Improper linking is one of the nastiest maladies that can affect the average E2 user; its effects are multitudinous, and if you're lucky you'll die rather than be turned into a quadriplegic vegetable.
Okay, I'm possibly over-exaggerating a tad, but Excalibre's ed log last month stressed the importance of a good lede to act as an attention grabber, so, I thought, if it worked once, it'll probably work again. Also, it's a helluva lot more interesting than the opening piece that I had when I first drafted this log. So, on with the show...
paraclete's Quick and Dirty Guide to the Art of Linking
– OR –
How to give that perfect polish to your writeup
Linking is, as pretty much all the site users would agree, a fundamental component of all writeups. The reason why is simple: it is the glue that holds us together. By putting a link in your writeup, you are putting a connection between your writeup and another that you think the readers of your work may be interested in. This place is a nexus, and if your writeup is not part of this nexus, then it a) will probably never been read by anyone b) disrupts the flow of the project that is E2. I loathe to use the phrase "united we conquer, divided we fall", but it's probably the best way of summing it up. 'New Writeups' is great for bringing attention to your work, but once it's fallen off the list it will probably only be encountered as people wander through the nodegel. I, and many others, often get around by 'surfing the links', i.e. I read a writeup, cast my votes, and then click on the link to go somewhere else that looks to be interesting or containing of useful knowledge. I've come across much brilliance, badness, madness and the plain silly by doing this. And the better you are at creating good links, the easier it is for this to occur. The E2 FAQ: Links is a good thing to read for the mechanics of how to link, but what I want to talk to about is the artistry of it. So, without further ado, my quick and dirty guide on the Art of Linking.
A hard link is a word and/or phrase with '[' and ']' on either side, and clicking on it will take you to the node with the exact wording contained within those brackets as the title; for instance, if you were to click on Yttrium, it would take you to the node containing writeups about Yttrium. Hard linking is useful for words or phrases that need explanation; what hard linking shouldn't be is a vague nod at an admin's request that you put some links in your writeup. Nothing annoys me more than to see random words hard linked for no apparent reason, especially words that I already know the meaning of, such as 'morning' (unless there's an interesting writeup in said node that you feel your readers would benefit from reading), or words that are pointless in highlighting, such as 'the'. Don't hard link randomly; link with meaning and intent. And no clutter; highlighting every other word is distracting and makes your writeup hard to read.
Also, pleasepleaseplease do not use the hard link function to add emphasis to a string of words or sentence. That's what HTML tags are for – see rootbeer277's homenode for some excellent advice on how to use HTML tags. If you do write an incredibly sexy phrase that you think should be the title of a node, then create the nodeshell. Then fill it. Of course, an over-zealous admin may at a later date delete the nodeshell, but at least you tried.
Soft links seem to be the hardest thing for new users to wrap their heads around. A soft link is created by typing the title of another node into the search box, and then clicking the 'Search' button to take you to that node. Once you're there, just click the 'Search' button again to take you back to your writeup. Now, if you look at the bottom of your writeup, you'll see a small box containing a link to the node you just searched for: THAT is a soft link.
You can also create soft links by clicking on hard links and pipe links within your actual writeup... it really is all very easy, and you have no excuse. Yes, you. I'm looking at you. Don't think I don't know your game. I'm watching you and taking notes. Remember that.
Now, why soft link? Well, like the title of this ed log says, it adds the perfect polish to your writeup. A helpful user(s) will often create the soft links for you, but it's a good idea to create them yourselves, if only as a common courtesy. And again, as previously stated, soft links create probably the best link to the rest of the database, thus increasing the chance that your writeup will be encountered. Also, if you create the soft links yourself, you're reducing the chance (or at least the prominence) of there being any insulting soft link that some little darling might want to create.
Of course, there are the occasional instances where someone will link something completely inspired to your writeup – I can never thank enough the person who soft linked 'cock and bull story' to my 'bull pizzle' writeup. A true perfection of the art of soft linking as both commentary and group effort.
Ah, pipe links. Possibly my favouritest things in the world of ever. Well, the world of everything2, at least. Nothing turns me on quite as well as a writeup filled with amazing pipe links. "But wait!" I hear you cry, "Enough of your kinky sex life, what the hell is a pipe link?"
Pipe links are the body language of a writeup. They allow you to convey more than you've written in the main text, be it sarcasm, humour, simple commentary, or a link to something that hasn't anything to do with what you've written, but you feel people may like to read. For instance, I pipe linked a small comment about spit roasting in a writeup that I did on the art of killing and eating an animal to a piece of fiction, 'The demon was just under three feet tall'. There's no obvious connection between the two... until you've actually read 'The demon etcetc'. Then you'll see why I linked the two.
Pipe links are a great way of showing people around E2. They're also a great way of getting around E2 yourself. I've been asked on many an occasion, by many a person how it is I come up with so many pipe links in my writing. So let me pass my secret on. It's all about the search bar. Let's take a nice, easy sentence: 'The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.' Now, you could just put a pair of brackets around it, and it'd link to a node, but how about we make it a little more interesting? Well, let's take a word out of there: fox. Put 'fox' in the search bar, tick the 'ignore exact' box, and then click 'search'. Large numbers of node titles with the word 'fox' will now come up. Peruse them. Read any interesting titles that catch your eye. And then pipe link one; to do this, you put brackets around the word or phrase you wish to pipe (same as you would in a hard link), but then put the words or phrase that you want to be piped in front of the currently hard linked words, and then put an actual pipe between the two; so, [An example|this] would end up as this.
So: 'The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.'
It's amazing how much of E2 you can discover by doing this.
Of course, they don't have to go anywhere. They can be used to add a sarcastic little phrase, or information that you don't want to put in the main writeup. People usually hover their mouse over something that looks like it might be a pipe link, so go on. Make their day.
This guide wouldn't be complete without an explanation of firm links, but the average user isn't able to create these. They are used by staff to direct people to nodes that are related to the one that you're reading, or to the node with the correct spelling/title of something that is often misspelled/titled by people to prevent writeups being placed in the wrong node. So, if you come across a node that you feel should be linked to something else, tell someone on staff; for example 'BT' is a musician/DJ who, whilst having the name Brian Transeau, usually performs under the name 'BT', and so that's what people would type when looking for information on him. However, 'BT' is also the acronym for British Telecom, the main provider of phone services in the UK. Writeups about British Telecom would be better placed in the 'British Telecom' node, and so there is a firm link from one to the other, directing those who want to know more about the c***s who are/were using their position as a monopoly to extort money out of the British populace in return for crap customer service that isn't even served with a smile.
So there you have it. Not that quick, and not really all that dirty.
Well, this is a family site, after all.