Friday, September 09, 2005

Reply to a Reader's Comment

One of my three readers left a comment some time back:

“…you really need to fix your url links. the url should show up as a number of underlined, hypertexed *words*, that, when clicked, reveal the underlying address of the site. If done like this, not only will the url itself not be revealed as text, but it will not run off the column, and the word itself, like here in click here, will be clickable as a link.

Furthermore, your links are showing up as text and not as hyperlinks, so they are not clickable. They are only usable if one copies and pastes into the address bar. Let me know if you want some help. Regarding the spellchecker, you can go back and re-edit any post at any time, so there is no need have spelling errors in a post.”

The issues raised are universal enough as to be worth sharing as a separate post. Here’s my reply, slightly extended and amplified (As always, I retain the right to return and edit my own writing later on, if I can find some improvement that makes me seem wittier and more saintly.):

Dear Robert Lindsay,

Thanks for your comment. I know it is possible to set things up so the web address is HYPERLINKED without actually showing. It’s not JUST because I’m too lazy and ignorant that I generally prefer NOT to do so.

For some insane reason, I happen to believe that making the address visible has value. Many URLs are distressingly arbitrary character strings, but insisting that they be invisible simply for the sake of convenience, or worse, for the appearance of sophistication, is to me an inversion of priorities.

I'm trying to find a balance in my posts (when I don't give in to the impulse to rant) between my personal opinions and at least occasional verifiable sources for the information on which I base certain opinions.

Quite often a web address (URL) will reveal just by itself, information that bears on the validity or coloring of the information to be found at that site. As a hypothetical instance, maybe you maintain a subscription to AOL and receive an e-mail purporting to be a notification from AOL of a problem with your account. It has a hyperlink, with the instruction to "click on the link." You click on the link and it takes you to a web page that seems to be part of the AOL member services area--- all the logos, colors, typefaces, etc. are familiar... The page has fields requesting you enter your member name and password. But the browser field at the top of your window shows a URL that clearly has no connection to AOL. IT IS A SCAM!

By now, a large population of folks exist that know enough to leave the site, and maybe report it as a scam to some authority. But the hyperlink in the text of the original scam e-mail, by hiding the URL, permitted the perpetrators of the fraud a semblance of propriety enough to lure you into actually linking to the site, where they at least will have collected a "cookie" from your computer, which may by itself give them useful information to put to some purpose you wouldn't approve.

The convenience of hyperlinks has a price.

Regarding “splee chekcers,” I use them frequently, but I often find them to be obnoxious, dull, and doctrinaire. When a hip injury kept me abed most of my eleventh year, my mom kept me occupied practicing for the spelling bee. The beautiful and superintelligent Carmeline Maggiapinto, who was my stand partner in the second fiddle section of the Ventura County Symphony, thrashed me and got to go to Washington, while I got a seven-language dictionary and a Zenith Hi-Fi Radio. But the experience got me to be a reasonably good speller, even getting into the habit of occasionally going to the dictionary. Still, typos occur, and there are slips of memory. Correct spelling has virtue, but I refuse to dismiss the validity of an essay with compelling logic simply because of sloppy spelling.

That's exalting form over substance.

Of course, doing that is one of the defining aspects of the present political dilemma, isn't it?


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