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October 05, 2004

Link Etiquette?: Always Leave Something Juicy Behind

I have an rule about how links are supposed to work. I wonder if everyone agrees.

Basically, I think that when you link someone else's find or analysis, you're permitted to excerpt a taste of what they're quoting or saying, but it's always important to leave something fairly important behind to click on. After all, if you just quote all the good parts, you've left your audience with no reason to click on the link-- the blog that tipped you gets the link, for what that's worth, but very little traffic at all.*

I'm pretty good about observing this rule, although sometimes the site I've gotten something from is just a one-line mention, so it's hard to describe the article linked there and still leave something behind for a reader to click on.

Just to show you what a good guy I am, I'll mention that I once linked a one-sentence blurb from Marcland. I really couldn't leave anything behind for readers to click through to, so I scanned his site for something else interesting, and found something quickly (he has lots of interesting stuff, after all): photos of Saturn's rings from the Cassini spacecraft. So I stole his link, but then linked to something that was just on his site.

And I left out lots of good stuff in the Six Meat Buffet story I just linked-- including a link to the actual article. Yeah, in a way, I'm making it less convenient for my readers. But then, my readers are only getting the story due to Six Meat Buffet's work (assuming they didn't find the story through some other source), so, inconvenient or not, it's the tax that has to be paid to Six Meat Buffet.

My own pet peeve is when someone just republishes an entire top ten I wrote. The whole thing, start to finish. Bloggers always link me when they do this, but with 10 through 1 already published on someone else's site, what's the point of the link? Might as well call the link Honestly, there's no reason to click on these red words whatsoever. Spend your time doing something more productive, like calling your mom and thanking her for the birthday afghan. **

I also think there's gray area: What do you do when someone just quickly links an article with a one-sentence digest, but you find it more interesting and want to quote and analyze at length? It seems silly to withhold the direct link to the article from your readers in favor of linking to the blog where you found the link; and yet, if you don't do that, you're stealing traffic that the blogger-source actually earned.

Again, in that case, I think it's best to find something else interesting on that site and then link that. Link the article directly, but make sure that your actual source gets some traffic somehow.

I think that most people do observe the Thou Shalt Always Share Traffic For a News Find rule; I think most people understand it implicitly.

And I know that I have violated the rule myself. Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue and all that. But I do try to observe it.

I'm not sure if this is an agreed-upon rule or what. It seems to be a sort-of rule, but maybe it's more of a guideline. Maybe I'm wrong.

Just tossing it out there.

* I guess Instapundit is the past-master at leaving everything behind. One tenth of Instapundit's links are just: "Heh." I don't know-- that seems to be taking the rule to extremes. "Heh."

I've dabbled with the idea of publishing no original words whatsoever on this blog whatsoever, except "Heh." No headlines, no comments. I'll just out-Instapundit Instapundit and link everything with a "Heh."

Maybe Friday.

** Ann Coulter did exactly just that to me, but given that this link actually moved me from the three-digits to four-digits of traffic after three weeks of prominent exposure.

Plus, you know, it was Ann Coulter. You don't fuck around with Ann Coulter. Lest she call you a girly-man.


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posted by Ace at 12:12 AM

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