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Sometimes a link is just a link

— My previous item on sensitivities about linking brings to mind an issue we ran into earlier this week with the story of those teen girls videotaping themselves beating a peer. Generally speaking, the identity of minors involved in crimes is withheld and their images blurred or otherwise masked. In the case of that particular story the horse got out of the barn before the media thought twice and their names, ages, hometowns and mug shots were all over the news along with the unblurred video (actually blurred only to protect the victim). None of that is really my problem as far as Clicked is concerned (and I think the matter was rendered moot once they were charged as adults) but I did face the Web version of that ethical dilemma in deciding whether to link to their MySpace pages. On the one hand I didn't list their names or ages or show anyone's face. On the other hand I provided quick access to those things and more (but then on the third hand, it's not like the links are secret, anyone could have found them).

Also coming to mind is a recent dust-up in the pundit blogosphere in which Glenn Reynolds was accused of linking too closely to a racist blogger. Without getting lost in the back and forth of that particular case, it's a good illustration of how Web culture hasn't quite resolved to singularity the meaning of a link. The easy answer is that a link does nothing more than point to a location of information, but it's clear from the tone of the debate and the comparisons to Barack Obama's relationship with his minister that a link is often seen as carrying some degree of social endorsement.

I see confusion about that message of endorsement sometimes in feedback from readers. Like that item about Obama's connection to Kenyan politics. Also the suicide blog Michael mentioned in his comment on my earlier post. Linking is not always casting a vote of support. And yet while I'll always insist that my linking is dispassionate but I can't deny there have been times I've gone looking for a different version of the same story because I wasn't comfortable linking to the one I had.

Perhaps the best example of a link being more than a link it ceases to be a link - that is to say, in the act of "delinking." A few months ago a local Brooklyn blogger insulted the friend of a friend of a fellow Brooklyn blogger and a bunch of us other Brooklyn bloggers received a formal mail declaring that the offending blogger was being delisted (!) and encouraging us to do the same. So aggressive is the act of delisting that bloggers who remove some links in the course of a redesign or general site cleaning will often post clear reassurances that no offense is intended.

There's no ignoring that the simple act of linking means both traffic and page rank (higher placement in search results) but sometimes a link is just a link.

Self-assembling Nanofibers Heal Spinal Cords - I recall a similar technique employed to help heal broken bones. The idea is that the healing is better able to take place when there's a structure of some kind for the tissue to grown on.

"I attached this camera to the bench so you could take pictures. Seriously. So have fun. I'll be back later this evening to pick it up." Reminds me of the cameramail project.

Colorwars is holding a nerd rap competition on SayNow. Nice demonstration of both SayNow and the Colorwars concept.

Speaking of games, Random Defense is a prettier, more varied kind of Desktop Defense.

Still speaking of games, I had to have the "You have to burn the rope" game explained to me. Not the instructions, of course, but why it's so damn popular. Apparently it's the cute song after you win. Vaguely "Flight of the Conchords"-ish.

I'm listening to the free songs on Devendra Banhart's site to see if there's some magic in the music that might reveal how he won the heart of Natalie Portman (in spite of... um.. the odds). P.S. I'm not digging it.

"A Bosnian man whose home has been hit an incredible five times by meteorites believes he is being targeted by aliens." Lacking a better explanation, I agree with him. It's aliens.

Computer viruses hit one million - That sounds like a big number but recently I was wondering just how likely you are to pick up a virus, particularly if you aren't stupid about your e-mail. In the past few days I've download a few programs that I couldn't really verify as being from a reliable source because I was a little out of my depth. So I download the thing, scan the file with my security software and then... that's it, I click install and hold my breath. I'd love to know how risky this behavior is. Where does the hype end and the danger begin?

Anime eyelids - and eyebrows.

7 Random Objects Sold as Exercise Machines - The lesson: Stop buying stuff and go exercise.

Speaking of stop buying stuff, I love "you don't need it" stickers. (I'm secretly waiting for high consumer prices to trigger an American "enough" backlash.)

Just when I was reading about Microsoft improving the 3D renderings in Virtual Earth I also saw the Viewfinder project which aims to let you place 2D photos into 3D map worlds. (I wonder if they've seen Photosynth.) [Alan's Space World demo is worth playing with if you haven't seen the technology.]

"Some experts hope that the perfect condition in which the body of the mammoth was found could allow extricate intact DNA from his cells, and, as a result, clone the animal in future." I will never give up hope for cloned prehistoric animals.

Garbage Island - A documentary series about people who travel out to the Pacific garbage island.

Unlimited electronic bubble wrap isn't a bad idea but I need to be able to stomp on it or twist it.

I saw a woman in the park balancing on a rope tied between two trees in the park and though she was an acrobat of some kind, maybe connected to the nearby trapeze school or maybe one of those high-flying Cirque Du Soleil kind of shows. But slackline yoga was not on my list of guesses.