Dennis D. McDonald (ddmcd@outlook.com) is an independent consultant located in Alexandria Virginia. His services and capabilities are described here. Application areas include project, program, and data management; market assessment, digital strategy, and program planning; change and content management; social media; and, technology adoption. Follow him on Google+. He also publishes on CTOvision.com and aNewDomain.

Link Clickers Just Wanna Be Informed

Link Clickers Just Wanna Be Informed

By Dennis D. McDonald

In Can Exposing More of the Information Value Chain Help Control Fake News? I suggested that, to help combat the transmission of fake news, search engines such as Google should display more background information about a link to better inform the decision of whether not to click it.

The following are some examples of what I would like to know about a link before I click it:

  1. Does the target site accept "sponsored content" from sources like Taboola and Outbrain that deliberately make links to advertisements look like news?
  2. Does the target site prevent access by someone using an ad blocker?
  3. Does the target site only display partial article text -- or nothing at all -- to nonsubscribers?
  4. Does the target site only allow comments by Facebook subscribers?

In the case of (1) one message the reader gets is, "We're so desperate for ad revenue that we're willing to accept this supplier’s deceptive publishing practices."

In the case of (2) as an ad blocker user I just want to know in advance if I’ll have to jump through hoops to see the link’s target. I'm not against ads. I just hate those that annoy through animation, popovers, and other distractions (especially when I’m using my mobile phone).

In the case of (3) just tell me before I click on the link that you restrict access to subscribers only. (I also try not to reference or retweet links that are subscriber only.)

In the case of (4) the message I get is that, because of your decision to outsource spam and troll control to Facebook, you don't think the comments of non-Facebook users are worthwhile.

What’s happening here is that the openness and freedom of information once encapsulated by the concept of an “information superhighway" is being shut down through the accumulation of numerous roadblocks and speedbumps. That's why it's important to serve this information in advance to the user along perhaps with a note that says something like, "You tried to access this site on your smartphone last week but gave up because pop-ups and overlaid sign-up forms made it impossible to read the link target."

I'm not asking for some other institution to rate and rank offending and annoying sites for me. I am asking for more information to be made available to me in an open and transparent fashion so I can answer the question "should I click on the link?" based on honest and accurate contextual information.

Copyright © 2017 by Dennis D. McDonald

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