What's an inbound?
An inbound link to a page is a link from some other place on the internet to that page. By "some other place" we mean not a different page on this wiki, but some other site altogether. For example: someone on a series forum says that The Reveal in the latest episode was a total Ass Pull, and gives links to TV Tropes with both terms so other people in the forum (who are not necessarily familiar with TV Tropes jargon) will know what he or she is talking about.
Why are inbound links important?
We aim to steer the site in whatever direction will best reach out to the totality of our readership, and inbounds are the most readily available objective measure we have of how the great big internet is reacting to a trope. This makes inbounds an overall more important metric than wicks (in-wiki links) because unlike wicks, inbounds offer a reflection of how a trope is being used and referred to by everyone online, rather than just by TV Tropes editors. A single Entry Pimp can be responsible for the wicks of some trope being Off The Scale, but a single person- no matter how enthusiastic- cannot believably fabricate a term flourishing around the internet.
Okay, how do I take a look at a page's inbound links?
Here is the Inbound Referrals History Tool (replace "InsertTropeHere" with the relevant trope). It lists the latest inbound referrals for a trope in descending chronological order.
Now, if you want to make a point about the quantity of the inbounds, there's not much for you to do here - you should head here instead (replace "InsertTitleHere" with the relevant title); the total number of inbounds is the X in "This title has brought X people to the wiki from non-search engine links since [Date]". What this number means is another issue entirely (is the trope overperforming? Underperforming? How much inbounds would you expect this trope to have? How many inbounds do similar tropes have?..), but there you have it.
If, on the other hand, what you want to do is make some point about the quality of the inbounds- the kind of context they arise in, whether they are using the trope correctly, whether they tend to be vague hand-waving or spot-on - you're going to need to actually go in there and look at them individually. Now, theoretically it would be best if you could just click on inbound after inbound and see how all of them are doing, but we do not recommend doing that if you value your sanity. Instead you're going to have to look at a representative sample.
How do I get a representative sample of inbounds?
- The number of inbounds should be either the square root of the total number of inbounds or 50, whichever is larger.
- The inbounds should be picked randomly from the list.
You can check a smaller number of inbounds if you feel you're not up to the task, but unless your results are very conclusive, they will likely be challenged on the basis of your sample not being large enough to be representative. As to randomly picking inbounds, this is because going in alphabetical order is more likely to run consecutive inbounds from the same source, and generally taking an inbound link's attributes into consideration will likely skew the results. You may want to use an integer set generator (set it to: "Generate  sets with [desired sample size] unique random integers in each; each integer should have a value between  and [total number of inbounds]", then check the inbounds with the numbers it gave you).
What should I be looking at when examining the inbounds?
There are all sorts of properties of inbound links you can check for. Here are a few:
- Does the trope actually apply to the character/situation described?
- Is there a clear, correct explanation of how and why the trope applies? Or perhaps an explanation that is Right for the Wrong Reasons, or an explanation that gives a false impression of what the trope is, or no explanation at all? (That last one is much more excusable in inbounds than it is in wicks.)
- What kind of fandom/medium did the inbound come from?
- What kind of response did mentioning the trope get? Was it replied to in a way that accepted it as legitimate jargon? Ignored? Had its legitimacy questioned ("What's that, I've never heard of it")?
- Was the trope actually used conversationally or merely pointed out as something we use? (i.e. "Captain Example is a Fragile Speedster" vs. "I was looking at the list of Competitive Balance tropes at TV Tropes and one that caught my eye was Fragile Speedster")
- Is the trope being used for either of gushing or complaining?
If there are significant results in any of those areas, you may be able to use them to illustrate a point you are making. For example, if you claim a trope's name is insular, your case becomes stronger if most of the inbounds are coming from one fandom. If you claim that the trope is neutral and does not induce Complaining About Shows You Don't Like, your case becomes stronger if you can show that most of the inbounds are from pages matter-of-factly pointing out that the trope applies without judging the work it applies to.
How do I share my findings?
Post to the existing thread in the Trope Repair Shop, or start a new one if there isn't one. Say you did an inbound check. Explain what you were trying to check. List the inbounds you checked, and for each inbound explain which side of the case it weighs on (in bold for easy reference). Conclude your findings with the relevant statistics.