This is more of a query than a post, and it’s about those most glamourous of things – linklogs on weblogs. I’m really interested in how people treat them. Linklogs as a semi-automated component of weblog systems ‘distinct’ from the ‘main’ content of the weblog really started to get going with kottke.org and Anil Dash. As usual, I wasn’t terribly keen for a long time and then found my own clumsy idiosyncratic way of handling them via del.icio.us‘ automated posting system and a clumsy bit of Apple Script.
Since then they’ve kind of got everywhere. What interests me is that most people don’t really seem to provide much context to their linking. Have they read and approved of the things they link to, or is it really just a linkdump full of ‘toread’s? How seriously can I take someone’s linklog? Is it a personal guide to quality stuff that they find interesting or wish they could comment on, or do people treat it like oneupmanship – wanting to be first on the next meme?
My personal stance is that I never link to a resource on the web unless I’ve read the article or spent some time looking at the resource in question to work out whether it would be interesting and/or useful to myself (or others). And I always try and make sure to post some comment about what I’m pointing people to – for my own benefit as much as for the rest of you. Is that a normal level of rigour? Are people horrified at how slack I’m being, or stunned by that particular revelation? What is the current consensus on what a linklog constitutes and how you maintain one responsibly?
32 replies on “Any consensus on 'responsible' linklogging?”
I log links in a similar way to you: they get semi-autoposted from del.icio.us to my weblog, but I filter out anything I haven’t read or looked at properly, tedious reference material, etc. and often spike the post if it doesn’t contain enough of interest. (I was thinking of adding a little note to my links-only posts saying something like, ‘These are the most interesting links I bookmarked today, if you’d like to see the rest you can subscribe to this feed’ but it seemed a bit unwieldy.)
But, as you say, the lack of context is a problem – if I see the tell-tale signs of an automated del.icio.us post I tend to assume that folk are just dumping everything they see, and therefore skip over those posts. I wonder now whether the old-fashioned way of keeping a linklog as a bonus bit of sidebar content might be better than the current fashion for folding links into the weblog proper where they’re granted a bit more ‘authority’, often undeserved.
There’s something here about the del.icio.us interface. If the description field was a textarea, perhaps people would be encouraged to write a bit more about what the link was about, and a simple RSS import would then generate more meaningful linklogs, or even full blown blog posts.
I’ve never really seen the point of linklogs – they always seem to me (personally) like a lazy way of generating excess content, they don’t tend to add anything to the actual content of a site other than the ‘shadow of greatness’ of linking to a popular resource or blog.
Considering that my website is mostly just a place for me to record things that I am personally interested in, regardless of my audience (if such a thing exists), I don’t feel any great responsibility in terms of, say, an imperative that whatever I link to is implicity verified by me.
That being said, I do usually make note of whether I’ve read whatever I link to, provide a ‘c/o’ whenever possible, and at times give enough context so that my links more closely resemble ‘traditional’ blog posts. This last point is one big reason why I never switched to del.icio.us for posting my links (the description limit is way too small for my purposes).
In a way, my linklog is better understood as a weblog where the entries form around the links, rather than the links adding context to the entries. I’ve seen a lot of linklogs evolving into this style (like Kottke’s, for one) which would contradict Neil’s sweeping assessment of what linklogs are, I believe.
I’m like you Tom, things only get added to my del.icio.us account if I’ve read them, and I am mindful that they’ll end up on my blog. I use the description field to provide some explanation of what the link is about, and/or why I’ve bookmarked it.
I think Julian’s got a point about the del.icio.us interface too – there’ve been a few times I’ve over-run the max length of the description, resulting in strange truncated explanations 🙂
I must admit, I’ve been getting more lazy lately on my own blog, which has meant me posting far more linklogs than I ever used to. Like you though, I always make sure that I add some context to what I’m linking to and I make sure I’ve read it before posting!
Although I love my del.icio.us account, I’ve never actually succumbed to using its daily posting feature (partly because of Joshua keeping on saying that it’s experimental and is going to change at some point, and partly because I still want full control over what I’m doing). Instead, I do my linklog from inside FeedDemon – any links that I want to log are dragged into a special news bin, and when I’m ready to post to my blog I simply view my collected links in a style which turns them into an HTML list that can be copied and pasted, with spaces already inserted for descriptions.
