What should link to where?

Photo by John-Morgan CC-BY
I’ve linked to stories from two sites recently. As well as the blog posts, something else happens to them when they reach the RSS feed, Facebook and Twitter accounts; the headlines shouldn’t link to the blog post here. Instead, when the filter works, clicking on the headline will take you directly to the linked story. The reason I’ve set this up is that if the whole purpose of the a link post is to send you somewhere else, then I can save you time by cutting out the middle man. It means slightly fewer page views for AoB Blog, but I hope it also makes it a bit more useful.

The headline can only link to one site, so my puzzle is where should the headline of a link post link to? For the NewScientist story it’s easy. NewScientist found the story and they link to the DOI of the paper they’re talking about. It’s obvious I should link to them because anyone who wants to find the actual paper will be able to get it from there. For BBC stories it’s more difficult.

This story on Old-growth forests mentions the journal the research is in, but doesn’t link to the source paper – even though it’s free access. It’s not a bad story, but for most readers the link to the paper is more useful than the BBC story. So should the headlines for stories found on the BBC point to the DOI of the paper (when I can find it)? As an aside should I even link to the news story, or just as a note on the blog post Found at www.bbc.co.uk? That seems a bit childish, linking to the story adds a bit of value. So I’ve linked to the BBC news story in the blog post, but you’ll only see that if you visit the blog and not on the Facebook or Twitter streams.

It’s a shame because it put me off writing a link post for this story on the genetics of Sphagnum subnitens in North America. I thought the original paper wasn’t linked because I didn’t see it when I skimmed the story. In fact it is – in a green box labelled Source near the bottom of the story.

What I’m thinking is that if a news site links to the DOI then in the future I’ll link the headline to the news story – so that means more links to NewScientist. If there isn’t a link to the paper, then the headline will link to the paper and that’s what people will see on Twitter. The news story will be credited, but only in the text of the blog post. So the moss story would have linked to the BBC, but the Old forest story wouldn’t have.

Does this sound reasonable?