VoS Developers' FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions
about working on the VoS site

(last revised July 22, 2004)
  1. Where are other VoS developer resources?
  2. How is VoS structured in its new database environment?
  3. How to Edit VoS? (basic instructions on the VoS editing interface)
  4. How "deep" into a site does VoS go to collect links?
  5. How are sections for an author or topic commonly organized?
  6. What is the citation style for VoS entries?
  7. What are some useful HTML tags for use in the VoS editing forms?
  8. How do I consult the "legacy VoS" to rectify truncated entries?
  9. How do I record my developer's work in the VoS worklog?

* 1. Where are other VoS developer resources?

The VoS Developers' Resource home page is at: http://vos.ucsb.edu/developers/index.asp. It includes the following resources:

Resource URL
VoS http://vos.ucsb.edu/
VoS Users' FAQ http://vos.ucsb.edu/help.asp
VoS Developer's FAQ http://vos.ucsb.edu/developers/documentation/vos2-FAQ.html
VoS Citation Style http://vos.ucsb.edu/developers/documentation/vos2-FAQ.html#stylesheet
Legacy VoS (archival copy of original VoS for use in correcting truncated entries) http://www.english.ucsb.edu/faculty/ayliu/locked/VoS_Original/index.html (requires "scribe" username login; password available from Alan)
Developers' Work Log http://www.english.ucsb.edu/faculty/ayliu/taskteams/VoS2/login.asp (requires your MyVoS login; available from Alan)

* 2. How is VoS structured in its new database environment?

In Fall 2001, VoS was converted from a static Web site into a dynamic database-to-Web system. Instead of editing static HTML pages in Dreamweaver (or another Web-authoring program), VoS developers now log on to the "MyVoS" part of the site and use Web forms to enter or revise information in the underlying SQL Server database. The database then takes care of selecting, organizing, and outputting information requested by the end user (who navigates with links or uses the "search" function) on an "on-the-fly" basis.

The dynamic structure of VoS means that while the main "disciplines" and "resources" on the VoS home page are fixed, there is no fixed substructure analogous to a static HTML page and its equally static subpages. In the old, static VoS, for example, the home page (index.html) would have a first-level subpage like English Literature (english.html), which in turn might have second-level subpages underneath it. But in the new, dynamic VoS, clicking on "Literature (in English") will open a universal template page called "browse.asp" whose URL also contains an instruction at the end like "?id=3." (The full URL of the English literature page is thus "http://vos.ucsb.edu/browse.asp?id=3") This tells the database to pull out of its stockpile of information a certain "category" (the English lit category) and output it in the browse.asp template. Every category has a specific id number, and categories can contain any number of other categories and information items within them. Clicking on a category like "Metapages" within the category of English Literature simply instructs the database to reuse the browse.asp template with a new id number.

The result is that a user can "drill down" to as specific a category as s/he desires--all the way down to a category devoted to pages from a specific site, for example--and have that category show up on its own VoS page. For example, on the English Literature page the user can click on "Metapages" to isolate just that category on its own page. Then the user can click within the Metapages category on "About.com Literature Pages" to isolate just the About.com sites on their own page. In this example, the "About.com Literature Pages" category currently has no other categories within it, only information items.

Understanding the principle of drilling down to the specific category one wishes to work on (to add information items to, to reorder items, to move or copy items) is important in editing VoS.

* 3. How to edit VoS? (basic instructions on the VoS editing interface)

The following is a quick-start guide to the editing interface:

  1. Login: Go to VoS and click on the link labeled "MyVoS" near the top of the screen. On the login screen that appears, enter your user Name and Password.

  2. Initial MyVoS Editing Screen: After you have successfully logged in, you will see the initial MyVoS editing screen as follows:

    Initial MyVoS Editing Screen (click for larger image)

  3. Choose between editing the main VoS site or one of the VoS subprojects: The initial MyVos editing screen is the gateway to editing VoS or VoS subprojects. Choose the function you wish as follows (you will only be allowed to edit resources for which you have the appropriate permissions):

  4. Adding/Revising Categories and Information Items:

  5. Moving/Copying Categories and Information Items:

    Ideally, editors would never enter categories or links redundantly in VoS. Instead, the principle is that there should be just one database entry for a specific piece of information, and then the database should be instructed to present that information in multiple or different locations on VoS as needed. Rather than moving or copying actual information in the database, in other words, editors are doing the equivalent of placing a "shortcut" or "pointer" on their computer desktop--i.e., a pointer to the actual location of a resource.

