Blind Links

Oh, good grief.

Eric Zorn, of the Chicago Tribune, “writes”:http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2006/04/blind_rage.html about how angry he gets with bloggers who build blind links into their articles because of how much time it apparently wastes for the reader to click on the link to determine if the material contained therein is interesting to them. I left a comment on the article and on another site that referenced the article and got “reamed”:http://journals.aol.com/johnmscalzi/bytheway/entries/5798 in both places. Seriously, folks, what gives?

If I’m writing an article, as far as I’m concerned, the part _I’m_ writing is the _only_ part that matters. If I include a blind link within the text, it’s because something on that linked site is, in my mind, somehow relevant to the topic at hand – whether it be another related article I’ve written, or supplementary material that my readers _might_ want to investigate further, or something that might only be linked in a very subtle way in my own mind. ((Besides, you can usually get a general idea of where the link is headed by what text serves as the hyperlink. I deliberately try to make all my links somewhat apparent like that.)) I value a smooth and continuous stream of thought in my writing, something that flows easily from Point 1 to Point 2 to Point 3 and so on, so I hate building links into the discussion in such a way that only disrupts the flow, both for me and for my readers. The way I see it, if you’re on my site reading, you’re there to see what _I_ have to say about the topic under discusssion and then contribute your responses, if you so choose. The links are completely _optional_. If you want to click them and read more on the issue, feel free. But you’re under absolutely no obligation to do so. Read a different way, if you don’t want to click through, then don’t. No one’s holding a gun to your head.

Apparently, both Zorn and others think that this practice is rude and inconsiderate. I disagree. I don’t see how blind links do anything other than document part of the intellectual process the writer followed to get to the article in question. I honestly don’t mind when others put blind links in their articles. Sometimes I follow them; sometimes I don’t. Either way, there’s no reason to get in a twist about it.

Am I the only one that sees this as no big deal at all? Or does everyone else think that blind links are rude, too? So far, all I’ve seen are responses from the people who get really upset about this.

5 thoughts on “Blind Links”

  1. You write: “I don’t see how blind links do anything other than document part of the intellectual process the writer followed to get to the article in question.”

    I agree. This is my take on links. The reader can take them or leave them. Mouse over, see if it looks interesting, and move on. I like your use of footnotes as well. That’s different. Something for the beyond-casual blogger. Keep up the great work. lgp

  2. Wow . . . I had no idea people would get worked up over this! I’m with you – if you don’t want to click on it, don’t already! I think providing the link to information behind the writing is actually very polite and helpful, not otherwise. And yes, it provides a whole new dimension to blogging.

  3. Given all the other pet peeves (leetspeak, etc.) one could have about the blogosphere, this definitely seems like a tempest in a teapot. Blind links are the equivalent of foot/endnotes in my mind. Some bloggers use them, some don’t. Some people are interested in following through on them, some are not. Nonetheless, they can be used well or poorly, just like anything else. Done poorly, I can see how they would be annoying, but then I probably wouldn’t think much of the blogger in question if I noticed a consistent pattern of poorly done blind links. In that case, I would be more inclined to move on to the next blog than to rant about blind links.

  4. I agree with you. I see this method on other blogs and is what I do myself. I believe it is the best way of puting links in a blogpost setting, with the relevent words linking.

  5. Perhaps he is mad because he is unable to tell which links were put there on purpose and the ones put there by advertising plugins. He’s more likely mad at his own low brow responses to links than he author’s proper and considerate inclusion of links to source material.

    Adding links are essential at many times. If one writes using ideas from someone else’s work, they had damn well better cite it. Keep it up. You’re on the right road. Zorn is not.

    I wonder how he’d feel if someone wrote about the same subjects that he did every time he published a new article, and relied heavily on his words but did not attribute or link to his work.

Have anything to add to the conversation?