Link Mess

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A LinkMess occurs when a hypertext is so densely and complexly linked, and the reasons for linkage have grown so subtle, that readers can no longer understand the structure.

LinkMess is to a great extent a red herring; if you observe a LinkMess, most often it was deliberately created to achieve a rhetorical or stylistic effect. PatternsOfHypertext describes several patterns (notably Tangle and Sieve) that often seem to be a LinkMess for a time. It is sometimes useful, both in fiction and pedagogy, to keep the reader from knowing precisely where the writer intends to go.

Occasionally, a LinkMess arises from an enthusiast's embrace of LinkSalvation, adding layer upon layer of new links until the reasons for linking overwhelm the reader. Terry Harpold observed (reference?) that people perceive hypertext structure by sensing both where they can go and, just as significantly, by sensing where they cannot: a LinkMess can make it hard for people to guess why two pages are linked while simultaneously convincing them that everything is linked everywhere-- that there is no structure and no pattern.

In weblog practice and in contemporary Web design, the fear of (largely mythical) LinkMess sometimes leads to overly simplistic, hierarchical structures. (See FormalityConsideredHarmful and PrematureCommitment)

Related: LinkSalvation, PatternsOfHypertext

-- Last edited October 27, 2002

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