Thursday, June 03, 2010

Links make the post...

I have been on a crusade to get more links into ag blogs and web reading in general.  (And I mean non-interrupting links - not "http://www.obscure_article_17748239204_rvsgyy.html")Links are the single most powerful improvement in  online writing compared to paper, IMHO.

Traditionalists are pushing back, but getting their comeuppance from masters of blogging like Felix Salmon.

But for all that, links belong in hypertext. Indeed, they’re integral to it. Without links, blogs cease to be a part of the conversation and become instead essays with footnotes, a bit like Wikipedia articles. (And even Wikipedia, which puts links at the end of its articles, also makes very clear exactly which bit of the text each link is linking from.)
A blog entry with links at the bottom has aspirations to being self-contained, like say a newspaper column: the links are optional extras. I never have such aspirations and anybody looking to make full use of the power of the internet is doing themselves a huge disservice if they start thinking that way. In these days of tabbed browsing, there’s a difference between clicking and clicking away: most of us, I’m sure, control-click many times per day while reading something interesting, letting tabs accumulate in the background as we find interesting citations we want to read later.
Someone writing online should no more put their links at the end of their essay than a university professor should first give the lecture and then run through the slides. It makes no logical sense, and it does no good for the consumer of the information. So let’s nip this meme in the bud, and encourage the likes of Barry Ritholtz to always put their links where they belong, in the text, not buried at the bottom of the blog entries, where they’re easy to miss, or where they’d just pile up cacophonously if there were many of them. [More]
My suspicion is we are only beginning to understand how powerful this communication form is. More importantly, I think any online journalism short of outright fiction will soon be considered suspect unless links are available to support assertions and opinions.

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