Friday, August 04, 2006

lazy linking vs. expedited navigation


Is linking an act of pampering the laziness of users? Or is it a way to speed up the information foraging process?

Robert Scoble has recently defended his failure to link to a person he mentioned in a blog post. Robert says that the quality of readership decreases with links and increases with no links, i.e. users navigating to the person via a search engine hunt.

He means: if a reader of your blog clicks on a link to a post at another blog, that's so easy, it will be done by only slightly curious or mildly motivated readers. You will get low value traffic, according to this theory, by providing embedded hypertext links in your blog posts.

On the other hand, if a reader goes to the trouble of typing "Peter Merholz", "Jorn Barger", "Jakob Nielsen", "Evan Williams", "Jacques Derrida", "Doc Searls", "Tom Peters", "Marcel Duchamp", "Christopher Locke", "John Hagel III", or "Seth Godin" into a search engine, those hard working users will be more motivated, more serious, and more likely to subscribe to your RSS feed and, can we add, click on ads? (Hint, hint).

"Gesture Firestorm Hits"

While Robert and I can be refered to truthfully as allies, I must point out my disagreement with this concept of "lazy linking".

It's clear to everyone that linking in blog posts is what we do when we're not lazy.

We link to provide a fast, easy bridge to a relevant or substantiating site or web page or whatever online.

The #1 User Reality is that they're in a big hurry. Users are impatient, stressed out, multi-tasking, and skim-scanning.

We must NEVER slow down or put obstacles in the path of a reader. We must facilitate and expedite information transmission and information trails. Linking is discretionary, but the more you link, the more you build the map of human knowledge and expertise.

Linking is the only form of trackbacking I use.

When you link to a person's web page or blog, you are not only expediting user navigation to a relevant site. You are also notifiying that linked person that you have mentioned them. When they do a Technorati search on their blog title, they'll see your post listed, the post that contains a link to them.

Sometimes this can be more effective than email, in getting someone's attention, and motivating them to visit your blog, perhaps to post a reciprocal comment or post about you.

Linking helps users, you the blogger, and the person you link to. It's altruistic futuristic.

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