Sunday, January 10, 2016

Shortlinks: More Than Just Links To Other Stuff




It may not look like it, but this is a shortcut. Or at least it will be when it's finished. It's a shortcut to the owner's guest house. Halfway down the trail there is a bank of shared solar panels. There's also a storage shed for shared tools. It also doubles as a running trail. The houses are two miles apart. Both are on the sides of small mountains. You can see the other house from the porch of the other. The owner planned it this way when he bought the property. That was 3 years ago. The houses are  already done. If implemented correctly, the other things will fall in place. 
It's the same way with URL shortlink services. Planning a little will go a long way.


What Are Shortlinks? 

Chances are pretty good you're already using shortlinks. They have been around for a while. I'm not sure about when they first became popular. Probably around the same time as Twitter . You may already be using a URL shortening service. The most popular is probably bit.ly or TinyURL. WordPress.com has its own URL shortening feature. Many people use shortlinks so they can add long URL's to SMS messages. Some say they do it to 'beautify' the link. I use them for the same reasons. I use Google's Shortlink Service to create mine. Why?

Reasons To Use Google Apps Labs Shortlinks

Let's just bullet point it here:
  • You can control who uses the shortlink. They can be private or public.
  • You can create naming conventions, making it easier to remember. 
  • You can use a subdomain with YOUR main domain in the URL. 
  • You can track the number of clicks per link. 
  • You can edit the link if necessary, to point to a different resource. 
  • The service is practically free. It comes with your Google Apps acct.

Here's An Example Of How I Use Them

I belong to the Circadian Community. We have created a Blab series. We have created the framework for five shows a week. Those shows are:
The show's URL's are generally long. If you click on the links above you'll see. The link for "How To Use Blab" is https://blab.im/the-circadians-25-minutes-on-how-to-use-blab-no-blabbus-interruptus-learnblab-howtoblab-8. As you can see, it's a little hard to remember. But the shortened URL is easy . It's http://sl.stanbush.net/htub. I didn't have to go anywhere to look it up. I can remember it off the top of my head.
You should be able to do that with whatever URL service you are using. If you can't, then you should start planning a move in that direction. You should move to a service that will allow you to explain your shortened URL's to other people. People that want to share it without having to 'look it up.' And something you can build on as well. 

Here's How StanBush.Net Shortlinks Are Setup

Everything is done in a way that makes sense, at least to me. For example, the short link service itself  is setup at http://sl.stanbush.net. Dissecting that URL is easy.
  • StanBush.Net is the top level domain
  • SL is short for 'ShortLinks"
So all I have to remember for the shortlink service is sl.stanbush.net . Going to that URL allows me to login and add my shortlinks. This is what the interface looks like.



So my memory key is Shortlinks Dot StanBush Dot Net. This translates in web talk to SL.StanBush.Net.  So that's easy enough to remember.

What About The Short Link Itself

You can personalize it all you want. Use whatever makes it easier for you. For the Blab shows, I decided I would use four letter shortlinks. The letters would come from the title of the Blab itself. I decided to use the first letter of each of the first four words in the blabs. In other words, a four letter acronym. To make things easier, I also chose to ignore 1 letter words such as A and I.  So let's look at how that works

  • "How To Use Blab" would be shortened to HTUB.
  • "How To Host A Blab" would become "HTHB".
Now add them to the end of the ShortLink service url.

 I'll bet you can figure out from that what the shortlink for "How To Embed A Blab" would be. Just in case, I'll put a screen shot of it below:

Wait. There's More!

The basic idea is pretty great. But the scalability that it gives you is it's real power. Let's take the "How To" Blabs we've been creating for example. In order to keep the Blab consistent, we created planners for it. We also created presentations for viewers to follow along with. Sure, we could give them an extremely long URL to go to. Or we could give them a shortened url that would be hard to remember. Instead, we will follow the same plan we had on the original Blab, but add another identifier to the link. Since "presentation' starts with a P, we will add that to the end of the four letter code. So "HTUB" becomes "HTUBP".  In everyday language that's "How To Use Blab Presentation". Here's what the complete link looks like http://sl.stanbush.net/htubp . If you click that, it will take you to the presentation. If you want to find the presentation for any of the other Blabs, you just need to add a P to the four letter code we created earlier.

Just In Case You Think This Is About Blab

It's not. In fact, it's not about any one particular website. It's about making it easier for you to remember your own shortened URL's. You can use the same concept for any URL you'd like to send someone. And because you created them, you can probably remember them.  An example of this would be the following pages and shortened URL's. 
(And yes.. that's right. It's a shortened URL to a Google Community. You should join us!)

If This Seems Difficult

Then mull over it a few days and revisit it. If it's still confusing, then it just may not be for you. Just remember to think of it in terms of how YOU would use it. Don't get caught up in thinking you would have to use http://sl.stanbush.net in the URL.  There are a lot of URL shortening services around. You can use this concept on most of them. And you may prefer to keep some sort of log or spreadsheet to keep up with your URL's. If that's the case, I admire you for that. And believe it or not, I get it.   But if instead, this makes sense and you'd like some help with it...then contact me here : http://sl.stanbush.net/vcita