Main Points

History is Now

This is where we try to answer all of our common questions, from website conventions, to subject matter, to anything else. We also recommend checking out our Reader's Guide to Earth Chronicle, for information about the website including some handy tips. In the mean time, we hope we can help you with your questions. :)

Earth Chronicle Issues

Why is there a contact form on Every page?

There are two key reasons that the contact form is found throughout the website. One, it was easy to build into the master pages so it was no harder to build it into all webpages as it was to build it into just one. So if you have a question, ask us! We try to make our website articles as authoritative and credible as possible, and we're always looking for new topics. However, if you leave your email address as well, we'll try to respond as quickly as we can. The answer will not be as thorough and authoritative as our articles, but we will try to put together the best answer we can, usually in 24-48 hours.

Two, as people are reading articles, they may find a typo or a factual error, or they may know an additional piece of information about the subject. We want to give these people easy access to communicate this brief but important information. And it's easier to submit those kind of quick notes (and people are more likely to use it) if it's just sitting there at the bottom of the page when you're finished reading. This avoids having to make the mental decision to click through to a contact page. A contact form on every page allows everyone to continue with what they were doing uninterrupted except for whatever typing you do and clicking the submit button.

My friend's version of the website looks really different... what's up?

This is the dirty little secret of web development. Cross-browser compatibility is not really a problem. If you take the time to write professional grade code, all browsers since 2000 handle it almost identically. Cross-platform compatibility is not really a problem. Finding programs compatible with some operating systems can be a challenge, but browsers are so ubiquitious as to be commonly available and usually preinstalled on any system. The only thing that really sucks, the only real challenge to basic functionality on the internet today is something you probably never even think about... font support.

Unless there's some error in how your browser is pulling up our website (in which case, there are probably other sites that are also broken), the typical reason that the website looks dramatically different from one computer to another, is that the fonts available are different. While you may never consider the fonts used for articles you read on the web or in print, your reaction is typical and demonstrates the real power which font selection plays in the visual presentation of any piece of art. Our website uses the best practice of declaring a set of progressively less and less desirable fonts for various elements, so that your computer can pick the very best font you have installed on your computer and use it. Until font support improves, that's the best that Earth Chronicle or any website can do. So what can you do about it now? Actually, it's usually a simple matter to improve your font support; check out our user's guide to fonts for more information.

Common Earth Chronicle Tasks

The only thing that stays the same is that everything changes. We're a history website, and to a certain extent we can get away with posting a page on a particular topic and keep it around when it becomes obsolete in 50 years; while the information about the topic is no longer of accurate historical interest (ie as a secondary resource on the topic it is no longer useful), the page itself will be of historical interest about the state of knowledge at the time it was written (ie, it has value as a primary resource). However, using Earth Chronicle is not something we want you to be confused about. Everytime we tell you to check out the XHTML for a page, it does little good to tell you how to do it; then it would be written in 50,000 places across the website. Just try updating all those references when browsers decide the procedure should be done differently. So here is a description of typical tasks that we may refer to on the website; this gives us one place to keep information up to date, and you a reasonable belief the information you're looking at will actually work.

Checking out the Source Files (View Source)

There are only three technologies at work in webpages. We have lots of fancy stuff going on back at the server, but a browser only understands three main technologies: XHTML (the "webpage"), CSS (the stylesheets), and Javascript (the programming code). XHTML contains all of the webpage structure and contents and is the primary file you download (ie it's the one listed in the address bar, this webpage is FAQ.aspx). The XHTML "webpage" has to include a reference to any other files needed to make the page work like it's supposed to. The location of all files (e.g. images, stylesheets and programming code) are described by the webpage so that your browser can retrieve them. All of these materials are accessible to you (otherwise the page wouldn't work), if you only know how. So if you'd like to see how we've built a page, here's how you do it.

Viewing XHTML Source

This is easy. Virtually all browsers have a built-in View Source Command. Frequently, this is simply an option on the View menu or someplace in the menus of your browser. While different portions of a webpage may display different context menus when you right-click your mouse on them, a little experimentation should also provide you with a View Source option on the context menu. Some browsers even have a View Selection Source if you select a portion of the website you're interested in and right-click the selection. If available, this is usually an easy way to quickly identify how the XHTML of an interesting feature works.

Viewing Other Source Files

In the XHTML file, you'll find a references to a number of other files locations, like this...

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="all" title="ecStylesheet" href="CSS/ECPrimary.css" />
<script type="text/javascript" src="AllSites/Scripts/EarthChronicle.js"></script>

The first item is a linked stylesheet from the document head, it refers to a CSS file. The second item is a script include from the document foot, it refers to a Javascript file. Note that they each have a path defined for the file. These are XHTML elements on this page, so you can actually try this. The current URL in the address bar should be http://www.EarthChronicle.com/EC/FAQ.aspx or something similar. To view the CSS stylesheet at href="CSS/ECPrimary.css", simply delete the filename from the address bar (in this case "FAQ.aspx") and paste the reference to the end of the address. It should now read http://www.EarthChronicle.com/EC/CSS/ECPrimary.css. Hit enter and the file will appear. This document references other stylesheets. Simply repeat the process to view any stylesheet that you're interested in. Now try the same technique with the programming code. The script tag defines the file location in its "src" attribute but it makes no difference to how access the file? Can you pull up the Javascript code?

