[The Montana Professor 14.2, Spring 2004 <http://mtprof.msun.edu>]

Notes from the Webmaster's Desk

Steve Lockwood

Most readers of The Montana Professor print edition know we also post an online version at <http://mtprof.msun.edu>. What you might not know is how widely this Internet version is viewed, and what advantages the online version offers our authors.

This online presence provides our authors with much greater exposure than they might have imagined. Since appearing online in May 1998, the TMP web page counters have registered over 450,000 page hits. According to the server logs (which record the origin and nature of queries), most of these are from users searching for particular terms through a search engine like Google.com or Yahoo.com or dmoz.org (the Open Directory project). Some are sentence-like entries (e.g., "Native + American + treaties + broken + by + the + federal + government") and some are typical Boolean searches (e.g., "sea + hawks AND NOT football"). It would be interesting to hear from any of our authors who have checked citation indices and found their work cited elsewhere after it appeared in the TMP. The logs indicate that our journal literally has a world-wide audience, one interested in the academically-connected subjects examined in our pages.

The online TMP offers several other advantages. We have far more flexibility with the web version than the print one, with color and images (including tables), both of which features raise printing costs substantially more than web costs. Authors are encouraged to keep this flexibility in mind as they submit pieces, and to include whatever illustrations, charts, and photographs they deem necessary, indicating which (if any) they think absolutely must accompany the piece in print. Editors then will decide which to include only in the web version. In fact the day may arrive, as it has for newspapers, when the print TMP refers readers to the online version for additional content. Also in the web version we try to catch and correct the few errors that sometimes creep into the print version, despite the constant vigilance of our editors. And of course we fix errors introduced by authors themselves, such as incorrect dates or misspelled proper names. Here again authors can help us by checking their URL references to make sure they're valid when they submit work. We try mightily to include working links to documents outside our web site so visitors can simply click a reference and be transported there. Catching such errors is one of the reasons we encourage our authors to read the online version, and e-mail us if they spot anything awry.

We continue to work through the back issues, digitizing the articles and images, coding them, and posting them on our site. This takes a considerable amount of time since very few electronic files exist for the first five years of the journal. Those early issues are slowly being retyped or scanned (when the condition of the newsprint used in the first four volumes permits such handling) into digital form. We are now working on 1991, the first year of publication.

In the future, as we streamline the process of digitizing all submitted materials, we expect to reduce the gap between the printing of the TMP and its posting on the web site. (Despite the near certainty of Murphy's Law intervening in any computerized project, we're optimists.) This summer we plan to alter the TMP home page somewhat to take advantage of more modern browsers. We've deliberately kept the online pages plain to accommodate text-only browsers and to simplify printing the articles from a browser. Most of these changes will be visible only on the TMP home page and are aimed at clarifying site navigation. Others will help search engines to index more efficiently the articles and reviews that appear in our pages, thereby making them even more readily available to our online visitors. Still others might depend on our authors' wishes. For example, if an author wishes to hear directly from readers, we could include his e-mail address as a clickable link.

Like the print version, the web TMP depends on all-volunteer effort, and we extend our thanks to the students and faculty members who have helped us. If you have any suggestions or comments, please let us know. As always, your feedback is welcome.

[The Montana Professor 14.2, Spring 2004 <http://mtprof.msun.edu>]

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