    The placement and copying of such pointers is handled automatically by the Edit mode when a piece of information is first created. To move the location of a category or link in VoS after the fact, or to duplicate a category or link in another location in VoS, use the "Order" mode. This presents the editor with a screen such as the following:

    Edit Order Screen

    There are three functions you can invoke from this screen:

    --Reorder: This allows an editor to revise the alphanumeric string used to customize the order of a link within a category. You can manipuate the Order string in an item to make a list of items appear in the order you wish. For example, you can assign a string of "0" to make an item appear at the top of a group of related items, and strings of "a1," "b1," etc., to make subordinate items appear where appropriate (see example below).

    --Select: This is the powerful function in the Edit Order mode. "Selecting" a category or link tells the system that you want it to pay attention to this particular item because you are about to move or copy its location on VoS. After you select an item, you will see the "Place Selection screen" as follows:

    Pace Selection Screen

    Click on the link on this page titled "Place Selection." At that point, you will be returned to the editor's browsing environment. Browse to the exact category in VoS within which you want to either move or copy your selection. So, for example, browsing to "Architecture" (i.e., drilling down to isolate Architecture on its own VoS page in the editing interface) will allow you to move or copy the selection into the Architecture category at the top level of that category (along with any existing categories at the top level within Architecture). If you wish to move or copy your selection to a location within a sugcategory in Architecture like "General Resources," first drill down to that subcategory first.

    When you are at the proper location, choose "Move" or "Copy" to execute the maneuver (you'll be prompted for a confirmation).

    You can move or copy entire categories. For example, the "Science Fiction" category with any subcategories and all information items can be duplicated under Science, Technology and Culture, under Literature, etc.

    --Remove: This function allows you to remove the current instance of an information item without deleting the item from the database (where it may appear in other locations in VoS as well). (If you are sure you want to delete the item from the database entirely, use the Delete function in the Edit mode (see below).) [Note: Currently, the Remove function is not implemented for information items. It should be working shortly.]

  6. Deleting categories and links:
    Partly because of safety, the process of deleting information is a bit awkward in VoS. While in the Edit mode, the "delete" button next to a link will delete an individual link item. However, the delete button will not delete a category item containing links or other categories within it unless you first drill into that category and delete the materials there individually. Note that deleting an item or category removes it entirely from the database (and thus all instances of the item or category, which may appear in multiple locations in VoS.) To remove only the current instance of an item while leaving the underlying item in the database (and at other locations in VoS), use the "Remove" function (see above).

* 4. How "deep" into a site does VoS go to collect links?

VoS is conservative in collecting subpages or sections within a site. Usually the user is best served with just a link to the home page of the site plus, where appropriate, a brief descriptive annotation. In the case of important or large sites, however, VoS sometimes collects links not just to the home page but to the main top-level pages. These latter links are presented in a subordinate list under the main link. Alternatively, VoS may harvest only selected resources. For example:

You can manipuate the Order string in an item to make a list of items appear in the order you wish. For example, you can assign a string of "a0" to make an item appear at the top, and strings of "a1," "b1," etc., to make subordinate items appear where appropriate.

In general, however, be careful not to over-collect links from a site because this leads to problems maintaining VoS in the future. Sites often change their structure.

* 5. How are sections for an author or topic commonly organized?

Generally, VoS follows the principle of putting general resources for an author or topic near the top of a listing, more specific resources (e.g., links to essays or books) further down, and critical works at the bottom. Where there are few links for an author or topic, there is no need for formal organization of the links. But where there are many links or where it otherwise seems to make sense, Vos uses variants of the following organizational scheme (note the use of subordinate lists and boldfaced section headings):

Usually, the lists are consistent on any particular page, so just look around to see what to do in a particular instance.

* 6. What is the citation style for VoS entries?