I agree with Julian’s idea about the del.icio.us description box being changed into a textarea – I know too well that I only every write very perfuntory descriptions for the pages I “delish”. Opening up the interface so that you can write more would be a great move.
I’ve had people actively say to me that they like my linklog because it’s a record of what I’ve been looking at and what I’ve thought worthy of posting, which tells them something about me as well as giving them interesting links. So I don’t try to think too hard about it; if I think something is worth reading or looking at I link to it. If I’m in a thoughtful mood I’ll read the article carefully and decide whether to post it or not. If I’m drunk and silly I’ll post whatever I find funny. It’s all me.
I’d say the majority of it was news stories which complement posts and themes from the main blog, but which would be too little for an entry on their own – it would just compose of the link, a quote and me saying “See??? I was right!!!” at the end.
It also gives me a chance to post things that have appeared on lots of other blogs for the benefit of my readers who aren’t aware of these things, without having them on the main blog and feeling like a total sheep. A lot of these things are worth reading but I’m rather sensitive about appearing derivative. I at least try to keep the main blog mostly original content.
N.B. I use del.icio.us as well, combined with a custom PHP script that caches the feed to put the last few entries in my sidebar. Feedburner will then compile the entries and add one entry per day with them all on.
I’ve noticed a lot of people using del.icio.us as a list of “to read”s, which is not what I want to see when I browse the “osx” or the “mac” tag. I’m with you, Tom–things should only go on to del.icio.us if one thinks that they will be useful to both oneself and others.
I like the thoroughness with which you post your “links for …” summaries. I normally read your summaries and, if anything sounds interesting, I’ll add it to the ever-growing “to read” tabs in NetNewsWire.
I think the best linklogs are those written by people who read more widely than just the run-of-the-mill, all-this-turned-up-in-my-newsreader-this-morning types, who tend to prop up memes (and regurgitate Kottke). I like to follow links resulting from personal research – like “I was looking for a picture of an elevator the other day and found this great collection of images of elevators from around the world” – and from truly personal interest – “My football team won on the weekend by the biggest margin in history” – because it gives me a sense of the blogger’s personal tastes and browsing life.
That said, knowing that my (small) readership is comprised largely of friends, and that said friends are not RSS-aholics or Kottke readers, I sometimes post links from those sources that really tickle me, just so my friends will see them too. But I definitely think that a link-logger has a responsibility to her readers to read everything she posts. toreads are just annoying.
I think people get carried away with the idea that linklogs are “lazy”, as if you have to write a full post about everything if you’re going to talk about it. Sometimes, one finds something and just wants to say, “hey, check this out.” Sometimes you might have a few sentences to say about it, or sometimes you might have hundreds of words. The internet is built around the linking concept.
As for responsibility, yes, I think people shouldn’t just post everything they see. If I want to see what people are linking to, I can go to blogdex or populicious or technorati, etc. and see what’s supposed to be hot today around the web. If I’m reading YOUR weblog, it’s because I want to see what you’re linking to. It’s because I like what you have to say, or because we like the same sorts of things, or whatever the reason, but I think it is responsible of you to read everything and not just dump every link you follow onto your page.
Interesting thought really. Where my delicious account is really a replacement for my browser bookmarks (I like to switch between computers and partitions and whatnot, so it helps to have something I can access from all angles), I use my Link Dumps as recemmendations of things that I find useful or interesting to the minority of people that come back to what I post. I call them Link Dumps because I’m literally dumping links there for people to look at. Most of the time, they are short links of things I’ve not found time to comment on at length. Sometimes I include comments in the post, but my main aim is to provide something interesting for people in lieu of real content. Otherwise, I just end up with a crapload of things to do, and no time to do it in. I’ve definitely never posted anything in my Link Dumps that I haven’t read.
I don’t think people should be using weblog link dumps as makeshift to-do lists. If people want to do that they should use delicious and use the single tag of “to read”. By using their weblogs in that way, they’re not only wasting people’s time by linking to something they haven’t seen fit to read themselves, but they could be potentially endorsing a pile of crap. And that’s just basic laziness.
Once filtered for quality and site specific content they are a useful nuance to my rss feed.
