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Category: HyperGlossary

Glossaries. Over Coffee.

Mark and Chris and I had a long discussion about glossaries where we ended up with the simplified dialog box shown here.

The logic is that the user creates a new entry, as in the case of an entry for ‘Mark Anderson’ here. The text [in the hard brackets] is the brief summary which will appear if the reader chooses to view brief summaries. The main body text is full rich text, which the user can enter URLs into etc. and where any mentioned Glossary entries will be interactable.

There is further an option to save this entry into the person’s glossary or just keep it for this document only.

The Botton underlined ‘Mark’ is showing what other text strings will activate this glossary.

Glossary Logic: If the glossary entry is two or more words long, even though it can also be spawned on one (as shown in the screenshot in the blog entry referred to above), then if the single word spawn is followed by a capitalised word, it will not spawn. This is so that an entry can be for a name and if the author refers to another name where the first name is the same as what’s in a glossary entry, but has a different last name, it will not interfere.


Chris’ notes:


Audio record of the meeting (marked private):


And Chris’ notes via email later:


What we see here is the representation of a kind of relationship object which relates the following:

A search term within a scope [ “Mark” within the scope of the whole document ]

A (liquid) text #1 “Anderson Southampton PhD Student”. This is constrained to contain no structural elements (paragraphs etc.) but can have other elements (links, bold, etc.)

A (liquid) text string #2 “Mark Anderson\nHe is also at Southampton…”. This is constrained that it is a titled article, so the first text in the string must be a heading. The dialogue has chosen to place the rendering of the heading in a different part of the form, but editing it edits the text.

There is a heading relationship/range/whatever we call markup in this system, defined as the Mark Anderson text range at the start of text #2 to the end of character 13, indicating this is a title of level 1 within the article. This constrains the content that it may not contain additional markup. It also implicitly designates a section which exists between the start of this heading and the end of the flow of text, or the next title of the same or higher-level.


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Smart Glossaries

Friday I went to the Groucho where I met Joe and we discussed the glossary opportunities, as I started with Mark and Chris earlier in the week. Here are my notes as developed over Easter Weekend:

Problems Addressed

One of the issues with writing something within your field is that, as an author, you are likely to have written something about what you are about to write and it can easily feel like you are duplication efforts and this can be a real source of frustration, something I first noticed when working with Doug. It would be worthwhile to define something once, in a glossary, and then have this available for reuse later. 

Another issue that as a reader, a document in a different field than your own where terms may be used that you are not used to or used in ways you are not used to. 

Both of these problems can be addressed within the framework of a modern glossary system. 


The notion of re-use writing and of writing in smaller chunks and then linking it together is not new and in some ways it seems this is what many feel hypertext is about. This glossary implementation can support such an approach. 


A glossary is a collection of glosses, which are “word inserted as an explanation, translation, or definition,” (Harper)

A glossary is not a definition in any objective way. In a narrow sense it can be seen as an elucidation of specific text written by a specific author in a specific document. It would not be stretching the definition of a glossary to allow an author to build a glossary over time and to 

The notion is to build a glossary (a ‘gloss’ of person meaning, not a dictionary) for an author, as you go along authoring documents, and the glossary is then appended to a document on  publish, with levels of information visible as the reader requires. 


Assigning Glossary Entries to Keywords

The author selects the text which needs a glossary entry and cmd-y(or ‘l’, not determined yet) to produce the Glossary Dialog (as outlined below). In this dialog the author has rich options for assigning glossary meaning but only the ‘Short/Twitter Description’ () summary is required. 

A way to enter a person is a bit different from entering a place or concept, since the full name of the person should not be in the Short description since the first name would then be doubled if shown inline, as you can see in the example.


Over time the author’s glossary will grow and be re-useable. The user can at any time access previously added glossary items to edit or delete them. The user can also choose to add to glossary entries over time. 


On publishing the document all the words in the document which have glossary entries are highlighted in order for the author to review the text in case some are contextually wrong. A simple click on a word disconnects it from the glossary (if a mistake is made, a click on the word will automatically re-connect it).

The published document will get a document with a ‘Glossary’ section appended at the end, so that the reader can choose to read the glossary before reading the rest of the document. The reader can interact with the glossary text at will as well, including having an option to have every glossary term highlighted on first occurrence.  


• Without the glossary expanded, the text looks like this, same as the introduction to this blog post: 

Friday I went to the Groucho where I met Joe and we discussed the glossary opportunities, as I started with Mark and Chris earlier in the week.

• Showing only text in the ‘Short/Twitter Description’ summary inline in the text, after each occurrence. This is a reader option and can be applied to any arbitrary section of the document, it does not have to be the whole document BTW, The last example has the number 15 in brackets and that refers to the week number, a number used in Norway more than in England.