VoS has followed a consistent, simplified citation style over the years, with variants. The main principle is that VoS is not a print bibliography that requires full citations but a functioning hypertext guide that adds only enough information to allow users to see at a glance the gist of a link, its author or source, and (usually through institutional affiliation) its rough level of "authority." For the latter purpose, institutions but not departments or ranks are included (because otherwise it becomes impossible to keep VoS up to date)--though sometimes it is appropriate to mention department or rank in the description of a link (e.g., "an undergraduate journal").

The VoS citation style can be seen in the following examples:

Note these issues:

  1. Author Designation (Content-Author vs. Web-Author): Content-authors (e.g., authors of essays) come before the link to the site; Web-authors (the individuals, journals, or Web sites) responsible for the Web site are named after the link. Where the content-author is also the Web-author (e.g., someone who writes and essay and puts it on his or her home page), only the content-author is mentioned. Web pages that do not have print analogues (e.g., VoS itself) have only a Web-author. Multiple authors may be listed. Where the authorship is some kind of collaborative venture, use a slash "/" (e.g., U. Penn. / U. Virginia). Where a link is from a large site, it is sometimes best to cite the name of the site as the author rather than the individual responsible for the site (e.g., "The Write Page").
  2. Institutional Affiliation: Use these conventions: Delaware U., U. of Tennessee, Bowdoin C. Where the institution is unlikely to be recognized, add some geography (e.g., Abnormal C., Trenton, NJ). Assume that users may be from other parts of the world and may not recognize common U.S. acronyms for institutions (so use "U. California, Santa Barbara," not "UCSB"). Omit institutional affiliations in cases where there are three or more authors.
  3. Link Titles: Cite the title as you find it on the site and use normal conventions (quotes, italics, etc.) to indicate the genre of the resource (Web pages without a print analogue appear in normal text). Use your judgment about including full or long titles, which can sometimes add descriptive value (e.g., "Apple: the Journal Devoted to Theory of Fruit"). Date: Note the inclusion of year of publication (if known) in parentheses within the link-title of essays, books, etc.
  4. Descriptions: Where it is clear what a resource is (by its title or placement in a particular section of VoS), no description is needed. Often, for example, resources such as the following require no description: "John Donne page," "Keats-Shelley Journal". Otherwise, it is useful to add a concise description--perhaps compounded from brief quotations from the site supplemented by other matter. For example: ("highly accurate and reliable electronic editions of works" encoded in SGML/TEI; with HTML versions). Descriptions are included in parentheses; and semi-colons are preferred to periods. Normally, VoS removes upper-case at the beginning of a quoted sentence. VoS does not normally include evaluative language in a description (e.g., "good," superb," "brilliant," etc.). Instead, VoS uses descriptive or analytical language to achieve the same effect (e.g., mentions of what a site includes, use of such words as "extensive," "well-organized," "annotated," etc.)

    * 7. What are some useful HTML tags for use in the VoS editing forms?

    The following are some of the HTML tags that may be entered in the editing forms for VoS or the Developers' Task Log to produce formatting effects:

For more on HTML, see the NCSA's "Beginner's Guide to HTML":


* 8. How do I consult the "legacy VoS" to rectify truncated entries?

Original VoS SiteWhen VoS was migrated in 2001 from its form as a static Web site to a database, the automated process that facilated the migration truncated all text in the "details" field of the Add Info form to a certain number of characters. This is why you will occasionally see an item in VoS in which the descriptive annotation suddenly cuts off in mid word. If you wish to find the original VoS annotation for the site, go to the legacy site at: http://www.english.ucsb.edu/faculty/ayliu/locked/VoS_Original/index.html (You will need a login available from Alan).


* 9. How do I record my developer's work in the VoS worklog?

VoS Task Log Entry FormAfter an editing session, VoS developers should go to the Developers Task Log, login, and enter the date, the number of hours spent on the session, and a brief description of the task (e.g., "I concentrated today on fixing links on the English Literature: Modern page at http://vos.ucsb.edu/browse.asp?id=2747." Where appropriate, include links to the main areas in which you have been working (for the convenience of Alan in reviewing work on the site).