A nudge, a wink, a raised eybrow. They demonstrate my personality in more useful ways than simply writing about it.
p.s. – plasticbag.org was the first ‘blog’ I ever knowingly read a few years ago, keep up the good work…
My “miniblog” is expanding because of this very issue. I used to just post links but now I prefer to preface a link (well sub-face actually) with a little blurb of explanation.
As others have said, without that it’s just ANOTHER set of links. So I like to expand on it a little.
I think that there could be some mileage in making the daily linklogs a bit more ‘editorial’ – i.e. worked into the body of a short e-mail rather than being a bulleted list. I also find myself sometimes wanting to know more about what opinions the blogger has on the link. If it’s a news story – what’s your reaction?
That said, writing all that up every day would probably take up time that might be better spent writing weblog posts proper. Your one-line comment is quite a good compromise, although I sometimes get confused about what’s the title of the link, and what’s your comment…
Following Anil’s lead, my remaindered links started as a place to put links that I’ve read but didn’t want to commit a full post to in discussing. They started out as pretty spare, more bookmarks than anything, but once it got going, I started treating them as things that other people were reading and would have to make sense of without too much trouble. They’re definitely something that’s explicitly published for consumption rather than just for my own personal bookmarking (like del.icio.us). With the recent switch, the remaindered links are now more small posts than links, which is a better approach for me and what I want out of them.
How seriously can I take someone’s linklog?
I approach mine fairly seriously from an editorial standpoint. Like Tom, I read everything I link to (unless I’m linking an entire site like Wikipedia, in which case I’ve seen enough of the whole to get the gist). In any given day, I’ll run across 30-40 links that I’m interested in putting on the site, but I whittle those down to 10-15 daily. I’m not out to overwhelm people with information like the Gawker sites, Boing Boing, or the, gag, Weblogs Inc. sites. For some posts, I’ll read multiple pieces on the same topic and select the best one…e.g. if I run across a science article in the Guardian, I’ll look for articles on the same topic on the BBC, NY Times, New Scientist, Nature, etc. to see who’s got the best coverage. Strong editorial is my goal, not pageviews.
But I don’t link exclusively to things that I agree with…anything that’s interesting or thought-provoking is fair game. Sometimes I’ll voice my displeasure, but often I won’t. The goal here is to get my readers thinking critically about everything I link to. My editorial presence is strong, but if it becomes overwhelming, then I’m just preaching to the converted and one thing I don’t want or need are followers.
Do people treat it like oneupmanship – wanting to be first on the next meme?
I used to worry about being quick on the draw, but not so much anymore. With sites like del.icio.us, Digg, & populicio.us, the proliferation of RSS/Atom feeds & readers, and mainstream media (and sites like Google News) offering several ways to get the breaking news you want delivered to you the minute it happens, a lot of the ineffiencies have been removed from the links “market”. The interval between the discovery of a new link and its subsequent ubiquity is much shorter now — everyone sees everything at about the same time — and as a result, the reward for being first with everything often isn’t worth the effort. I’d rather spend my time compiling what I think are the best or most appropriate links, even if they’re a couple days old by the time I post them.
That’s probably TMI, but you did ask.
Expecting “responsibility” out of a blog is always a dangerous proposition, because blogs are more about personal voice than they are about ethics.
I use my link log simply for thinks I have about a sentence of a thought about. that thought could be “I gotta check this out” or “I checked this out and it’s awesome/awful/etc.”
If it turns out I’ve got more than a sentence to say, I make it a full post. Trouble is, like you Tom, I’ve got less and less time for full posts.
By Robin Good’s request I’ve been maintaining a linkstream (http://feeds.feedburner.com/delicious/for/robin_good) on his site over the past few months. The underlying mechanism is the for: tag that del.icio.us supports. Initially only Robin subscribed to the items tagged this way but apparently he liked them so much that he suggested to share them with his readers.
I wrote a small essay (http://hybernaut.com/cool-hunting-followup) about the underlying mechanism for Brian Del Vecchio a few weeks ago.
Be it briefly, I do review the services and sites that I bookmark personally. I contact vendors if appropriate. I usually also add some personal note to the descriptions, often challenged to fit them within the limitations of that column.
So far this has been a good arrangement both for Robin and for me: I am less strained to publish lengthy articles every day and he gets (almost) daily refreshed relevant links. Note that others can also participate into the process.
