Hyperlinks, or the secret of the Internet’s extended memory…

Hyperlinks. Some of our bloggers love em (Mr Baker being the optimum case in point); some of commenters hate them (almost exclusively when Pete uses them). To begin with here’s how the Wikipedia page on the subject ascribes it’s conceptual origin (from 1945):

As We May Think,” was a popular essay by Vannevar Bush. In the essay, Bush described a microfilm-based machine (the Memex [or ‘memory extender’]) in which one could link any two pages of information into a “trail” of related information, and then scroll back and forth among pages in a trail as if they were on a single microfilm reel. The closest contemporary analogy would be to build a list of bookmarks to topically related Web pages and then allow the user to scroll forward and backward through the list.

A more recent account by Rick Garlikov of their practical uses on the net emphasises the degree of choice they provide the reader to make their own decisions about you they read the material. In particular he notes that:

…they allow readers to read in the order they prefer — the order that makes the most sense to them, reading details, reasons, explanations for major points, as they choose, rather than having to wait until they get to an explanation, or rather than having an explanation inserted in the middle of something when they are not quite ready for it yet and are instead seeking an overview or the “big picture.”

They have a role in building communities. Applications like Twitter and Facebook are driven by hyperlinks. They connect people with information and are the reason that the web feels like it’s getting faster and faster. For instance, Ian Paisley Junior being served by a summons at Stormont yesterday was almost instantly available to us yesterday, via Stratagem’s Twitter feed. It was quickly ‘reTweeted’ and the hyperlink passed on.

Some may argue that that’s fine over a 140 word sprint, but it disrupts the linear narrative of a blog post. This web style guide, aimed at web designers in corporations, government, nonprofit organizations, and academic institutions identifies exactly this problem:

The primary design strategy in thoughtful hypertext is to use links to reinforce your message, not to distract users or send them off chasing a minor footnote in some other web site. Most links in a web site should point to other resources within your site, pages that share the same graphic design, navigational controls, and overall content theme. Whenever possible, integrate related visual or text materials into your site so that users do not have the sense that you have dumped them outside your site’s framework.

This is the kind of cautious guidance which has provided the principles behind big corporate sites like the BBC’s. But it’s far from the norm in the blogosphere. Even the BBC is slowly (painfully slowly) abandoning some of its more arcane policies on this. Large traffic volume sites like Instapundit and Matt Drudge consist almost entirely of hyperlinks… Rather than decrease traffic, as the authors here imply, sending readers offsite via hyperlinks to other sites actually increases inward traffic. There’s even a guerilla term for it: link juice..

It’s something Slugger has not been great at, and which we want to address in the new site design. In general it is more commonly used as an aide-mémoire. It can operate as a way of almost seamlessly navigating the past. In researching this article, I came across an early mention of Slugger from the BBC Magazine site (courtesy of Mulley’s policy of relentless outlinking), which in turn brought me back to this little forgotten (by me at least) gem from 2005.

Without a doubt, in terms of Slugger’s bloggers at least, the person comes in for regular stick is Pete. Take the last paragraph of a recent post (Sorry Pete, I know you are ‘in the room’, please forgive the slightly formal style for the moment) on Brendan O’Leary’s presentation to a conference at UCD. The last paragraph contains 10 links, 9 of them containing back links to previous stories on Slugger.

The criticism is that these are self referencing, in that many of them go back to articles previously written by Pete himself. Whilst is largely true, what generally goes unacknowledged in these ‘conversations’ is that each backlinking becomes a document in itself, linking backwards in time to earlier iterations of the same story. Just randomly picking a couple of links I found the earliest I came back to was a story on 10th July 2006 entitled about a hurried review of the funding of parades and community festivals…

Perhaps the most compelling argument against backlinking is that it weakens the argument by providing distractions to the reader. It disrupts the integrity of the linear argument. However this is to a degree mistaking wood for trees. The backlink itself is integral to the argument, not a distraction from it.

So perhaps in relying on the backlink the blog itself does not explain itself clearly, particularly for new readers? That might be more compelling if it came from new readers (who either turn away, or dig in as the notion takes them). Yet the criticism is lodged almost entirely by commenters who have been around for years, and know very well what’s contained within the backlink.

Which brings us back to the ‘extended memory’ idea in Bush’s original 1945 concept. My suspicion is that it is the inconvenient introduction of memory, which has a tendency to disrupt the favoured narrative or talking point of the that’s the real problem niggling underneath.

Just as the DUP found to their cost that pretending they had not spent the last two years in an intimate alliance in government with Sinn Fein did not wash with the Unionist electorate, the internet puts an extended memory at the disposal of both journalists and bloggers.

Love it, or loathe it, it isn’t going away you know! Discuss?

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  • percy

    Spiders need to weave threads or they’ll fall off.
    don’t get caught in their web, or you’re din-dins.

  • kensei

    This the kind of cautious guidance that lies behind the building of big corporate sites like the BBC.

    The BBC is the most read site in the UK, I believe. You might think you could learn soemthing from them.

    It’s far from the norm in the blogosphere. Large traffic volume sites like Instapundit and Matt Drudge consist almost entirely of hyperlinks… R

    No. Those sites are not true blogs. There are news aggregators. You do not spend an extended time reading those sites, you read the headline and go elsewhere to read the context. Slugger does not and should not work like this.

    Similarly with Twitter. You did not read about Ian Paisely on Twitter yesterday. You heard about it. You read about it on the site that you linked to, which was formatted in a fashion that a human being could read in some comfort.

    Read on a screen is hard. Much harder than reading on paper; people are typically something like 25% slower at it. Because of that, for the web you typically need to:

    – Make paragraphs shorter.
    – Use Lists to break up text.
    – Avoid a lot of busy and distracting stuff around the edges
    – Make strategic use of embedded hyperlinks.

    And they are important. Higlight a key word or a few key words and the eye is instantly drawn to it. Done right people scanning will pick up much of what you say. And those will be most people, because most people just scan. Highlight half to three quarters of a block of text and you lose that power. If your hyperlinks are a particularly harsh shade of red, it is going to give anyone looking at it a headache.

    Perhaps the most compelling argument against backlinking is that it weakens the argument by providing distractions to the reader. It disrupts the integrity of the linear argument. However this is to a degree mistaking wood for trees. The backlink itself is integral to the argument, not a distraction from it

    Rubbish. There are a number of ways to introduce hyperlinks to a document. The same style guide states:

    When placing links on the page, put only the most salient links within the body of your text, and group all minor, illustrative, parenthetic, or footnote links at the bottom of the document where they are available but not distracting.

    It is perfect possible to include most of what Pete wants at the end. But he hyperlinks just about everything, usually in a cryptic fashion so the reader is left with little context even if they actually do click the link. It is bewildering. He might be building up a document, but it is one structured like spagetti.

    And the key point is – no matter how integral it is to your argument, if it makes the website unreadable, then you are doing it wrong. And I find many of Pete’s posts physically hard to read. Particularly if the contentis challenging in itself, you do not want to add further barriers.

    Slugger commits one other big sin. The links you have clicked don’t change colour. That makes it very difficult to keep track.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ken,

    “Slugger does not and should not work like this.”

    But it does work Ken. It may not for you, but hey, I’ve no intention of forcing Slugger to cater for everyone.

    More than 40% of people who don’t have net access don’t want it. For me, that’s fine. If they don’t want it, they shouldn’t have it pushed down their throats by people who think they know better. And those of us who do have access have choices too.

    That guide is just plain wrong in some of the stuff it’s saying. It’s written for a pre Google world in which corporate web pages were organised to sell tight corporate messages. I’d advise any client of mine to bin it directly.

    And the BBC is moving away from that model, led primarily by its blogs, since they were earliest to discover that outlinking is the live blood of of traffic and engaging with their various ‘interested communities’.

    To quote the over quoted Cluetrain manifesto, ‘markets are conversations’. Or another more recent one, ‘if it don’t spread, it’s dead.’ Hyperlinks are the synapses of the net. They spread the word, making stories broader and at the same time deepen them too.

    ‘Rubbish’.

    And, your point is…?

    It is perfectly plain to anyone who can hit a back link exactly what Pete’s driving at. It may be painful for people to witness it, but that’s a political problem for those who insist on telling it as it plainly isn’t. It’s nothing to do with technology or the desire to tidy up backlinks to the bottom of a page as though they were mere footnotes.

