One of the most elegant and least talked-about techniques of linking on e2, the addition of the pipe "|" character in a hard link produces an effect familiar to web surfers the world over: a text link that says one thing and leads to another.

Piping can be an invaluable ally; it allows one to create coherent, interesting writeups without the constraints of noding for linkability. Unfortunately, like so many other clever things in the universe, piping can be abused.

The most powerful feature of hot links on standard web pages is the flexibility to link anything to anything; there is no required contextual connection between the link itself and the object linked to. By contrast, e2's default hard link process forces contextual connections between linker and linkee: a word or phrase that is hard linked connects to a node title of the same word or phrase.

This wouldn't present a problem but for the issue of established metaphor. On the web, links are understood to be crapshoots of a sort; clicking a link may take you to a logical destination or may toss a user into a wholly unfamilar (and unexpected) realm. Sometimes this is a pleasant surprise. Other times it's grounds for termination (Damned goatstrokers.com banner ad looked like cnn.com...I swear.).

On everything2, links are presumed to be without artifice; clicking on "glue" should take you to a node titled "glue". (The issue of content not matching the node title is a far stickier problem than the scope of this writeup can hope to address.)

As can be imagined, the use of piping changes the metaphor of e2 significantly. For example, in one node, I ran across the following sentence:

Right, that does it! Who ever is doing this :-
I'm GOING TO FUCKING WELL BREAK YOUR LEGS!

The word "this" links to "systematic downvoting". Contextually within the sentence, the word "this" is only meaningful once the linked node has been revealed. At first glance, "this" as a hard link would seem to be a rather pedantic choice on the author's part, but relatively inoffensive. However, since there is a stigma attached to complaining about one's own nodes being downvoted within a writeup, the use of piping here has deftly avoided the automatic negative reaction from readers coming across a downvote complaint. Unfortunately, it is a trade of an instant dislike for a delayed, (and perhaps more strident) irritation from readers.

The overall problem with piping is one endemic to hypermedia: users abusing the inherent malleability of the medium. Just as on web pages where sentences like the following abound:

Click here, here, and here for more.


the problem is not in the mechanism or metaphor...it is in the user poorly implementing their content.

What, then, to do?

Obviously, taking a fascist stance on e2 (or the web at large, for that matter) is both pointless and needlessly antagonistic. Instead, /msging the author and requesting they clarify their hard link(s) would seem more prudent and polite.

Of course, we could also just suck it up. But that wouldn't be any fun...would it?

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