Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
December 1, 200710:21 AM

Are Links To Other Sites Really A Compelling Blog Post?

I've avoided adding the functionality to the Six Pixels of Separation Blog where you get a Blog posting called, Links, with the date after it. I see this on so many Blogs, and I just don't get it. With the ability to subscribe to any-one's del.icio.us page or shared links via Google Reader, and the capability to add both of those as a widget in your Facebook profile, why do we still allow Bloggers to get away with a random list of links as a Blog posting? It might be OK once in a while, but some of my favourite Blogs pump out a Links Blog Posting every day. My understanding is that, for some Bloggers, this process is even automated. It just grabs their most recent links and posts it to the Blog on a daily basis.

In this era of the Attention Economy, shouldn't we hold Bloggers to higher standards? I'm known to drop a link or two in my Blog postings, but the links are always the motivation for me to add my thoughts and feelings about what is happening and how it affect Marketers. It's an ongoing trend where Bloggers are Blogging less, using twitter more and letting their Blogs lapse as Links Postings fill the feeds.

I think Bloggers need to come clean. If you're suffering from writer's block, too busy to Blog, or have fallen in love with another channel, why not let your readers know that you will be phasing out the Blog, and that if they still like your insights, they can find you on twitter, subscribe to your del.icio.us feed or find you in Second Life?

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of times when I do come across interesting links, and they inspire my own Blog postings, but I'd much prefer to find those links via an online social bookmarking feed than in a Blog posting. To me a Blog is all about sharing your thoughts, ideas and emotions in words on any given subject. Links play a vital role in keeping the conversation alive in the community by providing some kind of path to follow. Seeing daily, automated Blog postings generated from a del.icio.us feed is starting to impact how I feel about certain Bloggers that I used to hold in high regard (negative Personal Brand effect). I'm starting to see this tactic as laziness and, worse, a cop out for not taking the time to Blog. On top of that, it's sucking my attention to a Blog posting whose sole purpose is to keep the Blog highly ranked by generating links.

That's not much of a two-way conversation, if you ask me.

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Derrick Kwa
    Mitch Joel

    I agree that automated posts aren't the best option, but I think there is a place and purpose for a link collection. Just to share, especially when the link comes from a blog of a slightly different area (for example, my blog is more known as a personal development blog, so sometimes I link to posts from marketing/media blogs, because my readers might not be reading that sorta blog).

    On a side note, I actually moved the opposite direction of what you said. I find Twitter can be as good (if not better) to share links as I find them, especially if I don't have much to add. So I've actually blogged less links lately, and started Twittering the links more.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mario Parisé
    Mitch Joel

    Trouble maker!

    I don't know if I totally agree with you, but I generally don't read link posts and I don't believe I've ever created one.

    I assumed, though, that for many people those posts were of value. My thinking is many people may indeed be interested in what someone is bookmarking, but not be so technically literate to understand del.icio.us or Twitter. You know these people, because I've seen you talk to them during your IAB seminars.

    Reply
  • I have had the experience of formerly favorite blogs become dumping grounds for del.icio.us postings and Twitter summaries. The thing we all have to keep in mind is this:

    The unsubscribe button is one click, too.

    Because there's no email address to ping, once someone unsubscribes from an RSS feed using a feed reader...

    -= you have no way of reaching out to them to get them back =-

    The attention economy is entirely based on value you provide. No value, no attention.

    Reply
  • Posted by Bryan Person
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, you're referring to the daily del.icio.us links that appear on people's blogs. As you suspected, this *is* an automated option that you can set up in the advanced setting of your del.icio.us account.

    I'll admit to having done that for a couple of months or so. I thought the postings would give my readers a sense of the content I was finding interesting on a daily basis -- kind of like you and I do now with our shared Google Reader links.

