Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Linkblog Cancer

Yesterday, Marcelo Somers wrote a piece critical of the surge of link blogs in the past few years:

The problem is, we can’t all be Daring Fireball – we can’t get away with posting a witty headline and a blockquote 5-10 times a day. We’ve adopted John’s concept of linking, but not the idea that we need to tell a bigger story on our sites.

Our job as independent writers isn’t to be first or even to get the most pageviews. It’s to answer the question of “so what?”. Taken as a whole, our sites should tell a unique story that no one else can, with storylines that develop over time that help bring order to the chaos of what we cover.

This article generated, ironically enough, a fair few links to it. Stephen Hackett, for instance, wants people to put some effort into linking:

A link is my way of saying to you, the reader, that I think the article is worth your time and attention, and here on the Internet, those are everyone’s two most important possessions.

Kyle Baxter linked to Somers’ post, adding:

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.

Marco Arment seems to agree with Somers’ premise, but takes issue with how he approached his criticism:

Blaming the format itself for link-blog overload is like blaming Canon for the deluge of mediocre SLR photography over the last decade. […]

We don’t need more Daring Fireballs. We have Daring Fireball already. People who read it have little reason to read anyone else’s minimally differentiated clone.

I agree entirely with Arment, and therefore partially disagree with Baxter. I don’t think it’s necessary to link to unique things, but to use links as a way to express a personal opinion, or another angle that may not be covered. It doesn’t matter that everyone already wrote about how App.net isn’t even close to its funding goal. I want you to care about what I think of Dalton Caldwell’s article.

Arment explains that he uses a link post when he wants to add only a couple of paragraphs of commentary, instead of writing an entire article. This makes sense to me. My goal for linked posts, in case you’re interested, is to provide stacks of references. I like Gruber’s work, but I’m also a fan of Metafilter. Most posts there consist of plenty of contextual links, surrounding a broader point. You’ll find that a lot on my site, too. You know that Mat Honan’s online accounts were hacked recently, but if you follow my commentary regularly, you also know the aftermath, and my thoughts.

I want to point you in the direction of where the link goes, because I believe it will be valuable to you. But I also want my commentary to stand on its own. Even if you don’t click any of the links above, you should still get a clear understanding of what I think. If you read this blog regularly, I trust that’s valuable to you as well.