Gilles Vandenoostende

Hi, I'm Gilles Vandenoostende - designer, illustrator and digital busybody with a love of language, based in Ghent, Belgium.

A proper linked list

Instead of adding a bunch of arbitrary unicode symbols next to your hyperlinks, instead take a look at how I run my blog:

Have your titles link to the content

If you’ll notice, either on this blog or if you’re consuming my feed (yeah, you like that, don’t you), whenever I post a link to another site or article, I put the link right on the title of the post. You can’t miss it. Clicking it takes you away from my site and towards whatever I decided to share. I specifically modified my WordPress theme and its RSS feed to support this non-standard behaviour, which I first saw on the mother of all linked list blogs (who I think even coined the term), Daring Fireball.

Readers shouldn’t have to scour my poorly written copy to find what I’m blathering on about. In fact, they needn’t even read whatever I wrote if they don’t want to. It’s just a juicy headline that leads straight to the content. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

Conventional wisdom (an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one) would think this is bad — what about my pageviews? Hogswash. If you want pageviews, create your own original content. Getting pageviews from linking to other people’s work is a happy coincidence, but it shouldn’t be a business-model.

Don’t overquote or rewrite

When I’m linking to something, I never quote more than one or two paragraphs. I also rarely quote from anything other than the article’s intro, except for when I want to explicitly comment on something specific. I want people to read the whole thing in its original form, but if I’d quote all the best bits on my site, what is there left for anyone to read?

And rewriting, which is the entire business model of sites like the Huffington post or the Gawker network, well that’s just wrong. I won’t go so far as to say it’s stealing, but I know I wouldn’t be comfortable doing it.

Why have a linked list at all?

I used to hate the idea of just linking to stuff as a blog. I assumed I needed to write huge articles that had original content to be a blogger. Which is part of the reason why the first 5 years of this blog’s existence saw less than 10 posts. Through reading other blogs (like those joined in the great Read & Trust network), I learnt the value of just linking and, perhaps more importantly, commenting on stuff.

In fact, what started me off on maintaining this personal linked list is this post by Matt Gemmell about why he disabled comments on his blog:

[…] I want to make it clear that this isn’t a means to discourage conversation; indeed, I hope the opposite is true. If you read something here, and want to reply, please do one of the following, in order of preference:

  1. Write a response on your own blog. Considered, long-form follow-ups by an identifiable, accountable person are the ultimate form of feedback and discussion. I’d love to read what you have to say. Let me know about it via email or a tweet […] [Emphasis mine]

Why contribute your insights to the bottom half of the internet when you can make an identifiable comment on your own terms for which you can take 100% ownership?

I consider this blog to be like a portfolio of my mind. It’s an insight both into my thoughts and opinions, and those of others that I agree (or disagree) with. Someone reading this blog should have a pretty good idea what I do, how I do it, and what I stand for. That’s the reason I’m keeping a blog. What’s yours?

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