Hide inline click counters for hyperlinked text

(Iszi) #1

I generally prefer to actually hyperlink text in my posts, instead of having the URLs stand out on their own. This is the reason hyperlinking was invented in the first place anyway, is it not?

I also like the Discourse feature which shows the number of clicks a link has received. While I don’t find it particularly useful as regular forum user, the geek in me likes the fact that this stat is easily visible.

However, in this topic on How-To Geek (and soon in here, I presume), we can see how the current implementation may not quite be the best.

Here we can see that the click counter has jumped in and interrupted the flow of text. Sure, as it’s in the single-digits now, it’s still relatively unubtrusive. But, should it ever reach the tens or hundreds (and I’m sure some more popular sites/threads could see counts upwards of a thousand), it could quickly become more of an eyesore.

At this point, it’s also worth noting that for forum links the inline counter is actually redundant - the link on the side of the post also has this information. I think it would be better if that sort of display could be used for all links in the thread, internal or not. If this cannot be gracefully implemented, then perhaps click counts for external links should be removed entirely or moved to a “click to show more details” section attached to the post.

As it is, we have a feature that does not really enhance the discussion (IMHO) but is interrupting it.

(Ian Carroll) #2

A great idea would to have it displayed on hover, instead of inline.

(Iszi) #3

I like it, but I think it’s been expressed elsewhere that the Discourse designers are trying for (more or less) a one-size-fits-all approach - all features should work on all devices. Hover doesn’t exist for touch interfaces.

(Jeff Atwood) #4

Links exist for one purpose. Guess what it is?

I view this as a core feature, so it will be on by default, but we could certainly add a site setting to disable display of link counters for forum owners who decide they don’t want it.

It’s also true that there is redundancy on the counters for internal links where the counter appears both in the body and in the right gutter. I want to get to that eventually.

(Iszi) #5

To enhance the discussion by providing direction to other relevant content - not to say “Hey, see how many times other people have clicked me!”. Or, are you saying every link on the Internet should have a click counter directly next to it?

I’m still having a hard time understanding what value the click counter really provides to the users. To the author of the post, to the site owner, and to the owners of content behind those links, the information is interesting to one degree or another. But to the other 99.999% of the Internet, what real value is there in this?

(Jeff Atwood) #6

OK, so if nobody is clicking the “direction to other relevant content” that you so helpfully provided in your reply, what is this telling you?

(Iszi) #7

You missed this part:

Then, I still ask:

(Jeff Atwood) #8

The value is crowdsourcing of the interesting links; the more links are clicked, the more signal there is that something is useful and/or interesting on the other side.

And if nobody’s clicking, either your forum is dead, nobody cares – in which case you have other deeper problems – or you:

  • didn’t post a useful link

  • didn’t explain what the link was so nobody is willing to click it

  • the link is too deeply hidden in your text (you linked a single character)

  • the link colors aren’t different enough from the text so nobody can see it

etcetera. There’s a lot of subtlety to this, I recommend reading Don’t Click Here: The Art of Hyperlinking to learn more.

Gee, I wonder if there will be a number next to that link the next time I check :smile:

(Ian Carroll) #9

Why not have it as a hover? This allows people to be able to see the click count, yet in a way that does not interrupt reading.

(Jeff Atwood) #10

See earlier in topic, you already had a reply addressing this.

What happens when you hover your finger over an iPad?

(Ian Carroll) #11

Just wait for the iPad 30 and iPad Mini 26

(David Smith) #12

I’m not sure that follows entirely. The number of clicks on a link tells you nothing about the value of the content on the other side, only how compelling the link description (and perhaps URL) was on this side. The link description doesn’t have to be misleading to misrepresent the quality of the destination content: I could link to the world’s worst cat video with the text “cat video” and it’d get a bunch of clicks.

Now, if a user could signal post-click that the trip was worth it – or not worth it – that would certainly increase the usefulness of a badge on the link. (A comment later in the topic would be too late, as people are unlikely to read the entire thread before clicking any links.)

