Comments on “Hypertext books vary in shape”


One thing I’d really like to

Alex's picture

One thing I’d really like to have for all the books and why not the blog as well, is a navigation sidebar. Having the tree visible on the side would make it easy to keep track of where you were in the read. A nav at the bottom is mostly bad UX. Put the Meaningness structure into a notetaking app like OneNote, Evernote or Notion and you’d find you have a far better sense of place.

The book is built as an ordered tree, show us the tree.

Sidebar, please

Thanks, yes, I’m planning to do this… In fact there was a tree sidebar on the site originally. I removed it in 2014, for reasons that seemed to make sense, but in retrospect it was a mistake.

Replacing it is not entirely straightforward (due to software rot), and I’ve been postponing that until after a planned total replacement of the backend technology. It hasn’t seemed sensible to put effort into improvements that will get thrown away soon.

“Soon” may not come soon enough, so maybe a short-term throw-away fix is the right answer.

Related thought(s)

Kenny's picture

I follow this (and several of your other sites) via RSS, and I’m very aware of the ‘interesting topology’ resulting both from the IOU pages and the relaxed ‘feel’ from many pages being something like variations on a theme.

I did have a minor, very short-lived, problem navigating to the beginning of In the Cells of the Eggplant once, but reading from the beginning up to whatever page had been added/updated at the time turned out to be both easy and a really great read.

But maybe you could crowd-source some different implementations (not just ideas). If you published a Git repo with text (or Markdown or even HTML) for each page (and post), it’d be easy enough for others to whip up some prototypes of different kinds or styles of navigation. (This might require a lot of ‘public engagement’ work that doesn’t end up producing much lasting, maintained work of significant value either tho!)

And if not that, maybe find a collaborator to help with the system(s) – unless you enjoy that work too!

(I really like the styling of the site as-is by-the-way. It showcases your writing perfectly.)

I do admit to having some questions about the distinctiveness of Meaningness and Eggplant. Perhaps, eventually, Eggplant should be migrated to its own domain/site.

One little detail about Stack Overflow that I think works well is segregating the ‘meta’ site to its own subdomain, and styling it in a kind of visually ‘meta’ way, e.g. with gray colors. (They do the same for all of the other sites in their ‘Stack Exchange network’.)

If a sidebar is tricky, how about a breadcrumb at the top?

Alex's picture

Many sites have a navigational breadcrumb at the top, which makes it easy to see where you are.

Something like: [B] In the Cells of the Eggplant > [S] Meta-rationality: an introduction > [C] Clouds and eggplants

should be implementable pretty easily and would still be a massive aid for navigation, even if it’s just at the top of the page.

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You are reading a metablog post, dated September 1, 2020.

This was the most recent metablog post.

The previous metablog post was I invented the iPhone in 1977.

General explanation: Meaningness is a hypertext book. Start with an appetizer, or the table of contents. Its “metablog” includes additional essays that are not part of the book.

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