Advantages and Disadvantages of Key Linking

This experimental Communicating With Prisoners ortext was created with key linking among posts, pages, notes, references, datasets, and statistics in the ortext. Some preliminary thoughts about advantages and disadvantages of key linking.


  1. Key links are convenient for linking to items defined externally to the ortext, i.e. references and datasets. Keys can be chosen that are memorable and meaningfully related to the external resource; for example, author-date for references and file name for external datasets. The URL of a particular ortext page is longer and less memorable than such keys. Hence setting links via keys is more convenient than setting links via permalink URLs (which may not have even been set yet or might change) and associating those permalink URLs with the external items.
  2. Key links provide a simple means for passing a properly encoded reference point specification to another page. For example, numerous pages in the ortext may link to a particular reference. Passing a page number and other text makes the citation link more useful. Adding such text manually as a URL GET variable requires knowledge of how to specify URL text strings (for example, use + in place of a space). Using key links, the URL-encoding of reference-point text can easily be automated.
  3. Reference points are easier to review in key links. The key link short codes appear in the rich-text editor. Hence you can easily read the reference point attached to a key link. Hyperlinks, in contrast, are embedded within the text in the rich-text editor. You have to hover over a hyperlink to reveal its target location and reference point text.
  4. Key links allow more conceptual, more robust internal linking. With key links, internal URLs can be changed at will without breaking internal links. Key links provide a short, visible representation of an internal link. We used the default key links ({post_type}-{ID #}) in this ortext for post types other than references and datasets. The default key links are readily interpretable only in terms of the linked post type. But even that information is useful in understanding the internal links associated with a page. Moreover, with the Simply Show IDs plugin, you can easily display on admin pages post IDs.
  5. Key links are easier to insert in some circumstances. This ortext uses a key-linker that segregates posts by post type. That’s more convenient for finding the relevant internal link than the built-in WordPress internal linker.
  6. Flipping key links provides for checks on internal link validity. Tools for checking for broken hyperlinks are common. But they’re not often used. The need to flip key links ensures that the validity of those key links will be checked.


  1. Key links aren’t good for online, rapid publication of single pages (short work). Key links must be flipped to permalink URLs before the page is served at scale. Key links require additional database queries that slow a server and could easily overload it with many simultaneous requests. Inserting key links in a single page and then flipping them to permalinks before publishing that page only provides for automating URL-encoding of reference-point text. A simpler means could probably be written to encode the reference-point text.
  2. Key links are more complicated than standard hyperlinks. Standard hyperlinks are used universally and are very robust. Key links are obscure, specialized, and experimental. Unflipped key links would be messy to resolve outside of their particular WordPress implementation.
  3. Key links introduce another point of failure in the content-creation process. Key links that aren’t properly formatted won’t be properly resolved. The key-line/permalink flippers, which modify and save posts, could easily destroy a lot of content if they don’t work correctly.

Key links are most appropriate for a large work like next-generation books, policy reports, and research articles. That’s the experimental direction for this ortext.

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