    IN this digital age, analogue politicians, who insist that we ignore the hyperlinked back story, will get panned over and over again for trying old tricks that simply don’t work anymore.

    For good or for ill, blogs don’t make good chip paper. Their real time function and extended (and often politically inconvenient) memories mean that politicians need to get their head round the fact that the little conceits they can get past a mass media and their audiences just don’t work in a connected world.

  • “politicians need to understand”

    Mick, the capacity to understand apparently isn’t one of the basic requirements in any party selection procedure in this small corner of the universe.

    ‘markets are conversations’ sounds meaningless to me. Perhaps it would better be better if the Cluetrain Manifesto abandoned such gibberish.

    “the little conceits they could get past a mass media”

    Some of them can slip little deceits into the MSM – and get away with it 🙂

  • Dec

    It is perfectly plain to anyone who can hit a back link exactly what Pete’s driving at.

    Simply. Not. True. When he links to an external site – yes; when he links to a self-penned thread as supporting evidence(the tone and content of which is often highly-debatable) the reader is left to wade through another mass of hyperlinks often linking to another Baker thread with another mass of hyperlinks… (think the band picture on the wall on Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma album cover and you’re almost there.). It’s not Hyperlinking anyone is objecting too – it’s the sheer amount he employs which distort, confuse and often misrepresent.

    Quite what stops you from voicing the opinion on this rampant hyperlinking, that like most things in life you can have too much of a good thing, is simply beyond me (unless of course you’re aware it’s linked to a private medical condition).

    Selections from Mark Twain’s Rules on Writing:

    An author should

    Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.
    Eschew surplusage.
    Not omit necessary details.
    Employ a simple, straightforward style.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Nevin,
    “little deceits” surely not so “little”?

  • Hyperlinks add depth that a newspaper would find hard to match without repeating verbatim. It turns what could be a 2000 word story into a 300 word one. The beauty about hyperlinks is you can click on them or not. They help fill in the gaps. Instead of Mick having to spend 100 words explaining who Matt Drudge is in this article, he provides a link. This lets someone who knows the subject carry on with the story, or gives someone who doesn’t the option to take a time out and go find out.

    Though saying that, just as with the bbc I would like to see more outlinking on slugger.

  • PaddyReilly

    I haven’t followed any of your hyperlinks. On this occasion I feel there are too many. One or two per article is about right. The problem with Pete Baker is that he hyperlinks to previous threads, which hyperlink to even further previous threads, so that logically you cannot read a piece by him unless you have read all of Slugger, possibly all the internet.

    If you want people to listen to your sermon, then make it brief. Better to call it a homily. This is ordinarily the practise of the Catholic Church. (Counter-examples have been supplied). If you want people to follow your hyperlinks, make them few in number.

    Pete Baker is the equivalent of a minister of the Wee wee wee Free Church who officiated at the funeral of some relations of friends of mine in the Outer Hebrides, who went on so long that one of the mourners fainted and fell into the open grave.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Selections from Mark Twain’s Rules on Writing”

    Ach sure what would he know?

  • Driftwood

    Kensei adopted the fashion for posting (external) links at the bottom of a thread, which I found easy to read. The ‘signal to noise’ ratio on some threads can be close to zero, baffling the reader.

    Kensei also added links which criticised or were opposed the main viewpoint being expressed, again a neat outlay.

    But different strokes etc

  • kensei

    Mick

    But it does work Ken. It may not for you, but hey, I’ve no intention of forcing Slugger to cater for everyone.

    Slugger is not and never will be a news aggregator. People do pick up news stories, but they typically add value if they do. If you are suggesting that is what Slugger becomes, then you both wish to destroy your site, and don’t understand the value in the first place.

    That guide is just plain wrong in some of the stuff it’s saying. It’s written for a pre Google world in which corporate web pages were organised to sell tight corporate messages. I’d advise any client of mine to bin it directly.

    Pick another style guide, it’ll tell you basically the same thing. People read webpages in a certain way. They scan. Certain things are bad ideas, just as they are in normal writing. That is independent of the existence of Google, hardly a new invention in any case.

    There is a distinction between a tweet, and a large piece intended for reading. Applying the same form in rightign one as the other is the equivalent of writing a job application in txt.

    And the BBC is moving away from that model, led primarily by its blogs, since they were earliest to discover that outlinking is the live blood of of traffic and engaging with their various ‘interested communities’.

    The BBC has plenty of links. They are in the right hand side of an article, and split up – internal related, external related and most popular, typically. Occassionally there is a highlight box. Rarely in an actual article you will see an embedded link.

    They have expanded into blogs and they are wonderful. They give the two or three latest blogs a lot of space and squish some summaries down the bottom. Lots of white space where needed The right hand side acts as a dash for links again – internal and external. Beautifuly consistent. The individual bloggers do use embedded links but you will not see a single post like Pete’s. You’ll not see blog posts like tahton the NYT or the New Yorker or the Guardian either. That is because the quality of the writing is high, and effective use of hyperlinks is simply another skill in web writing.

    Which is the key point. The giant structural issues are a read herring.

    To quote the over quoted Cluetrain manifesto…

    The issue isn’t the hyperlink. It’s their effective use and appropriate context. Straw men, quit the buzzwords it is an exercise in stopping thinking.

    It is perfectly plain to anyone who can hit a back link exactly what Pete’s driving at.

    Except it isn’t. It may be to you, but when faced with 10 backlinks in a single paragraph you might not even know where to start. The words often do not have any cotnext and on clicking, you’ll be hit with the same thing again. Some of those you might have already hit on previously, but slugger doesn’t really let you know you have. In computer parlance it is spaghetti code. I’d guess most people give up. Doesn’t matter how good what is there is. Once people do that, you might as well not be there.

    It may be painful for people to witness it, but that’s a political problem for those who insist on telling it as it plainly isn’t.

    No, it is painful to witness it because it is physically hard to look at. Black broken with red every second word? You can’t read it quickly or focus on it easily.

    It’s nothing to do with technology or the desire to tidy up backlinks to the bottom of a page as though they were mere footnotes.

    They are footnotes or references. there is a reason why in print things are organised ina certain way. the web offers more flexibility but in the end you aer still limited by the human.

    In any acse, you are simply bringing your prejudices in. If people want to have a go at Pete, he shouldn’t be handing them perfectly valid ammunition. I cut down the swearing for precisely the same reason. It is an easy out for people to avoid the topic.

    IN this digital age, analogue politicians…

    Think up something original, would you? This is just hackery. I don’t give two stuffs about what pols do and do not do. I’m not a pol. I am a reader of this site. I want something readable. When I put stuff up on site, I try as best I can to make sure what I write is. That SDLP article took me an age and several drafts.

    For good or for ill, blogs don’t make good chip paper….

    Actually, lots of blogs make good chip paper. If the fundamentals of your piece isn’t good enough for print, it isn’t good enough for the web. The internet can offer a lot fo enhancements but at the end there is no magic.

  • Mick Fealty

    Paddy,

    There are too many hyperlinks? How so? There’s actually nothing you need to fetch to understand the text (which I take is an underlying frustration with Pete’s quantum approach to hyperlinking).

    Dec,

    “It’s not Hyperlinking anyone is objecting too – it’s the sheer amount he employs which distort, confuse and often misrepresent.”

    With respect, that’s an infinite refinement of the residual argument. Even you are objecting to the number of hyperlinks.

    If I’d even once heard anyone follow your pivot point through, we’d have something to respond to. But that’s normally where it stops.

    But I’d be very grateful if you could pursue how ‘quantity’ of hyperlinks actually distort with some examples thrown in.

  • Mick Fealty

    Keith, point taken. We’re officially rubbish!

  • Mick Fealty

    Original? Like; pick another style book (to tell you what to do)?

    I’ll come back to this when I’ve time.

  • You should be able to read a post and get the gist of it without being forced to click on the hyperlinks.
    Some posts, by the nature of the wording, through innuendo, inference etc force a reader to click on the links to actually understand what the paragraph means. That’s ok in small doses, like at the end of a post when you want to direct the reader to a different article.
    But if these “teasing” links are interspersed through the whole post then it makes it quite an arduous job trying to get the full story.

  • kensei

    Mick

    Original? Like; pick another style book (to tell you what to do)?

    No, you are right Mick. Don’t read any style guides. Ignore all the research that has been done into how people actually read webpages, where they tend to focus and what has and has not been found to work because you know better. Let’s build a site using Frames with green text on a yellow background. Fortunate, I think you got a professional to do the new Slugger.

