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A look at how OS X tips spread via Google

When iTunes 8 came out, one very annoying change was the removal of the "Show iTunes Store arrow links" preference -- in previous versions of iTunes, you'd toggle this setting to remove the link arrows that appear when you select an item in your Library.

I never use these things, and they bother my eye, so as soon as I got my hands on iTunes 8, I started looking for a solution (here's how I do that). With some help from Kirk McElhearn, we soon found the solution in a hidden preference value -- a variable named show-store-arrow-links.

After a quick test, we confirmed that it worked, and I wrote it up as hint on Mac OS X Hints. At the same time, I ran a Google search for 'show-store-arrow-links', and came up with no matches.

Note that this does not mean Kirk and I were the first people to post about this workaround -- more than likely, it had already been posted elsewhere, but Google hadn't yet indexed those sites (we were doing this shortly after iTunes 8 was released).

Still, I thought this was a perfect chance to see how things propagate across the internet, as I could repeat my search for show-store-arrow-links over time, and see how quickly the hit count increased. Given the uniqueness of the term, any matches would definitely be people either linking to the hint on some other site, or actually posting their own version of the hint.

Within two hours of the original hint's posting, the hit count was up to five. After seven hours, 137. At 24 hours, 384. At that point, I grew bored with tracking the increases, and tabled the study. Today, though, after 12 days, I ran the search again, and there are now over 1,000 sites that contain the hint (or a link to it) on how to block the iTunes Store arrow links in iTunes 8.

I think that's a good measure of how many people dislike these arrows, and who really wish Apple would have left that preference in place. (Sorry iTunes for Windows users; preferences are stored differently in Windows, and I'm not sure anyone's figured out how to make similar modifications on that platform.)

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