Pangs of Rebirth
Being reborn into a new body, as the teachings of several faiths testify, is no easy matter. Our transfer this month to a new ISP revealed an unpleasant and potentially lethal problem with this site. Under the old system, it did not matter whether the URLs (Web addresses) of our pages were capitalized or not. For several reasons, our URLs were usually but not always capitalized, and readers who have bookmarked or linked to this site probably have capitalized URLs.
The new system, though, is case-sensitive; it distinguishes between WWW.GREENBELT.COM/NEWS/IC.HTM and www.greenbelt.com/news/ic.htm. Since we had to make a choice, we switched to the prevailing Web tradition and made all of our URLs lowercase. As a result, any reader who has bookmarked or linked to us should check the bookmark or link. If any portion of the URL is capitalized, the capital letters need to be changed to lowercase.
Computer-savvy readers will by now be muttering, "Wait a minute. But that means . . ." Yes, indeed. It means that every single one of our internal links, which were capitalized, now ceased to function. To sense the scale of this disaster, readers should understand that this site contained 276 pages as of the last issue, and the January home page alone contained 21 internal links. Normally, this would have spelled the end of Greenbelt Interfaith News.
This magazine, though, is a member of Greenbelt Internet Access Cooperative, through whom we rent our Web space. Last summer, when "FTP" and "dial-up programs" were mysterious incantations to us, GIAC's Webmaster, Neil McLeod, patiently walked us through the steps of placing our magazine on the Web, going so far as to spend three hours one afternoon assisting us through a house call. (House call, n., a visit [as by a doctor or a repair person] to a home to provide a requested service. Word now obsolete.)
Since that time, members of GIAC's officials have done quiet, behind-the-scenes work to improve the quality of service to this site and others like it. Among the improvements was this switch to a new ISP, and rather than simply leave each member to his own devices, the officials set out to make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone. Mr. McLeod was especially busy dealing with such matters as the capitalization problem, which affected several sites. He could have well have been forgiven if he had dealt with his many other duties and allowed our magazine to struggle through this crisis as best it could. Instead, Mr. McLeod volunteered to use his computer equipment to change every internal link to lowercase. Because of various problems with our page-naming scheme, this required him to manually supervise many of the changes. At the end of all this, he paid another house call to take us through the final steps of the change.
We are not given to moralizing in this space, since the articles in this magazine offer more than enough moral lessons. The lesson of this episode, though, should not be hard to identify. Every day, on the Web and in the rest of the world, people silently and unobtrusively do work that goes unnoticed (unless something goes wrong) but that keeps projects such as this one alive. Our visible achievements would not exist without these invisible midwives and nurses.
© 1998 Heather Elizabeth