    Not entirely related but on (groan) Web 2.0
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6653119.stm

    Sadly, said Mr Nielsen, the rush to embrace Web 2.0 technology meant that many firms were turning their back on the basics.

    Making your ext readable is the basicest of the basic.

  • Richard Gadsden

    Can you please fix your RSS feeds?

    For this post, for example, the feed leads to:
    http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/site/hyperlinks-or-the-secret-of-the-internets-extended-memory/

    which goes to the homepage, but it should lead to:
    http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/hyperlinks-or-the-secret-of-the-internets-extended-memory/

    Please fix this!

  • Richard, thanks. And it will endeavour to get fixed asap. The trouble is I’m a tech idiot stuck with a legacy platform that I find hard to manage on my own. But thanks for persevering.

  • “Hyperlinks, or the secret of the Internet’s extended memory…”

    One of the secrets, Mick; Google cache is another one that has caught a lot of folks out.

  • percy

    strangely only one person missing on this thread.
    Do you see how easy it is to be conned?

  • percy

    peteb
    come out FFS this thread is about you.
    what hurts me the most is that you hide your hurt.
    Its not good enough !

  • Briso

    What does the following paragraph actually mean? It’s convoluted and confused and is constructed to support the hyperlinks (which is why I took them out) rather than the other way round. I think I know what he’s getting at, but if he won’t spit it out, why should I dive into the thicket of links? (For the record, I think he’s saying “How can that hypocrite McGuinness have a go at Gregory for not condemning the McDaid murder when he and his mates used to say it was counterproductive and wouldn’t do it themselves? And they refuse to apologise for all the murders they carried out.”) Of course, this is a personal impression, one can only be subjective about this stuff. If you don’t like Pete’s style, don’t read him and anyway, PB’s posts are not always as bad as this. There seem to be a few subjects which get him into a linking lather, otherwise he is just about readable. Turgon is the other extreme. Hardly a link, long essays about what he thinks (ever so humbly). They are easy to read, but also terrifically self-referential. I love them.

    Is the criticism by Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, of the DUP’s Gregory Campbell, and other unionist politicians, a sign of cracks in the NI Executive or a last-minute appeal to the base ahead of election day? Or a not so last-minute appeal to the base.. [Don’t tell anyone! – Ed] Campbell’s certainly a more convenient target for Sinn Féin to take aim at than the NI First Minister – and others are ready to do that for them. But whereas now, condemnation is “not enough” for Sinn Féin, once it would have been enough for the Provisional IRA to issue a denial of involvement for Gerry Adams, MP, MLA, to state [Google cache], “The IRA last Friday said that none of its volunteers or units were involved in the Adare incident. I accept that position”, and for Pat Doherty, MP, MLA, to declare, “I don’t want to put the families through any more political trauma by fighting over words like condemn. I abhor the politics of condemnation” – a view they shared at the time with David Ervine. And, mis-remembering aside, condemnation remains a step too far for some within Sinn Féin when it comes to those legacy issues. But hatred, once tactically deployed, cannot be simply wished away because of political expedience. Better to see implementation of a strategy to deal with that legacy than more attendances at funerals. That’s just part of the wider context in this top-down Process™ referred to on Stormont Live by the SDLP’s Alex Attwood and the Alliance Party’s Naomi Long. Additional comment from the UUP’s Danny Kennedy here and Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey here.

  • Dec

    With respect, that’s an infinite refinement of the residual argument.

    Mick

    I’d respond to that point if I’d the slighest notion as to what it meant. Clearly we swallowed different dictionaries in our youth.

    But I’d be very grateful if you could pursue how ‘quantity’ of hyperlinks actually distort with some examples thrown in.

    I didn’t directly make the link between distortion and quantity. I stated his links often distort. Example?

    “I don’t want to put the families through any more political trauma..”

    Thread posted on 03/06/2009 containing the line:

    But hatred, once tactically deployed (hyperlink), cannot be simply wished away because of political expedience (hyperlink).

    Which brings us on a whirlwind of a trip through Gerry Adams speaking about Che to Che Guevara and a + 40 year old quote from him regarding the tactical deployment of hatred back to Martin Mcguiness criticising Gregory Campbell (the nerve of him) for not bothering to attend a murdered constituent’s funeral. Sorry what’s the point of this other than SF are now inextricably linked to ‘hatred’ in the aftermath of a loyalist murder?

  • Mark McGregor

    Mick,

    Recently you quoted Einstein at some one, right back at you.

    I’ll keep my argument simple;

    If you don’t understand the problem, see recursion ;0)

  • Recursion. Yep, I get that. But who’s introducing that recursion? Some of our politicians (and some MSM journos) seem to treat the public as though they were stupid and without memory. If they repeat a lie long enough, they think they will get away with it. The deadline/timetable debate was a perfect example of that. Each time the false claim was made, Pete would obligingly recurse (can I say that?).

    One way, and I think this is fair to the way Pete uniquely mines Slugger, to view the site’s overall output is as a large body of knowledge. A database that can be referenced by the personal narratives of each individual blogger, if you like.

    The way I view Pete’s posts (and I accept this may not be a view that is widely shared) is as a dipping into the database to pull out what his back notes on a given story. For me this incredibly useful. And I suspect I am not the only one.

    Dec,

    It seems to me there are several issues being conflated here. One is the overuse of backlinks (which all most of those who routinely complain, have complained about; Kensei complains of ‘physical pain’). The second is the content choices he makes. And the third is his style.

    As I read it the first is a cypher for the second. As for what hyperlinking ‘means’; Garlikov above:

    “..they allow readers to read in the order they prefer—the order that makes the most sense to them, reading details, reasons, explanations for major points, as they choose, rather than having to wait until they get to an explanation”

    That’s not a defence of Pete’s editorial choices, those are as contestable as anything else. But if you disagree with the pertinence of his links, or confront him with it?

    As for style, well… I get them, but then maybe I am the odd one out…

    Briso, although you’ve extracted the hyperlinks, but most of it reads well enough until you get towards the end, when he’s leaning rather heavily on the hyperlink to support the irony highlighted in those later sentences…

  • kensei

    Mick

    One way, and I think this is fair to the way Pete uniquely mines Slugger, to view the site’s overall output is as a large body of knowledge. A database that can be referenced by the personal narratives of each individual blogger, if you like.

    Even if we accept that was the case, then there is both an art and a science to organising information in a fashion where it is both easy to add to, easy to retrieve and presentable in a fashion that enables its use elsewhere, or its consumption for human beings. A giant spiderweb of links, often unclearly labelled, with no easy way of tracking where you are, does not qualify. Compunded of course, by Slugger’s pathetic search options. If this was a good way of orgainising information, then Google would not exist. And that’s independent of whether or not the actual text is intelligible.

    You are pontificating on topics you know nothing about.

    It seems to me there are several issues being conflated here. One is the overuse of backlinks (which all most of those who routinely complain, have complained about; Kensei complains of ‘physical pain’). The second is the content choices he makes. And the third is his style.

    Actually Mick, I complain about a lot of things because I can apparently I have an ability you do not share that means I can cope with more than one arguments at a time.

    But anyway. Do you see text change colour regularly anywhere else? No, you do not. Why would that be? Because text that is a different colour draws the eye and makes it harder to focus on an entire piece. It interupts flow. That is why different colours are often used to highlight important points. Do you see a harsh red typically used in extended text anywhere – print or online? No, because once again it is hard to read. This is of course, compunded by the fact that screen text – particularly the smaller font used by Slugger (check BBC blogs for comparison, there) are harder to read anyway. It is not good practice.

    Again, I don’t make this shit up. People think about an dresearch these things. That’s why only the most amateur of sites will use things like red text on a blue background (for those that doubt the physical component of this, look that one up)

    As I read it the first is a cypher for the second.

    As yopu read it, you read wrong. The over reliance on backlinks is often at the expense of the intellegibility of the post at hand and leads to a recursive mess where the only way to know what is going on is to trace back the links to the very beginning – which is an impossible task due to the explosive complexity unless you ahev several hours and the patience of a saint. This is absolutely criminal, and it is what people object to.

    But if you disagree with the pertinence of his links, or confront him with it?

    In which case you are tiold you nee dto read allt he links. But still appear to be unable to grasp that how information is presented can be as important as the content. That is why people ask for “communication skills” as something separate.

