Slate’s Garden Path

Linking to things you consider interesting is a fundamental part of being a creative Web person. The entire point of links, however, is to send people to other places.

Unfortunately, some sites are creating link aggregations that appear to have another purpose: keeping you as long as possible inside their own garden and only letting you out if you persist. It’s a shoddy practice, and from my perspective it appears to be a growing one.

Go to the homepage of Slate, as I just did, and you’ll see the following list, a new feature the publication calls “The Slatest” — links to journalism on the Web that Slate considers especially worth seeing:

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Hmmm. That top item about banks too big to fail sounds interesting. You click on it and you’re taken to this page:

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Well, that’s not especially helpful. So you click again on the top item, and you’ll find this:

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You start to ask yourself if you can ever read the actual story that Slate finds so worthy. It turns out that you can, if you click inside the long description of the piece — a summary that basically rewrites the original — on a hyperlink that finally, finally takes you to the original journalism.

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Making users jump through hoops creates disdain, not loyalty. Let’s hope the beta version of Slatest gets replaced by something truly useful. Right now, what they’re doing is annoying and little else.