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Embedded Citations

Idea and Reason for Embedded Citations

There are a few issues with creating a system that promotes having documents that can be easily cited. One of the most important is to show the permalinks to the whole document or each fragment so that it is easy to either copy the link or to copy the fragment with a link embedded back to the original fragment. The hope is to come up with a system that can gracefully degrade to HTML only and still be useful. 

Another aspect is that if a section that self-cites is copied, the link/cite is preserved. This saves the copier from needing to remember to add the citation. It also would allow mashups to use URLs to document fragments to always automatically cite back to the original content (of course, the software could also expose the XQuery or other auditable method that was used to grab the content too). 

An "Organic" Self Citation Method for XHTML

Many years ago, I tried to make sense of the <cite> tag and the <blockquote> tag's cite attribute. Oddly to me only the attribute citation was supposed to be a URL. In any case the <cite> tag, although not much uses, is supposed to reference a source. However, I've come back to the <cite> tag, because there is no reason that a citation cannot be its to its own content, and therefore does not break the semantic purpose intended by HTML. 

And it provides a wrapper that can be copied and used without creating a new standard for HTML citations. My previous idea for notating that a section was to be cited was to use the class attribute designation. Unfortunately that made the whole section actionable as the citation which created problems when there were nested citations--a big problem for using CSS or Javascript on only one section with a citation (in this way the <cite> tag works like the deprecated anchor tag, but without the problems incipient in that use of the anchor tag). 

One way may be to use a combination of the <cite> tag with the <a href=""> tag, both within the section that had an id attribute. There would be a link to the section from within the section. The <cite> tag would be a way to allow CSS and/or Javascript to use the tag to allow for usability enhancements. For example, there could be use of :hover or to toggle the cites from visible to not visible. The link within the <cite> tag could be easily copied like any other link or when a section of the document including that section is copied into an HTML aware editor, the copied section would include the link and possibly the <cite> tags.

I have tried this out with a few HTML editors including Kupu (native Plone editor) and Google Docs. Some HTML editors preserve the <cite> tag, but all preserve the <a href=""> tag. Text only clipboard would bring only the human readable parts which might give hints if it was included on purpose. XQuery and XPath functions would preserve everything if the fragment was identified. 

Note that the <a href=""> tag can include the "rel" attribute that may give insight into the role of the link within the document. (see: )



Paragraph that has embedded cite This is the second paragraph. Please feel free to make a citation to this page fragment or to copy the paragraph with the citation embedded.

HTML code for above paragraph:

<p id="paragraph-embed-cite"><cite>
<a title="Embedded Citations" href=
Paragraph that has embedded cite</a>&nbsp;</cite>
This is the second paragraph. Please feel free to make 
a citation to this page fragment or to copy the paragraph 
with the citation embedded.</p>


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