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Tag: linking

No Blog Post Is an Island [en]

No Blog Post Is an Island [en]

[fr] Une des grandes difficultés dans l'art de bloguer: intégrer des liens à son texte. D'une part parce que les liens rajoutent une dimension au texte, perçant en quelque sorte des trous dans celui-ci par lesquels le lecteur est libre de s'échapper, à la façon des "livres dont vous êtes le héros" de notre adolescence, et d'autre part parce que la nature hypertexte du web donne à l'intertextualité une place capitale. Un article de blog n'est pas une île isolée, mais un fragment textuel nageant au milieu d'un océan d'autres fragments similaires, avec lequel il a des liens plus ou moins proches, que la bonne maîtrise de l'hyperlien permet d'expliciter. Ceci nécessite, outre une habileté avec les mots (pour pouvoir retourner sa phrase dans le sens qui permet un bon ancrage du lien), une certaine culture des autres textes entourant le sien. Sinon, comment faire des liens qui feront sens?

Fellow blogger Adam Tinworth points to a leaked memo from The Guardian encouraging internal linking. He shares his astonishment on Facebook “that this still isn’t standard practice at most places”. I am not that astonished, I have to say.

During my many years as blog editor-in-chief and teaching blogging to students, I have seen again and again that from a technical point of view, aside from managing to write in your own personal voice, the most difficult aspect of blogging to master is integrating hyperlinks into your writing.

Autour du chalet, colliers de perles

I think this is because writing well with hyperlinks requires one to write differently. It is not just about “writing and then adding links”.

Adding meaningful hyperlinks to your sentences is going to have an impact on the way you construct them. You need to be comfortable shuffling the words around, or looking for others, so that you end up with a phrase that provides you with adequate anchor text for the link you want to insert.

Most people’s training in writing is probably in standalone texts. Offline writing, the type that worked well on paper. Your reader starts at the top, and finishes at the bottom. You may have footnotes and references, but nothing as dramatic as a hyperlink, which literally pokes a hole in your text.

I like to think of hyperlinks as adding an extra dimension to a text. Normal text is 1D. Just follow it through. Hypertext is 2D at least — remember those books we must all have read as teenagers? If you go right, head to page 16, but if turn left, run off to page 67?

So, the first challenge in writing with links is finding a gracious way to anchor all those links into your words.

The second challenge is less obvious, but even more important: intertextuality.

Intertextuality” is a rather vast topic, but it generally has to do with the fact that how you understand or read one text can be shaped by your knowledge of another. References or allusions, explicit or not, that connect different texts.

On the web, everything we write is swimming in a sea of other interconnected texts. It’s not called the World Wide Web for nothing, dammit. Everything that is published on the web is stitched together. The blog post you are writing now is not an island, it is swimming alongside all sorts of other pieces of writing. How you position your piece of writing amongst the others may be just as important as the writing itself.

Intertextuality in the world of hypertext is a crucial thing to be aware of.

What are you going to link to? What is there out there that complements your writing, or takes your reader further, or down a parallel path? What are the associations between parts of your writing and preexisting writing?

This requires, in addition to the will to connect one’s writing into this existing web, some degree of knowledge of what is out there. Culture. Or dexterity in the use of the search engine. Or both.

I agree with Adam: internal linking should be a no-brainer. I do it a lot on Climb to the Stars: whenever I’m writing a blog post, I’m wondering what else I have written in the past which is related to it. Am I building upon a previous post? Am I writing on a topic I’ve already touched upon? How can I work a link to this or that post into what I’m writing now?

I do it on Open Ears too. As editor-in-chief, I have read all the articles we publish. The difficulty is I often receive articles which are written as standalone pieces, so I have to either work with the blogger to incorporate a reference to another article, or do it myself as part of the editing process. But as I mentioned above, adding links changes the way you write and construct your text, so “adding a link” is rarely as straightforward as “just adding a link” — and in some cases can only difficultly be done if it wasn’t planned for from the start.

When I was discovering the web, one of the first sites I spent a lot of time reading was The Psychology of Cyberspace. It’s still online, and I encourage you to visit it: as the author explains, it is an online book, that is, written with hypertext in mind.

There is a table of contents, but in addition to that, inside the chapters, there are links to other chapters whenever there is a mention or a passing reference to something covered elsewhere. This frees the reader to wander around in the order they wish, and avoids redundancy — if you need to explain X again, just link to it. I think this was a very good learning example for me of how to build text online.

So now. How would you teach people the skills to do this, when it doesn’t seem to come naturally to them?

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Some Thoughts on Blogging: Original Content, Linking, Engaging [en]

Some Thoughts on Blogging: Original Content, Linking, Engaging [en]

[fr] Quelques réflexions sur l'enseignement de l'art du blog.