Taking Screenshots

I doubt there's anywhere we tell you to do this, but it's too cool and easy not to share. If you ever need an image of your screen, a screenshot, you probably can. Whether you're on Earth Chronicle, another website, or running any program. I know it works on most PCs, but I've been told there are similar techniques for Linux boxes and Macs.

On your keyboard there is a key labeled "Print Screen" or "prt scr" or something similar. You will note that you can press the button, and in fact nothing prints out. However, what Print Screen does do is save a screenshot. That's all there is to it, it's so easy that it's pretty unbelievable. Go ahead, try it. Then open up any program that can work with bitmap images. A paint program, an image editor, a decent word processor (Open Office Writer, MS Word, etc.). Then paste however, you're most comfortable doing it (personally I prefer the shortcut key Ctrl+V). That should be all you need to do to paste the screenshot into the document you're working on. You'll note this is not a "perfect" screenshot because your mouse cursor will not appear, but otherwise it's pixel for pixel. If you don't want a shot of the entire screen, but only the current window (or a small dialogue box), then press and hold the Alt key while you tap the Print Screen key. When you paste the screenshot into your document, it will only be the window or dialogue that was currently active rather than the entire screen.

Bitmap files are huge, so this is a lousy way to grab a favorite image. You can typically save image files by right-clicking them and / or "View Background Image" and then save. However, I'm amazed how helpful this can be and it has literally saved me hours. When I've had an important "view only" report generated by a desktop program that I needed to send someone, a quick print screen and save to an Open Office doc and it's ready to email. Or when I'm providing technical support to a friend and I need to see what they're looking at, they can show me. This is a really easy way for a client to show you how the website looks to them when you can't replicate a particular problem that they're having. I've actually worked back and forth like this: receive a screenshot, make some program adjustments, upload to the server, and have the client reload the page. I've simply repeated that procedure until the client is happy and I've saved myself literally days of communications and meetings.

Earth Chronicle Standards

Dates

Despite our best efforts to be clear, authoritative, and in most cases non-controversial, there are some issues you can't escape. We certainly will never shrink from including information on harsh topics like, Nazism, slavery, etc. With all these incredibly hot-button issues to choose from it may seem ironic that the first controversial position we have to take is on the format of dates. There are many local formats throughout the world, and on many issues it is our intention to support multi-lingual and multi-cultural settings as thoroughly as possible. We believe that variety makes for stronger ideas, better education, and superior experience. Supporting diverse cultures and languages is a key priority of Earth Chronicle, and we are always looking for new ways to reach for those goals. However, date format is something that is likely to converge, and having one format is in fact a critical communication tool for everyone, around the world in general and on Earth Chronicle specifically.

So the question becomes, what format should you use? There are two main formats in widespread use across the internet today. The US convention is the most common; it lists Month Day, Year (Thus, Earth Chronicle's birthday is April 6, 2005 or 04/06/05). Alternatively, the European convention has the advantage that it is more logical (running from the shortest unit of time to the longest), it lists Day Month Year (Thus, 6 April 2005 or 06/04/05). The European standard is also the format used by the MLA style manual, which is the basis of proofreading guidelines. So which have we used?

*sigh* Neither. These date conventions predate computers, and we believe that they are ultimately on the way out. The number one thing you generally want to do with dates (and that it's nice to have a computer do for you) is to sort them, usually in chronological order. While you can write fancy algorithms to cope with the US and European standards, every computer knows how to alphabetize and will naturally do so. Therefore, our format runs from longest unit of time to the shortest, so that dates (including times) sort alphabetically in proper chronological order. ie Year Month Day. Thus, our birthday is 2005/04/06 (April 6th). We are among a small but growing group that adopting the Alphabetical convention because it is so much easier to use in the computer age. MySQL, for example uses this convention; the backup files we create for our database are named "Backup 20091120 1244.sql" where 20091120, stands for 2009, November 20th.

It has been pointed out to us that the same ordering is also standardized in ISO 8601.

[chroniclemaster1, 2013/03/20]

AD vs. AH vs. CE (or... Why we don't use the Common Era)

For those of you familiar with the Common Era notation, you may or may not be happy to see that we don’t use it. First and foremost a notation system should be a standard that everyone agrees on; it's valuable because it facilitates communication and understanding. The Common Era notation hasn't done a good job of catching on, and we don't think it will survive. Second and more philosophically damning, the Common Era was created by people uncomfortable with the religious connotation of the BC (Before Christ) / AD (Anno Domini “Year of the Lord”) notation developed by early Christians. However, it's inventors tried to make conversion "easy" by preserving the traditionally accepted date of Christ's birth as the turning point in history. So... why were we supposed to go through all this trouble again??

