Wandering Thoughts archives


My changing (citation) style of external links here on Wandering Thoughts

When I started writing Wandering Thoughts, this blog, I tended to link to external URLs using at best a few words about what they were, and sometimes even less obvious link text and surrounding text than that. This is a style that's still quite in favour on the web, in blogging and other usage, and you can find it used by many people (sometimes even me, still). However, over time I switched to more often quoting the full title of the page I was linking to, and these days my link citation style has moved towards also mentioning the author's name in the surrounding text (a recently example is in my entry on how stack size is invisible in C). This style probably comes across as titled towards academic writing, but I haven't adopted it because I work at a university.

Instead, the growing amount of information I include about the link is a quiet reaction to the unfortunate fact that over time, an increasing number of URLs will stop working. More and more I've come to feel that the more information I include about a URL, the better for the future, both for me and for other people. If I put in the full title and even the name the author uses, there's a higher chance that some copy of the page can be found in search engines, even if the domain changes, the site is restructured, the form of the URLs all change, and so on.

I feel that this is especially important for future readers, for the simple reason that they're more likely to stumble over broken old links and care about it than I am. It would be nice for me to go through all of Wandering Thoughts to find and fix up broken links, but as a practical matter I don't have either the time or the energy (especially since I'd have to do it on a regular basis, and there's no fully reliable automated way to find broken links). The more information and context on a link I can arm people with, the more chances they have to do something beyond going to the Wayback Machine and hoping.

(One of the drawbacks of this full style of including the current name or pseudonym of the link's author is that people do change their names over time and dislike people still using the old one. When I become aware of such a shift I try to go back to correct my usage, but I have to become aware of it in the first place, which is far from assured.)

web/ChangingLinkCitationStyle written at 22:13:32; Add Comment

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