A suggestion for multi-link posts June 26, 2013 3:56 PM   Subscribe

I like multi-link posts like this one very much. But sometimes, there are so many links that I don't know where to start.

My guess is that most of the time the person who makes the post thinks one of the articles s/he's linked to is the most important or stands out in some way--it might be the article that inspired them to make the post, or whatever. What if multi-link posters began making a habit of putting an asterisk next to one of the links in their post that would be understood to mean, "If you read only one article, read this one"?

E.g.,

Blah blah blah blah link blah blah blah link * blah blah blah link blah blah blah.

Just a thought.
posted by Transl3y to Feature Requests at 3:56 PM (44 comments total)



I know what you mean, Transl3y, and as an occasional author us such posts I struggle with it myself. A couple of times I've even included "If you click just one, click this one!" in the post, though that feels kind of cheap. But I also wonder if what I think is worth noting is going to be as interesting, or the most interesting to someone else.

I just did one with multi-links, and I knew which of those links blew me away, and which were the supporting materials, but I ultimately concluded that it still needed a context and a narrative, and sometimes those put the links in less than ideal places. I'll keep trying to improve with your issue in mind, and maybe my post-forging skills need more practice, but I agree that there's clearly an art to knowing when and where to put the links.
posted by Toekneesan at 4:21 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


By the way, I also use an asterisk to point to "previously"s rather than using multiple "previously"s.

I like that post composition is free-form, and I wouldn't want to impose a style, but sometimes I do long for a style guide for such questions.
posted by Toekneesan at 4:31 PM on June 26, 2013


I don't think there's any recognized style, but many multi-link posts put the most important (or the original) link first, above the "[more inside]."
posted by Kevin Street at 4:37 PM on June 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


I like the idea, but prefer to use words (the Blah blah blah blah part of your example) rather than symbols to communicate which links should be clicked. The asterisk is esoteric in this context—if a reader hadn't seen this thread they wouldn't know what it means. Also, like Toekneesan mentioned, readers might not think your 'main link' is the most interesting link. If you describe the things you're liking to appropriately, then they can decide for themselves.

Tangentially, this is also why those link-is-every-letter posts are so annoying and generally frowned upon.

Posters, use your words!
posted by carsonb at 4:41 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


By the way, I misremembered, I didn't include "click this one" in a post, it was in a key to a post. A post which carsonb probably wouldn't like because I see that I also didn't use my words in that post.
posted by Toekneesan at 4:47 PM on June 26, 2013


Filed under 'Exceptions that prove the rule', sir.
posted by carsonb at 4:49 PM on June 26, 2013


My personal preference be that the most important link essentially come first, above the fold. A pet peeve of mine is when ALL links above the fold are to secondary explanatory docs like Wikipedia or gov/commercial About Us, not to the actual meat of the post. It just seems like burying the lede. I'll probably skip a post if it's not clear what I'm supposed to be interested in (yes, I'm lazy - I admit it).

Perversely, I LOVE multi-link super-mystery posts, if all the links actually go somewhere interesting. If someone every makes a multi-link super-mystery post where every link goes to a wikipedia article... that could actually probably be sort of cool, depending on the theme.
posted by muddgirl at 4:52 PM on June 26, 2013


"...A pet peeve of mine is when ALL links above the fold are to secondary explanatory docs like Wikipedia or gov/commercial About Us, not to the actual meat of the post. It just seems like burying the lede."

Yes, and it's probably frustrating for people who browse MeFi on mobile devices. They only have room for so much text on the screen at one time, and (I imagine) are probably more likely to click the first link or two and then move on if the intent of the post isn't clear.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:05 PM on June 26, 2013


Henceforth, only bulleted lists in order of importance will be allowed.
posted by arcticseal at 5:14 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


> I'll probably skip a post if it's not clear what I'm supposed to be interested in

Me too, and in fact I usually skip multi-link posts. Nothing against you multi-linkers, but we all have different tastes.
posted by languagehat at 5:17 PM on June 26, 2013 [15 favorites]


Yeah, I often stare at multi-link posts, and try a couple of links before giving up in confusion. Usually it's best to make the first link the main link, it seems most intuitive to me. If we're stating preferences, I think it's nice when the main supplementary link is the last link.
posted by Kattullus at 5:27 PM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Don't bury the lede.
posted by OmieWise at 5:30 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also: Single link posts are not only ok, they express a sense of elegance that is necessarily lacking from multi-link posts.
posted by OmieWise at 5:31 PM on June 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


"Me too, and in fact I usually skip multi-link posts."

