My second-favorite feature of webpages is hyperlinking. (My favorite is the ability to correct errors after publication. Enhances the illusion of infallibility in a most satisfactory way.) Links are what make webpages uniquely useful and informative. If it weren't for them, we might as well just exchange Word docs.
Links let me do two very important things. The first is that they save me the trouble of reinventing the wheel, authorially speaking. If I think readers need to review background material that I've written previously I don't have to write it again nor expect them to dig up back issues, like I would with a print magazine. I just provide a link. It saves me time because I don't need to rewrite material that was already satisfactorily explained. It saves readers time because if they're not really interested in the subject or know it backwards and forward, they don't have to wade through 500 words of repeated material to get to the point.
The second thing links let me do is build on information. Knowledge isn't inherently subdividable into self-contained kiloword chunks. Many of my articles assume, of necessity, that you are familiar with information I've provided before. Some topics get followed over many articles, spread out in time. Links connect you to the necessary background material. Make use of them, please, especially before asking questions or posting comments. As often as not, you'll find your query's already been addressed.
I know there are some readers who don't like this. They would like all the pertinent information to be self-contained and in one location. But, honestly, it's just plain not possible. Not without making each and every article intractably long. Not to mention wasting my time reinventing/writing that same wheel. I mean, it's not like I write just to hear myself talk.
(Well, okay, I do write just to hear myself talk. But after I've heard myself say something once, I'm bored with me. Short attention span. I don't need to hear me say it again.)
Whatever. I'd much rather put my time and energy into writing about new things instead of rehashing the old.
I also know there are plenty of websites that abuse their links. They treat every article is if it is the start of a Joycean stream of consciousness monologue, with seemingly every other word linked to some document somewhere that vaguely relates to it. Mike and I both work very hard to avoid that. When we put in a link, most often the content will be directly pertinent to what we're writing about now.
So please follow those hotlinks. When Mike or I refer you to a previous content, trust that we will have a good reason for that. Far more often than not they will provide some background that you need to know to fully understand or appreciate the current article.
Ctein's regular weekly column appears on TOP on Wednesdays.
Mike adds: Since I've been invoked here, I figure maybe I should chime in. Linking is an art, not a science. The principle I follow is: I try not to do anything that would annoy me if I were you. In my world the reader always, always comes first. But not linking enough can sometimes be as annoying as linking too much.
Note: Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site. More...
Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.