I entered myself in a dog show yesterday. I actually meant to enter my DOG in the dog show, but when I looked at the entry confirmation after registering on the web, I realized that under "name of dog" it said "Cindy L. Chick." Now, that's a problem. My dog is considerably better bred than I am, and I simply don't have the qualifications specified in the Belgian Tervuren standard. So how did someone who is fairly web literate do something so stupid?
Here's the story. When I clicked on Roboform to have it enter my credit card number, it also blanked out my dog's name and popped my name into the "name" field. Why didn't I notice? Since I was only able to see a few of entry boxes on the screen at any one time, it was easy to lose context. So I didn't notice the error because I was at the bottom of the screen, while "name of dog" box was on the top, invisible to me because it had scrolled out of sight. While on a hard copy form you could easily see all of it at a glance, a long web page just isn't quite as scan-able.
Why am I sharing this lapse with you? Because I think it's illustrates the inherent difficulty in scanning information on a computer screen. There's a limited amount of text you can get on one screen. And I think this is also the difficulty in using treatises online. I wonder if anyone has studied the speed with which one can scan a treatise, jumping quickly from the table of contents to the index to the text, versus scanning it on a computer screen. I was particularly thinking about this issue after reading "Out of the Jungle: How to get beyond the digital v. print debate - and deal with the fact that digital won" by James G. Miles. (AALL Spectrum, Feb. 2005.)