Friday (the 15th of April 2017) I (Hegland, PhD Student Southampton) went to the Groucho (a media club in Soho, London, of which I am a member and I love it there) where I met Joe (Corneli, University of Edinburgh) and we discussed the glossary opportunities (re-inventing glossaries as discussed in my blogs), as I started with Mark (Anderson, PhD Student Southampton) and Chris (Gutteridge, EC Southampton) earlier in the week (15).

• And this is what it would look like if non-expanded but interacting with the word ‘Joe’, perhaps simply by mouse-over/pointing to the text or clicking on it:

Friday I went to the Groucho where I met Joe (Corneli, University of Edinburgh) and we discussed the glossary opportunities, as I started with Mark and Chris earlier in the week.

• Here I have bolded the text ‘glossary opportunities’ has been marked to highlight, to show the reader that it has a glossary definition attached:

Friday I went to the Groucho where I met Joe and we discussed the glossary opportunities, as I started with Mark and Chris earlier in the week.

Create New Glossary Entry : Dialog

Selected  Keyword Appears As Heading

Category: [        ]  this field acts very much like assigning tags in macOS: user can click on a list or add new

Short/Twitter Description (if person’s name, only last name, then description): ( ) this is what would appear in-sentence if reader-requested

Fuller Glossary (If person’s name, start with full name): [        ] 

Appended Comments: [        ] This only appears when opening a previously created glossary item

Highlight? • whether or not this should be highlighted in the text on first appearance, if the author wants to emphasise this to the reader

Uses: [        ] how this text should be used

Related words: [        ]  related words to click to also see

First used in the sentence: Automatic inclusion

URL to this Entry: Automatically generated

Mathematical logic: [        ]

Programming logic/code: [        ]

Show what this word is (dictionary lookup) such as verb etc. (user editable): 

Very Experimental

Logic: [        ] this is where the system uses logic to infer what the text should really read:

Here • Use the current location when authoring

At a specific Date in the future. Change grammar when passed this date.

Automatically Assigned

URL to this entry is fixed to the bottom of the dialog (with  a ‘glossary’ tag): http:…. &glossary

Who has referred to this entry/cited it: [  Pop-Up Menu or List \/]



There needs to be ways to store the entries and retrieve them over a network. Where the entries are stored should be flexible however, and the user should be able to set this.

Multi User

The system should allow for multi-user systems, such as in a research team.


Allowing the author to add to a glossary easily lets the author build up a series of statements which can then be re-employed for a reader or for the author automatically, again and again. In some ways this is an angle of writing ‘hyper textually’ but it does not imply the complicated linkages which mid-90s hypertext notions wrestled with.

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Chris, Mark & Glossaries

I met with Chris Gutteridge and Mark Anderson for lunch in Southampton today (Chinese, quite good) and we talked mostly about glossaries, after discussions on how much of academia is nonsense, or at least sub-optimally designed. Chris said something like Scholarly communications should in support of the Scientific method. This is not at all the case today though. Science and Academia are very different but academia should at least support the scientific method. I like that. 

BTW, guys, when I refer to your names, there should be a way for you to be notified or a site for you should list it maybe? Anyway, that’s another challenge. 


When mostly talked about glossary systems, taking some time to agree on terminology and then use cases. 

It became clear that this is something which we are passionate about so we really hacked into it. 

We discussed several perspectives and decided that the system should be net based, not just local, so as to be able to deal with group glossaries and working from multiple devices. 


To make a glossary entry you can enter it into whatever front end system you are using, just like making a note card. If you are in a word processor or a system like that and you want text in your document to become glossary entry, simply select it, keyboard shortcut/menu choice and ‘Assign As Glossary Term’ and you get the same dialog box, which you can add text to as well as links and this is important: the Glossary frame/document will have exactly the same interactions available as a regular document. 

We decided that only the glossaries which are in the document text will be appended to the document when it is published. The glossary will be appended to the document at the end of the document, under a ‘Glossary’ header. This will enable the reader to skip down to the glossary and learn new terms, if desired. This method is also computer-understandable so any enabled reader software will be able to show the glossary entry when text with a glossary entry for it is interacted with somehow. 

There was a suggestion that the first occurrence of text with a glossary entry attached will be bolded or something else visually, to indicate that it has a glossary entry. My wife Emily thought this might make the document a bit messy, if there are a lot of entries in the glossary, so this is up for testing. IF, however, a term merits special attention, it can of course be manually bolded or have a Comment° attached to it.



The benefits of such a system would be to allow someone to write a clear and concise document without having to explain every specialist term, which could make documents more clear and concise.. It would furthermore benefit readers who are new in a field.

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