avoiding mystery links July 28, 2016 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Can we, as a community, make an effort to describe or quote our links when we comment?

I'm as guilty of commenting with mystery meat links as anyone, but I've really been noticing it in the political megathreads where I'm finding all the non-descriptive links really jarring. I think describing or quoting our links would be helpful because:

a) It will help minimize the effects of link rot for future readers.
b) It makes the conversation flow more smoothly when readers don't have to stop and open up a new link to understand the meaning of a comment.
c) It is helpful for people on spotty connections or slow devices to not have to open new tabs in order to get the gist of the link.

What do folks think? Discuss!
posted by Anonymous to Etiquette/Policy at 10:32 AM (35 comments total)

I support this and, as a corollary, making sure to provide a link (if available) when quoting somebody.

Both approaches take an extra few seconds, but help a lot for context.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:35 AM on July 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

I said this before but yeah, it's much nicer IMO when folks include descriptive text. People on mobile can't mouseover to see the URL, many sites like Youtube have non-descriptive URLs, and pages that are linked to change, etc.

Also one comment deleted. It's not a great plan to rickroll a thread about how some people find mystery links to be some degree of unpleasant. It's one of those "hey there was this really annoying thing today, let me DEMONSTRATE HOW ANNOYING yeah isn't that super annoying" things that seems like a good idea when you start talking but then by the end it's just, why did I think that would be a good way to go in interacting with my friends, who I don't actually want to annoy.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:21 AM on July 28, 2016 [16 favorites]

Agree, it's much nicer for the reader if the person dropping a link just gives us a few words about *why* they're linking it - is it the writing, new information we haven't seen in the thread yet, or some other reason?

I also think it's kind of lazy just dropping a link, sort of a low-risk way of engaging in the thread, and ultimately, not very interesting. <----- has been lazy, low-risk, and not very interesting in the past. Will make amends.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 11:55 AM on July 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I both find this annoying and do it myself. I contain multitudes. I do try to remember not to do it, though, so I appreciate the reminder.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:11 PM on July 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I never EVER click on them. I'm sure some of them are just great, but why bother, if the person posting can't be bothered. Sometimes it just strikes me as so arrogant.

I was just, as in right now, before seeing this meta, playing a time-wasting game on Kongregate, where you get dumped into a chat room. This is what I just saw.

axelod1: www.somevideoonyoutube.com
somerandomchatter: axel is that a midget
axelrod1: lmao
axelrod1: yeah they are midgets irl
axelrod1: www.someothervideoonyoutube.com
somerandomchatter: where do you find these
axelrod1: lmao
somerandomchatter: that second one got me hard
axelrod1: 0_0

And that, my friends, is why I don't click on randomsauce links with no explanation. Also, I loved that little "irl" added on the end.
posted by the webmistress at 1:19 PM on July 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

People on mobile can't mouseover to see the URL

I'm not up on the latest CSS but is there any way to use a style rule to get the URL to show up as flat text for people who want that? Or maybe a javascript + cookie thingie like "Dark Mode" could provide that.
posted by XMLicious at 1:33 PM on July 28, 2016

Oh god yes. Even if you can mouse over a blind link to IMDB or Amazon or youtube tells you nothing about the target even if the link continues to work. Which having seriously dived the archives in the last couple weeks they often don't.
posted by Mitheral at 1:36 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

People on mobile can't mouseover to see the URL

Most mobile browsers will allow you to "click and hold" on any link to see its URL. AFAIK, that works on Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Opera for mobile.
posted by zarq at 1:38 PM on July 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

Also as far as Twitter "links" are concerned, I'd prefer you to just cut-n-paste the whole 140 characters. I rarely click to a tweet without an unpleasant experience seeing the first couple 'replys'.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:54 PM on July 28, 2016 [7 favorites]

Lalex, that's odd. On Firefox and chrome, the whole thing usually shows up.

Anyway, my point was simply that mouse overs are possible on mobile. Am not trying to say that should be considered a reason to ignore your pony, which I think is a reasonable request.
posted by zarq at 3:42 PM on July 28, 2016

Can we, as a community, make an effort to describe or quote our links when we comment?

Yeah. I think this is just good etiquette (which I don't always adhere to). Will make an effort to do this consistently.

I know I appreciate it (especially if I'm at work).
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:55 PM on July 28, 2016

I sometimes am guilty of this in mega threads on mobile
posted by corb at 7:03 PM on July 28, 2016

Good call, also the buttons make it pretty easy to do hyperlinks, even on my phone I've found.
posted by smoke at 12:15 AM on July 29, 2016

posted by klangklangston at 10:33 AM on July 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Can we get an example of what you'd like to see vs. what you want less of?
posted by Sangermaine at 12:21 PM on July 29, 2016

I think there's a tradeoff. Descriptions are more words, and frankly a lot of the best comments are succinct. On the other hand, I have certainly clicked some links I'd love not to have seen.

