Threading Essays

Volume 6, Issue 47; 26 Jun 2003

As the number of essays on this site grew, I came to realize that there was a missing navigation paradigm.

You cannot separate the just from the unjust and the good from the wicked; For they stand together before the face of the sun even as the black thread and the white are woven together. And when the black thread breaks, the weaver shall look into the whole cloth, and he shall examine the loom also.

Kahlil Gibran

Some essays are directly related to others, for example, I've written a series of essays on refactoring DocBook and a couple of essays now on XML Catalogs.

The nature of blogs is such that there tend to be lots of cross-references. If I comment on someone else's blog, I point to the essay I'm commenting on, and vice versa. These entries can begin to have a conversational flavor if the references go back and forth a few times.

But if you've never been here before (welcome, nice to meet you, enjoy your stay), and some cross reference plonks you into the middle of a series of related essays, how are you going to find the context for the essay? On this site, you could look for other essays on the same topic, but the topic granularity is fairly coarse.

The answer, at least experimentally, is a “thread navigation” paradigm. Related articles now have additional navigation links: thread previous and thread next. You'll see what I mean if you start in the middle of the DocBook thread.

The thread are semi-manual right now, I add a “thread previous” property to a new article if it is a continuation of a thread and the build system infers the forward links appropriately. That seems sufficient for the moment.