Urantia Foundation Broke the Links to Their Online Urantia Book

One of the first rules about the world of hypertext: YOU DON'T CHANGE THE LINKS!

broken linksWhen the Urantia Foundation re-did their online Urantia Book a while back, they CHANGED ALL THE LINKS. So, now, none of those carefully-laid-in links from Mindful Webworks works. Well, that's not quite true. Links which just go to the Papers' web pages proper work, at least the few I've tested, but not any of the internal links, which refer to specific sections or paragraphs. ARGH!

I tried to help them be digitally smart, as far back as the pre-Internet CompuServe days, and could tell they were being digitally dumb. The fellow, can't remember his name, who was then preparing their first "official" digital version of the UB was a nice guy, enthusiastic about the task and its technical minutiae in good old geek fashion, and was fun to talk with. I was encouraging the Foundation to have a presence on Religion Forum on CompuServe, and he agreed this was a good idea. (This was as the Foundation was functioning primarily from abject digitized fear, and was fiercely battling the bootlegged searchable digital version Kristen Maaherra circulated. Some in the Foundation seemed to be afraid that that little set of 5-inch floppy disks would somehow bring down the Foundation and disrupt the unity of the movement, which as it turned out became a self-fulfilling prophecy.) Talking with Martin Myers about the UB's digital presence, though, was like trying to light a fire underwater with soggy matches. In the rain. During Biblical Noah's flood.

Historic Timeline of Events in the Revelation Community 1981-1995:
1991 Urantia Foundation initiates legal action against Kristen Maaherra for creating and giving away an electronic index to The Urantia Book.
1992 Martin Myers dismissed as Trustee of Urantia Foundation
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After my visit to the Foundation and that disappointing -- almost scary -- encounter with Martin Myers, I prepared a page of artwork for UB Comix that took the poster from one of the Halloween horror flicks, probably Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), and basically substituted Martin for Michael. (I've never seen any of that series; I have no use for the terror, gore, and horror genre at all. It was purely inspired by the name and the reputation Martin had as the bad guy.) It wasn't a very effective piece, not funny, and rather mean-spirited, I suppose. Might've got me sued! I might have ended up not using it, but... I have all sorts of old UB Comix notes and scripts and sketches and I never throw any of them away, but all of that vanished without a trace! I swear the Midwayers took that finished artwork and all the work-up pieces of it right off my art table!

Of all the stupid moves the Foundation has made, changing the links has to be one of the stupidest. How long will it take me to re-work just the framed study version of UB Comix #7!!

One of the first rules about the world of hypertext: YOU DON'T CHANGE THE LINKS! Mindful Webworks has been on four different sites, including, finally, MindfulWebworks.com, and all the web page links still work, redirecting from its former homes on Sprynet, CableOne, and us75.com, to the current site. Actually, I found some people on a website, I think it was Korean, linked, not to the web pages proper, but directly to UB Comix graphics, which is a hyperlink no-no, and those links are broken. It would have been prohibitively difficult to redirect every single graphic, so those old links to graphics are and forever will remain broken, but all links to the old-site web pages forward to the current location of that page.

YOU DON'T BREAK THE LINKS! There's lots of news sites that don't understand this rule, and their old pages to which I linked years ago have been re-URL'd or removed. But newspapers are notorious for not understanding the web. This is why your newspaper is dying!

Unlike periodicals, the Urantia Foundation has one main text, and you'd think they would have learned YOU DON'T BREAK THE LINKS! Even more annoying, they've added what look like internal links [e.g. "(1772.1) 160:0.1"] where, when you hover over the "160:0:1," an underline appears as if it were a link, but it's not! You can't right-click and copy-link on any of those. Whoever re-designed their online book didn't make the links the current right way. They used the old method of using a link tag like <a name="U160_0_1">. The "name" parameter is available only on "a" tags (the basic hypertext link tag), and has long ago been deprecated in favor of the "id" parameter, which can be added to any HTML tag. It's technical, but it's significant for a major recent re-write. And there's yet some other, different reason why these links don't work as live links, because even deprecated, they should, but don't.

If you know how, you can reconstruct internal links to each paragraph. For example, that link to Paper 160, introductory section, paragraph 1, ends with "paper-160-rodan-alexandria#U160_0_1" -- you just add paper, section, paragraph numbers, e.g. "#U160_0_1" (note the leading "#U" and the underscores), to the end of the paper's URL to create most internal paragraph links. Linking to section headers, the last number is a zero. But that's not intuitive, and the average non-techie web user is not going to know how to do that.

It's so annoying. They not only changed all the links, they changed them badly in multiple ways.

I used to link only to the Foundation's book using the same logic that caused me to buy a Radio Shack computer in the Spring of 1979, instead of that odd-looking alternative named after a fruit: I figured the Radio Shack company was big, in good standing, would be around a long time, and therefore would be able to be available for service if I needed it and would be upgrade-friendly. Wrong! Radio Shack came out with the utterly different Model II and then the supposedly-similar Model III which was not backwardly-compatible with all the software developed for the original Model I, and in other ways blew their lead in home computing. Us non-fruity computeys mostly went on to the similar IBM/MS-DOS line, and eventually were stuck in Windows™. Similarly, I thought, the Foundation's book, being the old-guard and the official, will always be online, and reliably WILL ALWAYS HAVE THE LINKS. Wrong!

YOU DON'T CHANGE THE LINKS! ARRRGGGHH! I'd complain to the Foundation, but what would they do about it? They're not going to roll it back, or put in the old links as well as the new (which, if you must re-do the links would have been the way to go). The toothpaste is already out of the tube, the horse is out of the barn, the new version is paid for, and people are presumably linking to it now. It's too late! I just have to re-do practically every link to The Urantia Book I ever put on my web pages! First I need to figure out whether I still want to link to the stodgy, stumbling old Foundation, or to some other unreliable, unstable, likely-to-screw-me-around site. The Foundation has hyperlinks noting the various printed-version changes, which changes were not cool, but having them hyperlinked is supercool, and you can toggle their version to have Jesus words in red, which is meh. There may be for-some-reason better versions of the book online now than the Foundation's. But if the Foundation is unreliable, so is everybody else. I now TRUST NO ONE!

Okay, got that off my chest. Whew.