The Many Uses of Shortening

by Jonathan Jacobsen Tuesday, September 20, 2016 9:42 AM

Shortening is a wonderful thing: in baking it makes pies and cakes light and fluffy, and on the web, it makes long, unwieldy URLs short and manageable. This blog post is all about the second usage, but we can think about the first as we read it.

You might wonder why you should care about short URLs. After all, isn't a long one like 

http://www.cjhn.ca/en/experience/image-galleries/gallery.aspx?q=dolls&name=&topic=&setName=&year_tis=&numbers=MA+15&onlineMediaType_facet=Image

a perfectly good URL?

Sure, your web browser will have no trouble with that and will access the web site and cause it to run the search specified by all those parameters.

But what if you want to share this URL via email or on Twitter, or post it to a blog or Facebook. That URL is 144 characters, so it's not going to fit in a tweet.

Long URLs are often wrapped to two or more lines in an email and sometimes this breaks the URL itself, resulting in a bad link.

And, as the Canadian Jewish Heritage Network discovered recently, posting long URLs with many parameters to Facebook is problematic. When posting the URL above, Facebook stripped out all the equals signs, leaving a non-functioning URL. Who knows why Facebook would do this, but happily, there’s an easy workaround for this, one that lends itself well to emailing and tweeting long URLs too: URL shortening services.

As Wikipedia tells us, "URL shortening is a technique on the World Wide Web in which a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) may be made substantially shorter and still direct to the required page. This is achieved by using a redirect, often on a domain name that is even shorter than the original one, which links to the web page that has a long URL."

In practice, this means that a long URL such as

http://www.cjhn.ca/en/experience/image-galleries/gallery.aspx?q=dolls&name=&topic=&setName=&year_tis=&numbers=MA+15&onlineMediaType_facet=Image

can be shortened to something like

These fit handily in Tweets, blog posts, emails and are not edited by Facebook when posting there.

You might now ask, is this the same as a permalink? Well, it is a link, and a short one, so it’s close, but there's no guarantee of permanence, as you're reliant on a third-party service to keep the redirect in place indefinitely. Although that may happen, it's probably better to think of these as short but disposable URLs, like a post-it note you stick on a desk or document pointing at something.

Some of the most common URL shortening services are: 

So when you next need to send or post a long URL, especially one with lots of parameters and query strings, give one of these a try.

Canadian Medical Association Develops New PTMA PolicyBase

by Denise Bonin Monday, September 17, 2012 11:49 AM

PTMAQuickSearchPageProvincial and territorial medical associations (PTMA) in Canada set policies on various issues such as emergency room overcrowding, nurse practitioners, electronic medical record keeping, prescription drug usage, etc. for their particular jurisdiction. The Health Policy and Research (HP&R) department of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) was asked to create a repository of these policy documents and make them available to all PTMAs. The library was already managing a database of CMA policies and was asked by HP&R to set up a similar database for the PTMAs.

Andornot worked with the CMA library team, led by Reference Librarian Elizabeth Czanyo, and the association’s IT department, to set up a password protected database using the Andornot Starter Kit (ASK), DB/TextWorks and WebPublisher PRO, with the following features:

    • Full text document searching and display
    • Link to PDF document
    • Referring URL security
    • Email, Save and Print cart
    • Permalinks to each policy
    • Search, display and cart all in same template
    • Bilingual: English and French
    • Search result sorting by Title, Date and PTMA Author

Now researchers at each PTMA can access and compare policies from various jurisdictions, assisting them in the creation of their own policies.

Elizabeth Czanyo says, “I think the database will be a useful tool for our provincial partners, and help them collaborate in policy creation across the country. Working with Denise Bonin and her team at Andornot was great – they were fast, professional and really knew their stuff!”

Have you checked out Pinterest yet?

by Kathy Bryce Thursday, January 19, 2012 9:45 PM

There has been a flurry of articles recently discussing the rapidly increasing popularity of Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/ ) and trying to figure out how this could be utilized by businesses or other organizations.  Apart from this angle, it’s worth checking out for the design of the interface itself.  PinterestScreenShot1Users create “boards” for their topics of interest and “pin” images that they find on the web or upload from their digital photos.    The site is still by invite only, but once registered you can browse boards created by others and follow them and your friends.  (From a librarian’s perspective the search is so far a letdown, and is very rudimentary.)

Anyone with special collection databases with images may expect that their images could be pinned and repinned. For example there are many boards under the History category on fashion, i.e. Hoop Era Dresses – “a stash of Victorian dresses from the 1850s and 1860s”, or The Way We Wore: The 1940's. 

Pinterest Screen ShotEach of the pinned images has a link back to the originating website, so you may start to see links from Pinterest showing up in your website stats. This makes it all the more important to provide easy to find permanent URL’s for the record describing your image if these are only accessible through a database. ( The images from the board pictured here are from the New Westminster Archives.) 

Check out our blog post on How to replace those long canned query URLs with short, memorable ones which describes how to create these Permalinks, or contact us for help.

The Pinterest Mission statement reads "Our goal is to connect everyone in the world through the 'things' they find interesting. We think that a favorite book, toy, or recipe can reveal a common link between two people. With millions of new pins added every week, Pinterest is connecting people all over the world based on shared tastes and interests."

Are you using Pinterest yet? If you have set up a board for your organization, let us know the details and we’ll add a note about it to this post.

Other references:

Tags: permalinks

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