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Automatically add links in forum threads?

Travel Forums System Talk Automatically add links in forum threads?

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1. Posted by Peter (Admin 5789 posts) 5y

Hey everyone,

We're pondering making it so that links to the Travellerspoint guide are automatically added into forum entries where they are appropriate and wondering everyone would feel about that.

How it would work

After writing a forum entry, we detect if any important locations were mentioned in the entry. If the word "Melbourne" was in the thread for example, that would be a match. Then we would automatically add a link to the travel guide for Melbourne on that word - so it would end up like this: Melbourne.

Benefits

  • Boosts the prominence of the guide a lot, hopefully encouraging more contributors + viewers
  • Might answer someone's question - when they notice the link there. We could also automatically suggest they have a look at the Melbourne guide after making such a post.
  • Should help our search engine rankings for the guide pages, which in turn will generate more traffic and activity in the guide.

Disadvantages

  • Are we tampering too much with content?

What do you all think? Any strong objections? Or people in favour? Would love to get your input!!

2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4808 posts) 5y

Really very strongly oppose this one; it'd feel like that horrible intellitxt. When I as the poster insert a link, I do so purposefully; it has meaning. Many other links to pieces of content which might or might not be relevant to the thread in question ("I remember back when I was living in Melbourne, I once came across [actual subject of the thread]") will dilute the value of the links which I include purposefully. People would't know which link to follow anymore (true even if you try to distinguish automatically inserted links; random visitors wouldn't understand the difference), and if you link up too many subjects, every post would look as crowded as vegasmike's posts do. (No offense, Mike! Your posts just always trigger my "report" reflex before I see the actual content and poster name. :))

What I could get behind is you scanning the contents of the entire thread, and linking the top 10 keywords to the guide in a block in the sidebar or something like that. That would actually be a very useful purpose for that column of white-space, and would fit in quite well with how that sidebar is used in other places. Should be more robust as well, not falling for a single stray mention of Melbourne when the subject is actually something else entirely.

[ Edit: Edited on 06-Jun-2011, at 23:54 by Sander ]

3. Posted by bex76 (Moderator 3711 posts) 5y

I personally don't really like the idea. I think it starts to look like the content of the posts are controlled by the site and not the users. Also it could get a little annoying and distracting if a post is filled with links, especially if they're not directly relevant to the thread. I remember putting a post on another forum a while ago and when I went back to it the places I had mentioned had been edited as links, and it irritated me somewhat, as I felt as if my own work had been changed without my permission.

4. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4808 posts) 5y

Here's an example thread of a forum where they try to do this in a very limited manner: notebookreview.com, and fail completely to add any value to the visitor. Note how the word "Sony" is an automatic link, and the link is completely inappropriate both times: "does Sony ever offer sales" is within parentheses - this is far from the main point of the original post - and then "the Sony Z" where only "Sony" is linked, rather than the link going to the actual model named.

The linking on that forum is much less than it used to be (when literally every company name and many specific laptop models would trigger an automatic link), but it's still bad.

5. Posted by mojorob (Moderator 1047 posts) 5y

Quoting Sander

What I could get behind is you scanning the contents of the entire thread, and linking the top 10 keywords to the guide in a block in the sidebar or something like that. That would actually be a very useful purpose for that column of white-space, and would fit in quite well with how that sidebar is used in other places. Should be more robust as well, not falling for a single stray mention of Melbourne when the subject is actually something else entirely.

Yeah, I could definitely support something along the lines of what Sander suggests - but not so keen on automatically linking words within the body of an entry.

However, there is a possibility that the usefulness could be thrown off a bit if replies to the threads go off-topic (even slightly) - so probably should be based on either the original entry for that thread, or the original entry plus subsequent replies in that thread by the OP only.

6. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5595 posts) 5y

I leave the final judgement to the experts on usefullness and possible side effects like described above (I am more of the yeah why not, let's see instead of weighing all the factors, but understand and respect other opinions), but a sidenote if you install it: only link once, so if Melbourne is mentioned several times, only link the first one, otherwise things can become a little annoying indeed.
Also, maybe only link to continents, countries and top 100 cities or so. Especially countries can be a good thing, as in the country article you will see links to all other places (cities, towns, parks, other sights and attractions) and users can decide for themselves to view sub-articles from there. Maybe to start with and see how things work?

[ Edit: Edited on 07-Jun-2011, at 01:47 by Utrecht ]

7. Posted by Sam I Am (Admin 5588 posts) 5y

We thought we'd get some responses to this one :) We were inspired to bring it up after noticing that Thorntree (Lonely Planet's forum) now does this. Here's an example where you can also clearly see they have gone way overboard on this... Tripadvisor too has been doing this for years, as have a few other travel forums on a smaller scale.

If we did do it, I think it would have to be much more limited than what is seen on these other sites, as otherwise it just looks super tacky. I was also thinking that perhaps this could be a setting which can be ticked, ie. 'auto-link to travel guide' is optional (and remembers what you've used last time).

I also like the idea of a 'related areas' in the sidebar like you mention Sander. That way we could also pull in accommodation links if that was what the thread was about, rather than just guide links as the current idea is. From a search engine point of view though, links in the content are worth more. But I also have a gut feeling that the benefit would be limited if you started plastering your forum with these in-text links.

Anyway, please keep the feedback coming. If the general feeling is 'nay', it means a lot to us. Put another way, you are all a lot more valuable than search engines to us! :)

8. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5595 posts) 5y

Quoting Sam I Am

We thought we'd get some responses to this one :) We were inspired to bring it up after noticing that Thorntree (Lonely Planet's forum) now does this. Here's an example where you can also clearly see they have gone way overboard on this...

I had expected it much worse before I clicked the link. Related to my idea of only linking once (so once Rwanda, once Burundi etc) per thread is not annoying I think.
By the way Sam, this can't be a coincidence: really having plans to visit those countries later this year or earlier next year and thanks for the information on LP...

9. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4808 posts) 5y

Quoting Sam I Am

We thought we'd get some responses to this one :) We were inspired to bring it up after noticing that Thorntree (Lonely Planet's forum) now does this. Here's an example where you can also clearly see they have gone way overboard on this...

In that example I particularly hate the double link in "US State Department consular information sheet for Burundi" in post 6; the second link intended by the poster, the preceding one not. But chances are that most visitors to that thread have no idea there's two links in there, and only click one, with a 50-50 chance of getting some completely useless information to the issue at hand.

10. Posted by bex76 (Moderator 3711 posts) 5y

Many people would be enticed to click on the links, which is especially annoying if they turn out not to be relevant.