Footnotes appear in just about every research article, scientific publication, dissertation, law journal, business book, and other formal source of written knowledge. Like it or not, they represent the primary mechanism we use to assess the trustworthiness and reliability of the non-fiction we read.
Do you check the footnotes in the stuff you read? I don’t. I lack the time, energy or patience to:
- Copy/past a reference into a browser
- Hope for a hit on Google, head to the library if not
- Get an abstract, if I’m lucky
- Download or buy a source (if I get that far)
- Read the source
- Find and interpret the footnote reference
- Go back to whatever page was being read
It’s not that we don’t need a mechanism for readers to verify facts and sources. We need that desperately. Otherwise:
- Facts are unsupported
- Points unsubstantiated
- Answers unreliable
- Indecision and lack of evidence plague teams
- Everyone sits around fighting to be right
- Nothing gets done
What we need is one that works. That people actually use. How should this work? Here’s my wish-list of design requirements:
- Reader should have the same source access the author had (incorporated as metadata into the written work)
- Reader should be able to see the exact spot on the source doc the author references in under a second (a couple mouse-clicks)
- Reader should see evidence that the author in fact read the source docs (according to this study that’s a big problem)
- It should take zero extra effort for the author to create these references, and be integrated into their reading and writing process.
Welcome to Pandexio. This is how it works in our software, and we think it’s about time.
What do you think?
Agree or disagree?