Metadata matters. Undocumented links don't have a future.

More and more bloggers I read are creating posts that consist entirely of lists of links: links to other blog postings, news items, websites, .... Sometimes a link is accompanied by a short phrase or key word, but more often than not, the entry is just a list of undocumented URLs.

I find these undocumented lists to be, well, useless. I read blogs because I find value in what the writer says. This value might be in the information, insight, or wisdom of the entry, the qualities of the writing, and sometimes in the sheer authentic expression of the words, pictures, etc. But a URL without any description of why it contains something worth looking at contains nothing of value to me. It just provides me with more work that I am unwilling to do.

There's one very notable exception. Almost every week, Dave Pollard posts a "Links for the week ..." entry that contains well documented descriptions of his opinion and responses to each and every link he recommends. This is of tremendous value. Dave is providing an annotated bibliography of the links he finds important and why. And these descriptions allow me to evaluate whether or not to follow the link further.

What Dave Pollard does takes work, and the metadata he creates is very valuable. It is value that will help the links he annotates live into the future. This is how to build a web that has meaning; a web that has a future. In order to preserve an idea, an essay, a document for the future, it needs to be accompanied by a description that allows a future reader to rediscover its value. On the other hand, an undocumented set of links takes no work to compile, and without descriptive metadata, such a list has very little value, and even less of a future. Regardless of the promise of a semantic web that is generated automatically; the web of meaning that we can really use will be built by each and every one of us, one annotation at a time.

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And there's more!

Once someone has annotated their links, as the better link bloggers do, the RSS feed is automatically indexed and searchable on my computer desktop. Now there's a chance that the page of annotated links will be found in future escavation in my collection of reference materials, someday/maybe projects, and things to look at more closely.