I do, too. Partly it's because the abundance of information just naturally makes me suspicious about whether any one of the links is actually that interesting. But related to that, it's also that I'm suspicious that the post is a performance, a display.

Not that there's anything inherently wrong with link-heavy posts. Occasionally there's a topic that in itself truly is interesting enough to justify lots of not-particularly-interesting links. More frequently, in my opinion, it's because the one really good link that inspired and justifies the post becomes even better with a number of supporting links, for those who want to explore the topic more deeply or when there's something that the main link doesn't make entirely clear.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:36 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love the IDEA of exhaustive multilink posts but in practice I can't be bothered with maybe 90% of them. After the first couple of links, no matter how engaging the subject matter, it starts to feel like I'm doing an entire semester's worth of coursework in one go on the night before the final and I just can't cope.
posted by elizardbits at 5:39 PM on June 26, 2013 [19 favorites]


With wide-ranging subjects I usually try to focus on one aspect I think is most interesting and then I just add an organized list of links inside for people who are interested in learning more.

I used to try to incorporate it all into one narrative but I wasn't very good at it, so now I just try to curate helpful links to save people the time of sorting through searches to find out more about the subject.

On preview, I'm trying to prevent the link fatigue elizardbits is talking about. If you want the extra information it's there, but the meat of the post can stand alone.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:48 PM on June 26, 2013


I start with the first one. Unless there's something musical that I know I want to see.
posted by theichibun at 6:57 PM on June 26, 2013


My big Scriabin post had a bunch of Wikipedia links that didn't need to be there. If I could do it again, I'd probably take them out. It only got to the interesting part at the last word. I'm happy to let the lede stand as an example of What Not to Do, though the material below the fold, I think, is fine.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:04 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


The asterisk is esoteric in this context—if a reader hadn't seen this thread they wouldn't know what it means

Note that you can include a "title" attribute on links to cause text to appear in a tooltip when the link is hovered over in most desktop browsers, like so:
<a href="http://metatalk.metafilter.com/22751/A-suggestion-for-multilink-posts#linky2" title="If you read only one article, read this one">link *</a>
which would produce:
link *
posted by XMLicious at 7:07 PM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Some of my posts which I'm proudest of are multilink posts, but I don't post them often because they frequently lack cohesion. When I do post them it's usually because some hierarchy exists within the post that benefits from multiple links: several albums with several songs for each of them, or several shows with multiple episodes/clips of each.

Even then, there has to be a narrative to guide me along or I'm lost. In theory I like posts with long stringy bundles of links in them but in practice they don't have enough cohesion to 'em that I'll actually follow along.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:06 PM on June 26, 2013


FWIW, I don't think I'd use an asterisk shorthand on the links in my posts. I suspect it would confuse or annoy people who didn't know what it represented.

For multilink FPPs, I tend to try to keep the most important links above the fold, and then group additional links beyond the 'more inside' under titled headers. Like this. I don't really know if anyone other than me prefers to see the links organized and presented that way. :)
posted by zarq at 8:19 PM on June 26, 2013


If I see an asterisk, I look for a footnote. Make the best link above the fold.
posted by mokin at 8:55 PM on June 26, 2013


I'm one of those linky jerks, and I'm now trying to keep the meat or the highlight of the post above the break, with more context below. In really long posts, I've called out the key links in the comments.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:55 PM on June 26, 2013


MetaFilter: Blah blah blah blah link blah blah blah link * blah blah blah link blah blah blah.
posted by homunculus at 9:59 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Say what?
posted by infini at 10:42 PM on June 26, 2013


Note that you can include a "title" attribute on links to cause text to appear in a tooltip when the link is hovered over in most desktop browsers, like so:

That fact itself is not especially or generally well-known and actually increasingly obscure as touch interface usage increases. I do thank you for spreading the knowledge here.— Anyway, the asterisk is redundant if all you're doing is just using words in the title to say what is (or what else is) behind the link. It doesn't say 'hover over this one!' like how it doesn't say 'click this link!'

