3

I am raising this question in response to a comment thread on this post. I'm not asking about that particular post, but about the practice in general.

The question is about editing posts that mention widely known sites by name, to make them "clickable" links. For example, changing

Twitter

to

Twitter

There are several things to consider:

  • Are these edits beneficial overall when they cause an old post to be bumped to the front page?
  • Are these edits beneficial overall when the question is already on the front page?
  • Are these edits beneficial overall when the user making them has less than 2k rep, so that the edit will be queued and consume reviewer resources?
9

Personally, I find these links to well-known sites distracting more than helpful.

  • They're in a different color, so they pull my focus
  • They make posts "feel" kind of spammy
  • I click on them accidentally more often than I do on purpose
  • They make the more useful, non-obvious links stand out less

(I also do not like edits linking to a user's Academia.SE page whenever they are mentioned by username in a question or answer, or linking mentions to other answers on the same page, for the same reasons.)

I brought up this issue on User Experience Stack Exchange.

As an answer there points out,

Do you think users have a need to visit Facebook while reading your site?

I do not think we generally want users to click on these links while reading Academia.SE posts (unlike, say, links to useful outside resources, which we do want users to click on), so they shouldn't be clickable.

Another answer advises,

I found little empirical data for UX hyperlinking best practices (couldn't link to it anyway), but find the practice of gratuitous links to everything, including well-known sites, to be annoying, distracting, confusing, and to serve little purpose.

Unless you're linking to specific, relevant information or citing a source from that well-known site, there's no need for a hyperlink. If you're using the internet and are over the age of 12 you know what Facebook is.

  • I also do not like edits linking to a user's Academia.SE page whenever [...] This part is completely irrelevant to this meta question and I think you should open separate question for this purpose. – Enthusiastic Engineer Sep 16 '14 at 16:28
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    So long as the link is to the "main page" of a particular web site, it essentially adds no value to the answer, and need not be included. – aeismail Sep 16 '14 at 21:05
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    I agree on your main points but disagree about linking to other answers on the same page. If answer A refers to answer B, people are going to want to check what answer B really says or if the author of A has misinterpreted it and so on. The easiest way to do that is via a link, rather than scrolling around the page. (BTW, since you've already linked the question page on User Experience, there's no need to link the answers as well, right? ;-) ) – David Richerby Sep 17 '14 at 8:10
  • @David yes, that does seem more useful than the others, at least. Are you still in favor of answer links if the edit bumps a post, or if it has to go through review queue? How far does that usefulness go? – ff524 Sep 17 '14 at 8:13
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    @ff524 To be honest, I've never considered editing an answer to include links to the other answers it mentions, though I always include any such links in my own answers when I write them. If a question were currently active, it probably wouldn't hurt to add the link; I probably wouldn't add such a link to an answer that wasn't on the first page. – David Richerby Sep 17 '14 at 8:26
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To summarize David Richerby's comments:

Everybody knows where to find those sites so the links aren't useful... I'm not convinced that bulk-editing to add links to sites that are way more famous than this one is worthwhile.

More specifically, I (DR) think it's very unlikely that somebody reading a post here on Academia.SE will think, "Ooh. Twitter. That sounds like an exciting site. I think I'll follow this link to their front page."

And when they cause the question to be bumped,

This kind of trivial edit of a rather old answer is harmful because it moves the question up to the front of the Active list, displacing some other question onto the second page.

EnthusiasticStudent has pointed out that the questions were on the front page anyway when the links were added, so the bumping issue isn't very significant in this particular case. (Though it still means that the edited question will fall off the first page later than it would have done without the edit.)

  • Re "questions were on the front page anyway", that's exactly why I wrote in the question, "I'm not asking about that particular post, but about the practice in general." :) – ff524 Sep 17 '14 at 8:20
  • But, I honestly took this question personal and I am really upset about the hole action. – Enthusiastic Engineer Sep 17 '14 at 10:19
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To summarize Enthusiastic Student's comments:

I just do such edits, to make links clickable to the users and readers of the posts. This may seem to be useless, but having links on the post is far more attractive for the user than having a simple text. The only benefit is having clickable links on posts, nothing more.

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