A standard should be widely used and understood, therefore the only serious competition for the Christian notation using BC / AD is the Muslim calendar which recognizes Mohammad's flight from Mecca as year 1 AH (622 AD in the Christian notation). While the Muslim calendar does not have the same global reach as the Christian calendar, that is not a critical failing. Our date format Year Month Day, etc. is not the #1 most popular standard. However, this is a history website. The amount of research currently being done which uses the Christian notation dwarfs that being done in all other notations combined. The amount of information already available makes even more lopsided use of the Christian notation. We welcome articles discussing the cultural implications of global and regional colonialism for all cultures and at all periods of history. However, the point of a standard is to be standardized and universal; and the Christian notation best meets those criteria both in current usage as well as in the massive body of already existing research. Therefore, Earth Chronicle uses it site wide to allow users to most accurately and easily communicate.

ECAN Subject Codes (or Why the world does, in fact, need another library system)

Library classification systems are standards. They are functional if they are widely used by many people. By those criteria there are only two possible classification systems that we might use. First, there are the Dewey Decimal codes (technically, the Dewey Decimal Classification [DDC]) you may have learned in school or at your local library. Then when you went to college, you may have been subjected to the Library of Congress (LC) call numbers. The LC system was inappropriate because it is specialized. It was meant to work for the Library of Congress and no one ever anticipated other libraries might try to use it for their collections. The DDC is much more widepsread. However, like the LC it's quite difficult to use. The codes used have no obvious connection to the subjects they stand for. For example, in the LC system, encyclopedias are coded, AE, while dictionaries are coded, AG. In the DDC, Hans Christian Anderson is filed under 398 for fairy tales even though his works are fiction and shouldn't be classified with non-fiction at all; books on the history of Europe are filed under 940. If you haven't studied the system, there's no way to tell what it means. Nevertheless, the DDC is widely embraced and many people have had to cope with it's challenges. It works for libraries around the world. It is the standard, so that is most logically our preferred system.

So why, oh why, Oh Why are we using a completely new classification here!?

Dewey call numbers are the obvious choice to use at Earth Chronicle... so why didn't we? It's a good question that has a shocking answer. The Dewey Decimal Classification is copyrighted. That's right. This is one of the poster children for what is horribly wrong with the international copyright system. A brilliant man who was born in the 1800s and dedicated his life to libraries and the spread of information, Melville Dewey, created the world's most important classification scheme.

And you will be sued if you try to use it.

Everything on Earth Chronicle is public domain. This is not a matter of pride, though we are proud of it. It is perhaps our most important policy which allows all our visitors to know that they can actually use any text, images, HTML, etc., without having to ask someone's permission. Does it make sense to tell you to use anything Except our classification system? Obviously not. Who would even think to check that it was copyrighted? We didn't. We were looking for a detailed explanation of the DDC during implementation, only to run across the OCLC homepage trumpeting that any website must first apply to them for permission to use it. (The OCLC is one of the most important international library organizations.) A quick search turned up a number of lawsuits filed by the OCLC (which were all settled amicably) that proved that OCLC aggressively defends its right to license the DDC.

While there is clearly no problem with us filing for the right to use it, anyone copying our material would be at risk of a lawsuit. That's not the kind of website we want to create. So we're stuck creating our own system. *grumble* *grumble*

The Earth Chronicle Alpha-Numeric (ECAN) Subject Code is our solution. It is an Alpha-numeric code which means it uses both letters and numbers. To facilitate ease of use, we reject both the LC and DDC practice of using codes that are disconnected from the topic. If someone unfamiliar with the system has a shot at understanding what it means, why not at least make the attempt? Especially since ECAN is not a widely used standard at this time, as much as possible we try to have everything clearly labeled so that first time users have no difficulty using it. And it is Public Domain, like everything else here. So if you need it or want to use if for your website, GREAT! It's yours! Do what you need to do. Adapt it all you want, though if you do too good a job, we very well might want to borrow your changes. :)

Note: I'm hoping this will work like the w3.org's specification for HTML, as I understand it. You can add to and develop ECAN on your own, make changes, tweak it so that it fits your needs. However, everyone agrees it would be nice if ten years from now we can all still understand one another's systems. So if as you adapt ECAN for your own use, let us know what your changes and ideas are. We'll keep a master specification for the ECAN classification that everyone can reference. New changes will periodically be included or updated and obsolete portions will be removed. It is our intention that the master spec will serve as a basis to keep us all in the same ballpark.

Didn't find what you were looking for? We also recommend checking out our Reader's Guide to Earth Chronicle, for information about the website including some handy tips. You can also contact us, if you need help with something or have a question that we haven't covered.

Miscellaneous

Why is the time on your clock wrong?

We've attempted to develop the clock so that it best accommodates the many visitors we wish to serve from around the world. In order to do that, we can't set the time based on our server, which is tied to the time zone of our web host. Therefore we use Javascript to set the time on the clock. This allows it to borrow the information used by everyone's own computer. So your computer can set the clock to your own local time. However, if you have not set the time on your computer precisely, then this will naturally result in the Earth Chronicle clock being off by exactly the amount that your computer is. While we do specify the format of the date and time to be used (from largest time unit to smallest time unit) the actual information is provided by your computer, so you will need to update the time on your computer before our website will tell the correct time.