The NLM’s Ted Stevens moment

FAILThe NLM has published a comprehensive set of guidelines for citing email, usenet, websites. It’s great that they’re attempting to come up with some standard rules, but one has to wonder if the group coming up with the proposed rules has ever used our fine series of tubes.

There’s a number of issues with their recommendations, some egregiously bad, some just kinda funny. For example, they have one set of rules for citing websites, and a different set of rules for citing electronic mail and discussion forums. This, in itself isn’t so strange, but look at the subcategories in each case:


  • Homepages
  • Parts of Websites

    Electronic mail and discussion forums

  • Electronic Mail
  • LISTSERVs and Similar Discussion Lists
  • Blogs
  • Wikis
    Apparently “homepages” are somehow different from other Websites, and both are altogether different from blogs and wikis, which don’t even merit inclusion in the Website category. Email gets cited one way, except if it’s an email from a mailing list. That categorization is but a harbinger of the confusion shortly to become apparent.

    For example, while one might cite a part of a website with the full URL to the cited page, the rules for blogs call for only citing the front page. Never mind that blogging is responsible for the invention of the permalink as we know it today. Mention of URIs or DOIs is nowhere to be found.

    That’s the seriously wrong stuff, but as I said, there’s some humor to be found as well. The content type of these sources is given as “blog on the internet” or “discussion list on the internet“.