NYT online hotlilnks---WTF??
Lately I have been noticing that the NYT online edition makes some very, um, interesting choices when deciding which words in an article need to be hyperlinked to additional information. I guess my question to whatever unpaid intern they've assigned to the job is: "What are you smoking, and haven't you read the latest research on what that does to you???"
When used sparingly and caringly, hyperlinks, the modern day equivalent of what my pappy called "footnotes", can be our friends. (for more information on footnotes, see footnotes)
Take for instance today's Science Times article, A Giant Takes on Physics Biggest Questions. My first thought was, "Oh boy, an article about giants! I KNEW they really existed, I just KNEW IT!!"
Guess what? The article's not even about giants (I know, I was pissed too. I bet the same stupid intern who does the linking also writes the misleading headlines.)
OK, after I get over my disappointment that the article is actually about a bunch of fizzisists 300 feet below the ground trying to re-create the beginning of the universe by smashing tiny little particles into each other, I sit back and say, "hey, cool, I've been meaning to brush up on my particle physics. But I'm a little rusty on some of the basic concepts and lingo of advanced theoretical phenomenology. It sure would be helpful if the NYT would footnote -- oops, I mean hyperlink -- some of the hardcore scientific stuff to definitions, background information, biography, or further material that might enhance my ability to understand any of this."
The NYT chose to go another route.
In their six page article on theoretical particle physics, this is what they thought was really important to hyperlink:
Page 1: On a page containing such terms as "European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN)", "Large Hadron Collider", "electron volts of energy", "dark matter" and "dimensions of spacetime", the only word they thought was important to hyperlink out to more information was...wait for it... Earth. Earth? EARTH???? I guess they chose to hyperlink it for those few souls who read the New York Times online that don't know that Earth, " is the third planet from the Sun and the only one in the solar system known to harbor life."
Page 2: Unlinked go search terms as, "trillion-electron volt Tevatron", "antimatter opposites", "antiprotons", "Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory". And the hotlink goes to... Nobel Prize. And not even to a definition of Nobel Prize, just a link to random articles in the New York Times that mention "Nobel Prize." Super! (a good a time as any to note that ALL hyperlinks, save perhaps paid ads, on the New York Times website only link back to---you got it--- the New York Times website. Super!)
Page 3: Unlinked terms: "Cocktail party physics" (I'm guessing, not so much with the fun), "God particle", "Higgs Boson", electroweak force", "Planck energy". And the hotlink goes to... Nada. No hotlinks. Skippy the unpaid intern must have been checking his MySpace page for messages.
Page 4: Unlinked terms: "Quantum weirdness", "supersymmetry", "photons", "glunino". And the hotlink goes to... I guess Skippy's busy twittering.
Page 5: Unlinked: "primordial fluid", "quark-gluon plasma", "Compact Muon Solenoid". And the link goes to, "radiation." Which I could actually let slide if it didn't lead back to a bunch of random NYT articles, mostly about cancer, that mention the word radiation somewhere.
Page 6: Unlinked: "Fermilab Tevatron", "CDF", "UA1 and UA2", "LHCb". And the link goes to... Uh, nothing.
But wait! I now notice at the bottom of every page a little link that says, "Sphere: Related Blogs & Articles". Yes! I knew the New York Times was just screwing with me! Now I'm going to click on "Sphere"* and get all sorts of related theoretical particle physics goodness. Here I go... I'm gonna do it... < CLICK!
The good news: Sphere actually links to material outside of the NYT universe. The bad news: This is what it links to:
- Cheerleading Gains Popularity Worldwide! (I should assume that credit largely goes to the great work of underground swiss physicists?)
- Soccer starts tomorrow (you've got to click on this to believe that the NYT is linking to this kind of stuff.)
- Are we scrubs? (A guy writing about his softball team. Maybe they had some success colliding softballs at high speed?)
- Canada pleasantly surprised by World Gold
I'm speechless. I am without speech.
*Sphere: "Connecting Blogs and News"