[HCS-D]url brevity (fwd: Re: URGENT HRC list)

Gregory Price gprice at hcs.harvard.edu
Tue Dec 21 06:32:40 EST 2004


I was telling someone how tildes are hard to get across to users in URLs.

My example always used to be how when Scott Golder made a `Dialect
Survey' for a linguistics professor and stuck it in hcs/~golder, and
then the survey got written up in newspapers nationwide, HCS got at
least a dozen emails from confused folks who couldn't find the page.
Some of them said they'd typed in hcs.harvard.edu/-golder/blah just
like it said in the paper; others other things wrong, many not
explaining how they'd failed.  And for every user that complains, ten
others didn't take the trouble...

And even Matt can forget the list-request form's URL.


The immediate lesson is we should give the list-request form a nice URL like

  hcs.harvard.edu/mailing-list

that people can read in the Crimson or hear from a friend and
remember.  Suggestions invited; I'd like the bit after the / to sound
as canonical as possible, so if you hear it you don't later wonder
which of three very similar things it was.


The broader lesson is that we should give our users nicer URLs too.
Say,

  hcs.harvard.edu/mygroup

rather than

  hcs.harvard.edu/~mygroup

.  (MIT does a variant of this; web.mit.edu/username is your home
directory, and web.mit.edu/username/www your by-convention actual web
directory.)


Better yet,

  mygroup.hcs.harvard.edu

or

  mygroups-outside-registered-domain.org

which each require lobbying work.  The former needs us to control a
DNS zone, and the latter needs us to figure out why they don't want
outside domains resolving to Harvard IPs and then figure out how to
address that.


The latter sort of works now; e.g.,

  http://harvardgleeclub.org

gives a redirect to hcs.harvard.edu/~hgc/.  But then the browser calls
it hcs.harvard.edu/~hgc/.

The Hippocratic Society has it working nicely:

  http://hippocraticsociety.org

serves up a frameset referring to a page on their HCS account, and
links point to locations back on the hippocraticsociety.org site,
which give new framesets identical but for pointing to different
subpages.  I wonder how much work/expense that was for them...


Thoughts?


                Gregory
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