I use mine mostly as a way to say “this seems like the kind of thing you guys might like (but I haven’t much to say about).” I think some kind of “approval” is implied, although that’s sort of one deficit of the linkblog format–you are, by its nature, limited in how much context you can provide. (I do wish there were a simple way to tag stuff to which you’re linking irreverently)
I also wish del.icio.us (which I use to generate my site’s linkblog) had more formal support for attribution (“via” links). Courtesy and etiquette aside (important as they are), it would be fascinating if that process became _just_ formalized enough that an IceRocket/Technorati-style site could show link “provenance.” Not so much for “cred” as to just watch, enjoy, and analyze how an idea moves around. Linkblogs seem to be the place where a lot of these lower-level “kinda interesting” pages get linked and re-linked. It’s a shame there’s not a more dependable way to trace the trail they came from.
I had a conversation recently about this very topic with a group of wire reporters based out of Germany. AP, AFP, and BBC all do fundamentally the same thing; their form or journalism puts up a link to information for the world’s consumption at a primary news level, often times with very little commentary, as is common in wire feeds. Like bloggers, wire reporters may spend hours on the front lines scouring information or sitting through press conferences, but what they actually output is extremely limited and is often times a springboard for analysis from secondary sources.
In this respect, linkblogs are fundamentally different from “personality” or “editorial” blogs, in that they function to swarm primary sources for the masses. And that is all it really is: a swarm. Blogs which mimic this swarm are just the swarm’s trail.
To say that one’s remaindered links are a typification of their persona is stretching it. What does the readership gather from unread, uncommented linkage? That you use an RSS reader or del.icio.us but never do any actual reading?
Conversely, weblogs that primarily provide links, or “direction,” in the secondary wave of internet attention to topics and information do provide a resource. They function less like an English teacher’s suggested reading list and more like a critical reading project, in which readers are encouraged to engage their own critical eye to the same content and compare their findings. This is value. This is content. This is what keeps some “grandfather” blogs of yore afloat and dilutes interest in pure linklogs.
In many ways, this is a major differentiation between content and tagging. It is true that categorizing information is difficult, and making it accessible is sometimes even harder. But to extend this analogy, Google has a much easier task to organize the world’s information as opposed to create it.
Only real comment I have is that ya missed one of the best “link logging” tools out there.
It’s close to delicious, but it offers more of a social link logging feature in that every page on the net has a “shadow page” where users can tag, rate, or comment…
Very cool actually.
My problem is reading the articles. I used del.icio.us as a “to read” bookmark, but never used to end up reading them. Then, I used it to publish my “linkblog” on my site, and that actually made me read the things I linked – because I didn’t want someone thinking I was recomending a duff link.
I post whatever interests me… i’m not really all that concerned with who else is posting the same thing. The playing field for such things has leveled out pretty dramatically lately.
I don’t want to go to a site to see what everyone is talking about, I go to individual’s sites to see what the INDIVIDUAL is into.
Hopefully linking to something doesn’t constitute a blank endorsement, and I generally read the descriptions in the linklog to get a sense of context and the linker’s perspective.
I agree with Joshua B above: linklogs are personal and social. Along those lines, I have a hard time reading my Delicious inbox via RSS because it loses the “posted by” information.
My current favorite linklog is the Upian HotLinks aggregator, which collects linklogs from many of the world’s best linkloggers. It’s quite readable via RSS.
I don’t have a problem with people keeping logs of links without saying anything about them. It’s just a different way of bookmarking.
What is annoying is when people do this bookmarking in public, particularly when they link to their linklog as something other people might want to read.
It does seem lazy to make something explicitly public and then not tell me what’s special about these links. My eyes glaze over at the huge number of comment-less links some people post every day, whereas I read a linklog like yours, Tom, as closely as I would a complete weblog post.
(Personally, I tag all my del.icio.us links that I want to be public with the tag ‘top’, and only publicise the feed of that tag, so people are spared the stuff that’s purely for my benefit.)
Wow. I’m pretty amazed at how many people feel that del.icio.us links must be properly “vetted” before they’re shared (via a blog or otherwise).
This quote in particular got me (from above): “things should only go on to del.icio.us if one thinks that they will be useful to both oneself and others.”
