This isn’t a new thought (even for this blog; I’ve lamented on occasion in the past about how blogging is a mostly solitary pursuit with little feedback — even when people like what I’m writing) and the links presented below are actually from over 16 months ago.
“There’s a cancer spreading through the indie tech blogger community: the blockquote + link post.”
The Linkblog Cancer : Marcelo Somers, 8 August 2012, Behind Companies behindcompanies.com
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong at all with link-lists… but each link has to be deliberate. It must serve a purpose. There’s no reason to link to something unless it’s something readers probably haven’t come across already or you can provide a unique perspective on it. Only link to something when you’re adding some value.”
Telling a Story With Each Link : Kyle Baxter, 8 August 2012, TightWind tightwind.net
“Blaming the format itself for link-blog overload is like blaming Canon for the deluge of mediocre SLR photography over the last decade. The tools are now available to everyone, which is great. Most people won’t become world-class users of these tools, but the surplus of mediocre output doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for more people who can be truly great at it — it just means that most people’s link blogs aren’t worth following.”
Don’t blame the link blog : Marco Arment, 9 August 2012, Marco.org
My own style (which has evolved over the past couple of years, and is still evolving) is obviously a little different than the ‘blockquote + link post’ that is so prevalent — and not just in tech reporting anymore. My preference is to stack several related links, or even to write a long rambling narrative that threads many quotes and links throughout. My own writing can be minimal, depending on the strength of quoted material. I also like to think my readers can make up their own minds about which sources are insightful, which might be biased, and what facts have to be weighed and considered before being accepted in whole or in part. I provide the editorial, and some context, but the reason I rely so very heavily on links is that I want the reader to go back and double-check me. I want you to read the same sources I did — then you can read my take on the issue (ebooks, or Amazon, or bookstores) and figure out if I’m full of crap or not. I also lean very heavily on Wikipedia links, because I like background, and history, and if I can’t find a handy blog post that gives a topic the context I think it needs, I will teach you until you know enough to make up your mind on a topic.
I have biases. I might even be accused of having an agenda. Also (and Obviously): by making choices on what to link to, and which quotes to pull, I am attempting to guide the reader down a path. This is called curation these days, especially after ‘curation’ is paired with ‘content’ — it’s practically a whole industry at this point. But not every blogger is going to take the time to discuss early 20th century department stores and the 1912 Sears & Roebuck catalog in a piece on 21st century online retail.
What I do is “link blogging” without a doubt. My favourite writing trick is to start a blog post with a fairly long pull quote from someone else — not just to frame the topic and set the tone, but also to spur my own writing. As lonely as this job is, the internet fosters conversation, and my best work is when I’m writing in response to someone else, even if and perhaps especially if the other party doesn’t even realize I’m out here.
Once again, though: I try not to do a single blurb+link because first, everybody and I mean everybody else is doing it, and second, hell that’s what my twitter is for. If you want an idea of what kind of link blog I would write if I devoted a couple hours of every day to blogging just for the cool links, go follow me at @ProfessorBlind.
When I sit down at the keyboard, even for a short post (this is a short post) I want to bring more to the proverbial table. For a site like Boing Boing or Laughing Squid they get away [note: please put “get away” in “air quotes”. —M.] with just blogging links because over time the nature, quality, tenor, and topics of the links themselves become the Voice of the blog; the occasional longer, feature article (in the case of Boing Boing) just supports that. The headlines and in-jokes (how the links are pitched at you) also contribute heavily to this Voice; in the case of Fark the in-jokes are (arguably) The Whole Site. There is nothing to Fark except for joke headlines — and an active community – though the community is there for the jokes.
On the one hand, I’m worried that I trust too much in links. Sure, I provide the links (attribution is good, proper attribution of ideas is even better) but I’m also concerned that the reader’s eye kind of glides over anything in quotation marks and the links themselves—especially when presented in bulk—go unclicked. Still, this is how I write these days. If anything, I write so very little that actually gets posted, I should embrace any trick that gets me to the keyboard — even one-sided conversations with other bloggers who don’t know that I disagree with (or agree, and am building on) their own posts.
This one is titled “Loose ends”, mostly because I Have So Many Loose Ends, a dozen or so drafts and hundreds of links, ideas half-baked that really need to be worked on.
I’m also at loose ends myself. The job search is draining me.