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Friday, 06 February 2009

THE TGB ELDER GEEK: Making Links

EDITORIAL NOTE: Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

It's easy to make a link in a blog post on your own blog. You just click the little chain link icon and put the URL in the box that opens up for the link information. The question of the day is, how do you do make a link in a comment on someone else's blog?

When you comment, there's no little chain link icon to guide you through making a link. You can still do it using an HTML tag. Most blog comment forms, such as the comments form on Time Goes By, will accept a few HTML tags. One of those commonly acceptable tags makes a link.

First let's define a couple of terms. The HTML tag that creates a link is the A tag. In HTML, A means anchor. A link tag is actually an anchor tag. Bad nomenclature choice, in my opinion, but I didn't make the rules. That's why most people call it a link, even though it's really an anchor!

The A tag needs an attribute that tells what the link connects to. That attribute is HREF. In HTML, HREF stands for Hypertext REFerence. In other words, the place you end up when you click the link.

You probably guessed already what information goes in the HREF part of a link, because you do it in blog posts when you put the URL for a link into a link box. That's right, the HREF gives the URL.

A few more preliminary geeky details.

  • HTML tags are enclosed in brackets like these: < >. Those brackets are above the comma and period keys on your keyboard.

  • An HTML tag needs to be opened and closed. It has to be started and stopped. In the case of links, it tells where the link starts and where the link stops.

  • The actual information about an attribute (remember our link attribute is HREF) goes in quotation marks after an equals sign.

  • Put a space between the tag name and the attribute.

Example Time
I'll make a link to my blog. If I left a comment here and I wanted you to click a link to some article on my blog, here's how I'd do it. For my example link, I want the part you click to say the name of my blog: Web Teacher. The URL of my blog is http://www.webteacher.ws.

First, I type the opening part, the start of the link. It looks like this:

<a href="http://www.webteacher.ws">

That gives the A tag and the HREF attribute with the equals sign and the URL in quotation marks. Notice that there is a space between the A and the HREF attribute. That's the only blank space. Everything is inside brackets.

But wait, I'm not finished. Next I need to type the words that will be clicked.

<a href="http://www.webteacher.ws">Web Teacher

Now I have the start of the tag and the words to click. But wait, I'm not finished. I still need to close the tag. Kind of like turning it off. That's done using the name of the tag again, but with a slash ( / ) in front of it. The slash on your keyboard is on the same key as the question mark. Since the opening tag was A, the closing tag is A with a slash in front of it. Like this: </a>.

Here's the whole thing:

<a href="http://www.webteacher.ws">Web Teacher</a>

Whew, I'm finished.

Computers are stupid. They only do what you tell them to do. So if you forget to tell them any tiny little part of that link, they can't do it right. If you leave out a quotation mark, or a bracket, or a slash, the computer is too stupid to know what you want. If you put in a space where it doesn't belong, the computer is too stupid to figure out what you meant. HTML isn't hard, but it is detail-oriented. Every detail of the link has to be right.

Some Fine Points
I hope you picked up on the fact that although I used capital letters to make A and HREF stand out in a sentence, when I typed the actual tags, I used lowercase. HTML is written in lowercase.

You do want spaces around the words you click so it doesn't run together with other words in the sentence. You do this with spaces before the beginning of the tag and after the end of the tag. As in this sentence:

Visit my blog at <a href="http://www.webteacher.ws">Web Teacher</a> to read the full story.

Notice I left a space after "at" and after the "</a>" to make the words Web Teacher remain separate from the other words in the sentence?

You're Ready to Link, But Not Too Much
You're ready to show your great comment netiquette by putting in real links to the other articles or blogs you want to mention in a comment. Just one warning. A characteristic of a spam comment (and don't you simply hate spam) is that it contains more than two links. Many blogs have a spam filter than puts comments with more than two links into a spam folder. Nobody ever sees them.

Yes, nice clean and tidy links in comments are welcome, but just one or two.

Have fun making links.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place, William Weatherstone recalls a certain year from his childhood in Flashback to Corunna (Film Clips from My Memory.]


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:35 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Thanks for the lesson. I have been wanting to learn html but never seem to take the time. You make it sound so easy!

I'm sure glad you're willing to help us here, Virginia. You write instructions clearly. Can't thank you enough; I know it's tedious to write directions most of us of the typewriter generation can understand. I'm a regular reader of Ronni's posts; now I'm a fan of yours too.

Thank you, thank you. I bought a book on html, and your short discussion is going to help me a lot to understand the book.

Thank you so much! That was such a concise and easy-to-understand lesson on links.....
...er....anchors!

: )

Bless you. I have wanted to add links so often and now I can.

Editing HTML has been so frustrating for me because I always end up with an error message and I don't have a clue what it means. I have spent hours trying to add a widget only to get that red message, which finally discourages me to the point that I want to throw the computer out.

Thanks for enlightening me.

Glad to be of help. I appreciate the comments.

Grammie, I did want to point out that a widget is a lot more complicated than a link, so knowing the link magic may not help you with widgets.

Awesome. This useful lesson could almost chamge my life in posting--or close to it! Thanks so much.

Wow, it's great to see you here, Virginia! Looking forward to fabulous instructional technology lessons that are clear, concise, brief, and enlightening. Hope we can connect at the Cafe or one of the coffee stations at SXSWi. I plan to attend your session :)

Thank you, I have been adding links without knowing what it meant. Now I know and I would like like to learn more...Michelle

Thank you Virginia, that is one good explanation, I could follow it :)

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