    And then, two things happened:
    1) I realized that I never, ever read these posts on other people's blogs. I skipped right over them -- and still do -- in my RSS reader.
    2) I looked at my blog and realized it was littered with lists of my del.icio.us items (I was posting my daily Twitter posts for a while, too) and not enough thoughtful posts of real substance.

    For a while, I continued to post these links on my blog, but only on a specific category page (and not on the main page).

    Finally, I pulled the plug completely.

    Now I offer a link from the sidebar on my blog directly to my del.icio.us and Twitter pages. Readers who want to follow what I'm posting, tagging, and sharing can go there.

    Mitch, I think that much of this has been about experimenting with what works and what doesn't, what is valuable to the readers and what isn't, and whether a blog is place to aggregate all of our content we produce online or instead point to it.

    Reply
  • Thanks for the comments.

    I think having the link post in your Blog is fine as long as you're supplementing it with "real" Blog postings on your thoughts. I guess I take issue when the entire Blog is only those link posts or twitter updates.

    I know that anyone can unsubscribe, but I guess I have this feeling (or hope) that the Bloggers in question are just busy and will come back to more regular posts. Sadly, this has not been the case.

    If I ever did use that link posting, you can be sure that any day it was posted, there would also be a "real" post by me as well.

    My fear is that the Bloggers who are doing this feel like it's OK and will maintain their ranking when, in reality, they are doing little to add to the conversation or to connect with their readers.

    Reply
  • Posted by Justin Russell
    Mitch Joel

    I think I agree with you for the most part. To me, it seems like this kind of thing begs for a combination feed: let blog posts be blog posts, and let del.icio.us links be del.icio.us links. I don't really see the point of mixing them together.

    I whipped up something called Collage to handle that kind of thing on my site (it's the fourth section on my home page). Services like Jaiku seem to do the trick, too... I've been really impressed with what they've been able to do with combinations of RSS feeds. Everything these days seems to have a feed, so why not use them to make something better and to give your readers/viewers/etc. more choice about what they receive?

    Reply
  • Posted by Keith Burtis
    Mitch Joel

    I guess my feelingings on the whole thing is that it doesn't really matter. Systems for rankings and the such will improve, just as search has improved.

    Also, new people going to a blog to find out specific information on a topic probably wont find it too relevant when a blogger is tweeting the last time he/she took a crap or went to the grocery store. It's all about relevancy I guess. If the information is compelling which I hardly doubt a Jaiku, or Twiter feed is as a blog format..........people wont go there.

    Mitch, don't clump yourself in with "BLOGGERS" it is ok to be a blogger, but the weeds will always be weeded out in time. Never know, these micro blogging sites, may just be a test for these bloggers, and yes they probably are getting a bit lazy. I would assume most of them are not getting paid to blog, or able to actually monetize the blog directly, so tweeting, or short script on jaiku may look like an attractive alternative to be heard.

    Personally for me when I see a string of tweets from one person like 20 or 30 in a row....that to me should be in a blog. It's like an idiot in a chat room that is constantly inundating the room with rapid stupidity. The information may be good, but I dont want to read 30 tweets from someone on my twitter page and follow 15 or 20 different links that they have posted...I just wont take the time to do it.

    On the other hand when you(Mitch) put out a tweet or link posting...I'll go there, because it is not overwhelming, and the information is always worth a listen. The whole thing is the "Law of Diminishing Returns" too many tweets diminishes the person posting the tweets.

    Thats my 2cents -- just deleted one of those tweeters off my account UNFOLLOW :)

    Reply
  • I still think the bigger point is that when someone fills their Blog with random links they've found or twitter tweets, I just don't "feel" like I am getting anything from the Blog.

    If I really like that person, it's as Keith and Justin say, I can subscribe already to that source. No need for it to be in your Blog feed too. If people want to follow me on twitter or del.icio.us, I make it easy for them by posting how on my Blog. I don't make it difficult by cross-posting everywhere... especially in replacement of a real Blog posting with real (and additional) insights.

