When a normal forward link points from A to B, the backlink is the automatically generated link back from B to A.
On systems where you don’t have unidirectional forward links but only bidirectional links, it makes no sense to talk about forward links and back links.
From a theoretical point of view, back links are interesting because without back links, it is possible to get to a page without any forward links pointing away. The backlink is your only way to get “back” to the hypertext.
From a usability point of view, listing all backlinks usually makes little sense, because the information is usually useless for human readers. Back links only make sense in very restricted scenarios:
Automatic creation of back links has also been exploited by spam bots, however. Before creating external back links (back links to external sites) you should do some basic checking:
I don’t remember when we said this, but this is just plain wrong.
Surfing the Web Backwards was the paper that opened my eyes to the importance of backlinks.
Backlinks are references into the future.
When a paper is published, it has references. This is a unidirectional link to the past.
But how could it point to the future, all the things that built on it?
It can’t. Not, that is, unless you build a backlinks database.
Ta-dah! Now, you can link into the future.
You can see how the idea was used, where it went, what it became an important part of.
If it has few things to point to, then you can see: It wasn’t used much.
And referrers! The referrers are backlinks as well. And that’s incredibly cool information, too, albeit for radically different reasons. (“Who else is talking about this, that we don’t know?” vs. “How do we use this word?”)
Within my WikiLog, I see backlinks kinda like a tag-blog.
Also like an index in a book. If I have a “new” idea about a concept, I look at the existing Backlinks to it to remind myself of what I’ve already written. I might be repeating myself, or I may be nudged to refactor some existing things.
And since my WikiLog has an index (zope catalog) storing backlinks, it’s faster than a normal Search. So I put them right at the bottom of every page, so I don’t have to take a separate action to get them.
I think this is even more useful for people who don’t intensely use a space, because it always gives them a little visible NearPages? kinda Context.
My work wiki doesn’t have that feature, and it annoys me quite a bit.
(Too bad my server isn’t working at all right now. Actually, it’s working, but DNS is all mucked up.)