More Thoughts on Linked Lists

by Christopher Paul on November 12, 2012

It’s no secret that Ben Brooks (among many others) has been an inspiration for the content, format, and even aesthetics of my own site. Even though John Gruber gets credit for the “linked list” blog style, it was Ben who got me thinking about converting my site into, what he calls, a traditional DF style linked list.

Before that, I mostly posted like Jason Kottke where I’d have some content in the body, a link somewhere in the post, and my own commentary towards the end. The RSS title link pointed to my own site. Readers would have to then click on the link I placed in the post to read more than what I wrote about. The DF style has the RSS link directly to the source content. You read Gruber’s thoughts first, then read the source article and make some conclusions. This is the method that Brooks used since I remember finding his site.

Ben’s thoughts on blogging styles got me thinking about what I value the most for my site. I don’t get much traffic. I probably send even less. Yet it was Ben who convinced me I shouldn’t care about my traffic – or the traffic of others. I should just care about spreading content I appreciated. So that what I try to do today. However, I never went full DF style like Ben and others did. My RSS links point to my own site and I sometimes paraphrase for the title; John Gruber does this – he doesn’t use the source’s title like Ben used to do. But like The Loop, Daring Fireball, and The Brooks Review, if you visited my site directly, the title would point to the source and there was a permalink close by for my own commentary.

Now Ben is moving towards a Kottke-style blog. Each post is an article with links and commentary. It’s exactly what I moved away from after being convinced the DF-style that he used before was the right way to go. He says:

I vowed to stop linking to things with trivial commentary such as, “cool”, when I erected the paywall. Therefore I believe that when I link to something, my commentary is almost as important as the item I am linking to — certainly an egotistical view, but in line with my goal to only put smart and lasting commentary on this site.

Given that, then, it seems like there is a direct conflict with the traditional linked list and The Brooks Review, as I desire to have all my readers read my commentary (and want to read it) but the linked list model pushes those readers away from my commentary. I’ve thought about, and talked about, killing the linked list on this site for over a year to friends — always encouraged not to do so and I have let it go for a few weeks, only to then be nagged by the idea of killing my linked list yet again.

I don’t really care whether his blog is a DF or Kottke-style of a blog. I’ve always appreciated both the link and the commentary. Without either of them, there wouldn’t be a reason to subscribe. And while I don’t feel as if a DF-style blog with a paywall is in conflict, I see Ben’s point. It’s about the content… his content that he wants to showcase. And the style of blog doesn’t change that for me.

The important thing I took away from his about-face is that quality content – link and commentary – are key. And he’s always delivered in my opinion. I expect nothing to change because of the switch. And I don’t think I’ll revert back to Kottke style. Because for me, It’s about sharing something I find interesting or worthy of sharing. How the reader gets there is almost irrelevant. So long as I link to the source and credit how I found it, I don’t care if a reader has to click the title or click a link in the post to get there… they’ll get there.

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