I like teaching people about blogging. Right now I have nearly 100 students who are learning to blog, with varying enthusiasm and success. Teaching blogging makes me realize that this mode of expression which comes naturally to me is not that easy to master. Here are a couple of the main hurdles I’ve noticed for the student-blogger:

  • Original content. It seems obvious that a blog will contain original content, but in the age of Tumblr (I love Tumblr) and Facebook (I love Facebook) and Twitter (I love Twitter) it seems there is a bias towards republishing rather than creating. One of the things that make a blog a blog is the fact that the blogger has taken the trouble to think and try and communicate ideas or experiences or emotions to their reader, in the written form. Some early attempts at blogging resemble Facebook walls.
  • Links. Writing in hypertext is not easy. A blog is not an island. A blog is connected to many other pages on the web, be they blog articles or not. It’s caught in the web. It’s part of the web. A blog which never links elsewhere? Might be a journal or a memoir, but it’s missing out on something. What do I link to? When? Which words do I place my links on? The art of linking is full of subtleties.
  • Engaging. Blogging is about writing, but also about reading and responding. Links ensure that a blog doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The parallel human activity is responding to comments, reading other bloggers, linking to them socially, and actually engaging with content found elsewhere. Some will say “comment on other people’s articles”, but that is not the whole story. Leaving a superficial comment is not it. Trying to understand the other, daring to challenge and disagree (respectfully), push thoughts further and drag others out of their comfort zone: there is something philosophical about the practice of blogging.

Some things are relatively easily taught: how to hit publish; how to write in an informal voice; how to dare being subjective. But how do you teach engagement? How do you teach debate? I know the Anglo-Saxon (at least American) school curriculum includes debating. Switzerland, sadly, doesn’t — and we tend to shy away from it, or end up in “dialogues de sourds” with two polarised camps each trying to convert the other.

2nd Back to Blogging Challenge, day 7. On the team: Nathalie Hamidi(@nathaliehamidi), Evren Kiefer (@evrenk), Claude Vedovini (@cvedovini), Luca Palli (@lpalli), Fleur Marty (@flaoua), Xavier Borderie (@xibe), Rémy Bigot (@remybigot),Jean-François Genoud (@jfgpro), Sally O’Brien (@swissingaround), Marie-Aude Koiransky (@mezgarne), Anne Pastori Zumbach (@anna_zap), Martin Röll (@martinroell), Gabriela Avram (@gabig58), Manuel Schmalstieg (@16kbit), Jan Van Mol (@janvanmol), Gaëtan Fragnière (@gaetanfragniere), Jean-François Jobin (@gieff). Hashtag:#back2blog.

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WordPress.com Still Messes Up Tags and Categories [en]

WordPress.com Still Messes Up Tags and Categories [en]

It pains me to say it, but much as I love them, they still don’t quite get the difference between tags and categories. Yes, WordPress.com now makes a difference between tags and categories (and have been doing so for quite some time), but they are still missing part of the equation.

  • Categories are big pre-defined drawers to sort your posts in. They’re local.
  • Tags are labels you stick on posts after you have written them. There are tons of them and they’re messy and they’re global.

Logically, links on tags should point to the general WordPress.com tagspace (they do) — and links on categories should point to the local category pages of that particular blog. Only they don’t always.

The “Categories” widget works the way it should. But the rest is a mess. Examples.

  • Look at the Coworking Léman site, which uses the Mistylook theme that I personally love. This article‘s category links to the general WordPress.com tagspace (wrong), whereas this one‘s category links to the local category page (right).
  • The La Muse site, which uses Ocean Mist, makes article categories link to the general tagspace (wrong) but at the bottom of the page, lists categories with the correct links to category pages.

I could find more.

In general, the problem seems to be that article category links are made to link to the tagspace just as tags do. I mean, what’s the point of having a difference between tags and categories (an important one, if you ask me) if you make them behave the same way in the templates? This is a major problem for me. I hope Automattic are listening and will do something about it. (I contacted support but was told, basically, that it was a feature.)

So, please, Automattic: make the links on category names link to local category pages, and the links on tag names take us to the global tagspace.

Thanks!

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Going Solo Venues, Open Stage, and Link Love [en]

Going Solo Venues, Open Stage, and Link Love [en]

[fr] Sur le site de Going Solo, vous trouverez le récit de mon après-midi passée à visiter des salles de conférences à Lausanne. Ma proposition d'Open Stage pour LIFT'08 semble avoir du succès mais a encore besoin de vos votes.

