Do you click the links in order? April 3, 2011 6:24 AM   Subscribe

Do people click the links in an FPP in the order they appear?

I think I constructed this post badly, in the following sense. The point of the FPP was to link to a 3-part interview between the two principals. I wrote the post and I thought it looked weird as a long block of unlinked test with three links at the end. So I linked some words in the intro paragraph to add some background on the people involved. But the resulting thread was dominated by discussion of the "extra" links that appeared first. Maybe it's just that those links were more interesting than I thought! But it made me wonder: is it a common for people to click the links one by one, in the order they appear in the FPP?
posted by escabeche to Etiquette/Policy at 6:24 AM (72 comments total)

I myself almost never click on links; I'm here for the comment threads. So my own practice gives me little insight here.
posted by escabeche at 6:24 AM on April 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


I tend to hover over the links to check the url, so no, I mostly only read the links that seem to be the meat of the post.
posted by Dumsnill at 6:31 AM on April 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I mouse over them all just to check where they go before I click. And since I never thought about this before I have to admit I don't always follow the order. A lot of time it's either because I'm at work but some people write their posts in such a way as to emphasize one link over another and I often follow along.
posted by tommasz at 6:32 AM on April 3, 2011


In multi-link posts, I generally try to guess which links are the 'important' links based on context, but I'm not always right. Whether that's because I've read the context wrong or because the context was misleading is hard to say.

If you link things like wikipedia articles for background, people will be bored, but probably not all that likely to discuss them. But when you link pages of actual interest and substance as background, but put them first, you can't be all that surprised when people want to talk about them.

Also, your post actually looks a bit like it's going to link to audio interviews or videos of the interview, and a lot of people tend to skip those, especially if they're reading from work.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:32 AM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah I only usually click on text links.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:34 AM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Great point -- I too skip all audio/video and it hadn't occurred to me to make explicit that the interviews are in good old-fashioned high-bandwidth text.
posted by escabeche at 6:36 AM on April 3, 2011


I tend to hover over the links to check the url, so no, I mostly only read the links that seem to be the meat of the post.

Yeah, I do this too. I also will confess that often in multi-link posts, I may only read one of the links. (Until someone in thread scolds me to RTFA...)
posted by sonika at 6:36 AM on April 3, 2011


I use a highly complex and esoteric mathematical formula that determines which link of a multi-link post I will click first, second, third, and so on. It has the effect of making every Mefi post perfectly logical, interesting, engaging and rewarding. I'd explain it here, but then everyone would do it, and I like knowing that I'm the only one that can do it.

ok, the truth is, i suck at math
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:45 AM on April 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


The point of the FPP was to link to a 3-part interview between the two principals.

Then do that. Anything else is padding and therefore just a diversion from the information you want to share.

Since it's three part interview, just choose a interesting comment from one of the interviews, use that as your text, in quotes and then at the end, write " A 3 part interview with blah blah and blah blah, then links to each part, in sequential order.

It's what basically what I did in this post. Just pulled out some interesting text and made a link to the interview. I specifically avoided trying to define who Gerhard or Sim, figuring people either knew or the meat of the interview itself, an artist discussing process and techniques would be interesting enough.

Basically I filtered the information down to its essentials and posted that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:47 AM on April 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Who clicks links?

I complain about single link posts, but I never click any of the links either way.
posted by paisley henosis at 6:48 AM on April 3, 2011


But yeah, I sorta did what you did in this post about Apollo 14, where I provided links to the mission and astronauts and the spaceships, before getting to the original link which had caught my interest about the subject. But I was totally into all the information and wanted to share it 'cause it's totally fascinating to me.

But the thread immediately started drifting towards the crazier aspects of one of the astronauts and well, there you go. What interested me about the information didn't interest everyone else, so the post broke the chain, hopped the fence and began wandering through the neighborhood. Threads drift, it happens.

