The Humble Hyperlink

I don’t have a snappy intro to this post, so I’ll just say it: The rent is too damn high The web is too damn big.

Allow me to explain. Just about any search term you can imagine will return multiple results from different sources. Just off the top of my head, I searched for “how to make cupcakes” and got 10 different web sites with 10 different recipes.

Some people would call this “information overload”, but I don’t think that’s the right term. Information overload implies that you can’t handle the amount of information being thrown at you, which further implies that you are actually attempting to absorb all of that information.

I prefer to call this “cruft”. Cruft, for those of you who do not know, is a term used to describe anything unnecessary or unwanted. In software, this means largely unused code, or code which is messy and gross to look at. Similarly, having all these similar yet distinct links just seems like too much. I say this for two reasons.

One, people tend to only look at the first few links, and very rarely do they go to the second page. This means that most links are just wasted space on the page, bandwidth that could better be used routing Farmville or some crap.

Second, there comes a point when there are just too many articles on the same topic. I was reading today about symlink race condition attacks, and there was the Wikipedia page, then about 4 other pages quoting that article with little to no added value.

So how does this relate to the hyperlink? Put simply, it is my opinion that it makes much more sense to simply link to an existing article than to rewrite one of questionable quality. This does two things. First, it elevates that single article to a position of authority in the Internet realm. It’s like mentioning K&R to a group of programmers. Everyone knows it. Second, it means that searching for that gem of knowledge is made much simpler than dredging through mounds of data for hours on end.

Yea, there are some drawbacks. No, I don’t feel like writing more right now. Maybe I’ll edit this later.

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