Whether the added complexity of such a feature is worth it, is a different question…

(Iszi) #13

+1 exactly for this. A click counter gives no information of value to the readers. It would actually be misleading to give readers the impression that it does.

Again, you’re just re-validating my earlier comment. Yes, I fully understand that click count has value to the post’s author, to the site’s owner, and to owners of the sites behind those links. However, those represent a very small minority in comparison to the wider audience that the posts are being written to serve.

Certainly I, as the author of content that I post onto forums, would be interested to see click counts for my links. However, I do not want that to be something that interrupts the content I have written to be viewed by the 99.999…% of users on the Internet who have no real use for that information.

(sparr) #14

I disagree. More clicks means the link[ed text] looks interesting. It has absolutely no bearing on the usefulness or interestingness of what’s on the other side. People can’t come back from a dud page and un-click a link.

(brad) #15

The inline click counters break middle-click functionality in Firefox and cause tabs to be loaded in the foreground instead of the background in Chrome. Either fix them or let users turn them off.

(Jeff Atwood) #16

Well, since Firefox is the only browser that “breaks” here, I’d argue the problem is with Firefox and its too aggressive “popup blocking”, not the click counting.

The click counters also have value to the people reading the post, signalling that these links are worth clicking – and telling you which links in the topic were clicked the most, as they are gathered and sorted in the topic map at the top of the topic:

(Jeff Atwood) #17

Right, and record sales is not in any way indicative of the quality of the music being sold, nor can you “return” a dud mp3 track you bought on iTunes. This is far, far outside the scope of the discussion.

(Brentley Jones) #18

You can preview both of those though :wink:

(sparr) #19

no one comes to a forum to click on a link that they already know is there (aside from the computer-unsavvy people you occasionally hear jokes about who paste things into word documents to email them). people go to a record store already wanting a specific record.

Put another way… Consider the following variables:

  1. The text in the hyperlink
  2. The reputation of the person making the link
  3. The content at the far end of the link

If you change #1, you change how often it gets clicked. If you change #2, you change how often it gets clicked. If you change #3 (by, for example, sending it to a rickroll video), the click frequency does not change.

(Iszi) #20

@sparr’s comments, and those of the others here, are dead-on. Your analogy is flawed.

With records, consumers have a lot of opportunity to get familiar with the artist and be exposed to their music outside the context of the sale. They hear the songs on the radio, they talk about the artist with their friends, and they may already own a few songs or albums to have an established history. For the MP3s, you can often times even sample a part of the song before buying.

Links in a forum are a very different beast. Sure, it’s possible that users may be familiar with the website being linked. But they may not even see that if they don’t bother to check the link’s target before following it. All they really have to go on is the description given by the post author.

Under your assumption that links are the same as records, let’s tweak @avaragado’s “cat video” analogy a bit and see what happens:

  • A forum user posts a link to a YouTube video, claiming it’s the funniest cat video in the world. This particular cat video is actually crap. However because it’s a cat video, and because YouTube is known for funny cat videos, a lot of people rush to see it. Though they are disappointed by the quality of the video, their clicks on the link make it look like a popular video when people view the forum thread and so others follow that link and continue to be disappointed.

  • Another forum user posts a link to a video that is, quite literally, the funniest cat video in the world. But this one’s hosted on an obscure personal site that isn’t known for hosting interesting content. So a few forum users might click on it, and have the best laugh of their lives, but it’s not going to be incredibly popular up-front. Long-term popularity is further going to be hurt because a low click count means there must not be a lot of value behind the link - right?

Let’s bring this mentality to StackExchange for a second. You wouldn’t dare presume a user wants to up-vote a question or answer just because they looked at it, would you? Essentially, that is what you’re doing here by saying that the click count is indicative of how valuable the content at the link target is. Everyone who follows a link then, regardless of their opinion after having viewed the content behind the link, has effectively put a mandatory and irreversible up-vote on the link.

And of course, as I was writing this, someone else found a more succinct way of stating the problem more clearly.