ANALYSIS: Url etiquette in the ‘collective’ internet

The Slogger’s been getting a bit of stick on the subject of url references. So it’s time for some more bollocks deconstruction.

The thing with url links is that they fulfil two functions: acknowledging that you didn’t just nick the content wholesale (like the Big Boys) and helping the reader grasp quickly both what you’re on about, and why it isn’t just another bonkers conspiracy theory. Here’s my succinct view on the state if urls: I would welcome a sensible debate, but if there’s any nonsense and gratuitous violence, it’ll be deleted immediately with no second chances.

1. By ‘the big boys’ I mean the Old Media titles online, and the Blogistocracy pulling in 10,000+ hits a day. The Bigblog folks occasionally link back to your site when forced to do so, or if they’ve never heard of you. The second you start creeping up the Bloggers’ league table, usually this stops dead.
2. Even when linking back, the link is usually on ‘and’ (or some equally long word) in paragraph 43.
3. The old media titles almost never link to one’s story. Blackmail and money (or giving them the scoop free) usually work in this regard, but little else does. Most very big institutions now have a url link firewall policy. The BBC brought theirs in last Monday, the Digger has had one forever, and the rest are somewhere in between.
4. One by one, the big players are banning url links from comment threads – even when they know perfectly well you’re trying to add flesh to (or even worse, correct) the story.
5. I try whenever possible to remember to put linked credits back to any site I want to either commend for something in particular, or recommend in general, or quote as a source. But despite all the Slogger’s Roost ‘huge staff & global empire’ gags, I am pretty much a one-man band blessed with a lot of sources – and quite good at making people on the ground want to help. (Without these last, The Slog would be nothing). This means I forget things, get names the wrong way round, leave links, get the link wrong, or don’t have time to test the links.
6. Sometimes I feel guilty about this, but most of the time I don’t. I give out links far more generously than most of my ‘competitors’ (they use that description, I don’t). And if once in a while a reader has to actually Google a reference…herrmm, well – shit happens, you know? Life’s a bitch.

The internet is absolutely free and for everyone equally….as long as you have money, influence, a bargaining chip and want to buy something. Otherwise, it’s the same septic tank as every other area of human commerce – and getting worse every day.

This is why I keep on saying that a genuine collective of reasonable journalists with good professional skills and a full set of ethics should, together, start something good online – if only to defend themselves against everyone from Rupert to Guido. Email me at john@johnaward.net if you’re interested. (That link won’t work probably, because crappy Google software doesn’t offer one an email link via this channel).

Do I think Fawkes is any more likeable than Murdoch? I don’t know – but I doubt it. Call it cynicism if you like. I call it recognition of the Bad Guys – ie, watch and monitor what they do, not what they say.