The soft link is the footprint you leave as you pass between the words. The soft link is your shadow, a silent connection between one idea and the next. A neural link.
When you hard link words and phrases in your writeups you've only done half of your linking. You should also connect your node to other nodes.
A hard link alone doesn't do this. It only offers a user an option to travel to a specific node. A soft link, on the other hand, creates a hyperlink back to the writeup you've just written. More to the point, it creates this new link on a completely different node. An advertisement, if that's what you're interested in, for the next E2
soft link surfer. Fundamentally, it doubles the chances of your node being noticed, read and accessed in the long run. Hard links don't help you in the long run at all...except to demonstrate to future voters that you knew how to use them.
More important than the voting/xp issue is the fact that by creating soft links you're acting as a 'librarian' for E2...helping to sub-categorize and connect all of the different ideas and data the web site is accumulating. The search engine acts as a poor man's card catalog but a lot of stuff can fall through the cracks. The soft links go a long way towards making E2 searchable and infinitely more useful.
Any given node has a limit of 48 visible soft links below it. Those links change based on use, however, so a link more often traversed will move higher on the list and stay longer.
Creating a soft link is anonymous, like voting.
Example: for the node Madonna some basic soft links would be:
There are easily dozens of others. Some spontaneous soft links could be:
Link and Link