Things that Scholarly HTMLers do

There has been a lot of interest in #scholarlyhtml and Peter Sefton has blogged latest thoughts yesterday:

The techniques we’re documenting have been drawn from lots of previous work,

I don’t think we’re duplicating work but trying to make it easy to find, packaging it into a single set of guidelines and providing a locus for tool builders.

A lot of what we are doing amounts to providing guidelines.

we are taking the opposite approach to the one taken by Perl where Larry Wall’s mantra was “There’s more than one way to do it”. On the web, there certainly is, but for Scholarly HTML to succeed I think we need to say to people:

  • There’s one good (enough) way to do it.
  • Here’s a meaningful way to do it.
  • Here’s a simple way to do it.


Peter and I are going punting tomorrow morning (anyone in Cambridge is welcome to come – we’ll tweet the rough time) and we’ll discuss more of this. ScHTML is an attitude of mind. So, while we work out the best practice for best practices here are some analogies from real-life which you may find helpful:

  • ScHTMLers do not reinvent the wheel – they makes sure the tyres are pumped up
  • ScHTMLers stick the stamp in the top right-hand corner, and don’t just write “Newcastle” but give the country and postcode
  • ScHTMLers write their address on the back of the envelope
  • ScHTMLers don’t write dates like 01/02/03; the say 2003-01-02
  • ScHTMLers help other people across the road
  • ScHTMLers put dates in their email [1], not just “tomorrow”
  • ScHTMLers add explanations rather than making people guess
  • ScHTMLers write “Fragile, Glass” on packages
  • ScHTMLers need only one match to light a fire
  • ScHTMLers think like Ned Flanders not Homer Simpson

[1] a true story.

The day before yesterday Michael sent me an email which arrived yesterday saying we should meet “tomorrow”. I thought it meant today and only realised it meant yesterday when the meeting had started. If the mail had said 2011-03-17 then not only me but also my text-mining software (OSCAR4) would have known what was meant.

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