Intro: Web Surf in Reverse!
Web surf in reverse means using the often hidden "back pointers" to surf, instead of clicking through using regular links.
I love to surf the web, but I'm always following the content posted by someone else.
I sometimes post my own content, but then readers are following again. Always leading and following, leading and following. Isn't their another way?
What if you could follow a different path?
Step 1: The STATS Tab
Instructables has a great tool for web surf in reverse, the STATS tab.
Go to your favorite instructables project, click the STATS tab.
Hover your cursor over the orange links below. Don't click yet!
Why this Instructable? I surf a lot. In the past (my personal pre-Instructables era), I used to find only a few really good new websites a year. Truly inspiring and memorable stories and projects were not that common. When I would share my discoveries with friends and family, they would ask, "how do you find those weird and novel websites?" I used to say I click a lot. Just click through and you will find new and interesting things.
With Instructables and web surf in reverse I am now overloaded with new weird and novel websites. I don't have to click so much now, thanks to the STATS tab.
Step 2: Hover Your Pointer First, Evaluate, Then Click
Don't click yet. By hovering your pointer, you can see the full link before you click.
Lots of the reverse links on the STATS tab are a google search or a private email link. Ignore those links.
But there are excellent links in the list! Click on anything that is not google, facebook, or an email account. It might be a blog, news, hobby, or art site.
You may be very surprised at what you find. I sure was!
If you have your own website or blog you get reports from your own webhosting service showing how people find your website. But rarely do sites as popular as Instructables.com post that data. Instructables is a goldmine of reverse websurfing! Thank you Instructables!
If all websites on the internet posted their reverse "pointer" links, the value and utility of the web could increase immensely. Today, variations on social networking are the new killer apps on the web (facebook, twitter, etc). But in the future, imagine if all websites posted their reverse pointers, everyone could take advantage of knowing what others with similar interest are reading. Its not really social networking, but more just taking advantage of the automatically recorded information on what others are viewing.
I guess this is swaying off from a traditional instructable! But read on, please, the engineering researchers seem think it is a good idea, too.
Step 3: Academic Reverse Web Surfing
I used to be a scientist so I checked google for "reverse web surfing" before posting this Instructable. Here is what I found.
Abstract: "Due to the lack of back-pointers, information about the referral parent(s) of a given Web page is not usually available to Web surfers. This significantly reduces the effectiveness of Web surfing and information discovery. We propose a mechanism to locate the referral parent..."
You can locate the referral parent yourself with the Instructables.com STATS tab. Wouldn't it be great if all websites were like this?
The academic geeks know about reverse web surfing and its been applied to search engines, but only Instructables allows you to DIY.
(This academic paper is actually a little different than this instructable, but the idea is pretty close.)
Step 4: Advertising and Reverse Web Surfing
The advertising companies also have tools for reverse web surfing, and they use the tool to sell ads. But you can use the tool for your own private exploration of the web.
Generally, the reverse pointers from advertising agencies apply to a whole web site, not the particular web page you are looking at. But these reverse links can still be good, too.
For an example of advertising reverse web surfing go to http://www.quantcast.com/instructables.com Then go down to the lower right hand corner of the screen. Check out "Audience Also Visits". You may find some new favorites websites that you might treasure!
You can type in any website you want at quantcast.com. If the site is enrolled, you can see other websites that fans visit in the "Audience also Visits" section. I'm sure there are other advertising websites that can help you reverse web surf. This is just an example.
It seems to me that "back pointers" and "reverse web links" are seen as valuable proprietary business information and, in general, are not shared with the web community by website owners. Of course, the lists of back pointers are a whole lot of data! Maybe most website owners feel that it is impractical to share that type of info. Instructables has shared it somehow, though, at least for me.
Step 5: Keep on Clicking!
If you have read this far, you might be thinking one of three things:
1. This is so cool, I will start reverse web surfing
2. This is so simple. Doesn't everyone already do this?
3. Of course the internet is a rich source of information! Just keep clicking!
There are lots of different ways to web surf. This is just another technique to explore. Don't be afraid to click.
Always practice safe clicking. The author is not responsible for over worked clicker finger or other related clicking injuries. Reverse web surfing does not increase or decrease your chances of developing this syndrome. You may want to consider a "finger sling" to avoid over-clicked finger syndrome. A rubber band "finger sling" may prevent clicker finger syndrome but will make your hand smell like latex. Clicking a lot is not considered a Make project, but is really fun. Please consider posting back pointers on your website or blog, as doing so might make the web a better place.