Where documents go to die
The CERN Document Server or CDS is a piece of software only its coder could love. For the most part it fulfills its function of storing and organizing documents, and it is clear a lot of work has gone into it. But, sadly, I can’t recall ever thinking to myself “wow, this really makes my life easier.”
In the past I have never had good luck searching for documents. Even if I know that such a document exists. Even if I in fact authored the document. Even if I personally submitted the document, I have still had trouble finding the document. One solution, at least in the last case, is to use the “Your Submissions” page associated with your account. Here is roughly what you will see if you’ve submitted a note for approval,
If you click on the image and pop-up the full sized version you will be presented with a perfect reproduction of what the most critical part of this page looks like rendered in almost any browser. Go ahead and try to read that grey line, the characters are no more than 6 pixels high. The status column in this case reads “finished.”
Anticipating that the user will likely have hundreds of submissions, all of which she demands appear on one page and yet none of which she actually wants to be able to read, the designers have decided to employ the smallest font a browser can legibly render. Then they shrink the most critical information, the line listing the actual data such as document approval status and identification numbers, just a little bit more (technically, with HTML’s <small> tag).
This text, which is not quite entirely illegible, might be forgiven if it were not for the fact that not a single bit of data on that 6 pixel high line is linked to anything. At the very least you would think that the reference number would link to the full document record, and it certainly would be handy if the action and status values linked to more details about each. Instead, after waving my mouse around in utter disbelief every time I find myself on this page, I end up squinting as I select and copy the document reference number.
The search box is only located on a dedicated search page; because, really, who needs easy access to searches on a document server? I go find the search box and paste in the reference number.
This is the point at which one starts to feel a little cocky. As you paste this nice unique identifier into a box on that dedicated search page it seems as if the whole world is finally now wrapping around your finger. And in that moment between mouse-down and mouse-up, as the shaded relief of [search] inverts and reverts, it seems this “document server” is now finally, inevitably forced to unlock it secrets, maybe to even “serve a document” to you. But, alas, if you are like me and don’t always suffer through the fame and glory of publishing public documents and instead are content to be the only person to read and reread your internally published, verbose and yet highly specific yammering, then at this point you are greeted with
No public collection matched your query. If you were looking for a non-public document, please choose the desired restricted collection first.
WTF?! To see the list of “Your Submissions” I obviously am logged in. Why the fudge can’t CDS figure this out and search every damn collection that I have access to? Instead, even though I am the holder of both an authenticated session and a unique identifier for a document which I submitted myself, I am now forced to scroll through approximately 350 collections and make a guess as to which one my document is in. Thankfully, it is not hard to identify a few good possibilities, but these collections either need to be searched one at a time or each selected one at a time in separate pull-down menus before doing the search.