Linked Lists

It’s that time again, where we debate linking to shit that is written to pad the pockets of advertising-first sites that sometimes, also, have content on them. I couldn’t care less about the debate at this point — I figure idiots tend to do whatever they want — but I think a better debate surrounds the value of linked lists in general.

Since day one on this site, I have run the traditional, Daring Fireball style, linked list. Such a linked list consists of:

  • Short (rarely long) commentary on a post written on another site.
  • Sometimes a block quote.
  • The title of the post links to the article.
  • The RSS feed links directly to the article.

The linked list approach is an invaluable tool for growing and expanding any one site that is linked to by a larger site. Had larger sites not linked to me in their linked lists way back when, hardly any of you would be reading this today.

Further, John Gruber sees the linked list as not only an integral part of his site, but a damned valuable part.

So the linked list provides a nontrivial value to sites just getting started around the web, and helps to keep traffic up between articles, thus keeping up ad revenue rates. I actually have no problem with either of these, my problem is that I am not sure that such a model makes sense any longer for this site.

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’ve always seen the linked list in black or white: you have it or you don’t. Either do it “right”, or not at all. Now I see room for the gray area of the linked list, what I shall call the Kottkeian-list. 1

That is, everything is an “article”, but some articles are specifically about a linked item. That which is being linked to is no longer done in the title, but instead in the first paragraph of the article — and linked to prominently. Everything else is the same, but I like this idea better.

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.

Attentive readers will have noticed that over the last few months I have been sneaking in Kottkeian-list posts here and there — not a single complaint thus far.

Change It

So I am going change the way I do my linked list to be of the Kottkeian-list style and not the Daring Fireball style. My goal is that by doing this two things happen:

  1. Traffic continues to flow to those sites that I link to. (Although I realize that it will most likely be less traffic.)
  2. I further minimize my reliance on other sites to create, post, and write great content for this site.

As with anything web related, this is all an experiment — we shall see how it works. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. 2

  1. My apologies specifically to Stephen Hackett, whom I spent many an IM conversation pushing him into the DF style linked list.
  2. The Quote of the Day will remain as is, mostly because I love sharing great quotes and adore the way they look on the site.
Originally posted for members on: November 12, 2012
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