But really, I should have made the post about Apollo 15, the first mission with a lunar rover and extended stay on the moon. And the command module spent 3 days in orbit studying the moon and launched its own satellite! and then there was the stamp incident....
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:59 AM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've definitely learned from experience to make the main link the first link whenever possible. I think people take their cue from link order as to what you intend the post to be about. I don't agree with Brandon Blatcher's flat assertion that you don't need contextual links--I think it's very helpful to have some sense of who the participants are going into a conversation like that, and it's an important part of making the case for why you think this particular thing is worth the reader's time.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:40 AM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sometimes one word in an FPP stands out and boobies makes you click it out of order.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:40 AM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the most important links should come first, so with a three-part article I start off with the main links, then have the background later on like this:
William B. Irvine has written a three-part essay (1, 2, 3) for BoingBoing summarizing his book A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. The Philosophers' Magazine has also commented on the revival of Stoicism.
I thought your post was fine though, it was pretty clear what the main links were.

I think unless you're certain everone knows about the people or subject, it's useful to give some background information. If you provide background links, the people who are interested can click them, the people who aren't interested don't have to. If you don't provide background, people don't get that choice.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:40 AM on April 3, 2011


I do agree, however, with BB's follow-up point that, short of a flag-worthy derail, you just have to make peace with the notion that after you make the best post you can, where the thread goes after that is pretty much out of your hands.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:43 AM on April 3, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: Just googled "apollo 15 stamp controversy" and found the results interesting if you're testing the waters.
posted by DanSachs at 7:50 AM on April 3, 2011


No. Order of links may have some influence on my behavior, but I usually critically assess which links, if anything, will be interesting. Including more links probably increases the chance (always significant) that I will skim the comments before I click on any links at all. If other people are like me, the reading choices of early posters may be reinforced by information cascades.
posted by grobstein at 7:54 AM on April 3, 2011


I don't agree with Brandon Blatcher's flat assertion that you don't need contextual links--

Well you're wrong and broken and frankly, I'm wondering whether you were dropped on your head as a child.

I do agree, however, with BB's follow-up point that...

Oh never mind, we're cool!

Just googled "apollo 15 stamp controversy" and found the results interesting if you're testing the waters.

Actually, what's really interesting is how and why the accident on Apollo 13 happened, what was required to fix it and how that was ignored and 40 million dollars was spent instead.

Or the various twists and turns that enabled Neil Armstrong to be the first person on the moon.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:55 AM on April 3, 2011


First link or sometimes the one that looks interesting. If I intend to comment, I try to look at them all, subject to attention span: though if...
posted by Segundus at 8:00 AM on April 3, 2011


In multi-link posts, I generally try to guess which links are the 'important' links based on context, but I'm not always right

Yeah, I wish folk would either put the main link first, or make it absolutely clear which link leads to the good stuff.

Most of the time I'll check the comments on a multi-link post, because someone will usually have linked to or identified the good stuff, which saves me from opening a bunch of crappy filler the poster has plopped in, presumably to avoid being slagged off by clueless commenters bleating about 'context' or because they've bought into this weird idea that a single link isn't enough for a MeFi post.

Not that all multilink posts are like that, of course - I think y2karl's magnum opus Dark Was The Night - Cold Was The Ground is one of the best posts ever to grace the site.
posted by jack_mo at 8:39 AM on April 3, 2011


I click the ones that say NSFW first, then if there are other links, and I need context about what the artist was trying to convey with women cover in cream, I may click those as well, but honestly mostly to see if there are additional images.

More often than not the NSFW label was just used as a ruse to trick me into clicking, since I usually think, "Where the hell do you people work?" then I realize I've once again been duped, sort of metafilter's way of rickrolling someone.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:45 AM on April 3, 2011


This is absolutely why padding posts is a mistake, and why those people who sneer at single link posts are nincompoops.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:49 AM on April 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


For whatever it's worth, I vacillate between clicking on the first link, and clicking on the comments or the "more inside" first, then after I've read what people are saying, then I click on the first link... (if that made any sense.)

