Hyperlinked college names

I have mentioned this before but, since you are working on the website, I will mention it again.

Every time we use a college name in a thread, we receive an alert that someone else in that thread has already posted that hyperlink. The hyperlink isn’t to an external page but is a hyperlink to the school’s forum on CC. The alert eliminates everything in the preview pane and is very annoying.


Of course, sometimes, the hyperlinking is incorrect. For example, see the quoted part of this post: College names that do not quite fit the college - #7 by AustenNut

@CC_Sorin @CC_Jon

Also, so many colleges still have no link at all. Examples: Bates, Williams
And all these, amongst many others.
Ole Miss, and other Fl publics not named UF, Valdosta State, Southern Illinois, Iowa State, Eastern and Western KY, Murray State, LA Tech, Louisiana Lafatyette and Louisiana Monroe, Central Michigan, Southern MIss, New Mexico, New Mexico State, W Carolina, North Dakota and North Dakota State, PA regionals like Slippery Rock and Shippensburg, South Dakota and S Dakota State, Black Hills State, MTSU, Marshall, WVU, Truman State, Wyoming…
Bryant, Johnson and Wales, Suffolk, Union, Trinity College

And UNC and UNC-Chapel Hill. You have to type Chapel Hill if you want to get the link, just Chapel Hill by itself.

Elon Musk threads linking to Elon College is a personal favorite of mine.


All the links have to be set up manually. It’s essentially a map from an alias to a URL. For instance, here are the last three links I set up based on a user’s request on July 11:

My basic process for adding a new autolink is:

  1. Make sure people really use the alias to refer to the school. UMBC is a good example. Using the search feature, I found it is used often.
  2. Make sure it’s not used of other schools. UMD seems like it might be used of other schools, but it really is used for the College Park campus and nothing else that I saw.
  3. Sanity check that my changes worked as expected.

It’s not hugely time consuming, but it does require a bit of care. So that’s one reason we don’t have more links. Another reason is that we did a big push a couple years ago to identify the major schools and how people refer to them, but we haven’t done it for schools that aren’t often discussed. There’s a diminishing returns problem.

And that brings us to the original goal of autolinking: help visitors see that we have entire categories for discussing individual schools. The goal is worthwhile and we can see that people are following those links. (Since I added UMD, there has been a noticeable increase in people visiting the school’s category via internal links.) But is that benefit enough to justify the annoyance @lkg4answers noted that just mentioning a school often brings up an alert?

I’m going to bring it up internally next week. I’d be surprised if there aren’t better ways to achieve the goal we are aiming for. I can’t promise any changes, however. Our current focus is squarely on the site infrastructure is reliable.

I think the autolinks provide value. I don’t think the alerts do. Can we get rid of the alerts? Or, if there is an alert, can you make it so that it doesn’t eliminate the text in the preview pane?

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Not easily, I’m afraid. I looked into it a while ago and it will require code change. I agree it’s an annoyance, but there are other higher priorities at the moment.

It can help to use the esc key to close the alert.

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I just tried to post, got the warning, removed the link from my response but the alert didn’t go away. What exactly is the purpose of the alert? If I eliminate the link, the alert should disappear.

The alert was intended is to give people a heads up that maybe they are duplicating a response that’s already been posted. So if you post a link to a news story about the topic and I missed that post, I have a chance to avoid repeating your point.

Personally, I think it’s marginally useful in normal situations. I frequently post duplicate links on purpose and I find it slightly annoying. But I dismiss the warning and keep writing. Unfortunately, the alert really doesn’t work well with how we are inserting links.

The way we are inserting these links is, what programmers call, a “hack”. (Think more of “hack author” and less “my computer was hacked”.) The links are inserted while you are are editing the post. But since the aliases are purposely designed to detect the most common way for schools to be identified, it’s not unusual for people to use an alias that triggers the link to be inserted. This is especially true if the discussion is about a handful of schools. (Now the alert is triggered when anyone mentions UMD or UCLA in this thread.)

The good news is that we have another way to insert the links after you submit a post. It’s a much better user experience because you won’t see this alert. There are a few downsides from our perspective:

  1. It will only apply to posts after the change. The current system is retroactive to post written all the way back to the start of the site. After we make the change, only new posts will have the links.
  2. We won’t be able to easily change the destination of the links after the post has been created. For instance, we are considering pointing to the school pages on CC instead of the school category.
  3. It’ll take a bit of work to prepare the configuration to cover all the schools we currently have links for and add ones we missed.

That said, we’re planning on making the change. I don’t yet have a timeline, but because of #1, the sooner we do this the better! We are also considering using the school page as I mentioned in #2. While we are at it, I’m going to start a thread to get suggestions for schools and common ways to refer to them that we might be missing.