B. Wade's Blog

Monday, September 25, 2006

This week’s readings seemed centered on access issues and databases. There was definitely a great deal of technical jargon that was tough to grasp. As you read, Lyman and Varian’s report “How Much Information?” you can really get a sense of the incredible shift in the way information is now stored. At the National Archives, we are currently dealing with this shift. Over the last 10 years, our electronic holdings have grown 100 times fasters than traditional paper records. Along with preservation, access is of great concern, which will hopefully be solved with the creation of the Electronic Records Archives (ERA). The goal of ERA is to provide access to all types of electronic records via the Internet to anyone, anywhere, at any time. The system will not be dependent on a particular technology.

Currently, the National Archives’ Archival Research Catalog (ARC), which contains descriptions of our holdings, can only be searched through the Archives web site. Researchers searching through Google or Yahoo are not directed to ARC descriptions in their search results. This frustrates some of my colleagues and it was interesting to see Dempsey write about such systems in his article “The Three Stages of library search”. On a brighter note, the Archives and Google do have a partnership, which gives Google users access to historic videos from the Archive’s collection.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

This weeks readings by Staley, Murray, and Landow really makes one think of the possibilities that new technology lends to historians in the present and future. How traditional writing can be linear, but web sites can be multi-dimensional with non-linear hypertext. It’s funny to think that the popular beliefs about using the web to teach, learn, and conduct research has changed so much over the last 7 or so years. One of my colleagues actually mentioned that his daughter is encouraged to use on-line resources in high school. I have seen some of my co-workers fear technology or just not want to bother with it, but the next generation of historians are growing up on computers, so as they enter the profession a great deal is probably going to change. Is it possible that future generations will think on-line first, books second? Will the use of on-line resources erode research and writing skills that have long been staples of the historian profession? Is this all just a product of a culture that would rather watch the History Channel then read a historical book? It can be scary at first, but there are many advantages that technology gives us. Like the invention of the printing press for which Murray talks about, computers will continue to advance and probably gain more respect as a medium. Staley talks about how different individuals might learn better in different ways. Many of us have probably heard from someone we know, that history was boring to them in school, but computer technology has the ability to spice it up.

Monday, September 11, 2006

When picking a web site to review, I decided not to go with my organization’s site, because I do have the responsibility of editing and updating my unit’s web pages. I looked at other historical sites, but in the end decided on a completely different kind of site, accuweather.com. I made this decision, because I use it frequently and on the surface it seems quite complex. Looking back, I probably should have gone with a simpler site, but it did prove to be an eye opening experience.

Accuweather.com is a dynamic web page containing images, streaming videos and searchable fields. The site takes advantage of both client-side and server-side scripting. The sites rader images, photographs and other graphics are either jpeg or gif images, which have links embedded in the HTML text. For streaming videos and some graphics, the site uses either Flash or H264 Media Player, which is determined by the client’s web browser. In addition, accuweather takes advantage of every space, with multiply advertisements utilizing Flash on each page, some of which are interactive.

Probably the most widely used searchable field on the site is the local weather forecast search. I was extremely curious about this, because accuweather is constantly updating forecasts . I looked at the source code and discovered that the site uses ASP, which is used in server-side scripting. I concluded that the local weather forecast search must be interfaced to a backend database. I ran a Google search and found information on Hewlett-Packard’s web site (http://h71000.www7.hp.com/openvms/brochures/accuweather/accuweather.html) explaining that the weather data is stored and processed on what is called the Accuweather Forecast Engine (AFE), which is a internally developed and constantly updated system running on HP OpenVMS systems.

I next decided to a look at how the style and design of the web site was developed. Accuweather.com uses cascading stylesheets for its base style, which are kept in an external file referenced in the source code. I decided to copy and paste one of the CSS links into my web browser and discovered that the site uses TopStyle Lite 1.5 CSS editing software. For its ever changing content, the style is embedded within the HTML text.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Images of the French Revolution
As an archivist who works with photography, I was particularly interested in this site. Upon entering, I found it easy to navigate and not overdone. The site content seemed to serve more then one purpose. Not only does it provide historical analysis and interpretation through the use of images, it gives visitors access to an online archive. I especially found the image links embedded throughout the essays and discussions extremely useful. When using the image archive, users have the ability to view large scale versions of the entire image, which requires little download time based on their small file size. Users with Flash can also access the Image Tool, which is an excellent addition to this site.

Wow, my first blog. I hope blogger.com doesn't steer me wrong. I decided to use the scribe template, because I like the historical look. I plan on adding my picture to my profile tomorrow, if I can find a photo of my good side.