    Briso, although you’ve extracted the hyperlinks, but most of it reads well enough until you get towards the end, when he’s leaning rather heavily on the hyperlink to support the irony highlighted in those later sentences…

    So, as the use of hyperlinks increases, the quality goes down. That’s for supporting the hypothesis at hand, Mick.

  • Kensei, look, that’s all good stuff on design and fonts and changing colours and all, and it will no doubt help us with the redesign that’s been in train for a few months now.

    As for the rest, well here’s one for you: http://ping.fm/jXM1O

  • kensei

    As for the rest, well here’s one for you: http://ping.fm/jXM1O

    If you want me to troll Mick, I can do a much more effective job at that than simply complaining about poor use of hyperlinks.

    Clearly we are getting nowhere, since you obstinately refuse to admit that how you communicate your message is important, or engage with the points made and instead would prefer to explain to a Master in Computer Science (current area of work: Mobile internet) that the hyperlink is a great invention.

    Anyway, there is a cracking illustration behind here
    on the dangers of hyperlinking without context.

  • Mick Fealty

    We agree on something at last! This ‘argument’ is going nowhere. Why? Because you are not responding to what I’ve actually written.

    I’m pleased you have a Masters in Computer Science, but none of this about technology (about which I know a little). Rather, it’s about the cultural impacts of technology on how knowledge is transmitted (about which I know rather more).

  • kensei

    Mick

    We agree on something at last! This ‘argument’ is going nowhere. Why? Because you are not responding to what I’ve actually written.

    Guess we have something in common then, Mick.

    I’m pleased you have a Masters in Computer Science, but none of this about technology (about which I know a little).

    And I know rather more. If you are going to start basing your argument on hyperlinks as a method of indexing or tracking information then you have walked feet first into the realms of Comp Sci. If you are basing your argument on how people interact with technology, then you are into interface design and into another branch of the same. But much of this doesn’t actually go that far. It is simply about decent writing. And to judge that, you simply need to be a reader.

    Rather, it’s about the cultural impacts of technology on how knowledge is transmitted (about which I know rather more).

    And which I do not care one jot about. That is several layers of abstraction away from what I am talking about. The things I care about are stuff like:

    1. The presentation of the text does not in itself from a barrier to entry.

    2. That the text itself is intelligible without a requirement for excessive outside reference (as has been pointed out – the odd ironic reference with an embedded link – fine. An entire paragraph made up of nothing else – an unmitigated disaster). Otherwise again, you have huge barriers to entry. And in giving little direction, you might simply have broken the logical sequence of an argument. Good design and – yes – communication extends beyond just pumping out as much as you can.

    That is a minimum requirement; I’d much prefer the text is actually clear and gets its point across just like, well, any other writing. But since I have trouble with that bit myself, it’s hardly fair.

    3. That supporting material is easy to navigate and keep track of.

    None of that interferes with the cultural impact of Slugger. If fact, improving quality does nothing but add to it. You can add hyperlinks to a document. You can reference it on the likes of Facebook and Twitter. You can open up the contents on pipes like RSS and Atom feeds. You can allow the user to mess about with the data. But what’s at the heart of it? Discussion on politics. If what is there isn’t interesting or compelling, or if it is poorly written or hard to follow, or if it is compromised by its presentation, none of that amounts to a hill of beans.

    So back to something I posted earlier:

    Sadly, said Mr Nielsen, the rush to embrace Web 2.0 technology meant that many firms were turning their back on the basics.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ken, I took a little time out to compile some thoughts I’ve been having over the last three or four years of writing Slugger on the multilinearity that hyperlinks bring to blogging.

    The prompt was the regular criticism that Pete gets for ‘putting in too many links’. Pete is not somehow above criticism, but this ‘line’ has become boiler plate and entirely fails to account for this multilinearity.

    For instance, if you come to a full stop or the end of a paragraph, you don’t suddenly panic and say this is somehow impregnable because the information you need to get the text’s meaning is stranded in the next paragraph. The links are (as ‘Tim Berners-Lee’ noted on the other thread) at once integral to the text but greater than the text in the original ‘document’.

    I was interested to see that one of the texts I read in compiling this referenced Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. I’ve not got as far as that (Ulysses took me six months and put me off reading another novel for about another six), but it notes the apparently disconnected patterns of Joyce’s work and argues that they were left deliberately like that so that the reader could make their own links and associations of meaning.

    Even in Ulysses, Joyce often takes the voice of the narrator away from you so you have guess where you are at times, for yourself. You’re sitting in Barney Kiernan’s pub for a short while before you even guess its a pub. In other words you are in the action making some of the decision normally made for you buy the writer.

    Now, Joyce clearly was not accessible to a mass readership. And yet his work has had real cultural impact on the way we see the world. I’ve long thought his work was an early dream of the rich abundance of the internet age, whilst Beckett’s spare prose was borne out of the stripped down era of the Cold War.

    Going back to the main subject to , my point was simple, limited and almost entirely related to the way people consume knowledge in a distributed online world. If it doesn’t mean anything to you fine. But then tell me again, why are we ‘talking’?

  • kensei

    The prompt was the regular criticism that Pete gets for ‘putting in too many links’. Pete is not somehow above criticism, but this ‘line’ has become boiler plate and entirely fails to account for this multilinearity.

    The hyperlink is an excellent idea without which the web does could not exist. That doesn’t mean that it must be used always and everywhere. The logical conclusion to that line of reasoning is that every word should be its own hyperlink.

    We don’t do that, in part because there is a point beyond which the value decreases exponentially, and partly because the key component in this system – the person – can have difficulty in coping when the number of relationships hits explosive complexity. And as much as the hyperlink enables several pathways, we do not want a fractal relationship.

    So too many links is a valid criticism, just as too much oxygen can be valid problem. You are taking a general case, and applying to a specific context verbatim. The reason Pete gets a lot of criticism about using too many links, is that because he frequently (by no means always) uses too many links. Badly. There is no need to deconstruct it.

    For instance, if you come to a full stop or the end of a paragraph, you don’t suddenly panic and say this is somehow impregnable because the information you need to get the text’s meaning is stranded in the next paragraph.

    But. If. You. Put. Full. Stops. Every. Word. It. Is. Much. Harder. To. Read. The. Sentence.

    Similarly, what reason is there for using paragraphs? They can be used to group information, but in general they are for the ease of the reader. Start splitting

    sentences across different paragraphs, and it can be very difficult to follow. You may wish to do so, and it is occasionally use can be a writing technique. But if you

    keep doing it repeatedly, you are annoying the reader, breaking the normal conventions of the writing word, and showing poor style. The various parts of grammar are all powerful and revolutionary in their way, but you still need to use them properly and effectively.

    Repeatedly post threads in those styles and you/’ll get a barrage of criticism.

    The links are (as ‘Tim Berners-Lee’ noted on the other thread) at once integral to the text but greater than the text in the original ‘document’.

    This is simply infatuation with the technology without thought to the technique. Once again, it’s all back to the basics. Is it legible? Is it readable? Is it organised in a manner that helps the reader? That last question has slightly different connotations on the web, but the principle applies.

    Going back to the main subject to , my point was simple, limited and almost entirely related to the way people consume knowledge in a distributed online world. If it doesn’t mean anything to you fine. But then tell me again, why are we ‘talking’?

    Because you opened a thread and directed all complaints here. If you aren’t prepared to deal with the substance of said complaints but would rather wax lyrical on the wonders of technology and talk at cross purposes, then yes, why are we talking?

  • Dave

    “…then yes, why are we talking?”

    Because you’re at pains to have us believe that the incessant hissy-fits that you direct at Mr Baker are somehow related to your masters degree in computer science along with membership of the plain English society and are somehow not related to your intense dislike of Mr Baker’s political focus, and because Mick is at pains to point out that as well as being a leading-edge intellectual (your guess is as good as mine) that he will bat for Mr Baker in his own sweet inimitable way but that he is just too nice to get the red card out for those who post their whinges on Mr Baker’s threads as some form of intermittent catharsis of passive-aggressive angst. 😉

  • Mick Fealty

    Ken,

    Okay, to recap.

    The principle is multilinearity. The experience of that is certainly subjective. For me, I don’t experience the pain you say you do when confronted with one of Pete’s hyperlinked posts.

    And I’ve not heard anyone come back on the idea that the recursive character of these posts relate to the insistence of some politicians of persisting with the same misleading statements.

    My view of them is that they hark back to the reasons I set this blog up in the first place: as a research resource an aide-memoire to the twisting narrative of Ulster politics.

