly the same thing. Worse, some Web page editors make the mistake of using <div> as a replacement for <p>. However, paragraphs have not gone away and therefore <p> has not gone away.
<p> should be used around a paragraph of text. In fact any bit of text which is not captured by some other tag should probably use <p>. So your "paragraph" might be just a single line of text or a few words, don't let that confuse you.
<div> defines some division of the page. On this page you will find a div around each of the three columns. Additionally, you will find a <div> around each topic within each column. In this case "Q & A" is all one div (inside the <div> for the left column) with the following tags inside it: <h5>, <p>, <p>, <h5>, <p>, <p>, <p>.
Surely you're not serious when you say no one needs a blog. Don't you read any?
Well, we certainly did not mean to leave you with the impression that "no one needs a blog." Blogs are a great thing. Blogs have many wonderful uses. We all have our own favorite blogs. However, a blog is one of those things that people often insist they need without knowing what they need it for. Let's talk a little bit about what's wrong with blogs and then backtrack into what blogs are indeed good for. And by the way, the underlying problem is true not just of blogs but often of many new technologies. It never hurts to fall back on the old "form follows function." If you don't know what it is for, you probably don't need it in the first place.
So, what's the problem with blogs? Blogs or weblogs are actually nothing but a shorthand name for an online journal (though they tend to be associated with the technologies that produce them, particularly something called RSS). And as with most journals, they mostly contain things that are personal, particular or broadly uninteresting or some combination thereof. Most of our Web sites by contrast are none of these things. Think of an average college department; it is by definition not personal. (Although we might want to give it that feel, we don't actually want it to be personal, otherwise we'd put the staff birthdays on the Home Page.) College departments are also almost by definition general; think of the difference between a department subject such as biology and any of the research carried out by an individual faculty member. Finally, there is very little specific appeal at a college or department level.
Is there never a time to use blogs at the University? Of course there is. Go back to that particular researcher above, a blog on a unique or cutting-edge subject may be riveting to others in the same field. A blog from a reunion class might be very personal for alumni. Finally a blog tracking a particular laboratory research project might have the necessary specific appeal to get others to follow it. There are appropriate places for a blog. The key would be identifying a need that a blog addresses, not having one and then looking for a need to match it with.
Remember, most of our Web sites are fundamentally informational in nature. How do I find this? Where do I go for that? People wanting to know the department office hours are a different audience, so throwing a blog in front of them can actually make their experience more difficult.