It might seem like there are no hard and fast rules that I use while writing this blog, but in fact there are. Every single article boils down to one of three different kinds: Major articles, satellite articles, and links.
Major articles are usually marked with a ❖, are usually over 1000 words, and can be read in and of itself. Satellite articles are shorter, often act as footnotes for major articles, and are sometimes just simple thoughts, quick observations, predictions, or corrections. This is a satellite article, for instance.
Links are often the shortest of the bunch, and there’s a reason for that: I want you to click on the link. The entire point of the linked list is to recommend articles I find fascinating and noteworthy. I do not want, under any circumstance, for you to read a linked list post I’ve put here and think that’s all there is to the linked article. That’s why I generally don’t write much (if anything at all) as commentary for them. The only reason I put anything other than the link is so that you can see an obvious reason why you’d want to go to there.
Marco Arment wrote this last week, about copy and paste blogs in general:
The most ethically and professionally sound practice when you have little value to add to the source story is the linked-list approach. Give a teaser quote and a prominent link. Make it clear that you didn’t write the target article, there’s more to be read there, and here’s how to get to it.
Don’t replace it. Send your readers there.
If you’re truly providing value, you should have the confidence to send your audience away, knowing that they’ll come back to you. If that’s not the case, don’t bother publishing.
I agree with this 100%. I do not have a large-traffic website. I get about 100-200 people here per day, depending on content and if I’ve posted a picture of AJ. But my readers are loyal, and they like me, and they won’t forget I exist because I sent them over to Holzerman. I like Holzerman, and I like that he does the same to me. It’s about trust, not page-views.
I used to link to places I didn’t like, because I wanted to argue their points and, frankly, show them where they are egregiously wrong. There are many places on the internet where people write about wrestling (for a profit, even) where they don’t have the first clue about the subject matter. I don’t link to these places anymore because I don’t want you to go there. It’s bad news, as a pejorative. The things they write are bad. So I stopped linking.
Shawn Blanc, another tech blogger I really like, wrote this regarding the linking issue:
The truest metric of a website’s value is found in the amount of trust, attention, and influence it has. But you cannot easily quantify trust, and so most business models are still predominantly based on pageviews.
He’s right; there’s no number for trust, only for views. That’s why SEO is so powerful and so bad. That’s why mega-blogs push 20 articles per day, regardless of news cycle. That’s why comments are encouraged on most of these sites, because a comment equals three page views. I have comments, but some days I don’t (WordPress is finicky about them, and I’m not good enough at this to always know how to fix it), so I treat Twitter as my comment stream.
But I can sort of, kind of see my influence. It could be more than just me, but I’m seeing the word “art” tossed around in wrestling more. I’m seeing people write less about statistics and more about performance. I’m seeing people say “X writer wrote this, and here’s my thoughts on it” instead of a blank copy and paste job of a whole article. I’m beginning to see, with my optimistic and naive eyes, the beginnings of critical thinking. And I think links, trust, and multi-threaded relationships help this.