I’m working on my linkblog and went looking to other linkblogs for inspiration. Some notes on their data design and presentation. Note that the heydey of a linkblog was in 2003 so a lot of these designs are quite dated. See Cameron Marlowe’s roundup for a bunch of the old ones.
Common data elements (“authored” means the person linkblogging created the data themselves; otherwise it’s from the page being linked or automated.
- URL of page (maybe more than one in a post)
- Authored short description of page (sometimes title of page; not authored)
- Authored extended description of page
- Authored tags
- Date link was created
- Permalink to linkblog post itself
- Image chosen from page (not screenshot)
- Screenshot (only on Hot Links)
- Social media engagement: Tweet this, Tumblr reactions
- Full text comments (on LinkMachineGo)
- “Via” metadata, the source for the link (on Waxy links)
- Morale, positive/negative sentiment (Erik Benson) (I’m doing this now myself and like it a lot.)
To me the defining characteristic of a linkblog is that each post is a single URL. And that the linkblog post itself has no permalink, page view, etc. The point of the linkblog is to point to other stuff, not to be a thing itself. (A key corollary is the RSS feed for a linkblog should have links directly to the destinations, not links to the linkblog posts.) But not all linkblogs are like this; Cal’s is more of a freeform blog, just with very short posts, as is Waxy’s. And there’s a constellation of link-heavy blogs like Today in Tabs or Webcurios.
I’m not thinking of a linkblog as a social conversation. To me it’s a one-way publication.
I think it’s interesting how text-heavy all these linkblogs are, even the modern ones. Hot Links is the only one that had page screenshots / thumbnails. A couple of the modern ones seem to be doing unfurl-like images too, like a youtube embed or a single picture from the page. Mostly text though. My guess is it’s because making images is a hassle.
Here’s some screenshots from modern linkblogs.
And here’s some from O.G. linkblogs (2003ish)
Thoughts for my design
I’m going to stick with the Pinboard data schema. The important elements there are URL, short description, extended description, and tags. I also have a special tag now which indicates sentiment. I’m ambivalent about whether the other tags are useful; the old tagging metadata ethos seems like a failure to me. But I dutifully type six or so random words per link, might as well display them.
What I’m most interested in is what else can I add to a linkblog entry to make it more interesting / convey more about the target. My big wish is for an image: either a screenshot or a Slack/Twitter/Facebook/OpenGraph like unfurl. I’ve been researching how to do that. I also am curious if there’s an AI driven web page summarizer that would be useful. Probably not, and limited to text-heavy links anyway. But worth a look.
As for visual design I’m most inspired by that Hot Links screenshot above. I want to avoid the “list of text links” look although with a fancy layout like Balaji’s (4th modern screenshot) it looks better.
Here’s a list of all the linkblog URLs I looked at for this little survey.