Linking Best Practice

Linking within the written blog conveys different meaning and intentions, depending on the kind of linking expression used. It is practiced as a form of expression as well as a way to contextualize the writing. Linking as a practice is central to communicating meanings, both explicit and tacit, about a topic. There are many ways to convey knowledge or information through linking, some of which is directed at the subject matter, though more often linking is done for the purposes of either informing the reader or directing the reader who is already informed to that which the author believes is most important or useful expression of background or supporting detail information for the conveying of a particular situation.

One note about how linking is performed in the bIPlog posts:  links are most often embedded in the text, and the author selects one or more words under which to place a link. Sometimes, in the case of a name with multiple words, two or three links to different aspects of a person’s life or company’s activities can be linked to, where there is one link for each of the parts of the name. It occurs sometimes that a link is simply the title of the publication with a link to a particular article.

Sometimes linking is done as a sort of triangulation, where a subject or event is informed or given a background through several links to a story.  Many times these are news stories from mainstream media, and convey breadth, as well as a way for the audience to see that this is a major event because so many outlets have covered it. Often times, the same information and quotes are included in multiple media outlet stories, but the variations both in the framing of and exact quotations, as well as the facts related in framing arguments are interesting for those in the audience intensely interested in the subject. Therefore, showing the variety is in itself useful for comparing and contrasting different outlets point of view about a topic. Editorial styles and research depth in these articles are available, as is the ability to frame a blog post that extrapolates from many sources, but there is an additional useful element that linking to several stories can convey. That is the reinforcement of the truth of an event, and the trustworthiness of quotes and points of view of sources within the story. By linking, the audience gains the immediate linking universe of media stories to understand the event and inform in the ways described.

Linking also provides many other modes of exchange of information, intent or meaning.As a literary form, blogging and linking has an interesting relationship to analog written communication in that it can be interpreted and understood like words without links, were meanings underneath or between words are comprehended, but with linking, the expression carried underneath or between words is to some degree informing or pointing out some specific information underneath as demonstrated in the link. Cognitive science and literary criticism have gone to great lengths to describe and interpret communication, but one concept relied upon in linking is “Recognition accesses meaning” and meaning is evoked through the links as placed in the text (see link above). Links, even though often not accessed, are “moused over,” where the reader simply places a mouse on top of the linked words to view the location and information contained in the link, as displayed at the bottom of a browser. Whether the link is accessed has much to do with whether the reader is familiar with the link, has the time or inclination to explore the link further, or simply wants to see what the author believed was important in conveying meaning behind the words or how informed the words are, or even in making a joke or pointing to something cryptically related to a single word, phrases and sentences, or a whole topic. What the writer intends with linking may not be what is recognized by the reader, but meanings evoked through linking still provide a rich understanding of the author’s interests and emphasis.

Linking is imperative in developing the conversation between bloggers on the topics discussed. It develops documentation and sources that imply trust in the sources, or lack of it depending on what is written on top of the links or what is available at the link. Links can act as a referral to other writers, both mainstream and non-mainstream. They can be an expression of trust, and they can show a linked conversation, both through words and links, in creating a conversation that loops through several blogs as ideas around a topic are advanced and discussed. It is also an expression of attention to other writers, expressing listening and understanding occurring over a particular conversation or generally to a particular blog, and also conveying the next round of discussion back to those writers and listeners, whether or not technologies such as trackback are employed to convey this, or whether the trackback is actually working (my experience is that most often it does not work).

Linking can also convey definitions, cultural references, point audiences to little know information and websites, direct attention to noteworthy events and develop a kind of documentation that, in creating a linking universe of expression, can without many words, convey an overall definition of a topic or event.

Linking intentions list:
1. Direct backup information either quoted or summarized

2. Contextualized linking for gaining information context around writing expression in #1, often placed around type 1 links

3. Tacit linking for the direct information quoted or summarized

4. Tacit linking for information in type 2 links (contextualized linking)

5. Linking for an entity (company, person, institution) where each word in the name (example: Professor Edward Felten has three words) where linking can create a triangulation of expressions of the persons or institutions various activities. Using the example, Professor might link to his Princeton home page, Edward might link to his blog, and Felten might link to his fellowship page at Stanford’s ISP law clinic where he did a year studying law and technology.
a. Linking in the triangulation for type 5 actually has three types of linking used to convey the triangulation.
i. The first link, showing Felten’s current position as professor, is a way of conveying is professional creditability as a computer science professor at Princeton, specializing in cryptography and security, often in the areas of digital rights management systems. In the same way, an institution or company would be linked to their home page, demonstrating their main business, or the business most relevant to the subject matter of the overall blogpost (example, a most on Warner music could link to Warner generally, or Warner music specifically.)
ii. The second linking in the triangulation for type 5 might show some particular work or other kind of personal expression (in the case of the Felten expression, his blog is an information demonstration of his writing) or in the case of Warner Music, a second link might link to the music offered by the company from their signed artists)
iii. The third linking in the triangulation for type 5 might show some other association or experience. Using the Felten example, the fellowship he did a couple of years ago gave him experience working with Larry Lessig and gained him a deeper understanding of cyberlaw issues, which combined with his CS experience, might lend further credibility to him speaking about technology and copyright.
b. If the overall post (or maybe just paragraph) for example is of him being quoted in an article about music digital rights management, the triangulation would attempt to show his professional relations and experience, his less formally professional activities writing a blog on cyperlaw and security issues, and his other associations and experiences that would inform the quotes, articles, or other reasons for trusting his assertions.