    Pete’s posts may not on the whole be stunning piece of literature, but that’s not what they were intended to be.

    As a linked back referencer many of his posts are incredibly useful. During the campaign, we picked up on the DUP talking point of the UDA Brigadier who was seen putting posters for the UUP.

    Good story, but not the whole story. It was through one of Pete’s back links I was able to point back to the way OFMdFM had okayed EU funding members of the UDA primarily because the Minster for Social Development wouldn’t.

    Which takes me back to the extended memory (Memex) idea. It’s not about ‘style’; rather its about making powerful contextual information readily available when what most journalists in the MSM are having to rely on memory and present context.

  • kensei

    Dave

    Ah Dave. Thank God you’ve arrived and proclaimed your denouement. I mean there we were having a discussion about what we thought we believed and what we thought where the issues at hand but no, you just bounced in at the right time to tells us what we were actually talking about. Perhaps you can regale us further on how I, along with every other nationalist voter here is a poor deluded fool who’ve passed away our birthright in a sensational and fascinating post that overflows the word count four times.

    WINKY SMILIE

  • Mick Fealty

    Dave,

    My intention with this thread is simply to shake this tree until it bares some fruit. 😉

  • kensei

    Mick

    We are still at cross purposes. The same information can be presented in a variety of fashions. It is perfectly possible for Pete to improve his literature while retaining the connections.

    In any case, if this site was properly indexed, used a proper tagging system or had an efficient search system you could have just looked for everything related to the DUP and loyalists and bing! everything related is available in a presentable format. If necessary you could have grouped it by date or author or cross referenced it by other criteria. That is much more effective than tearing through a pile of posts with often only tangentially or ironically labelled links.

    Multilinearity is still important in this setup. Once you have found something interesting you want to easily be able to examine some of the things around it without resorting to further searches. But if you are a researcher, you’ll scan the document. If you don’t see anything interesting, you’ll never get to that point. And you can’t be totally non linear, because some of those linear connections remain important. Clarity and good structure are always and everywhere a unalloyed good, and one that can’t be replaced simply by increasing choice.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ken,

    I know exactly what I’m talking about… I’m just not sure where you’re coming from… since you know the site is waiting on a complete overhaul… This is Slugger circa 2004 with some bells and whistles…

    But for now, oiche mhaith…

  • percy

    I object to being directed in how I should respond to a recent story, by these hyperlinks.

    They are suffocating; every moment is a new and shocking valuation of all that we have been, so much of that past is deception.

    You want the experience of the fresh smell of the paint of reality in your story, and not a stuffy library.
    And as the stock-brokers tell us; do your own research.
    I’m not convinced that peteb is doing these hyperlinks for us, I suspect they’re for himself.
    He’s telling you what he thinks, over and over, and you barely get the emotional chance to work it out for yourself, its so tiring.

    If you want to play with nails, be a carpenter.

  • The Spectator

    Mick

    I must say in Ken’s defence that I think it was a bit rich of you to question his motive. You are all to quick to tell others to challenge what others have actually written, not what you want them to mean, and yet in this example Ken (and others) quite clearly argued that Peter’s heavily linked, dense, self-reverential and opaque style has become a distinct barrier to understanding the argument’e he was trying to make.

    your response : It’s a ‘cypher’ – Ken must be lying, it’s really Pete’s (presumably unionist) views. And thus not to be taken seriously.

    Now, at the risk of bakerisation is that not “bollix”-isation of the first water?

    After all, as you said yourself in happier days

    people should be judged on what they say, not who they are! Or on how others view their motives.

  • Pete Baker

    If I may, I’ll just add a quick comment.

    percy

    Honesty is an undervalued virtue. But thank you for yours.

    And if Ken’s objective is simply “decent writing”, I’m content to continue to be regarded as indecent by some.

    Which is not to say that that is my objective..

  • Mick Fealty

    TS. How do you get seamlessly from ‘I’m not sure where he’s coming from’ to ‘Don’t listen to him, he’s a bollix’?

    Dave questioned Ken’s motives; I’m just puzzled by why we have missed each other so completely in this conversation.

    I made an effort in putting that piece together to expose my own working out. And yet very little of that working out has been challenged directly on this thread. I generally work on the basis of what does not kill you makes you stronger. In other words, I can take a hit.

    Look, in the end, happy days or no (that link’s not working for me BTW), people are entitled to fry Pete on the quality of his argument. And on those grounds, be my guest!

    But what spurred me to this post is that there is a would-be meme recursively purporting to take Pete down on grounds that relate something other than the substance of his argument.

    That, and the fact that I have actually spent some time thinking about this stuff…

  • Turgon

    I do not know if I should comment here or not. However, since I have been suggested as almost the antithesis in style to Pete I thought I might make a couple of observations.

    Pete’s hyperlinks can sometimes be hard to follow but then again his posts are brief. My blogs are few hyperlinks but I freely admit long winded. I have a suspicion that the length of time each of us takes for a blog is actually quite similar. I would also suggest that Pete’s take no longer to read (links included) than mine.

    Surely the strength of slugger is that there are people who post in different styles as well as with differing views. Fundamentally if one does not like the hyperlinks one can ignore them and ultimately if one wishes one can not read the supposedly offending blog.

    I might also point out that although I cannot in any way speak for Pete, I occasionally get a bit fed up with some of the more personal attacks. If you dislike something someone says then by all means address it. Attacking them for style is in danger of being a bit like complaining about someone’s attitude: possibly valid but more usually a cover for an unjustifiable dislike.

  • The principle of multilinearity and the danger of texts fragmenting, losing meaning and eventually disappearing up their own hyper-links.

  • Mick Fealty

    Turgon,

    That’s true. And I would say that in putting down a robust defence of the ‘recursive’ hyperlink technique I am most certainly not prescribing it for everyone.

    In fact we do need to get out a bit more. Linking out to other blogs (the blogbursts for me are often the deepest breath of cold fresh air, it’s just that in their current from they take a long time to put together)

    Nev,

    Excellent reference. I particularly like this bit at the end:

    “The centrality of the reader in constructing meaning, together with the relatively self-contained property of the individual node, leads to the conception of hypertexts as nonlinear.”

  • percy

    cheers peteb I only wish I was kinder

  • Mick, here’s a little bit more: “Attention to audience”.

    Where are readers to go if, say, each thread has five hyper-links/nodes and each node leads to five other nodes?

    By the time you’ve dropped two levels you’ve hit 5+25+125=155 nodes. That’s enough to make you node off 🙂

  • kensei

    Mick

    I know exactly what I’m talking about…

    I’m sure you do. It’s everyone else you appear to have problems with.

    It as simple as: the hyperlinks are a big barrier to entry, hard to follow and hard to read. It doesn’t require further analysis. Sort it out. I have quite happily went months without saying anything, but occasionally you see an example of such breathtaking craziness you feel compelled to say so in the vain hope it gets reined in. If it turns out other people have the same irritation, then it is hardly my responsibility.

    Threads were as much derailed by people responding with trite defence like “read a newspaper” as anyone attacking.

    Spectator

    Both Dave and Mick are quite wrong. It is not a transference from the politics or his content; just about everything Pete does – from his politics to his style to the “ironic” asides to his attitude – rubs me completely the wrong way. No need to transfer anything. Though this is the internet, so there is a rather quick limit to how much I actually care, obviously.

    I am perfectly capable of leaving my remarks within the scope of what’s reasonable. And honestly, Pete’s posting style has the same affect on me as poor grammar does on a certain other class of people, which is an irrational urge to yell the wrongness at whoever is responsible for it. That is quite independent of content, because I have stopped reading by the third oh so ironic link in any case, so thje content doesn’t even register.

    Pete

    And if Ken’s objective is simply “decent writing”, I’m content to continue to be regarded as indecent by some

    I don’t have an objective. That would the require the belief that anything is likely to change. I just want to register my irritation. I know I should just not read it but there you go.

    Anywho it is 2:30 AM and the not wanting to go to bed after being out thing has kind of worn off. I think I’m done here because I have no desire to go around in ever decreasing circles on the value of the hyperlink and network theory. Hopefully new slugger will be more like TV and I can simply turn Pete off. There is probably a way to do it now, but that would involve me doing some work. In any case. Bing! Problem solved, everyone happier.

  • The Spectator

    Mick

    How do you get seamlessly from ‘I’m not sure where he’s coming from’ to ‘Don’t listen to him, he’s a bollix’?

