Whither Link Posts?

At the end of 2012, Michael Lopp looked back at 6 years worth of his site, Rands in Repose. Right at the end he concludes with this sentiment about where he shares links and what the primary content on his site is and will be:

I scratch my link blog itch with Twitter, I share my travels with Instagram, but here – I continue to learn how to write.

Lopp’s not alone. Chris Bowler, in his recent migration from Expression Engine to Kirby, spent some time re-evaluating if link posts were worth doing on his site:

I wrote linked posts for two reasons. To share what interests me and to bring attention to the work of others. It’s clear that my Twitter account is a much better place for this sort of sharing, while my own site is a place for content created by me. Content that, God willing, brings value that is more lasting.

And, late last fall, my pal Ben Brooks had a similar change of heart about the link posts he publishes on The Brooks Review. However, he decided to change the format of his link posts to be “DF-Style” to “Kottke-esque”. Why?

Because this puts my commentary on a level playing field of that which I am linking to, which is ultimately how I view the two.

I very much value and appreciate the above perspectives on the Link List vs. Articles stance. I’ve been posting links and articles on shawnblanc.net since its inception nearly 6 years ago, and in those years I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the formatting, content, and existence of my link posts.

The fact of the matter is: there’s no right or wrong here. Lopp, Bowler, Brooks, and so many others out there have spent time evaluating what they want to focus on. And so I thought I’d share briefly about why I personally am keeping my link posts here.

Like Lopp and Bowler, many people are migrating to Twitter as their outlet to share links. And while I think Twitter and App.net are great places for that, I personally like the idea of sharing most of the links I come across via my site.

Here’s why:

The Time

For one, there’s just no way I could write the sort of original content I do often enough to keep the site updated on a near-daily basis. I spend a lot of time reading and researching, and I love to pass along links to the things I find of value.

If I were to shift the time I spend posting links to be time spent on original articles instead, it’s not like there would be a new article every day. Because I would still be spending time reading and researching and working behind the scenes. And I’d still be discovering the same stuff I am now — I just wouldn’t be linking to it.

The Format

The difference between a Kottke-esque link post and a DF-style one is almost wholly a matter of formatting. Though a Kottke-esque post may by nature be more inviting for commentary, at the end of the day it is up to the author if he/she will add any substantial commentary.

The Discoverability

Links shared on Twitter are relatively fleeting. Isn’t the average lifespan of a Tweet something like 120 seconds? Thus, someone who checks Twitter once or twice a day probably has to scroll through myriad of tweets if they want to find your links of value.

If, however, those links are being posted to a website then they are more “static” (less fleeting) — someone looking for the day’s links can go to their websites of choice and browse through the 3 or 4 or 10 which were posted, read the accompanying commentary, and click the ones they’re interested in.

* * *

This is a conversation that pops up every now and then, and every time it does I take a step back and think about it myself to see if what I’m doing is the best for my pace, my writing habits, my site, and, of course, the readers.

Every time I think about it, I keep coming back to the above conclusions for why I want to stick with running a link list as part of my site. In short, I enjoy it and I believe readers get value from it.

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