If there are more than one link on a post, and I'm sufficiently intrigued by the first link, then I'll click on the subsequent link, but not necessarily in the order that they appear, but rather on the ones that sound the most interesting.
posted by crunchland at 8:56 AM on April 3, 2011


I think y2karl's magnum opus Dark Was The Night - Cold Was The Ground is one of the best posts ever to grace the site. --- and no disrespect to y2karl, but on this, I disagree. I think these kinds of posts aren't done justice on metafilter. It's kind of like taking a shower in Dom Pérignon. I can't suggest a better way to present them, nor can I put my finger on exactly why, but I just don't think link floods seem to work on this site.
posted by crunchland at 9:03 AM on April 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also: I know where Wikipedia is. I do not need links to it and will not knowingly click on them.
posted by Segundus at 9:04 AM on April 3, 2011


I almost always read some of the comments of a post first. If the people inside hate it then I move on. If they say it's too disgusting I move one. The Peter Watts post was an odd one with half the people saying the images weren't too bad, and the other half saying they were horrible.

I finally broke down and came down on the side of horrible.

But I seldom click a link to a source before finding out what others are saying.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:05 AM on April 3, 2011


No.

Posters often hide the interesting links, the reason for the post in the middle. There have been posts with the main link in the more inside section, with only padding links on the main page.

What mefi needs somedays is a grumpy editor in charge of layout who will throw their cigar butts at you until you get you lede right.
posted by bonehead at 9:05 AM on April 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pretty astonishing the number of people who aver to almost never reading the links!
posted by proj at 9:16 AM on April 3, 2011


If I'm going to read all the links I'll often use my linky plugin that just opens them all in tabs and then wander through.
posted by Karmakaze at 9:24 AM on April 3, 2011


I don't always click on the links in order. But I do think, for best results, the main link (or links) should go above the fold, and the supporting stuff should go below. I'll still probably read the whole FPP first before clicking on anything, and may decide to read some of the background material first, but it's clear what the main thing is.
posted by nangar at 9:29 AM on April 3, 2011


> Pretty astonishing the number of people who aver to almost never reading the links!

It's usually only first four or five commenters in a thread. Presenting the links a certain way isn't going to fix that.

But flagging makes them go away ...
posted by nangar at 9:38 AM on April 3, 2011


Pretty astonishing the number of people who aver to almost never reading the links!

You must be reading a different thread. I've seen a couple jokey comments about not reading links, but otherwise it been a mixture of I search out the important one or I click some or I read one before commenting, etc. I'm not seeing a lot of admissions of people skipping the links, but then I didn't read all the comments either.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:41 AM on April 3, 2011


I read what seems to be the most important link(s) of the post. I sometimes wish people would make it more clear what the point or main link of their post is, and what is background info.
posted by hepta at 9:46 AM on April 3, 2011


If the recent post about the online decorating company using unpaid labor is a prime example, I'd say most people don't click the link, nor do they click the links posted that might give insights or background, and thus change the tone of the pile-on, er, discussion.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:12 AM on April 3, 2011


I rely on the poster having made it clear what each link is about.

I find the times when people link a series of words in a sentence to different articles confusing, esp when the anchor text gives no clue to what the link will be about.

If I can't tell from the post what might be interesting about the links then all bets are off as to which I'll click.

Personally I try to include the main link in the first sentence, make the anchor text for the link say what the thrust of the linked article is, and also indicate why that is interesting.
posted by philipy at 10:55 AM on April 3, 2011


I hover over the links to see where they go, looking for the "main link," which more often than not seems usually to neither be the first nor the most obvious (I also have an irrational hatred of YouTube, so there's all that vid-avoiding I have to do). Even if the topic is one with which I'm not familiar, I'll save any background links until after I've read whatever you thought the "best of the web" is.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 11:01 AM on April 3, 2011


This is why my practice is to only make single link posts.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:05 AM on April 3, 2011


I'm so glad you made this post.

I had indeed skipped past the main course after consuming the hors d'oeuvres-- they were quite fulfilling, after all-- but goodness gracious did I miss a treat.

