To (Hyper)Link or Not to Link - That is the Question

Tom Keating : VoIP & Gadgets Blog
Tom Keating
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To (Hyper)Link or Not to Link - That is the Question

The best bloggers and news sites seem to hyperlink like crazy. Usually its because they think they're doing you a favor by referencing a related article, web page, company, etc. so you don't have to hit up a search engine to find it yourself. Other times it's used for internal linking so you hit another one of their web pages and they get an additional pageview plus ad impression. Still other times you hyperlink to other sites you're a huge fan of, because you want to give them some extra Google Page Rank juice and some additional traffic via click-thrus.

But are you causing yourself more harm than good? Are you contributing to Attention Deficit Disorder by hyperlinking like crazy to other websites? I know when I read a webpage, I often hold the Ctrl key down and click interesting links which will open a new tab in the background on my Firefox browser. This way I at least keep the current article I'm reading in the foreground and after I close the article I'm reading my browser brings me to one of the new tabs that were in the background. However, I had to customize Firefox to not default to open new tabs in the foreground. I bet most people leave the default as the foreground. How they can read an article and not get sidetracked by new tabs in the foreground is beyond me.

Apparently, some people are experimenting in delinkification because it causes too much distraction and worse - less comprehension. Check this out:

Links are wonderful conveniences, as we all know (from clicking on them compulsively day in and day out). But they're also distractions. Sometimes, they're big distractions - we click on a link, then another, then another, and pretty soon we've forgotten what we'd started out to do or to read. Other times, they're tiny distractions, little textual gnats buzzing around your head. Even if you don't click on a link, your eyes notice it, and your frontal cortex has to fire up a bunch of neurons to decide whether to click or not. You may not notice the little extra cognitive load placed on your brain, but it's there and it matters. People who read hypertext comprehend and learn less, studies show, than those who read the same material in printed form. The more links in a piece of writing, the bigger the hit on comprehension.
Beautifully stated! Can't say I'll totally delinkify, but maybe I'll cut back a little.


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