6. Triangulation of a major news event involves linking to multiple news stories, to communicate by multiple links that the story is major, as well as by choosing links with multiple viewpoints or variations of information contained in stories about the same events.
a. Multiple links reinforce the alleged truthfulness of an event, even if later it turns out not to be true
b. Multiple links show breadth of news outlets and can convey, in addition to the writing in the blogpost differences in reporting from one article to the next in getting a story out.
c. Multiple story links can also give readers quick access to different slants in different stories, and show slight biases viewable as articles are compared.

7. Literary writing can with just words, convey multiple means within the same expressions. Digital writing can embed links, giving words, with multiple meanings in the words, additional expressions through the association to the links. Associations can convey the following:
a. Direct backup information
b. Backup associated loosely though not directly, because of associations the author wants to show the reader. Example, a post on designing a website, where the author is trying to illustrate an association with other forms of though about design, might link to Christopher Alexander’s “Patterns of Design” website, showing architectural patterns of building and landscape design, to then suggest by association that patterns like this can be developed for conveying relationships between people and information in website design. Literary expression, where words with irrational but somehow logical associations work, are often more impressionistic and artistic. In Revolution is Not an AOL Keyword (a poem by Eddan Katz, where I was the editor, and then both convinced him of the importance of adding links, so we worked together to find links for it’s web publication), the words "(not so) damned relevant" link to, which as the link shows, is the Word Spy definition of "information food chain." So while "damned relevant" is not directly defined, the words are directed toward a loose association of words defined ("1. The progression of data from bits (raw data) to information (processed data) to knowledge (assimilated data). 2. A spectrum that covers technological prowess (neophyte to expert), access to information (unwired to wired), or speed of delivery in media (quarterly journals to CNN) leading to an understanding of relevance of information as it progresses from raw data to knowledge, where knowledge is presumably relevant. This example at first might appear to be irrational, when a reader sees the words “not so damned relevant” as the link is moused over, and the “information food chain” in the link name is associated, causing the association to be even less apparent. But then, upon clicking through to the Word Spy definition, the understanding of the definition of a hierarchy of meaning from data to information to knowledge begins to give meaning to the word relevant, even though in the poem, the words “not so damned relevant” actually refer in the top level of words of Revolution to Joe Millionaire, Survivor and the Osbournes. The statement that these presumably frivolous but fun shows, in the context of Revolution, could appear even less relevant that they are in their generally frivolous state of just being cotton candy entertainment, is meant to convey, with the associated link, a kind of irony. And yet, in a way, these kinds of shows are revealing about our culture, do have relevance because many people watch them, and consider them important to their lives. The links and words in the poem associated with the links are meant to point to all these meanings and questions at once, essentially asking the reader to decide for themselves what level of relevance the shows have, how much they have in relation to Revolution, and what knowledge is. Obviously cultural and personal differences in meaning will alter these understandings from one reader to the next, but those other meanings the authors could not begin to catalog completely are also important and relevant. Part of the reason literary expression is so interesting is because it is subject to personal interpretation that is subjective. However, while this is subjective, it is also an important category of linking and might just be classified generally as literary, maybe with irony, or joke, or associated (like) literary expression, or other descriptive associations attached to the literary tag.

8. Links moused over, but not accessed, illicit a kind of recognition, which accesses meaning.
a. Rather than the information conveyed at the other end of the link, the actual information imparted is just that meaning in the naming of the link, the link’s location, possibly a date, or naming structure hierarchy for the location the file is placed in, as the creator of that document understands the importance or meaning of the information in the document.
b. Much of the meaning here is dependant on the readers previous knowledge, whether they understand file structures, date structures if the date is arranged in an order that is different than the reader is used to, and what the words mean to them. One man’s apple (fruit) may be another man’s apple (computers) may be another man’s apple (records), though hopefully the linked words, and the words in the link itself, will help to make the distinct meanings clear.

9. Links can continue a conversation across the web, where readers can follow links as memes develop across many writers/blogs. Linking implies trust in the linked object, however, depending on the context of the writing above the link, that trust could be undermined, conveyed as only giving trust under certain meanings or circumstances, or dismissing the link altogether.
a. Links like this also express attention that is being paid, either to a blog in general (and a link generally to that blog) or to a specific post, with associated understanding of the listening expressed though the links.
b. Within a blogpost, or series of posts, creating a linking universe, where all the links together represent many ways of understanding a subject is key to conveying multiple layers of information to readers and conversants.

See also my write-up on reverse lookups of linking.