I work with a team of researchers.  I am old (over fifty) and my colleagues are young (twentysomethings).  I prefer my research that has footnotes.  You know, those things with numbers and text at the end of the page or article.  They prefer to use hyperlinks, the stuff you click on to get to a web site.

Suffice it to say it has been a challenge for both sides.  So in the spirit of fair play, I tried to imagine a debate – debates are pretty popular these days – between a Footnote and a Hyperlink.

You tell me who you think wins.

Footnote– I don’t get it.  As best I can tell the biggest distinction you guys have is that you’re underlined and in a different colored font.  That’s it.  I look at you and you tell me nothing.

Hyperlink– We’re highlighted so people know that with just a click they can get to the real source.  Jeez.  You old folks.  You know, you should get out more.  Take a walk or something.  Oh!  How about this?  How about going on the  Internet?  Ever heard of that?  Why waste type space with the endless dribble that you Footnotes put us through when you can take people straight to the source.

Footnote– Funny.  Well, not really funny.  More like impertinent.  Sad, really.  You young folks have an amazing ability to think you are the center of the universe.  That you know everything.  A bunch of baby Jesus’ out there walking around like you’re God’s gift to the planet.  Look, I like the Internet as much as anyone.  But what if there’s no 4G or WiFi?  And God forbid what if someone is reading this on a piece of paper?  What good is your “click” for then?  I’ll give you a hint.  Bupkiss!

Hyperlink– Dude, if you can’t afford to find a Starbucks then I don’t know if you should be reading.  I mean, really, even McDonalds has WiFi now.  Reading something on a piece of paper?  Please.  People used to read on clay tablets and scrolls.  You guys are still killing trees.  I bet you still use one of those 20lb telephone books.  Wake up grandpa.  Today people read on devices.

Footnote– People can read on whatever they want to.  That doesn’t bother me.  But at least with a footnote people get information.  You know, minor details like “author”, “date of publication”, “title”.  All that used to be important.  Check that; all that is still important.  At least for people who are more interested in the truth and real research, not just tricking  people into clicking on someone’s web site.

Hyperlink– Excuse me?!  While you’re sitting there in your wheelchair, I take people to the source.  Directly.  One click and boom.  You’re right at the source material.  In short, I actually do something.  You just sit there.

Footnote– You know, sometimes just sitting there is a good thing.  You might learn a thing or two by staying in one place, focusing and thinking about one topic longer than five seconds.  And please, spare the diatribe about source material and sending folks to “the source”.  Half the time when I click on you guys all I get is crap – stock symbols, press releases and a wikipedia entry.  Frankly, I don’t need your help to figure that out.  More often than not you “sources” are about as helpful as cheese sandwich to a drowning ferret.

Hyperlink– You just don’t get it do you.  It is about convenience and variety.  That is what people want today.  They want to be able to navigate sources without having go through the equivalent of a card catalogue.  And they want a variety of sources.  People like the offbeat, non-traditional perspective.

Footnote– Variety.  That’s a nice way to put it.  Others call it “promescuity”.  You hyperlinks will hook up with  just about anything or any body any time.  That is why you’ve got so many HTDs – hyperlinked transmitted diseases.

Hyperlink– Look, there’s protection for that.  And besides, hyperlinking is a good workout.  Please spare me the lecture on abstinence.  That’s been a great success, hasn’t it!  We’re way beyond that old man.  And please don’t tell me that all footnotes are pure.  I’ve heard stories.  Phantom publications. Footnote loading.  You guys have your issues.

Footnote– But at least we give people something.  We’re transparent.  We lay it all out.   Transparency, now there’s a word I hear a lot from you young folk.  Only problem – actually it isn’t the only problem just one of many – like in most things you guys don’t practice what you preach.  You guys are about as open as a Swiss banker.  And like a Swiss banker you’re more often than not laundering someone else’s trash.  At least with a footnote people know what they’re getting in to.

Hyperlink– Boring!

Footnote– (With a chuckle) I think you’ll find that as you get old boring is very under-rated.

Hyperlink–  O.K.  I’ll give you that.  Sometimes the hyperlink thing gets tiring.  And sure, there are a lot of hyperlinks out there that get carried away and end up doing some pretty silly things.  Chaulk it up to youthful indiscretion.

Footnote– Some?  Silly?  I’d say so.  Look, I think you’re a fine young man.  You seem to want to do the right thing.  And sure, there are a lot of us footnotes that have spent a bit too much time on the sofa.  We’d do well to get out there and have a bit more exercise.

Hyperlink– A bit?  Dude you’re a heart attack waiting to happen.  I’m telling you, this Internet and connectivity thing isn’t slowing down.  You need to get your game on.  Check that.  Just get in the game.

Footnote– So how about this, next time I reference source material I’ll ask one of your buddies to hyperlink to it?  How about that?

Hyperlink– Sure.  Too bad when people mouse over us we can’t do your schtick – the whole author, publication, date thing.  Maybe someone will figure that out in the next rev.  We’re always being update and rewritten you know.

Footnote– I’ll give you the contact information for the folks at the Chicago Style Manual.  Maybe they can get together with your programmer types.