Christian Heilmann

That /via nonsense (and putting text in images)

Friday, December 23rd, 2011 at 2:08 am

I just got a weird feeling that we are quite misusing the web at the moment to get eyeballs and clicks to our own personal blogs (I am not talking about company sites here).

Take this cool quote by Penn Jilette:


There is no god and that’s the simple truth. If every trace of any single religion died out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.

This seems to originate on imgur. Probably in a post on 4chan or some other board. Instead of just quoting as text someone put it in an image as it is more appealing and probably people link to it more. Well, the really sensible thing would be to provide the text, too, cause then people can quote and search engines can find it. I am not going to have to explain again that people who can not see the image or for whom it doesn’t load should get the info, I hope.

So this happened:

It went on mlkshk posted by Maggie Nelson, then Kottke blogged it, giving it a transcription in HTML and the enticing title “exact nonsense”. Kottke also proved his worth as a good blogger by linking the quote to the book it came from and linking the book title to Google books for you to see (a lesser blogger would have linked it to Amazon with their affiliate ID). Then Gruber blogged exactly the same post with the same title and a “via” pointing to Kottke (ommiting the link to Google Books though). This is how I found it via a retweet of Gruber by Brandon Mitchell.

I like one thing about this: that the original message was converted to a more portable format and Kottke added even meta information.

I don’t like about this that the message then gets put almost verbatim on yet another blog and information (the link to the book) gets omitted again.

I like distribution on the web and if Kottke’s blog went down we’d still have Gruber to get at least the text. In “amazing world” the original image would have had the alternative text and be linked to the book. I wonder if we don’t just get too overboard with the ‘/via’ we put on the web now – if we don’t add value to the original content by putting it on our blog. There is a lot of duplication going on and a lot of unnecessary branding. You see this with images a lot. A funny image crops up and 2 months later you see it in 20 copies (in worse quality most of the time) with watermarks of “fun collections” domains on them.

Frankly I was just annoyed that I spent time chasing the /via links in this case as I thought the title “exact nonsense” was an article by Gruber on overzealous design or code practices. I find a blog something where you should add to the subject matter, not just copy and paste. Right?

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