Good Practices

Things contained in this section are good practices for the generation of any HTML document. Specifically, this would include anything which should routinely be done in the creation of documents for the benefit of both reader and author.

Signing Documents, and Time-Stamps

It is a good idea to sign and date all documents served on the Web, so that people viewing the documents can form some impression of the authority of the document (i.e. how recent it is, and how reliable the information provider is). For example, this document has been signed.

Also, when dating a document, try to avoid ambiguous formats. For example, both the month/day/year and day/month/year format are used on the web -- so is "4/2/94" April 2 or February 4? A solution to this is to use the name of the month (or an abbreviation).

Finally, the best way to sign a document is to include a LINK element of type "made" in your HEAD element. For example:

<TITLE>This is my Title</TITLE>
<LINK REV="made" HREF="">

For an example, look at the HTML source of this document. Notice the LINK line near the beginning, as well as the signature at the bottom.

Why the LINK element? The LINK element is equivalent to the A element; that is, it provides a link to some other document. However, since it is part of the HEAD information (which is information about the document, rather than part of the document itself), this is a link from the entire document to another object. (Anchors, on the other hand, are links from some small subset of the document, like a word or a phrase, to another document). This link, like most other HEAD information, is typically not displayed by a browser, or followable by a reader.

The fact that it is not displayed does not make it useless, however. Many browsers, such as Lynx, supply a "reply to author" function. The information about who the author is comes from using the LINK element. Other applications which can make use of the information include Web spiders and other maintenance tools, which can benefit from having authority information in machine readable format.

The format of the LINK element is the same as that of the A element. Notice the use of the REV attribute, which describes this relationship as a REVerse relationship of the type made. This means that this document was made by the object at the other end of the anchor (i.e. the person specified by the "mailto:" URL).

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Copyright © 1994, 1995 by Eric Tilton. Permission is granted for individual use and reproduction provided that this document remains intact, with this copyright message clearly visible. Commercial use and reproduction rights are held by Addison-Wesley, and this document may not be resold or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from Addison Wesley -- contact me for details. Parts of this document appear in a revised form in the upcoming book, Web Weaving (ISBN 0-201-48959-7), by Eric Tilton, Carl Steadman, and Tyler Jones, to be published by Addison-Wesley. Look for it in a bookstore near you!

The upshot is, this document has always been meant as a public service, and will remain a public service. I hope you've found it to be useful; I've had fun providing it for your use.

Last modified: Nov 7, 1995

James "Eric" Tilton, HTML Guru Wannabee,