    Earlier…

    It seems to me there are several issues being conflated here. One is the overuse of backlinks (which all most of those who routinely complain, have complained about; Kensei complains of ‘physical pain’). The second is the content choices he makes. And the third is his style.

    As I read it the first is a cypher for the second.

    That’s how I get there, seamlessly or otherwise. Ken told you plainly what his problem was, and you decided to argue that he was, in essence, lying about his problem, and indeed his motive because he didn’t like the substance of what Pete was saying.

    In essence you implied, don’t listen to Ken’s (reasonable) argument, he’s only lying about his motive because he doesn’t like Pete’s unionist views. Fairly clearly bollixology, I would have thought. Or am I lying too?

    I made an effort in putting that piece together to expose my own working out.

    No, Mick you didn’t. What ever your piece was, and however intereting parts of it were, working out it was not. “Show your working out” is a Maths phrase, and it is shorthand for “demonstrate your logic”.

    But there is little logic in your piece. It’s more stream of consciousness meets Jargon. And as Ken suggests, that stops thinking, rather than enhances it.

    Attempting to compare multilinearity (jargon again – is it so hard to simply say different links lead to different strands of discussion and thought?) with standard rules of grammer and punctuation, and then postmodern literature seems a very poor analogy. It clarifies nothing.

    Finegan’s Wake is Art. Art can subvert the rules of communication, because it’s first purpose is not communication, it’s Art.

    Slugger O’Toole is not Art. Not even close. And if you think it is, you may want to consider Anal Craniectomy.

    Pete’s posts have always suffered from being excessively opaque, whether through ‘hyper-linearity’, a tendency to obfiscation for the sake, presumably, of looking clever, or mistaking sarcasm for irony. That’s fine, his choices to make, nothing to do with actual content, certainly nothing to do with his political philosophy, per se, but it’s perfectly legitimate to point out that he only hurts his own argument by poor communication.

    Your own prose style, Mick, has tended towards the opaque and jargonistic recently too. And I’ve not commented on either of your work before because I don’t frankly care enough. It’s your funeral, as the saying goes.

    But Ken’s points, backed up by several other readers seem very fair to me (and clearly to those other readers). And the response has been mean-spirited to say the least.

    As for multilinearity, or even “would-be meme”, a tip, mick, if your interested. Jargon has a place. That place is to ease conversation between two parties who are both versed in it. All too often, however, it is used by the initated to confuse the uninitiated.

    I’m a lawyer . If I am in a conversation with, say, Alban Maginnis, and I casually mention that his next SDLP party meeting on the results of the election would be best held in camera, it makes sense because Alban is also in my profession, and we both know pretty much instantly that the phrase means “a hearing or meeting held privately in the presence of the judge, and without the public present” – so he knows instantly I’m suggesting he and the SDLP bigwigs have a private ‘post mortem’ discussion on the future before engaging the wider public.

    Use of Legal jargon which we, as lawyers, both understand makes the conversation easier, quicker and more direct. It is a help to communication.

    If I meet someone who does not share the jargon and suggest, for example, we continue the conversation with a few drinks “in camera” – I’m being a prick. I am presenting a barrier to communication, for my own self-gratification, and I ought to know better.

    Frankly, its cowardice, Mick. It’s hiding the possible weakness of an argument behind a wall of superficial knowledge. It’s the substitution of technical language for intelligence

    Turgon’s posts are very long, and in my mind, occasionally too self-reverential (which I’ve mentioned to him before). I also find a fair proportion of his politics distasteful. But I always understand the arguments he’s making, I never feel excluded from his thinking, and I can see he’s making great and genuine effort to communicate with his audience. And he’s not hiding behind jargon. So we can argue on point as it were.

    Pete’s posts simply create a fog, and seem only to please Pete, and you. Now why might that be?

  • Mick Fealty

    TS,

    I can see why you thought I’d claimed Slugger was comparable to Joyce’s work, but ‘this’ should have been accompanied by ‘article’; I did not mean to imply this ‘website’ was comparable FW. It was an observation I picked up in one of the linked articles above, that chimed with my own sense of how the disaggregation process affect’s the way material is read online.

    As for intemperate or uncivil man-playing responses I’m afraid I can’t see them. You point to a post I did a few years ago suggesting I’ve somehow told people they should not listen to Kensei. But where is it?

    Look TS, I am up for a debate on this, but I cannot debate with people who make stuff up to fit what they think is being said, rather than what is being said. Whatever your honest intention here, there is nothing that I can honestly grapple with.

    The piece offers a defence (my own) for Pete’s use of hyperlinks, and to give his persistent critics and opportunity to tease it out ‘on topic’ rather than constantly disrupting the narrative of when he posts on other topics.

    To that end I am going to try and keep this topic open, so that when people wish to make a fresh point about the opacity of such posts (by Pete or by anyone else), you have somewhere to make it.

  • USA

    Mick and Kensei,
    Great discussion. I wanted to contribute to this thread but I have been very busy.
    I will have to read your comments in more detail when I get a chance and comment at a later date.
    As a teacher of Web Communication and Design (also with a Master degree) I cannot ignore the strength of Kensei’s aguement, having briefly scanned the discussion I find myself strongly agreeing with many of his points.

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    Thanks USA. I look forward to hearing your considered opinion!

  • Turgon

    USA
    How fortunate we are to have people of such calibre to enlighten us: it is good to know that the wise one will soon come back to us with a full analysis. In the meantime we will sit and await the kindness of our intellectual superior telling us his wise thoughts. It is indeed a mercy to have such genius present amongst us and his views “droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
    Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
    It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:”

    If only I had something like a masters degree: ah well most of us are ill educated peasants but at least we can await some pearls of wisdom.

  • The Spectator

    Turgon

    With the best will in the world, what did that add? At best, you look mean-spirited, at worst stupid. You’re usually better than this.

    What exactly the quality of mercy has to do with this argument, besides you showing off your shakespeare, is somewhat beyond me. but in that vein, you may wish to consider, in your own life, the following-

    “Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more than any man in all Venice. His reasons are as two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff: you shall seek all day ere you find them; and when you have them, they are not worth the search.” – Bassanio, Act I, Merchant of Venice.

    Mick

    As for intemperate or uncivil man-playing responses I’m afraid I can’t see them. You point to a post I did a few years ago suggesting I’ve somehow told people they should not listen to Kensei. But where is it?

    Straw man, Mick. And I think you know it. You quite clearly, in this thread (not some ‘long-ago thread’), sought to dismiss Ken’s point on the basis, frankly, of his perceived political views, and their clash with Pete’s – you accused him, in your usual understated manner, of being misleading, deliberately or otherwise. You intimated that his problem with Pete was, in reality, that Pete’s a unionist, and so Ken, as a nationalist, was having a tribal dig, using blogging technique as a cypher, and so any merit in his argument can and should be safely ignored.

    This is clear from the “cypher” remark I have already quoted. It’s not rocket science, it’s preety obvious bollixology of the type you very often rail against and at this stage, Mick, any professed blindness to it on your part is wilful.

    You shouldn’t have made the remark, you don’t have the evidence to back it up, even if there was truth in it, it was irrelevant to Ken’s perfectly logical point, the remark was to all intents and purposes ad hominim, and as a technique, it’s beneath you.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Mick

    Vannevar Bush was urging after WW2, as the Editor noted in his preface in the Atlantic, “that men of science should then turn to the massive task of making more accessible our bewildering store of knowledge”.

    In some of Pete’s posts, I think he is doing the opposite. Not always, maybe not even deliberately, but too often for it not to cause concern.

    How information is organised is important, but what we’re talking about is making information less accessible for reasons I don’t know.

    Bear in mind we’re only talking about the more extreme examples. There are plenty of Pete’s posts that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Nor am I too concerned about Slugger’s text colour or font size (though it is important), and style is subjective, although I would say that 95-word sentences are never a good idea (and writing too much in parentheses is irritating). [As is random italicisation – Ed] Indeed.

    No. I think the main gripe is how well the argument is communicated to an audience, with particular reference to hyperlinks.

    My preference is for links to (usually) provide supplementary information that, for example, backs up the argument presented in the original blog post. That original post should form its own whole though. Sometimes Pete’s posts don’t, and neither do the posts that he links to. Whether they provide some unrelated information that may be interesting is almost beside the point. Assuming we can tell what that point is, as it ain’t always clear.