I’m hesitant to dictate how del.icio.us (or any other social networking tool) “should” be used. To me, much of the beauty of these tools comes from watching people discover how best to use them for their own purposes. I would never have signed up for a del.icio.us account if I had known that I was “breaking the rules” by posting links that might not be useful to others.
I use my del.icio.us account as a way to record (mainly for myself) places I’ve beeen that I might want to go back to. Sometimes, I have time to explore a site carefully before I do this; other times, I’m bookmarking wildly as I follow a circuitous and exciting path.
And, yes, I do inclue a del.ico.us feed on my blog. Now, granted, my blog has a *very* small readership compared to a blog like this, so I’m less concerned with the impact that I’m making by doing this. But still. I’ve found many intersting links by perusing people’s linklogs, and I’ve also found stuff that didn’t interest me at all. But I wasn’t upset that someone pointed me there in the first place. I expert my online meanderings to be sometimes frantic, sometimes fruitless, but often (not always!) intriguing and rewarding experiences. I never really think that there are “useless” links. . .
I add my linklog to del.icio.us rather than the other way around. Primarily I treat my linklog as a bookmarking system. If something might be useful to me in the future, then I make the assumption that other people might find it useful too. I also add links that I’ve find useful and/or entertaining, again under the assumption that others may feel likewise.
So it’s 75% for me and 25% for others. But always considered.
I think it’s possible to do a lot with del.icio.us as it stands.
On Broadband Stars, I use it in the sidebar as extra but still on-topic news that I have read but don’t feel I need to comment on. However, I often write an original description rather than accepting the auto-generated one and also either write up a key point or pull out a quote for the extended field.
On Live Net Music, I’ve just started a music news section with a similar approach (not the sidebar, but inside a permanent post), and have opened up it up to readers to contribute by adding the tag “lnm” to their own del.icio.us posts.
I have a “link weblog” on my site, which I refer to as “Resources”.
My approach is to provide at least a few sentences of context +/- some opinion, and the resources that get linked are things that have been read and perhaps even tried (when linking to scripts etc.). In reality, I tend to link to things that I want to remember, not simply pass on (therefore ‘resources’).
Trying to be complete is what what has lead to the 200+ links that are currently waiting in the CMS to be processed and published… So much for freshness!
Waxy posted 2 days ago an interesting link. The title was “Yahoo! Podcast” and the description “thus marks the point where nobody trusts what I link to”. He just signed at Yahoo …
Interesting debate – especially the theme that seems to be emerging about whether your blog is for you or for your putative audience.
Am I the only one who is sensing an air of over-seriousness about blogs from some posters in the thread? Your blog is your own, you can do what you want with it, so why does it have to be worthy?
Like many here, I have a cron script that automatically posts all my del.icio.us links for a day into a round-up entry. The main reason I did that was to make sure that I have a copy of my bookmarks in a database other than that owned by del.icio.us.
Granted I could do that and still not display them on the site, but what’s the point of that? My blog is first and foremost a tool for me – an “outboard brain”. I love it when other people read and comment, but that’s the icing. We all implicitly filter what we link to and write about – for example I mostly don’t write about work or my family – if I felt I had to add another mental filter to evaluate the possible interest and value of each link to an audience “out there” I doubt I’d ever post anything at all – either links or longer posts.
Longer posts are slightly different – those tell a story of a sort, so links get chosen carefully to fit that story (and by implication to fit an implied audience) – but that’s still in the service of telling the story, not a sense of “responsibility”.
When I read a blog I don’t really care what “you the author” think is worthy – I care about what interests you, and about what you have to say about it. If what interests you turns out to interest me I’ll come back and read again.
I don’t see the distinction I’m afraid – a weblog is a person expressing opinions and linking to things that interest them. Individual people should think before they express their opinions, they should feel a responsibility to act honourably, and that shouldn’t stop them having fun or whatever. Misleading people either intentionally or by not making it clear what you’re doing seems to me an inappropriate thing to do, even if you’re having fun.
I use del.icio.us. It is convenient and easy and meets my needs. Generally, I publish for myself and it would be grandiose for me to talk about an audience.
At the risk of offending people – I’ll reference a post I put together a while back on the subject. The point of the post (not well expressed in hindsight) is that market forces are going to drive individual linkloggers out. Aggregation and sites like del.icio.us make it easier for me as a consumer to use larger commercial services then to maintain a read list of smaller link logs.