I'd like examples too. It'll help give a sense for me, anyway, of how much and when to add description.
posted by bearwife at 1:12 PM on July 29, 2016

I've been known to type out a bunch of stuff and put a [Source] at the end of it (where source is the link) which is another way to internet-cite.
posted by Deoridhe at 3:21 PM on July 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Your examples are making me angry lakes, this has been my number one pet peeve on metafilter for literally a decade.
posted by skewed at 4:20 AM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

One annoying problem with posting something like "I'll just leave this here". Is that when the link no longer works, the comment is just noise. Any brilliant, funny, interesting, insightful (hell, even inciteful) communication is lost. To lalex's point, adding context makes it more permanent and more readable: e.g., I'll just leave my semi-ironic meta-commentary here.
posted by forforf at 5:00 AM on July 30, 2016

It's a particular problem in Ask Metafilter, as well, where urls for products / items are often not descriptive (like "http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00A26IUJK" doesn't give a clue what it is, for example), and frequently disappear or change – but the actual item being recommended may still be available, if people could tell what to search for. So saying, "This works great!" is likely to become completely useless at some point, but saying "Pet Sweep animal powered debris removal system works great!"* lets folks know what to look for if it no longer exists at the original url.

In the blue, news links, especially, tend to be extremely unreliable over time.

* just kidding, it's a prank thing; do not buy for actual house cleaning utility
posted by taz (staff) at 5:14 AM on July 30, 2016 [7 favorites]

forforf: "One annoying problem with posting something like "I'll just leave this here". "

Even worse is when the link goes to something like a Daily Show clip; which if you are in Canada gets redirected to The Comedy Network program page. So you have no idea what the point was and no way to figure it out.
posted by Mitheral at 8:03 AM on July 30, 2016 [7 favorites]

This has been one of my pet peeves for a long time as well. I refuse to click blind links. Give me some clue what it is that you want me to see.
posted by pmurray63 at 9:27 AM on July 30, 2016

If something is common knowledge, a link isn't always needed. Of course that brings up the question of what now is common knowledge.
posted by clavdivs at 10:17 AM on July 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I totally agree with the premise of this post and think that descriptive links are more than just good online etiquette, they're good online writing, period. If your goal is to communicate, descriptive links do that better than blind ones. If your goal is to have people read and engage with your comments, descriptive links will do that better also; I personally just ignore blind links most of the time, which may mean that I am essentially ignoring your entire comment.

For what it's worth though, those who are browsing MeFi via Mobile Safari on an iPhone 6s or similar can hard-press (is that the right term?) links to see a preview of the page being linked to. For that subset of users, it mitigates the problem somewhat and is often more useful than just seeing the URL, especially for links woth non-descriptive URLs.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:04 AM on July 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have heard that putting description in the actual link text, not just the rest of the comment, is helpful for people who use certain types of screenreaders. I try to keep that in mind.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:10 AM on July 31, 2016

wow, this thread made me realize that the thing I struggled to attempt to do (nonchalant "I'll just leave this here") thinking that was the cool kids stuff and I was an old dork, actually sucks.
posted by infini at 11:57 AM on July 31, 2016

I need to know, are the commas in the right place?
posted by infini at 11:58 AM on July 31, 2016

A big part of growing up for me was learning that a lot of the stuff that the cool kids do actually sucks.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:30 PM on July 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

This discussion is reminding me of the stackoverflow guidelines for writing a good answer, which include
Provide context for links

Links to external resources are encouraged, but please add context around the link so your fellow users will have some idea what it is and why it’s there. Always quote the most relevant part of an important link, in case the target site is unreachable or goes permanently offline.
Metafilter is clearly a different sort of site, focused more on informal conversation where that sort of context is often overkill. On the other hand, Metafilter is also rare in that it is a site that has been around forever in internet terms, and plans to be around for a long time--reading a 10-year-old thread here can be very frustrating when there are links to dead sites with zero context. And askmefi is a good example where maybe context for links would always be appropriate.
posted by jjwiseman at 3:13 PM on July 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

As long as we're wishing, I'd also appreciate a NYT or Wapo designation so that I can either choose a private browser or pick & choose my month of free articles. Not so hard to mouse over on a browser (tho I sometimes forget) but it is on a phone.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:30 AM on August 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

FT as well.
posted by infini at 12:17 PM on August 1, 2016

Are FT stories ever readable without a subscription? I've never gotten one to work.
posted by octothorpe at 5:57 PM on August 1, 2016

5 free a month with free reg, and sometimes in a different browser
posted by infini at 10:32 PM on August 1, 2016

I strongly support this as evidenced by my 2011 post on the topic. We ran some numbers on the frequency then, I wonder if it's gotten better or worse (my post was most specifically about Amazon and IMDb stuff). I posted this from my phone.
posted by Iteki at 6:18 AM on August 3, 2016

And quasi rick rolling people like this comment from the latest huge US Election thread isn't helpful either.
posted by Mitheral at 3:11 PM on August 3, 2016

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