Automatic Linking

Affordance that helps a Wiki or Digital Garden grow.

  • 2022: these days people might think that "automatic" means "done by AI", which isn't what I want. See digital gardening for some thoughts relevant to that.



  • 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!
  • this also gives you BackLinks

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.) "Link Phrases, Make Pages!"

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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