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The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

The Link Discussion

I’ve finally gotten around to listening to the discussion about links and the link economy between Steve Gillmor and Doc Searls (part I, II). Definitely worth a listen.

Good thing, too, since I stepped into an argument about this on Jim’s blog and found him taking issue and posting about it. Jim’s initial point was regarding a recent Seth Goldstein post, Attentrons on the cutting room floor, and specifically the statement:

Strong web bloggers no longer link.

Jim concludes that non-linkers are not blogging, that they are actually columnists, and says:

I [. . .] recognize that sometimes bloggers feel that it is no longer necessary to provide links to source information so that their readers can get context, further information, or view those that came up with the original idea credit.

He goes on to say (in response to me and, to some “elite”, of which I am not one):

The notion that links are merely to build readership is rather frightening to me. It says to me that conversation is important until you reach a point where you can pontificate. That blogging is a culture to grow TechnoPriests. What a drag that would be.

What I should have said is that as a new blogger, linking is required to get into the conversation. I do this not to build readership as I flipply suggested, but to be a part of a community — if readership was truly my goal, I would go on a snark hunt or something.

While there must be those who refrain from linking due to their own elitism and to withhold credit, suggesting this is the motive behind the whole “non-linking” crowd ignores the argument being made. To be fair, I don’t think Jim is ascribing these motives to all non-linkers; however, I cannot agree with the claim that not linking is not blogging. And if he turns out to be right (i.e., once the definition of blogging is finally complete), I suspect it won’t matter. Things are changing, blogs are evolving, tools are getting better. Coupling RSS, gestures, and discovery engines will bring more of the right information without relying on the sacred link.

In terms of the arguments against links, I boil this down to a few points:

  1. The link-model supports the page-view model. Steve is looking past this model.
  2. Decorating your text with links interrupts your writing (i.e., the reading). This isn’t about controlling the user, it is about composition.
  3. Linking is often excessive and can be insulting to your readers.

Steve Gillmor makes his points in his podcasts as well as on his blog — he doesn’t need me to make them for him. Read his latest, Back in the U.S.S.R, on this very topic.


1 Comment »

    J. LeRoy wrote @ May 9th, 2006 at 6:26 am

On Oversteering…

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