When I read this evocative piece by Tim O’ Reilly on Linking To Yourself, and began to understand just how widespread the “habit” had become, I began to wonder. Doesn’t it make you go blind, or something like that? It should.

I thought Peter Kirn’s comment summarised it elegantly:

1. Link externally when appropriate; don’t create a walled garden.
2. Identify internal links as such; provide an option.
3. Link to what’s useful to people

As David Weinberger said in Cluetrain, hyperlinks subvert hierarchies. Broadcast models and walled garden approaches are fundamentally hierarchical in construct, with controlled audiences meekly fed controlled content in controlled ways. It is natural for those who believe in such models to want to prevent the subversion, since it represents a loss of control.

It is also natural for all of us to see them for what they are.

Of course there are good reasons to link “to oneself”. In the comments, Tim gives the example of Wikipedia cross-references. One of the powers of the writable web is the ability to provide rich context quickly and cheaply, wherever that context is to be found. And sometimes the best context is found in something you may have written earlier. That makes sense. But linking to oneself to the exclusion of any other form of linking is just plain silly.

Some of the comments suggest that the reason a walled-gardener does this is because of the Google ranking. Now that makes me Confused. I have always assumed that self-linking is made valueless by PageRank. Live and learn.

2 thoughts on “Circle-linking”

  1. I think the Google ranking comment may come from the fact that linking out can reduce a page’s ranking in Google, and there is potentially some value in placing certain words in anchor text.

    Another reason for self-linking is to get some value out of content-scraping splogs – the back links make it easier to find them, and for the readers to find you.

    All that said, I fully agree: Self-link when and where it makes sense, and don’t over do it – Who knows what it might do to your vision!

Let me know what you think

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