Links are distracting

A good piece, from last month, by Matthew Latkiewicz on the ace internet reading tool, Instapaper.

Matthew makes the interesting — and correct — point that hyperlinks are distracting when reading web-text:

I love hyperlinks from a conceptual standpoint, but my holy god I hate them in practice. Conceptually, the idea of pages being linked along intersecting multiple axes is mind-blowing. The problem, of course, is that in practice it is also: mind-blowing.

Our minds simply do not work that way. If I am reading something and then hit a link inserted into one of its paragraphs, I do not experience some incredible god-perspective where I now hold the two pages simultaneously in my head. And I cannot somehow grab the meaning of the link and hold it as I continue reading the original piece. AT least not in practice. In practice, I am reading something and then I click a link and I am reading something else; an interruption, plain and simple.

I’ve looked to drastically reduce the linking I do these days. You all know how to use the internet. I will always attribute original content, but I will not spend my precious time googling every potential reader query. I’m the writer, you’re the reader. If you here on Rational Geekery, I assume a level of understanding of the subjects I write about (or at least, you have the competence to use a search engine).

As a reader I do feel the need to occasionally follow a link, but I ensure my browsers (Chrome, mainly) use the open new tabs in the background option, so interruption is minimal.

Finally, while Instapaper is near-perfect, I just wish Marco could find the love to make an Android app. There are a few 3rd-party options, but nothing as nice as the official iOS one.

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