I'm starting to wonder if Baez is capable of writing something I do not find illuminating (among those things he writes that I can grasp at all, that is), and I feel compelled to note in passing that I should have known I'd find Ulam at the original point of the inverted pyramid of singularity speculation (yes, I was deeply tempted to say 'at the bottom of the pile', but I've actually never lived in the suburbs, even though my parents did).
posted by jamjam at 11:29 AM on April 3, 2011


Charlie don't post!
posted by clavdivs at 11:30 AM on April 3, 2011


I do the mouseover thing, which seems to be a popular practice. Most times, I leave wikipedia links alone unless the information from the core link of the piece strikes me as insufficient, in which case I reckon I'm just as capable of dialing confusing terms into wikipedia and the poster need not have bothered.

I definitely jump around - I like to find the core link (and please god, there is an identifiable one) first, then work outwards. Sometimes an FPP's framing or phrasing compels a certain order and all of that goes out the window, though.
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:35 AM on April 3, 2011


As a datapoint, I tend to load the full post, then check out the links working my way backwards, with an eye towards text targets (avoiding youtube and such). I'm pretty sure that's a just me thing, though.
posted by arrjay at 11:48 AM on April 3, 2011


I just clicked on the "Part I" link. I definitely don't click links in order.
posted by amtho at 11:55 AM on April 3, 2011


I mouseover too. I also don't click links in order and do try to click first on whatever seems to be the focus of the post.

Some of the posts I've worked hardest on, like this one, don't have a sharply defined focus. I usually do try to steer readers towards a particular link, though. So they're not getting lost in the links.
posted by zarq at 12:23 PM on April 3, 2011


I am one of those people who reads the comments first. I almost never click on any link(s) before at least reading whatever is in [more inside] and probably at least some comments. Often the discussion looks like it will be more interesting than the link itself. If I think I might want to comment I'll go back and look at the links, but I will usually use the discussion to try to figure out what the most important links are in a multi-link post. So I may or may not go in order.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 12:46 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Links?
posted by tomswift at 1:09 PM on April 3, 2011


Lynx?
posted by Cranberry at 1:12 PM on April 3, 2011


I mouseover, looking for what actually seems to be interesting. If people in the comments are talking about something I haven't seen, I'll go back and look for it.

If there's too many links to dumb crap like wikipedia, I just skip the post entirely. I get really frustrated when a post has multiple links to articles that are on different sites, but all contain the same information. However, I like it when posts of art or photo galleries pull out a few of their favorites and post those as single links. It should be obvious in the formatting, though.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:14 PM on April 3, 2011


I don't even read the FPPs properly - I thought yours was about Joan Baez, so I skipped it after the second word.


... and to answer your question, no, I'm obviously just here to post stupid comments so that people know I'm still alive.
posted by Elmore at 1:14 PM on April 3, 2011


I don't click links in any fixed order, I usually *gasp* read the post to try to figure out what the poster means to be the core of the post. That said, I find posts where the main link(s) are first and then framing follows to be easier to parse. Also, regarding your post specifically escabeche: It was a run-on sentence with longish parentheticals, thus hard to read. I can imagine someone reading just punting and clicking the first link.
posted by axiom at 1:23 PM on April 3, 2011


In general, comment threads on metafilter will be about what people already know or think they know about the subject of the post, and if you are very lucky, one or two people might actually read the actual links.
posted by empath at 1:28 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


And to answer honestly, it depends. Sometimes I go straight to the links and read them all in order, sometimes I read the 'meat' only, much of the time I skip the links and read the comments. Often when I do that I end up scrolling back up after a few comments and reading the links, in whatever order. It varies.
posted by Elmore at 1:48 PM on April 3, 2011


If I have to, I'll read the beginning of a comment thread first, to look for clues as to which links are worth following and which aren't.

Surprisingly often, it's the last link of a post that contains the meat. If I can't guess from the comment thread or the link text, that's where I'll start.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:37 PM on April 3, 2011


I don't have much to add beyond what's already been said, except that from my experience making posts, it seems that the link people are second most likely to click on (after the first link) is the last link.
posted by Kattullus at 3:01 PM on April 3, 2011


They all appear at exactly the same time for me.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 3:43 PM on April 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I click whatever I think is most significant first. It's not usually the first link though. Sometimes I'll look for alternative sources of information about the post (Wikipedia, New Yorker, BBC, Economist, Al Jazeera, etc...) before clicking any of the links. When the post is about news, I tend to click or look for text before or instead of video. If the video is Quicktime I always hit Youtube or Vimeo for an alternate version.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:37 PM on April 3, 2011


