Avoid anchor text

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This is a wiki best practice originally noted at Consumerium under GFDL.

Anchor text is the specialized word or phrase that you place in a link instead of the name of the target article. You write it this way:

[[real name of article|the anchor text that the reader sees]]

You should avoid anchor text wherever possible. Keep page names easy to use in sentences so that it is not necessary, and so people can create links as they type, without thinking or looking up the bad names or improper capitalization.

common errors

  • You are a victim of a bad page name and don't want to repeat it in your own text. In this case you should refactor and rename it everywhere, using a redirect from the old bad name to the new good name
  • The name of the article is in singular noun or verb form, and you need to use the word in its plural or conjuncted or adverb or adjective form. This is not necessary since mediawiki lets you write
[[multiple]]s
  • and it will appear as if you had written
[[multiples]]
  • so there is never any need to write:
[[multiple|multiples]]

legitimate uses of anchor text

There are a very few reasons to use anchor text instead of writing real name of article, and using that real name in a sentence? Several reasons are often cited:

  • The article is in a subspace, e.g. you want to say just "naming" when linking to dKosopedia:naming; This is the most acceptable use and is almost never controversial.
  • You actually want to make some statement about what the article means in the context of your sentence.
    • One position on this is that you are actually defying what everyone who helped to write the article, says it means. If you have something to say about that subject, you should say it in that article. You should not try to twist the meaning of the article in your sentence.
    • Another position on this is that it's reasonable only in a policy statement, where you are assuming a point of view that is already heavily debated, and won't be taken as personal statement.

use many redirects rather than any anchor text

There are several excellent reasons to avoid anchor text and to desire many redirects instead:

  • A redirect is much easier to track use of, than an anchor text. It's important to know how many people for instance prefer to talk about green guilds vs. sustainable trades vs. eco-syndicalism, even if all three target (perhaps temporarily) the same article on all three. If it turns out that more than half the links are to "sustainable trades" then maybe that needs a separate article? You can't discover this easily if people write [[eco-syndicalism|sustainable trades]]. So please don't. If one phrase is equivalent to another, or one article is about several topics, create redirects to them all, and avoid using anchor texts.
  • Each redirect is a fairly blunt statement that "this means the same as that, or can't be understood except in the context of that". Such important statements should not be made for everyone involved by just one person, unless it's a clearly personal statement in a user page or talk page. Although, if you disagree with the assumption that dKosopedia:We is really "everyone involved", then, you can change it, because no one person owns this policy, there is inertia to links, and you shouldn't ask others to do this if you yourself can avoid making such assumptions. If "everyone involved" is really a good phrase to use, and is not misleading then why does everyone involved not already redirect to dKosopedia:We ? Think about that.
  • It's extremely common and desirable to redirect an abstract concept to some specific theory with a proper name, if there is no competing explanation of that concept. This allows for later creation of an abstract concept article to explain how several theories compete. It's easy to see where this might be required: if there are lots of links to social democracy and fewer to Social Democrat, but the former redirects to the latter, that suggests that there is perhaps a need to discuss social democracy outside the context of what a Social Democrat is today, and the history that group accepts. This is one way to balance neutral point of view of social democracy with sympathetic point of view of Social Democrats by themselves. <-- notice the trickery of anchor texts here, and it's another way to create troll poems while just trying to be cute.

The Metaweb project has plans to create semantic web software to process the GFDL text corpus directly. The DailyKos:tag cleanup has similar ambitions, and would use the redirects to determine which are valid DailyKos tags, and which aren't.

At that point a lot of redirects will be very desirable, and a lot of sentences that use the real names of articles as simple noun phrases (usually concepts) and simple verb phrases (usually actions) and more complex phrases (like some advice), will be immensely useful in figuring out how these articles are used, and which to write next. Lots of odd anchor text on the other hand just encourages laziness in writing and says much less useful, and much less collective.

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