[Incomplete post rediscovered during site maintenance in September 2010]
This morning in my email I found a letter from the webmaster of a site called Wikiverse. The site is a wiki, a collaboratively-edited, constantly evolving set of interlinked pages. (more about wikis) (more about Wikiverse) This letter read a little bit like some junk mail I receive:“We have a link to your site…I would appreciate it if you returned the favor and linked back to http://sam-gamgee.wikiverse.org/.”
Often these letters are annoying and presume that I will, in fact, have any interest or reason to link to that site. They will, as this one did, imply that my site would be enhanced by linking to them, without giving much argument as to how. “Linking back to us will also help maintain your link with us in the future. For your convenience I have attached Wikiverse graphic link which you may apply to your website as an alternative to a bland text link.”
In this case, because the page on Wikiverse where they link to my site does relate to the topic of a particular post, it is conceivable that a link from that post to their site would be appropriate. The best way to suggest that would have been to write a comment on that post containing the appropriate link and, this is the crucial part, clearly conveying to me and to future readers of that post & its comments what the link leads to and why it is pertinent. That it was supplemental information, provided by someone other than me, would have been clear in that context. No special action on my part would be required. These are some of the biggest benefits of comments: easy transition from monologue to conversation and clear sense of authorship (though it should be noted that the latter can be faked in many current comment features).
However, since not all sites offer visitors the ability to add comments, I can understand how the webmaster at Wikiverse may have a different process for alerting sites that they have been linked to. Let me be clear about this: the practice of informing someone that you have linked to them is a good one and there are a growing number of automated methods to do so. (more about TrackBack) (more about Technorati)
Good Practice: Do alert sites that you’ve linked to.
When I followed the link in the letter to see the page referring to my site I got a surprise. Not only was I linked to, I was quoted. It would have been good for the letter to make this clear, but I am glad to have received something drawing my attention to the page.
Good Practice: Do alert people who you’ve quoted.
Particularly glad because the quote was taken out of context and the page gave
Bad Practice: Don’t use a quote out of context to imply something it is clear was not intended.
Good Practice: Do, when possible, link to context.