Guidelines for link bloggers

John Gruber’s Daring Fireball site helped establish the “link blog” medium: a running list of hyperlinks, punctuated by the author’s comments and the occasional full-length post. Over the course of a decade, he’s earned a large audience of geeky types. These readers eagerly await his take on every Apple-related story—even if it’s just a few words.

Gruber’s success inspired many other aspiring writers. In fact, my own site’s recent redesign takes its cue—philosophically, if not aesthetically—from Fireball.

Now, copying isn’t necessarily bad. But what works for one established writer might not work for everyone else. As Marcelo Somers observes,

The problem is, we can’t all be Daring Fireball — we can’t get away with posting a witty headline and a blockquote 5–10 times a day.

Below, I outline a few “guidelines for link bloggers” that I hope will constrain my own future posts.

  1. Offer substantial commentary. As Somers notes, a link and a quote don’t cut it. If I can’t contribute something unique and insightful, then I shouldn’t weigh in on the topic. As Marco Arment summarizes,

    “We don’t need more Daring Fireballs. We have Daring Fireball already. People who read it have little reason to read anyone else’s minimally differentiated clone.”

  2. Use the right medium. Link posts should require at least a short paragraph (i.e., more than 140 characters) to unpack. If a tweet (or a tweetshot) can sum up my thoughts, then those thoughts belong on Twitter.
  3. Avoid ubiquitous links. One thing I appreciate about the work of Jason Kottke (another long-time link blogger)? He somehow surfaces content I didn’t find anywhere else. Too many link blogs regurgitate the same links that every other writer already covered ad nauseum. Unless I can raise the level of discourse or contribute a truly unique take, I’m just rehashing—and doing my readers a disservice.