Please give your links speaking names!

post by rmoehn · 2019-07-11T07:47:07.981Z · score: 43 (19 votes) · LW · GW · 22 comments

Bad:

Shrimping is a fundamental drill for grappling, according to this article.

Good:

Shrimping is a fundamental drill for grappling, according to The Ultimate Guide to Developing BJJ Hip Movement Through Shrimping.

Why is this important? So that people who print your articles know what you're referencing.

Why would anyone print an article? In order to be able to annotate it more easily, and to read with more context. Try it! Instead of scrolling back and forth in that complicated essay you're reading on a thirteen inch laptop, print it and spread six pages on the desk. I read many articles on AI alignment issues and printing them helps a lot.

22 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) · 2019-07-13T04:16:30.206Z · score: 16 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Use the title attribute of links to give them descriptions (or “speaking names”, as you put it). If you do this, it is possible (easy, in fact) to configure a page’s CSS so that the link is displayed normally on the screen (without your long description breaking up the flow of text), but when the link is printed, the full title/description is inserted after the normal link text.

EDIT: I don’t know how to do this with LW’s draft.js editor, but in Markdown you do the following:

[link text](http://link_url.whatever.stuff "Link title attribute")

(In other words, put a space after the end of the URL, then the description in double quotes.)

comment by rmoehn · 2019-07-13T09:36:44.713Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Great suggestion! According to a StackOverflow answer, this CSS will do the trick:

a[href^="http://"]:after{
    content: " (" attr(title) ") ";
}
comment by Said Achmiz (SaidAchmiz) · 2019-07-13T18:55:25.516Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Very close, though the :after form is deprecated—it should be ::after.

If you’re using GreaterWrong, I suggest this instead:

.body-text a::after {
    content: " (" attr(title) ") ";
}
comment by rmoehn · 2019-07-14T01:02:10.522Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks!

comment by Wei_Dai · 2019-07-11T12:40:08.851Z · score: 13 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Other reasons to do it include accessibility and letting people know whether they've already read the linked article without having to hover over the link to view its URL. However I sometimes still don't do it because of the costs, such as breaking up the flow of the text, making a comment seem more formal than I prefer, and just the effort of typing or copy/pasting the article title (especially on mobile).

comment by G Gordon Worley III (gworley) · 2019-07-11T18:46:04.593Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I love this comment because you follow another common linking style that is distinct from the ones presented, the "punctuation style" where links are treated like footnotes or words or phrases.

I agree it's poor style to do links with words like "here" or "this article" and similar, but that also doesn't imply we have to put the names of things we are linking. I understand the argument for it, but it's often a style choice to use links as punctuation rather than like more traditional references.

comment by rmoehn · 2019-07-11T22:27:25.376Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

where links are treated like footnotes or words or phrases

Unfortunately they are not rendered as footnotes when printed.

There is also a curse of knowledge issue. The author knows what is behind their link, how important it is, whether it is a reference or a definition or a "further reading". The reader has no idea. So the least I'm likely to do for any non-speaking link is hover over it to see what URL it points to. This wouldn't be necessary if the link were named with something close to the title of its target.

it's often a style choice

And it's best to choose a style that supports the function, right? I don't mind "punctuation style" in most ordinary blog posts. But it doesn't work for (semi-)scientific material that is likely to be printed. Especially by beginners like me. Maybe more advanced people can just tear through an article on, say, Benign model-free RL [LW · GW], but I need the aid of pages spread on my desk.

comment by ESRogs · 2019-07-12T06:55:59.403Z · score: 11 (5 votes) · LW · GW
Unfortunately they are not rendered as footnotes when printed

This seems like a fault in the printing process.

If the author is optimizing for one reading format, and you want to convert it to another, and it's unsatisfactory in the new format, then perhaps the conversion process is what should be improved.

comment by rmoehn · 2019-07-12T09:08:21.387Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Good point. I experimented for ten minutes with saving the HTML, changing it and loading it again in the browser. But it doesn't work for LessWrong. The article appears briefly and then it switches to: ‘Sorry, we couldn't find what you were looking for.’ I didn't feel like figuring this out.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2019-07-12T15:08:16.158Z · score: 16 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Try getting the article from greater wrong instead.

comment by rmoehn · 2019-07-12T21:57:56.133Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Good idea! I will try that.

comment by jimrandomh · 2019-07-12T22:29:48.995Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This is a bug in Vulcan, the framework we're built on; https://github.com/LessWrong2/Lesswrong2/issues/638 . We'll come up with a workaround at some point.

comment by rmoehn · 2019-07-13T09:41:03.128Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks for the info! By the way, Markdown included the period after ‘638’ in the href attribute. Also a bug?

comment by rmoehn · 2019-07-11T22:34:09.943Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

without having to hover over the link to view its URL

Indeed, that's something I do all the time.

costs, such as breaking up the flow of the text

On the other hand it breaks the flow of the reading (on paper) if I have to open the article on my computer and find the link to hover over it.

the effort of typing or copy/pasting the article title (especially on mobile)

How much effort is this compared to the effort of all the readers who have to look up what is behind a link?

comment by Ziz · 2019-07-12T05:12:31.176Z · score: 10 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I prefer oppositely, to not break the flow of reading. Not to have a hypothetical vocalization of the text switch its moment-to-moment purpose to being a bibliography, let me compress to, "the author linked an article they claimed said shrimping was a fundamental drill for grappling", and move on. Often, I'd even prefer to leave out the "according to this article", and make the statement itself link text.

comment by rmoehn · 2019-07-12T09:09:48.432Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Do you read in the browser or on paper?

comment by Charlie Steiner · 2019-07-12T05:54:06.506Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm guilty, I'll try to do better :)

comment by rmoehn · 2019-07-12T09:08:42.256Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks! I'm guilty myself and I will certainly do better.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2019-07-12T15:23:22.682Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

But there is a tradeoff between different readers. The "bad" version looks better to me for web readers, who are probably the vast majority. Maybe the writer should think about whether it actually is better, on a link-by-link basis, but I think that they will leave it alone. (Writers should also think about phone vs computer, especially if writing is on computer and reading is on phone.)

Here is a compromise: leave the text the same, but also collate a bibliography of works cited. This would provide a new benefit to web readers, while also providing a hint to print readers.

comment by Richard_Kennaway · 2019-07-11T20:39:46.832Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The main thing I want to see when a link is given is enough information to decide whether I want to click on it, without clicking on it.

comment by rmoehn · 2019-07-12T09:11:10.523Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So you're reading in the browser. My main point is about people reading on paper and articles that are easier to read on paper.

comment by FactorialCode · 2019-07-12T17:37:13.921Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As others have said, one of the downsides of doing this is that adding a readable name interrupts the flow of the text. This is especially a problem if you're skimming the article, because the expanded text will catch your attention even if it's not a central point the article is trying to make. As for printing, I wonder what fraction of people actually do this, to see if the change is justified.