Je me pose ensuite des tas de question sur les raisons pour lesquelles Going Solo ne semble pas attirer plus l'attention des blogueurs. Est-ce trop tôt? Pas assez d'informations? Ai-je épuisé mon capital social? Est-ce que tout le monde pense que les autres s'en chargent?

Pour que des personnes en-dehors de mon réseau direct puissent entendre parler de Going Solo et s'y intéresser, j'ai besoin de votre aide. Voici la (modeste) collection de liens couvrant Going Solo. Julien a parlé plusieurs fois de Going Solo en français (merci!), mais je crois que c'est à peu près tout côté couverture francophone. Oui, la conférence est en anglais. Mais vos lecteurs francophones ne sont pas tous nécessairement anglophobes, ni les personnes qu'ils connaissent à leur tour.

Que ce soit clair: je ne veux forcer la main à personne. Si vous trouvez Going Solo inutile ou même bête, ne perdez pas votre temps à en parler (ou mieux, en fait, racontez pourquoi vous pensez ainsi, ça m'intéresse). Mais si vous désirez soutenir cette conférence et que ce n'est visible nulle part sur votre blog... Prenez un petit moment pour ça.

Et si vous avez un éclairage à offrir concernant ma difficulté permanent à "rallier" les gens autour des choses que je fais (pas les choses que je blogue, hein, celles que je fais), je suis toute ouïe. Merci d'avance.

Just a note to say I’ve published [a blog post on hunting for venues for Going Solo](http://going-solo.net/2008/01/21/venue-stories/) (yes, on the Going Solo blog — what? you haven’t subscribed yet? what are you waiting for?). If you have any thoughts on the points I raise there, go ahead.

In the good news departments, it seems [my open stage proposal about organizing a conference for freelancers](http://www.liftconference.com/going-solo-being-freelancer-connected-world) is attracting interest. It still needs votes though, so if you [want to help make sure I hit the big stage](http://www.liftconference.com/lift08-community-program-propositions#openstage) and you are going to attend LIFT, be sure to [vote](http://www.liftconference.com/going-solo-being-freelancer-connected-world). (Every vote counts. Thanks.)

*Prepare for slight digression.*

For some reason, I seem to always have trouble motivating people to “spread the word” about stuff I’m doing. There seems to be a disconnect between the picture people send back to me (“Oh, you have so much *traction*, you’re so influent, etc.”) and what actually happens when I try to get the word out about something.

I usually don’t have this problem when it’s somebody else’s stuff. If I sign up for your nice new shiny 2.0 service and like it, I’m going to convince dozens of people to sign up. Twitter. Dopplr. Seesmic. It’s even happening with offline stuff like [the neti pot](http://steph.wordpress.com/2008/01/19/morning-rituals/).

I guess one of the issues is that I’m not really comfortable promoting my own stuff. Some people seem to have no problem doing that — I always feel like I should shut up, and if what I’m doing is really worthwhile, other people will pick it up and blog about it. On the other hand, I am pretty comfortable [page-slapping](http://joi.ito.com/archives/2003/08/10/page_slapping.html) people with my own writings.

So, what is it? Do people underestimate the support I need from the community? Am I one of those annoying people who [ask for too much and don’t give enough](http://www.horsepigcow.com/2007/11/24/you-may-be-a-community-freeloader-if-you/)? Do I squander my social capital? Is the stuff I do so lame that nobody has any interest in talking about it? Am I simply just “missing” a little something somewhere that I still haven’t figured out? Am I just not active enough in self-promoting?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about my [technorati ranking](http://technorati.com/search/climbtothestars.org) or about the fact that some of my blog posts have already been around the world three times (my stuff on [MySQL encoding problems](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2004/07/18/converting-mysql-database-contents-to-utf-8/) and [multiple WordPress installations](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2004/09/02/scripts-for-a-wordpress-weblog-farm/) have remained popular for years — the latter with spammers, maybe, I’m afraid). It’s more about *stuff I do* as opposed to *stuff I write*.

Take [Going Solo](http://going-solo.net). I know I haven’t really started pushing it out there, because we don’t have branding yet and the price isn’t quite set. But still. When I [announced it here on CTTS](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/14/announcing-going-solo/) (and before that, when I [said I was starting a company](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/13/im-starting-a-company/)), a lot of people stopped by to leave an encouraging comment or send me a nice tweet. I really appreciated it.

Now, not trying to make anybody feel bad here, but here’s [the coverage of Going Solo](http://del.icio.us/steph/coverage+goingsolo) that I’ve been able to round up (or the [technorati cosmos](http://s.technorati.com/going-solo.net). I’m getting into the habit of bookmarking any “coverage” links, because they’re easy to find on the moment, but 6 months later you can forget about it.

