Bi Directional Links

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For a system to have EmergentStructure or to be self-organising you need feedback between its components (at least, Steven Johnson argues this in Emergence, page?). For clusters of blogs to emerge, a weblogger needs not only to link to other blogs that interest her, but also to receive feedback, or to see who links to her. (NotableWeblogClusters, NotableWeblogs)

Webloggers have always pored over their referrer logs and scoured search engines to see who links to them. Co-citation may also build audience directly; webloggers may prefer to read weblogs that cite them occasionally. Recently, this has become more openly discussed, and new tools make referrers visible to readers or allow live link-back. BiDirectionalLinks also makes it easier for readers to follow discussions taking place between several weblogs, forming a hypertext CounterpointPattern.

Interest in explicit BiDirectionalLinks revives an early controversy in HypertextTheory which pitted the proponents of two-way links against advocates of simpler, one-way links. By 1990, the one-way link had won the day, although TedNelson continues to deplore the ubiquity of one-way linking in the World Wide Web. In bounded hypertexts (e.g. published hypertext novels), the difference between one-way and two-way links is unimportant, as search can always locate the other end of a one-way link. In open hypertexts like the Web, however, the other end may be difficult or impossible to find (e.g. because it has been taken offline). (-- JillWalker)

Discussions of Bidirectional Links and Weblogs

''(Can you think of a better title?)

Ghost of Xanadu
A frequent complaint about the Web is that links are unidirectional. In this essay, Disenchanted argues that their linkback system is a way of starting to build bidirectional links, as they were discussed by TedNelson and others. [1]

is a news site that has built its own system. This article describes their reasons; they both have a vision of an emergent system, and think of the links as rewarding people who link to them. [2]

The metafilter discussion contains a lot of links to similar projects. [3]

General discussions of Bidirectional links



This currently only works between Movable Type weblogs, but third-party tools are being developed[4] [5]. When a weblog links to a post in another Trackback-enabled weblog (PermaLink), the first weblog pings the second saying "hey, I linked to you!" The commented post then sprouts a little list of the other blogs linking to it, allowing readers to find comments to the post. The FAQ for this service is here [6]

Mark Pilgrim has customised a version that works with his own stats. His site provides good examples of how this works, and provides links to some people discussing this. [ 7 ] - Backlinks
A CGI script which tracks backlinks. Includes discussion. [8]

A simple javascript that displays the latest referrers to your weblog.[ 9]

Little Green Footballs
This weblogger has made a script that generates a rotating list of referrers to a page. Not as finely tuned as the ones that display referrers to a single post, using PermaLinks. [10]

Hmmm....I guess I don't see what the fuss is about bi-directional links. If webloggers are poring over referral logs (I'll take Mark's word for this) how is this any different than the 12 yr. old with a new webpage wanting to know who has come to his page to read it?

Ans: because the webloggers are selectively using these citation cues to create patterns of linkage among notionally separate weblogs. -- MB

I use this as a serious example; in my experience of the early web this is exactly what happened and was, in my judgment, one of the reasons of the ubiquitous guest book.

I can, of course, see all sorts of reasons why an author of a webpage would want to construct bi-directional links. This doesn't seem vastly different from the author of what Mark calls "bounded" hypertext.

I probably am vastly different from other folks here but for whatever pages I have posted I am not really concerned about who is linking to them or where they most recently came from. I am concerned that they are being read and understood.

I may be missing the point.

(--Ken Tompkins)

See: PatternsOfHypertext | CounterpointPattern

-- Last edited October 27, 2002

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