Hypertext Serves Authors

Dynamic hypertext serves authors in the acts of note taking and sense making. Collaborative hypertext extends these services to a community of authors. Readers are less served by deeply hyperlinked content especially when understanding comes only by reading depth-first. We suggest how wiki's internal, external and Reference links should be used with this distinction in mind.

# History

1991. The web has links.

1995. Wiki adds internal links to content within its scope.

2011. Federated wiki adds ambiguity to internal links and removes it again with several versions of drag and drop.

# Style

We favor a style where readers can read authors while they collect notes and make sense of them in context. We expect authors to create distinct sites for the different things they do. The welcome page answers the question, who is writing here and why.

External links provide a footnote to an idea worthy of a paragraph of explanation. The paragraph should be complete within the page. Don't assume the reader, or even the author's future self, will consult the external source before continuing.

Some frequently cited external sources like BBC and Wikipedia can be Transported into wiki pages and saved within the author's work. This serves the author and reader in that a portion of the site is frozen as the author read it while automatically and often more completely citing the original work.

Internal links offer the reader a relevant change of context from the story they are reading. Both link and story are strengthened when separated into their own sentences. A command like "See X" should complete the thought with a hint as to how X relates to the story.

An internal link is ambiguous in that the title alone does not say where the title will be found. This captures the dynamics of community at the risk of changing a meaning important to an author.

The cautious author can 'fork' an important page into their own work where it will be frozen as the author read it while readers and the author's future self will be alerted to improvements.

This approach to disambiguation has the further benefit of not polluting the reader's neighborhood with content they have chosen to not pursue.

The wiki Reference plugin creates links most similar to HTML's links in that the site address is contained within it. While one ambiguity is removed, the version the author meant to cite has been lost.

# Implementation

The earliest implementations of federated wiki had no way to join two neighborhoods that shared no common members. Two versions of drag and drop were added, first within the Factory and then outside of it.

One can join sites as neighbors by adding a Factory and dropping a flag from another tab onto it. The result is a Reference that joins the two as neighbors.

One can join sites as neighbors by dropping a flag from another tab into one's work and then forking the remote page that appears. The result is a page that can be reliably cited by title alone as discussed above.

# Conclusion

We recommend authors include a page of the works they cite as this is frozen into their own work where it will remain as read until the author chooses to improve it.

Authors should practice this workflow so that retrieving a source and including page and citation become second nature. This leaves to the author the task of writing the new page into the story at hand as a reliable internal link shown to be relevant by surrounding words in a sentence meaningful in its own right.

Readers and the author's future self benefit from the added traceability and the option to postpone tracing until the ideas of an individual page have been absorbed.

See Collaborative Link to understand why internal links are better when they can be ambiguous.

See Link Symmetry for a more idealistic interpretation of hypertext and how it is achieved in federated wiki.