I also mouseover the links. BUT! I usually read the first few comments first to see what's up discussion-wise and if I want to continue with the whole thing. Then I try to find which one is the main link and will read that. Occasionally I'll read the secondary links if I think it will worthwhile.
posted by deborah at 5:44 PM on April 3, 2011


Oh, and if the subject is something I'm not familiar with and there's a Wikipedia link provided I'll read it or if it isn't provided I'll look it up.
posted by deborah at 5:45 PM on April 3, 2011


The order is less relevant to me than the context of the link. To me the text of the post tells me what link I click on first or at all.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:19 PM on April 3, 2011


Reverse alphabetical order.

I tend not to follow the links in any order. I also do the mouseover to determine what I'm looking at and then usually go for the meat of the post. There have been some posts where I have just clicked in order though.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:28 PM on April 3, 2011


I like it when people post wiki links for stuff that isn't necessarily common knowledge, honestly. I never realized people didn't like them.
posted by codacorolla at 8:12 PM on April 3, 2011


Click? Links?
posted by ryanrs at 8:42 PM on April 3, 2011


Clinks. Licks.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:15 PM on April 3, 2011


I click every link as soon as it appears after pushing F5. Mostly though I just push F5.
posted by at the crossroads at 10:22 PM on April 3, 2011


I read your post before seeing this, so I can tell you what order I clicked in and why. I skimmed the whole thing, then clicked "physicists saving the world" first, because any links called "part I, part II and part III" look like they are going to take a long time to read, and I didn't have time right then. And of the other two, the physicists saving the world sounded cooler.

Later I came back and read the interviews. I never read the other background link.

So yeah, I generally click on the most interesting sounding links first, but avoid anything that looks epically long, or video or audio.
posted by lollusc at 1:46 AM on April 4, 2011


It's like any work of fiction, if the first page sucks, they won't get to the second page. So I try and make my main link first, but otherwise frame it so no one will click on a minor link and then not bother with the others. Preferably without having to say "boobies."
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:10 AM on April 4, 2011


Obscure Reference: " Preferably without having to say "boobies.""

I am still trying to figure out the proper way to frame this in an FPP, because it's just so damned surreal and weird and I can't tear my eyes away from it. (The video at that link is probably NSFW.)
posted by zarq at 9:18 AM on April 4, 2011


Holy crap, the Chinese are going to rule the straight male world.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:53 AM on April 4, 2011


I wrote the post and I thought it looked weird as a long block of unlinked test with three links at the end. So I linked some words in the intro paragraph to add some background on the people involved.

Maybe we ought to consider adding a field to the posting interface for people to add links which are purely supplementary or background information, or at least add some text suggesting that they go in the "more inside" area rather than on the front page.

I've been mostly talked out of the idea that supplementary links are completely unnecessary, but it still seems like we wind up doing a lot of lede-exhuming when people take the no-single-link-post canard seriously. (You really added links because the paragraph "looked weird" without them?)
posted by ook at 11:27 AM on April 4, 2011


ook: " Maybe we ought to consider adding a field to the posting interface for people to add links which are purely supplementary or background information, or at least add some text suggesting that they go in the "more inside" area rather than on the front page."
It looks like you're 
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front page.  

Would you like help?

[•] Get help with 
     constructing the post.

[ ] Just type the post
     without help.

{} Don't show me
     this tip again.
posted by zarq at 2:13 PM on April 4, 2011


I am still trying to figure out the proper way to frame this in an FPP, because it's just so damned surreal and weird and I can't tear my eyes away from it. --- Yeah. Surreal. That's why you can't tear your eyes away.
posted by crunchland at 2:52 PM on April 4, 2011


Not quite what I had in mind, zarq.
posted by ook at 2:52 PM on April 4, 2011


crunchland: "Yeah. Surreal. That's why you can't tear your eyes away."

I also read Playboy(.com) for the interviews.
posted by zarq at 4:08 PM on April 4, 2011


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