Andy Dickinson Andy is a Senior lecturer in Journalism at Manchester Metropolitan University where he is the program lead for the MA Multimedia Journalism.

The most important code you can learn: the hyperlink

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It’s amazing isn’t it? How something so simple can be so fundamental.

In this world of content management systems, data journalism, javascript, python and all the other coding and technological innovations we are compelled to explore, it’s sobering to sit back and reflect on its simplicity.

With this one piece of code you can link a quote from the Chancellor’s budget speech to the figures from the Office of Budgetary responsibility.  You can take people back to events from years before to experience them as if for the first time. You can take someone from Preston to Beijing in one click.

It’s a time-travel machine, a star-trek like transporter, a silent voice in the background of your writing, ready to pitch in and explain or define.

They are the currency of the web – without them Google wouldn’t exist. But it’s ubiquity can also cheapen it. Millions of snake oil salesmen would be out of (second) jobs.

In a digital world I think there is something powerful, almost physical, about being able to add a link ‘the old fashioned way – typing it in longhand. It bypasses the uncritical. Subverts the automated. It offers time to reflect. And in that it creates value.

If you understand the value of a hyperlink, you understand the value of a connection.

How are you going to use something so powerful?

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