Seen and unseen

The image I had of computer programmers was someone hunched over their computer typing in a stream of numbers. This module has changed my outlook somewhat. I now know it is not a stream of numbers but a stream of words and symbols incomprehensible to the normal reader. At first. It is a simple matter to familarise one’s self with programming. There are many tutorials on the Internet. There are quite a few programming languages used by programmers but the main ones used on the internet are HTML, XML, CSS and JavaScript.

HTML stands for Hyper Text Mark-up Language. It is a language that uses tags to ‘mark-up‘ text. It is mainly used in web pages. Browsers automatically convert HTML into the web pages we normally see. HTML mainly describes the display of text in a web page. XML is an extension of that. It uses tags to describe the data on a web page. CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. It is also used to describe the look of a web page. However, JavaScript is the programming language mainly used on the web. It is a language that allows multiple uses and dynamic interaction.

These are just the background to what goes before a web page is created. For a web page to be seen, nowadays there is an application program interface (API). This is a software that allows the dynamic interactivity we enjoy on the Internet today. Google and Twitter among other websites allow their APIs to be used on other websites. For this module, we were given a chance to create a Twitter API. It is what allows the Twitter timeline to be shown on this blog. (It should be in the header bar. If you click the three horizontal lines over the header picture. A space will open up.)

Anyway, the title of this post is Seen and unseen. In today’s world, there are a lot of things that are so convenient that we no longer consider the work that went into it. The Internet is a prime example but any technology can be used to demonstrate this point. However, there are people who do jobs that become just as invisible. Librarians are one example. Most people walk into a library and see the books lining the shelves, chairs and tables arranged so people can study and the computers providing Internet access. There may be a person or (perhaps persons) behind the circulation desk and another behind an information desk. That is what people see.

Behind that though, is the organisation and cataloguing of the books, the arranging on the shelves and the preparation of the library for visitors. Some people may think of these things in appreciation. Even further behind that is the training and studying librarians go through. That is what I am learning now.

The first two paragraphs dealt with computer programming. Librarians nowadays now need to know these things because the world is connected through the Internet and websites use these items. In order to help patrons in the library with their myriad needs, a librarian must even have a basic knowledge of computer programming. This module doesn’t teach us how to program but it does teach us how to recognise it and the basic forms and uses of the various program languages in use. This will especially come in handy when handling electronic material which librarians are doing in ever increasing numbers these days. Many books and journals are published online and of course it would behoove librarians to make these available to the general public.


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