The Art of Hyperlinking

Earlier today, I stumbled upon a link shared by forever leading to Manifesto 2: Electric Boogaloo by Devastatia (not mobile-friendly). In this manifest, Devastatia addresses a fundamental aspect of the web – the power of organic linking within the online community. The core message here is clear:

“Sites operated by like-minded Webmasters should be organically linked in ways that demonstrate they’re part of their community. Artificial linking constructs like webrings, listing sites, button walls, and link pages are all fine carry-overs from the early days of the public Web, but at the end of the day, these are all just collections of links. They don’t evince any sign of an explicit or implied relationship or affinity between the two linked sites.”

I couldn’t agree more. The idea of meaningful web hyperlinking resonates with me. When you add a link to your website or article, it should be more than a solitary connection in the vast digital landscape. Share with your audience:

  • Why are you linking to a particular website or article?
  • What do you appreciate about it?
  • What insights has it provided?
  • What sets the webmaster apart and keeps you returning?

All too often during our journeys across the independent web, we encounter personal websites adorned with button walls, often displaying the same buttons found on every other site. It leaves me pondering questions like, “Do these webmasters know each other?” or “What forged this link between them?” The same goes for links pages, which often list website names without context. How about adding some context to pique the reader’s curiosity and encourage them to click the link?

Let’s not forget the bewildering experience of stumbling upon random links shared into the void of Discord channels. Why share a link without offering a reason? Give people an idea of why it caught your attention in the first place.

That said, I must admit there’s something oddly thrilling about blind link clicking. It’s like exploring uncharted territory. Sometimes…

Devastatia goes on to discuss webrings, a concept that was intended to foster community interlinking. However, the current landscape of webrings seems far from its original purpose, often becoming catch-all link directories. As Devastatia puts it:

“Webrings were supposed to provide the interlinking aspect of community building, but the current spate of webrings aren’t really topical: with few reservations, they take all comers. Consequently, you see the same 200 or so websites on every webring. In my opinion, that’s the same thing as cramming an overly diffuse demographic onto one social media site. I had planned to build a new webring, and probably will at some point, but for now, I see it as merely duplicating what’s already out there. I’d prefer to direct my energy towards innovating in the Personal Web arena.”

Absolutely, I remember webrings that were formed around specific themes or purposes, like the Tori Amos Bootleg Webring. They weren’t mere catch-alls. Webmasters should be selective about the webrings they join to maintain quality and avoid overwhelming web surfers with noise.

Alex chimed in, sharing a link to Tracy’s post Barriers to a more social IndieWeb which delves into the challenges and considerations of social norms within the independent web, particularly when using IndieWeb protocols. Tracy makes a significant point about the need for different social norms for blogging compared to social media sites like Twitter or Tumblr. Communication between websites presents its unique set of social challenges, often compounded by technical hurdles and design differences. I’ve started exploring these experiences myself and encountered similar challenges.

Tracy’s post is a substantial read, and I encourage you to explore it at your own pace.

In the meantime, I’m committed to practicing what I preach by providing context with the links I share on my Bookmarks page and my revamped Links page (under constrction, many links need to be re-added to the new format).

So, how are you enhancing the web surfing experience for visitors to your website? Feel free to continue the conversation by creating your own post and linking back to mine.

Let’s keep the dialogue alive across the independent web.

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