Rick Bruner, a trusted business colleague, emailed me a pointer to an article on blog search engines published by the Wall Street Journal, with a caveat that the link would only work for seven days before the article was pushed into the paid member archive. I’m a paid subscriber, so I don’t much worry about that, but he also told me something I hadn’t realized that won’t mean anything to you unless you too are a subscriber: the “email this story” URL is actually a publicly accessible link.
When I cite the Wall Street Journal, I include the link to the story itself — not using the “email this story” URL — and simply add [members only] or [pay site] or similar.
Two ways to link to the story, but both have their limitations, problems that I really encountered when researching business articles recently for my upcoming IBM trade business book (whose name might well be changing, so I won’t list it her). Bloggers like to talk about permalinks, permanent page addresses that will always point to the article referenced, but I’d like to ask a different question: how do we link to ephemeral items or information behind a wall of one sort or another?
There’s something dissatisfying about linking to a temporary URL with a note like [note: this link will only work until 17 September, 2006] somehow. It seems to violate the whole spirit of the Web, somehow, particularly as a business communications vehicle.
Consider the reference section for my upcoming book: one of the unstated assumptions of any citation is that unless it’s a “personal interview”, someone else can always dig up the article, story, book or blog entry cited and see if they agree with the conclusions and derived facts and quotes in the new material. In academia especially, information is expected to be permanent.
But what happens if I have some outrageous claim about, say, the CEO of a Fortune 100 company, with a list of citations to grant me credibility and legitimacy, but they’re all ephemeral and cannot be duplicated? Even personal conversations can, with few exceptions, be researched.
Even pointing to resources that are behind a paid membership wall seems less offensive, less a violation of the spirit and intent of the Web. If I have to pay $899 for a research report so I can check your facts in the resultant 300 page PDF report, at least I can do just that if I’m so inclined.
What do you think about this, dear reader? If you’re a blogger, do you link to items that you know have a finite life-span, and if so, how do you warn your readers? If you don’t, how do you imagine you’d approach this problem if encountered in the future?
As for me, i think I’ll stick to the members-only Wall Street Journal links and leave the ephemeral linking to other bloggers. I’m writing this article with the hope that it’ll be read, commented upon, and discussed across the next few years, not just the next seven days.