    Reply
  • Posted by Chris Williams
    Mitch Joel

    I agree that just posting links on your blog is sort of like eating white bread, filling but something is missing. To me, my blog is about what I think about something and if that something is an article - then it's fine to link to the article in the context of your own spin on it. Everyone has a different objective with their blog, some just want it to be active, some want to link it up with the latest technology and others just want their own spot to tell it like they see it.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    As a blogger that posts lots of original posts and discussion starters, it drives me nuts when others just post "links of the week"

    It also bugs that some bloggers and commenters try to maintain anonymity. But maybe it's a sign of the generational times. Back in the day at the Well, you were supposed to own your words. Kids today....

    Finally, I find that another generation of folks don't know to socialize their conversations...you know the types that still use e-mail chains to rant about the world but no one other than the group ever sees the great ideas.


    Reply
  • Mark Goren over at Transmission Marketing takes a different perspective.

    It is here:

    Daily links – delicious or not?
    http://transmissionmarketing.ca/?p=325

    I have left the following as a comment back on his Blog:

    Hey Mark,

    I was pretty sure that Bloggers who do run automated links daily would disagree with me. That’s fine.

    A couple of points based on your excellent post above:

    - If this works for you and you’re getting positive feedback, then I’m just one perspective. Mileage may vary.

    - I actually like the fact that you take the time to comment on each item, but I would prefer your bigger thoughts on one item that really struck you,and then the additional links after them - that sounds more like a hybrid solution.

    - One big pet peeve of this automated link post is the title of the Blog posting - I have no idea what I’m in for. It usually just says Links and the date. With tons of great Blog content in my Google Reader, I don’t link through (and usually ignore) because the title doesn’t inspire. So, even your great commentary rarely makes it to my eyeballs.

    - I like using the other channels (like Facebook) in addition to my Blog. Not instead of.

    - If people really want to know what I’m reading they can also subscribe to my Google Shared Items - whenever I “share� anything - they get it in their feed… separate from my Blog.

    - What I’m suggesting is having a link in your navigation (that people can subscribe to) to the “stuff you’re reading.� If you have a link like that you are creating two feeds - one is your Blog, the other is the stuff that you’re reading.

    My biggest issue here is that most Bloggers are not using the automated links to supplement their Blog postings… they are using them to replace Blogging. I don’t like that… I want to know how they think about things - not just what they tag in del.icio.us.

    Lastly, it’s amazing to see what you’ve built over this short little while. I remember our first meet-up, so to see your success is truly remarkable.

    Continued success. I’m subscribed (links and all ;)

    Reply
  • Posted by Scott Monty
    Mitch Joel

    Hey Mitch: this is one of the great all-time blogger debates. It's definitely an issue that pits friend against friend - with room for disagreement.

    Over on Mark's post, I left the following comment, which I think bears repeating here:

    Mark: great points here. Mitch certainly raised some valid points & counterpoints on his own blog and here, but I have to side with you. I actually put this question to my readers a couple of months ago, and opinions were split (of those who chose to comment).

    Bottom line: social media, if nothing else, is about choices. Never before has it been so easy to give your audience a variety of ways to consume content. Mitch or you are I are not so omniscient that we can presume how every reader prefers to consume content. So why not give them everything and let them choose?

    Blog posts, del.icio.us links, Google Reader shared item, Twitter streams - it’s all fair game!

    Reply
  • Hey Scott - great to hear from you.

    Here's how I responded...

    "I think we’re in violent agreement. The Google Shared items idea is only a tactic - not a strategy.

    It’s the strategy that still doesn’t work for me - the fact that Bloggers are doing this instead of Blogging, not to supplement their Blog. This was the major topic of my Blog postings… and my feelings."

    Reply
  • Posted by Mark Goren
    Mitch Joel

    If bloggers are doing this instead of blogging, are they really blogging?

    Like I said in response to your last comment:

    "Insights, opinion + passion are what I look for in a blogger. Links and links alone aren’t going to cut for me either."