    To quote Garlikov back at you: “With hyperlinked passages, the reader may visit the hyperlink if s/he wishes or ignore it the first time through, in order to read the main ideas linearly first, going back later for the details as they relate to those ideas.”

    And in response to your from Nevin’s site about the centrality of the reader in constructing meaning, it does talk about the “relatively self-contained property of the individual node”.

    This is what is absent in the more extreme of Pete’s blogs. We are actively prevented from reading the main idea linearly first, nor it is self-contained. To derive any meaning, one cannot ignore the links, which by definition are a distraction, and the original argument is weakened by not being self-contained. But clicking links may not even help.

    I find it a good idea to be able to read a post in its entirety AND understand it without having to necessarily click a link, as this disrupts the thought processes. If I want to get from A to B, I don’t want to be forced to walk up every side street on the way. If I want to explore, that should be my choice. If one is obliged to click links to comprehend the meaning in Blog Zero, and these lead to other texts that are equally incomplete in themselves, it leaves the bewildered reader wondering what the author was actually trying to say. So I would disagree with you when you say that “each backlinking becomes a document in itself”. I would argue that they are not documents in themselves at all, since they are incomplete in themselves, leading to the “recursion” mentioned by others. The narrative here is not unconventional; there is no narrative.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    (cont.)

    As Garlikov argues: “They [links] are extremely useful for tying together a great many different, related ideas without having to depart from a clear linear exposition. Because people read and listen in a temporal or sequential order in time, when one is writing or speaking, one has to organize ideas and statements in some particular order of presentation or other.” (My italics)

    I also disagree that the problem is, as you suggest, the “inconvenient introduction of memory, which has a tendency to disrupt the favoured narrative”. That kind of discovery, to me, is a joy – to find, for example, a politician saying something today that contradicts his previous statements. But at what point do I know I’ve ‘arrived’ at the blog entry where the inconvenient memory is alluded to? Which link is it hidden behind? This is definitely not “making powerful contextual information readily available”. If it was, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    But the more convoluted posts we are actually talking about feel less like some trailblazing intellectual enterprise than swimming in post-modern treacle, following multiple links and getting nowhere fast. You ask us to test the quality of the argument, but this is not always easy, because it isn’t clear what the argument is. His refusal to engage to explain doesn’t help. Small wonder that readers impose their own meaning and discuss what they want to talk about – and then get chastised for doing so.

    It’s not just what you say that matters, it’s how you say it. I think Pete is an intelligent analyst, but a poor communicator. Nor do I see Slugger necessarily as a Memex, which makes it sound like some automated mechanical database, but a forum for people-driven dialogue. A place where connections of a human kind, as well as hypertextual, can be made. I think you understand this, as your own posts – whether I agree with them or not – are often models of good hyperlink use that drive debate in a constructive fashion.

    A valuable and interesting discussion, but I feel kensei’s concerns are being dismissed too lightly.

  • Mick Fealty

    Gonzo,

    I completely disagree about the Memex thing. I set up Slugger in June 2002 partly as a response to the frustrations of using the Irish Times archives to find material I had read in the past and wanted to retrieve.

    However anyone else sees it now, Slugger was intended as a research resource, not an agit prop soapbox as many of its contemporaries were or became. It remains (for me) its biggest value. I suspect that if you ask around you will find that it’s also considered a primary asset amongst journalists who use Slugger on a regular basis.

    For a notable instance, whilst party spin told us May 2008 was a deadline, Pete recursively, as each profoundly misleading political statement arose, pointed us back to the relevant legislation and passages in the House of Commons that demonstrated clearly that it was not. Meanwhile, MSM hacks, by and large, accepted the party line without question.

    This points to one of conventional journalism’s big problems in an era when news becomes a commodity: it is being incrementally dispossessed of its institutional memory. As old hacks are paid out, and younger (cheaper ones) take their place, the memory of even the semi distant past fall outside that institution’s human remembering.

    Enter the Memex (or ‘memory extender’). Or as Pete has sometimes put it, the Baconian history. Back in 2005, Noel Whelan used RTE’s archives to brilliant effect to question the trustworthiness of SF’s denials that the IRA was involved in the Northern Bank robbery: http://url.ie/1qe6.

    Aside from Rusty Nail, who uses backlinks in a way recommended by Kensei, very few of us use backlinks to such effect as Pete. They are strong and consistent. They may not always divvy up with the most coherent or literary of posts but then, as I am happy to repeat ad nausium, their value lines in their multi- as opposed to uni- linearity.

    I’m not immune to the criticism people level at Pete’s posts. But then again, I am not sure many of our bloggers would be terribly happy if I were to open a bench test thread that invited their critics to have a go at them and then offer keep it open for the duration.

    I was going to put a back link in from the Bloomsday round up to this thread; especially the bit about Joyce being criticised for being “blasphemous and unreadable”, but then thought better of it. He is not Joyce, nor Bacon either. But I am happy for him to continue to ‘blasphemous’ and ‘unreadable’ for as long as he wishes to blog on Slugger.

    The Spectator/The Beach Tree/Whomever you are…

    When you have something relevant and coherent say about the topic in hand, I will reply…

  • The Spectator/The Beach Tree/Whomever I am

    Mick

    Temper, temper.

    Your blog, or Memex, or whatever. Your funeral.

  • Mick Fealty

    TS/TBT/WIA

    ‘Your funeral.’

    Creepy…

  • The Spectator/The Beach Tree/Whomever I am

    Mick

    “Creepy…

    …cue maniacial laughter…

    What can I say, I inspire fear and awe in all who know me 😉

    Look, if I offended you, sorry, sincerely. I just share some of Ken and Gonzo’s frustrations with Pete “The Link” Baker’s style of posting, and felt Ken in particular was getting a harder time than his comments merit. I apprecaite you seem to end up defending Pete a lot, but them’s the breaks.

    But it’s your toy, you pay for it’s upkeep.

    If you’d rather I left entirely, then I will, of course, oblige…

  • Mick Fealty

    Look, all I want is people get down and dirty, but on the subject in hand not with each other.

    I used to have a friend who made a decision early in his working life as a poet and a playwright to strip language and art down to its barest components.

    For poetry (not prose), that meant stripping out all forms of punctuation, except for the line break, parentheses and and myriad of rhyme schemes (most traditional, some he made up). Some people hated it, some loved it.

    I fell into the latter camp. It did not blind me to the fact that he was neither world’s greatest poet, nor to the fact that his device set up irritating barriers to the conventional reader.

    But as soon as you stopped trying to read it in the conventional way, you could feel the punctuation become implicit in way the writing was put together. He shifted from explicit punctuation to relying on an insinuation of grammar from the words themselves, if you like.

    It’s not my brief to defend Pete or his blogging style. He’s far from the only blogger on Slugger who brings incredible value to the blog.

    But I do feel that in my role as Slugger’s editor it is right that I try to explain where I believe people are ‘misgetting’ what they see as a breach in good taste and convention.

    That’s all…

  • The Spectator

    Mick

    I’m not sure anybody had a problem with “good taste”.

    Fairest thing, then, for me and perhaps others, to do, I feel, is to simply ring fence and ignore Pete’s blogs entirely from now on.

    I’m afraid I see no discursive value in them as they are, and I think it probably will save me time and energy, going forward, if I don’t bother trying to see a value that isn’t there.

    If Pete can’t be bothered trying to communicate coherently, or make arguments as opposed to indices, I don’t really see any obligation on my part to listen. Nothing personal, Peter.

    Onwards and upwards.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m not sure there is a single agreed problem. And there certainly is no obligation, either way.

  • kensei

    Mick

    But I do feel that in my role as Slugger’s editor it is right that I try to explain where I believe people are ‘misgetting’ what they see as a breach in good taste and convention.

    Why did I read this thread again? It is rare that anything on here makes me actually angry, but I think you’ve if you have managed it.

    Pay attention, here Mick:

    No one is saying that the hyperlink is not a useful thing
    No one is saying hyperlinks should not be used
    No one is saying they are not useful in highlighting points
    No one is saying they can’t be used to allow users to explore at their own pace.

    Not. One. Single. Person. If Pete was overusing semicolons, the equivalent to your argument would be in explaining the importance of semicolons in joining related sentences, and how this helps the reader. It’s all true, but it has absolutely nothing to do with what people are complaining about. Your argument is a Straw Man so large it could have a fair pop at Godzilla. We “get” it. It’s not the fucking point. It’s not even close to te fucking point. The poibnt is somewhetre else entirely.

