Automatic Linking

Affordance that helps a Wiki grow.



  • you don't have an immediate payback/deliverable associated with your writing, so an overly FormalProcess isn't something you wish to follow.
  • because of your Recursive Writing process, you want to keep thoughts relatively granular so they can related to each other in a network (HyperText).
  • you want to branch off new thoughts easily; you may think of some during creating/editing a given page, but not want to go off in that direction at the time
  • or someone else may be inspired to branch off a new thought, in a shared environment.


  • have a writing system that makes the creation of new pages, and linking to existing pages, as simple as possible
  • ideally, a system that allows some kind of Automatic Linking!

Wiki typically does this through the Smashed Together Words approach. You Link As You Think. Then you, or someone else, can spin off a new page without even editing the current page. (And the create-new-page link for each phrase missing a page is a form of inspiration/nudging.)

What other approaches to Automatic Linking might work?

Related: Page Name As URL, WikiWord As Tag, WikiWord Vs Search

Opposing Anti Pattern: Free Link.

Sept'2015: rethinking my preference for Smashed Together Words

Why: because people writing for non-wiki-natives don't want to look weird or have to explain themselves.


  • The SmartAscii/Mark Down view is cleaner, no extra punctuation littering the page.
    • Even more of an issue when using non-wiki environments like Twitter - brackets are ugly plus you lose 4 characters for every WikiWord!
  • Faster to type, esp on Mobile Keyboard where bracket keys are buried away.
  • You get Page Name As URL.


  • Single-word WikiWords are a nightmare, you have to arbitrarily capitalize an extra letter.
  • Names with mid-caps get separated in rendering (Expanding Wiki Words) (e.g. Dave McClure).
  • Smashed Together Words phrases can't have any punctuation.
    • btw note that ' is allowed in a URL! Hmm, so could have Here'sAPhrase, if your WikiEngine handles it right. Here'sAPhrase - MoinMoin does not
    • but can't use ?, and I think . is potentially confusing, so probably good to strip and ending punctuation
    • is there any other punctuation you'd find necessary within a WikiWord phrase?
      • '/' like Either/Or?

Facts that don't affect design decision

  • SEO works fine now for words in URL-s with no separators, as of early 2015.

So latest thinking

Next: look at some "good" sites that use Free Link to catch any weird punctuation cases I'm not thinking of...

  • using period - esp for people with initials - I. F. Stone
  • using parentheses
  • using commas
  • using question mark
  • using non-ascii latin - looks right but character gets dropped entirely from URL (I'd call that a bug)
  • basically, for the URL, SFW makes all lower-case, turns spaces into dash, and anything that isn't ascii-alpha/num/dash gets stripped
    • Wikipedia does different rules for making the URL
      • underscore instead of dash for word separator
      • doesn't change case of letters
      • non-ascii latin characters get preserved in URLs
      • punctuation gets escaped

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