Near links are links that look like ordinary links but point to a different site, or a different NameSpace on the same site. If two wikis A and B act as two different namespaces, and they allow near links to each other, then when you link to page X on wiki A, X may point to page X on A, if it exists, or to page X on B, if it does not exist on A but it does exist on B. Clearly, this requires A and B to exchange information on the pages they have defined. Indeed, this is a SisterSite method, but it is a more direct bridge than the original TwinPages formulation.
Note how this is very similar to how we use NameSpaces in natural languages. If I talk about wikis and I mention SoftSecurity, then we don't have to say that we are talking about MeatBall:SoftSecurity. We only need to qualify the reference when we are not sure, eg. "The link is from my homepage AlexSchroeder on MeatBall, not the one on EmacsWiki".
Thus, near links can be made into explicit far links by qualifying them with an InterLink moniker.
A note on terminology:
It's a great way to borrow another LinkLanguage, and gradually make it your own. It works transparently.
NearLinks are problematic from a usability point of view:
Therefore it is important to distinguish near links from ordinary links.
On this wiki, we use CSS to identify them visually and a tooltip to tell us to which site they point to. The Themes section on this wiki also provides a theme to show the InterLink prefix for near links.
With one or two broad wikis or with a dozen focussed wikis on the NearMap the results will be about as predictable as when you are using local links. Near-linking to fifty wikis makes no sense unless you are a big believer in AccidentalLinking.
When you want to create a new page on the local wiki that would be near-linked, you need some help. Without help, you will never reach the right edit page, since you'll be redirected to a remote wiki everytime you try.
You have three options:
As an additional benefit, having an explicit NewPage is much easier for newcomers than the requirement of linking from an existing page.
When you have wikis on your NearMap with broad topic overlap, near-links are confusing, since several wikis will have related pages. We hope to deal with this using explicit InterLinks and the list of SisterSites at the bottom of a page.
I think the system still needs a little bit of work, but it feels very natural already. – AlexSchroeder
Yes. The same is true for search results. – AlexSchroeder
The following sections discuss the various problems found with the current NearLink implementation. Insights of general interest go to the uppper part of this page.
I think near link, if its purpose is to make 2 or more sites closer, needs reciprocity. If you start reading some things in the oddmuse manual via a near link you have currently no way to easily return to the community site. On the contary if I follow local links, I allways have a link to the homepage, a search box …. so that I can continue to explore the site I am interested in. A least a link in the navigation bar to the near sites is needed IMHO. – PierreGaston
I would welcome reciprocity. – AlexSchroeder
It can magically modify the purpose of a link in previous text. Suppose I put a link to ForestFire in meatball, I will probably not use the intermap link because it's convenient to just type the link. Then 3 weeks later someone wants to write a page talking about pyromans to illustrate his purpose forest to illustrate something and creates a local ForestFire. The link in my previously written text becomes totally irrelevant. This is an unrealistic example, but I think this sort of problem are likely to come. This might be what you want here though because the only differences of the pages on Meatball and on this wiki that share the same name might be the copyright. – PierreGaston
As for changed content at the target page, you will always have this problem. The only solution to this is PeerReview; and if you read only RecentChanges of one site, the risk of content changing "behind your back" will seem higher. Near links only make sense between sites where a large part of the visitors visit both sites. – AlexSchroeder
Why don't you make near links appear like intermap link? it is as easy to type and it's easier to understand that you will leave the wiki and where you leave the wiki. Plus viewer only need to know one special link form. The analogy with source code writing is not so straightforward, when you are editing source code you specify the explicitely the package, module your are using per file or per block, here it is site wide. So here if i want to talk about permanent anchors, near links as it is implemented in oddmuse the near links will take me to the page on the meatball site an not on the oddmuse site. (This is just a theoritical example as the pages are in fact named differntely on the 2 wikis) So maybe the context is important when you use near link, just like you specify which module you need when you write some code. The fact it saves some typing is arguable. I we often need to link to another site why not just use a shorter abbreviation like m:MeatBall – PierreGaston
If it's all about the "readability" of the text, isn't a "Near" link just a "Far" link with some SyntacticSugar on top? Why not use some kind of convention eg. ~Far:Link which renders it as "Link" rather than "Far:Link"?
That would be easier for the author (no worrying about the NearMap as distinct from the InterMap) and would save the problem you have with creating local pages when a NearLink with the same name already exists.
In the Meatball / Community Wiki situation, where I contributed lots to both wikis, I don't want to remember where the particular page I'm thinking of is when writing. Near links allow me to do this, but the effect is minimal.
When Community Wiki started, however, we were able to build on Meatball's existing pages – we had a great LinkLanguage to start with. Using it without near links would have involved a lot more typing. And once we started to write our own copies of these pages, near links automatically picked up the new target. That was perfect, I think.
On Emacs Wiki, some people often create links to pages that are off-topic when they talk about technology. Near links automatically direct these discussions to the right place.
(I concur.) We should make this reason prominant. – LionKimbro
I think an alternative interface would be to (a) leave the WikiWord looking like it normally does when there's no existing page, and (b) using some sort of tiny logo next to it, like many wiki do for external links. That would avoid the messiness off the create-local-page link, and also communicate to the newbie that the match is different from a local match.
I'd really like to go further and make it easy to have a popup showing all the matches, maybe from all SisterSites, maybe from just the NearMap. So you could see the list and ideally mouse over to one of them to pick that destination. Or maybe that's too messy to work with, and people would rather priorite the matches?
The scenario I'm thinking of is (a) start with a bunch of people with their own WikiLog-s or other personally-hosted spaces, then (b) they join together to create a joint space for mutual action, and (c) want to leverage all their already-existing content. The priority model doesn't work well there…