Is it because I haven’t explicitly said “Going Solo needs your link love”? (If that’s it, I’m saying it now.) Is it because it’s “too early) — ie, people are waiting for the venue to be set, the full programme to be announced, sidebar badges to be available and the tickets to be on sale? I personally don’t think it’s necessary to wait that long. I’m convinced Going Solo is going to be a really useful event for many freelancers out there. I want to get the word out and create interest for it, also outside my immediate network. And for that, I need you. You’re the only people who can help me reach “outside my network”. Or maybe I’m being difficult, naive, or expecting too much?

I’d like to understand what’s happening. I’d like more people to talk about Going Solo and try to promote it to their networks, of course, but my main issue here is understanding. So any insight will be… more than welcome. If you think Going Solo is worthwhile, but you haven’t blogged about it, it would help me if you left a comment to tell me why you haven’t (yet, hopefully!) blogged about it. Again — I’m not asking for justifications, just insight from “the other side of the fence”.

This week-end, as I was hurrying to get [my LIFT workshop](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/01/19/lift08-workshop-get-started-with-blogging/) out of the door, I was astonished (in a disappointed sort of way) to see how few people had come up with proposals for LIFT. I know people wait until the last minute to do it, but I also realised that I hadn’t really blogged about LIFT this year. I guess I was thinking that it was so popular anyway, a blog post of mine wouldn’t really make much difference. “The others” were already blogging about it.

Then I took a step back and thought of [Going Solo](http://going-solo.net) — how my frustration that people weren’t talking about it more. So I wrote a blog post to tell people it was [the last minute to send a contribution to LIFT](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/01/20/very-last-moment-to-propose-a-contribution-for-lift08/). Did anybody make one because I blogged about it, I wonder?

So, done with the angst-ridden rambling. I welcome your comments. And Going Solo needs your link love.

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Faites des liens, ne demandez pas! [fr]

Faites des liens, ne demandez pas! [fr]

[en] Please don't send e-mails asking if you can link to my site. Yes, you can. You can link to any site you want. The whole web is built upon the premise that anybody can create a link to any web page. It's what make the web the web.

Le web (“internet” pour certains”) est une collection de pages en HTML liées entre elles. Ce sont les liens qui tiennent ensemble le web. Et ce sont aussi les liens qui en font un réseau, un endroit riche, un lieu de conversations et de partage.

Alors de grâce — ne me demandez pas si vous pouvez faire un lien vers mon site. **Ne demandez à personne si vous pouvez faire un lien vers leur site.** Faites simplement un lien. Pas besoin d’autorisation pour ça.

Vous imaginez, si chaque fois que je faisais un lien, je devais demander au propriétaire du site en question son autorisation? Et vous imaginez, pour les éditeurs de sites populaires comme [Boing Boing](http://www.boingboing.net/), le temps qu’ils passeraient noyés dans des e-mails à répondre à des demandes d’autorisation de liens? Ce serait invivable. Tellement invivable que ça ne fonctionnerait pas. On ne ferait plus de liens, on n’écrirait plus, le web mourrait à petit feu.

**Quand faut-il demander?** Demandez, clairement, si vous allez rendre publics des faits concernant une autre personne qui ne sont pas déjà publics, et si vous avez un doute quant à sa réaction. Alors oui, parfois, ça peut prendre la forme d’un lien. Mais le lien est ici secondaire — c’est le texte qui peut poser problème. Dire “tel et tel est mon client”, si le client en question n’est pas d’accord que la collaboration soit rendue publique, ce n’est pas forcément une bonne idée — avec ou sans lien.

Puisque j’y suis, une exhortation: ne faites pas de vos pages, sites, blogs, articles ou billets des culs-de-sac du web. Vous faites référence à une information que vous avez trouvée ailleurs sur le web? **Faites un lien.** Vous parlez de quelqu’un? **Faites un lien vers son blog ou son site.** Donnez à vos lecteurs l’occasion d’accéder aux mêmes informations que vous, de voir sur quoi vous vous êtes basés pour écrire votre texte.

Mais de grâce, n’envoyez plus d’e-mails qui commencent avec “Bonjour, j’aimerais faire un lien vers votre site…” — c’est inutile et c’est un gaspillage du temps de votre destinataire.

*A l’attention de ceux ou celles qui m’ont envoyé des e-mails du genre: soyez rassurés, je ne vous en veux point. Je sais que votre demande part d’une bonne intention — celle de respecter l’autre et de faire les choses dans les formes. J’espère que vous êtes maintenant rassurés qu’il est tout à fait accepté de faire tous les liens que l’on désire sans demander à qui que ce soit leur autorisation. Faites des liens! faites des liens!*

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