    The problem is they are being used badly. Multilinearity does not come into it. Anything that includes hypertest is, by definition, multilinear. It’s bad multilinearity, because it is confusing and hard to follow. What is it that when you read this goes away? What is everyone talking to you failing to communicate? Why don’t you get it?

    And I have to wonder what kind of giant ego it takes to even compare a few posts on the state of politics here to Joyce. I mean really, wtf? It’s the same state of mind that apparently seems to celebrate opaquity and poor readability in a from designed for communication. It is the product of a deranged mind that has swallowed too much of its own bullsh!t.

    This thread is almost Sir Humphreyesque in its conception. You create a thread to direct complaints, then don’t listen to the subject of those complaints, but rather talk on the mulitlinear nature of the hyperlink node in 3d dimensional n-space. When people make their points, with perfectly reasoned arguments, you dismiss then as being impossible to engage with because they are not talking about network path finding algorithms, and talk abotu anythign else other than the express purpose you apparently opened the thread for. What is going on? What is wrong with you?

    Now, got that out, really, really done.

  • The Spectator

    Kensei

    I suggest to you, sadly, that the only course to reasonably take is to openly abandon any attempt to read, or comment on, any post from Pete unless and until he and Mick see reason on this one.

    It seems to me fairly clear that Mick has decided to defend Pete at all costs on this one, even to the cost of reason and/or readership.

    Indeed, I can only assume Mick did a bit of an IP trawl on myself to link this ‘nom de plume’ with one of my earlier ones, to ‘out’ me.

    (I’d rather not think about why he tried that; at best, it seemed a bit petty, at worst…well, I’d rather not go there. I can only hope the intention was not Whelenesque. I tend toward the former, because, fundamentally, I’m pretty sure Mick’s a decent guy, but it’s more in hope than certainty.)

    In the final analysis, it’s his blog (sorry, Memex), it’s his choice. But I don’t accept we have to be defined by those choices. And we don’t have to accept that poorly crafted, poorly argued self-referencing posts are worthy of consideration and discussion. Sadly.

  • Mick Fealty

    TS,

    I would not use that kind of information on anyone, short of a serious breach of the site rules. Your style gave it away.

    No one, but no one is forcing anyone to eat Pete’s (multilinear?) blog puddings, let alone ‘self define’ (whatever that means?) by them.

    Ken,

    My argument is laid out above. It was an honest response to a line of criticism to Pete’s posts over the last couple of years. It’s an apologia, if you like.

    Attack it, destroy it, or run it into the ground. But if you serially explode (as is your wont with anyone who disagrees with you on your own threads), then you lose the argument.

    Whether you deserve to or not.

  • The Spectator

    Mick

    I would not use that kind of information on anyone, short of a serious breach of the site rules.

    Fair enough, insinuation withdrawn completely, and my genuine apologies for doubting you. What’s my style giveaway, by the way (other than horrible grammar and spelling)?

    And by ‘self-define’, I simply mean that it is possible to refuse to engage with Pete’s posts because of his style and communication issues, either directly, or when another poster attempts to use those posts as some sort of ‘evidence’ without accepting in any way the inevitable accusations that will follow that we are somehow “running away from the argument” or “losing the fight”.

    As an example, in your message to Ken when you say “if you do A (which you usually do) you lose the argument”. With all genuine respect, you don’t get to decide that. You’re the editor, not the arbiter. And Ken doesn’t have to accept the argument is lost, or your standing to even adjudicate on that question.

    Mick, sometimes the only way to deal with an attritional style is to refuse to be ground down.

  • Mick Fealty

    I don’t, that’s true. But it’s a decent working assumption. 🙂

    I’m not going to say exactly what it was… you might be offended… 😉 Persistence and tenacity were in there, but your abiding love of cricket was the clincher…

  • The Spectator

    Mick

    Mea culpa on all charges. I can imagine my more humiliating faults 😉

  • Briso

    This is an all time great thread. Bloody hilarious. Thank you to all contributors.

  • Kensei

    Mick

    My argument is laid out above. It was an honest response to a line of criticism to Pete’s posts over the last couple of years. It’s an apologia, if you like.

    It’s a fine…. well, something, but it is not actually anything to do with the points made. I keep saying this, you keep not listening. Then repeating yourself as if I didn’t hear well enough the first time and just don’t get it.

    It’s like various parties here trying to convince each others the worth of their Constituional position. If only they explained slower, or clearer, the scales would just fall and then they’d understand everything would be ok. But actually, what they are doing is just not listening to what the other person is saying, and just ponticating on their own topic. Why aren’t you listening Mick? Try listening to what I (and others) have actually said.

    Attack it, destroy it, or run it into the ground. But if you serially explode (as is your wont with anyone who disagrees with you on your own threads), then you lose the argument.

    Why would I bother attacking an argument that has nothing to do with any of my problems, and don’t particuarly disagree with 90% of? I just seem to be stuck trying to get you to actually deal with what was said, rather than what you think should be said.

    And actually, Mick, I doubt you could cite three instances of me “exploding” at anyone on my own threads. I was slightly short with a dude on thread on Scotland a bit back but even that was a long way from “explosion”. You have also accused me in the past of serially censoring but I doubt you could find many instances of me censoring much beyond some man playing in my own threads either. But hey, post entirely on your prejudices if you wish.

    Whether you deserve to or not.

    Your big problem there, is that you somehow think I give a stuff about “winning”.

  • Mick Fealty

    Maybe you just need to be clearer about what you are objecting to?

  • Kensei

    Mick

    Maybe you just need to be clearer about what you are objecting to?

    After 3 pages, are you serious?

  • Mick Fealty

    After three pages? Yes. Very. Is it too many hyperlinks, or too much of Pete (as you explicitly state in the middle of this thread)?

    I’m only interested in engaging with the former. I’m not remotely interested in the latter.

  • Kensei

    Actually, Mick, I didn’t state anything approaching that. But then, people here what they want to hear.

    It’s about readability. The hyperlinks are a component of that. If you use too many it can get visually confusing. Using them with ironic asides can be a useful spur to have the reader investigate further, but use too many and you will have precisely the opposite affect. You can also use them to create pieces which really require further reading rather than stand on their own. I do not like this in general, but perhaps a case can be made. But you need to be clear what it is you are missing, and highlight the important bits. If you have an argument, you need to make sure the threa dof it is not lost. A scattergun will not do this, and again it will harm the piece rather than help.

    This is reinforced by the recursive power of the internet. If one byzantine post leads to another, then another, the reader can get intimidated, bored or frustrated – the number of links will and possible paths will explode very rapidly. People do not have time to read them all. To be an tool, you must in someway boil things down from the universe of everything to a narrower subset. Yes, you want to allow exploration, but you also want a path available and an easy way to home back to it if you get lost. A forest park, rather than a jungle.

    Pete sometimes seems to try and fit as many back references into a piece as he posisbly can. I’m sure it is a fun intellectual exercise, but it does nothing for the reader and can cause harm when taken to extreme. I am simply suggesting some consideration for the reader is appropriate – do I need every link? Does this read well, does it scan well? Does it read better if some is pulled out, or pulled to footnotes? Does the link make things clearer or more confused? Is it better off pulled into the piece itself rather than left as a link?

    That can be done within the constraints of style and content. It is not a big point, but it is an important one, because there is capacity for immense annoyance when done wrong. That is indepenent of the dislike of politics or manner of anyone.

  • qubol

    Has anyone coined the term Linkerbator? I want to, you heard it here first.

    Mick I guess you’re finished on this thread now but seriously, how can you not get this? Ken, TS and Gonzo (amongst others) have laid this out very well. It’s disappointing that you can’t see this.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Hi folks. You’ll all have noticed this site is one of the slowest on the net. I downloaded the CCleaner program last week and its alsolute magic. Slugger loads in a second, well 2 seconds. I’ve linked to the home page where you can donate through pay-pal should you wish to, however if you wish to simply get the free download hit the other links and way you go.

    Its a super wee program for speading up your browsing and removes alot of gunk.

  • Quietzapple

    Sad fact is that links may be to gospel or a foreign based billionaire’s Book of Lies.

    And it has been particularly notable that, for example, the Dully Maul’s article on Enoch Powell and his rivers of blood speech has been “updated” – changing sufficient that it’s meaning is . . . shall we say . . “refined” to exclude significant facts.

    WIKI is regularly updated to suit people from Rantzen to Chameleon too.