    Reply
  • Like I said on your Blog Mark, we're in violent agreement.

    I think the issue I have is exactly that: If you take all of the Blog postings combined and look at them, my guess is that you will see that the majority of those who are using the automated Link Blog posting application are not Blogging - just keeping their ranking alive through automated Link postings.

    On top of that, I simply miss their passion and insights... and that's the true trigger of this Blog posting. I was catching up on my feeds and realized that a good portion of the major Bloggers I follow are, sadly, not Blogging all that much anymore.

    Reply
  • Posted by Doug Haslam
    Mitch Joel

    I have been harping on this for months-- my main problem is that when I see a links post in my feed, I rarely see context or commentary, just "links of the day" or "de.licio.us links". Phooey. I have never read one of the posts, even though several of my friends do it or have done it.

    Give me something I want to read, but package it so I know what I am getting at an easy glance.

    Reply
  • Posted by Connie Crosby
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,

    I agree with you wholeheartedly on this one. I have a linkblog that is separate from my main blog, which was used mostly for my own purposes. But since I discovered del.icio.us about 4 months ago (I know, can't be an early adopter on EVERYTHING) my use of the linkblog has fallen by the wayside because, well, what's the point?

    Between that, and microblogging my life on Twitter, my actual frequency of blog posts has dropped dramatically but I think the quality overall is better.

    I guess some people like to have all of their personal commentary/web presence consolidated in one place. That's the only reason I can think of feeding del.icio.us posts and twitter feed into the blog.

    I actually think of my blog posts and my twitterings to be for very different audiences, so the content (and perhaps even personality?) differs between them. I had the twitter widget on my blog for a while, but realized the comments were really incongruous with the blog posts so pulled it off.

    Cheers!
    Connie

    Reply
  • Thanks Doug and Connie.

    From what I'm reading on other Blogs, some people really do like the auto Link Blog postings. Most agree that the title of the Blog could use some work.

    I still think that my main point is being drowned out by the "should I or shouldn't I" debate. I really don't care if people use it... as long as it's supplementing a rich flow of Blogging and not replacing it.

    I hope I am typing those lines for the last time :)

    Reply
  • Posted by Connie Crosby
    Mitch Joel

    I think for your audience, you are seen as a thought leader so having your commentary is more valuable.

    If we didn't care so much about what you have to say, then having just a bunch of cool links would be just as meaningful.

    But we do care what you have to say, so keep up the thoughtful, provocative posting!

    Reply
  • Posted by Kate Trgovac
    Mitch Joel

    There have been a number of comments on this, but I did want to share an additional perspective ... I've gotten a lot of positive feedback from my clients about my "link blog" posts (I automate my delicious links). They've said to me .. I like your feed, even if you don't write something, there is always something interesting to check out.

    Most of my clients are on the near-end of the social media learning curve and they don't want to subscribe to multiple feeds of mine. I try to annotate my posts, but the current restrictions on delicious make that difficult sometimes .. I might switch to magnolia.

    But, in any case, I wanted to leave my 2 cents. To me .. it depends on the audience for your feed. But I do wish the tools were better ... something that lets me bookmark/annotate/blog quickly, but still provides value.

    And really isn't it a form of microblogging? I look at my twitter stream and it's half full of links with even briefer annotations than in delicious, 3/8 full of "heading out for a run" or "waiting for coffee" posts and 1/8 full of help requests. Now, I like twitter a lot ... but personally I don't think its the best place for link blogging.

    Reply
  • Thanks Connie and Kate.

    My main message is: "your mileage may vary."

    There's no doubt that I am ahead of the curve... I'm looking for personal thoughts and insights... but sure, if my audience wanted that type of content, I would provide it. Right now I'm just loving the fact that I can put my thoughts out there :)

    Kate, I have to admit, you are one of the few whose links I do look at - because I know the care you put into it :)

    Reply
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