Links per page

In this essay I have varied the number of links per page so that readers can experience the effects of the variation.

This current hypertext contains about eighty nodes. Putting aside several index nodes and the fourteen nodes in the excerpt from the Sprawling Places hypertext there are about sixty nodes as content of the essay. Of these, more than half contain from one to three out-links per page (twenty-four pages have only one link). Another ten contain four links per page. Eight pages contain seven to nine links. Two highly linked pages contain eleven and fourteen links, respectively. Most of the pages with more than five out-links have even more in-links.

Yet despite the fact that the majority of the nodes do not contain large numbers of links, the text gives the impression of dense linkage. This is because the links try to create a pattern where the reader finds a relatively long page and makes trips out from and back to that page. Some of those trips lead to other pages where the out-and-back cycle is repeated before returning to the first page. The pattern resembles the way many philosophical works ask to be read.

At least that was my intention in this essay. The reader can judge whether the attempt is successful in deepening understanding and providing a means of enriching the reading experience, albeit at the expense of slower reading and more cognitive effort. I thought that in a short essay a uniform number of links per page would spread emphasis out too thinly. Varying the number of links may provide useful structure and emphasis.

However, this may be difficult to achieve. One reader of an earlier version of this essay did not find this link pattern helpful, and remarked:

If there are too many immediately visible links on any one page, the reader will tend to either get distracted by the sheer abundance, or else ignore most of them in order to concentrate on the text at hand. . . . with so many links on every page, it may as well be a random walk.

Still, though in fact only a third of the pages in this essay have more than four links, the reader's complaint at least shows that the densely linked pages do become cognitively central.

The question is whether the out-and-back pattern of reading can be continued long enough, or whether there is too much structure for an academic scholarly essay.