C&I article links: Worth the trouble?

For the first few years–OK, actually for the first 10.5 years–of Cites & Insights, I didn’t include hyperlinks for articles and posts I was discussing. I provided the title, the date, the author and the source, figuring that was enough. Of course, for the first few years, I assumed most everybody was printing out the issue anyway, so links would have been pointless.

Some time in 2011, I started providing hyperlinks, since PDF supports them (and since I’d also started the single-column “online version” where I assume people are reading online).

I’m beginning to wonder whether they’re worth the trouble and the slight defacement of the printed/online page. I could use feedback on this, although for various reasons the rest of Volume 13 will certainly have hyperlinks.

The peculiarities

I started thinking about whether hyperlinks serve much purpose in what’s still primarily a designed-for-print ejournal when I was editing some material and noticed a couple of cases where I forgot to include the hyperlink. I delete items from Diigo as soon as I finish discussing them, so I couldn’t just go to Diigo and pick up the link…

So I’d select the article title (typically a level-3 heading just above the discussion), plug it into Bing or Google, and probably 99% of the time the desired item would be the first result.

This made me think: If that’s what I do to resurrect a link, isn’t that what a reader can do to find the article?

The downside of including the links is that they result in underlined type (and colored type–which for people who use some printers to print copies will result in slightly higher printing costs). Oh, and that I frequently have to (or at least should) trim the URL, since what’s in Diigo is likely to include a huge suffix provided by feedburner or twitter or…

The pros

I suppose clicking on the hyperlink is a little faster than copying-and-pasting into a search engine, if you’re actually reading online. (There are also sometimes links within the discussion, but those are also usually pretty easy to replicate–I mean, if I reference a company, you can get there exactly the same way I generate the link!)

If you’re reading the issue a few months or years down the road, it’s possible that the article itself will have moved down the results page in Bing or Google. Not terribly likely except for a few very short titles, but possible.

It’s also possible that the article itself will no longer be available via a search engine–but in those cases, it’s also quite likely that the link in Cites & Insights will no longer work. (When I’m doing essays that cover two or three years, it’s not unusual to see at least 10% of the tagged items disappear because of broken links.)

Whaddya think?

I’ve been tempted to set up a C&I Advisory Board consisting of those people who contribute a significant sum within a given rolling two-year period to keep the publication running. If I did that, this query would go out as email to that group. But as of now, that group represents no more than 1% or 2% of C&I readers–or at least I hope that’s true!

So I’m asking it here. Whaddya think?

Comments or email to waltcrawford@gmail.com invited.

(Relevant comments, that is. The paratroopers and athletic shoe vendors and all the rest of the spammers that provide 99% of comments will continue to be treated as spammers.)

4 Responses to “C&I article links: Worth the trouble?”

  1. ash966 Says:

    I like the links in the pdf, because these days I save it to a folder and read it in between helping patrons, so I am not reading it in a browser.

  2. Walt Crawford Says:

    Thanks! I’ll continue taking comments for at least a month… That’s a good reason to keep them.

    By the way, since you (badass jfro, that is–the URL behind “ash966″) caused some pearl-clutching in parts of Texas using that handle on PUBLIB, you should be aware of my high standards regarding names like that.

    Which is: Fine with me. I don’t allow obscenity or even Very Strong Language on this blog. “Badass” is neither. Not even close.

  3. Mark Lindner Says:

    I find the links useful but they probably are not worth the effort and trouble. Well, except as ash966 says.

  4. Walt Crawford Says:

    They’re not a huge amount of effort and trouble–after all, I have the source page open in a browser window as I’m writing about it. They’re just a little extra work.

    If nobody finds the blue underlined text distracting and at least a few people find the links useful, I’ll keep doing them.

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