It's a really good thought behind the idea: Make sure your readers know where to click. But the convenience of * does not outweigh the effective heft of clear or clever speech.
posted by carsonb at 10:47 PM on June 26, 2013


XMLicoius: I forgot all about the title attribute! When I first learned about it, all I could think of was that it could be used to embed exciting 'secret' messages for people to stumble over. In this context, to help people who are overwhelmed when faced with too many choices (of links), this next one of them:
posted by Transl3y at 10:49 PM on June 26, 2013


Is it possible to have a zero-link post? (Apologies if this is answered in some FAQ that I'm too careless to find...)
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:58 PM on June 26, 2013


No need for a FAQ, the post form will let you know in 10 foot high letters with blinking lights, like this:

"YOU HAVE NO LINK IN THERE. STOP. GO BACK AND FILL OUT FORM CORRECTLY BEFORE PROCEEDING"
posted by infini at 11:04 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Annika Cicada: Is it possible to have a zero-link post?

I tried it once, sort of. At first, the entirety of this post was something like

Callin' Oates: 1-719-26-OATES

It got deleted for not having a link (even though it had two, technically three) and I was graciously allowed to re-write the post.
posted by carsonb at 11:05 PM on June 26, 2013


A previously is a kind of note. Maybe not a footnote, but a note in the context of a post.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:44 AM on June 27, 2013


Yeah, I thought I once used title tags to note, "click this one" but I just went looking for it and couldn't find it.

Title tags are useful, but people don't assume they're there and hence don't always find them. Might be kind of neat though if there were an automated way to add them, say through the link dialog. Then they'd become more used, and probably more sought. If they aren't expected, I suspect they'll be more like easter eggs than reference and context tools.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:50 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Title tags are useful, but people don't assume they're there and hence don't always find them. Might be kind of neat though if there were an automated way to add them, say through the link dialog.

Guilty multi-linker here. "If you read only one link..." language feels like more editorializing than I like to put in my posts; I'd rather interest a reader in the topic and let the reader choose what's most interesting to follow. But maybe the title attribute would be a way around that. I also don't object to a quick comment from the OP to the effect of "Lots of links, but this one is the most helpful as an overview."

Link dialog access to title attributes would be awesome, but I'd even accept a link (below the comment box) to a page of "Available-but-little-known formatting possibilities for them as wants to do the extra work but who need to be reminded of what can be done." Which is somewhere in the FAQ but I'm missing it, right?
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:46 AM on June 27, 2013


To me, this sounds like an appeal for some kind of "TL;DR" footer identifying the "important" link, which I'm sort of against. Let the poster decide how prominent to make everything; maybe the set has more impact than any particular individual. There are plenty of single link posts these days for those who don't have time to digest collections.
posted by ceribus peribus at 5:19 AM on June 27, 2013


filthy light thief, keep making posts like that LoZ one you just did and you can use as many links as you want.
posted by theichibun at 5:23 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I rarely make posts with more than a couple of links, but on those rare occasions that I do, I try to make the main link either the first one or the last one before the more inside, and I try to make it clear in the context of the post which is the important link. Usually if I'm multi-linking, the other links are to a background or bios on some of the people involved, and one of the links is a page about those people doing something, so I link the bios to the names and the page about them doing something to a description of what they're doing, which I hope is usually clear.

The problem I have with those giant link dump posts is that often they don't seem well-curated and the links are repetitive in terms of what they cover. I'd appreciate it if more link dumpers would make it super clear which links are the best links to check out. Otherwise, it ends up feeling like the post could have been written as "You should read about X. Here's a link to the google results for X."
posted by jacquilynne at 6:35 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also posts where each letter of a long word is a separate youtube link, those are terrible and people should feel terrible about them.
posted by elizardbits at 6:49 AM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also I think we can all agree to just stop having posts about video games or authors I don't care about.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:08 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


elizardbits: "Also posts where each letter of a long word is a separate youtube link, those are terrible and people should feel terrible about them."

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
posted by zarq at 7:38 AM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I simply refuse to resemble any comment in this entire thread.
posted by infini at 7:45 AM on June 27, 2013


I can think of exactly one multi-link post I read completely through, and that was over the course of several about a subject I already knew and cared a lot about. For most multi-link posts I'm interested in, I add them to favorites vowing to come back and read them eventually, and never do, because haha infoguilt who am I kidding.

I would love a community convention to somehow mark out the best (or the best two or three at most) links in a multi-link that I can read o at least get a gist of things. I don't particularly care how that convention is implemented, as long as it is.
posted by Phire at 12:38 PM on June 27, 2013


I would love a community convention to somehow mark out the best (or the best two or three at most) links in a multi-link

We have this. We call them comments.
posted by Toekneesan at 4:31 PM on June 27, 2013


how about trying this? It actually is the other way of denoting a link so metafilter's funky customery linkiethingie are teh supporting characters while the stars of the show are underlinked?
posted by infini at 5:33 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


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