Posting links to articles is something that used to be done on Twitter, but Twitter is an inferior medium compared to one’s own website.1 As a growing number of sites are little more than an updated stream of links pointing elsewhere, it’s helpful to have some guidelines for how to do this well. Here are The Rules.
- It’s in your power to change the headline of what you’re linking to, but you don’t have to.
- Never post a link to something and quote it without giving your commentary, be it ever so brief. People know how to find articles on their own. Your opinion is the salt that makes it worthwhile coming from you. That’s the whole point. As per Rule 1, if you do choose to change the headline of what you’re linking to, then that counts as feedback, and your job is done if you wish for it to be.
- It’s often fun to link to things that are controversial. Every controversy has at least two sides. Do your due diligence so you’re at least aware of the gist of both sides, for both sides will eventually read it. This awareness is much much harder than it looks, because confirmation bias is strong. The copout is to link with no commentary, but that would be breaking Rule 2.
- Strive to maintain a whimsical slackness. Don’t pull the rope too tight. It’s often tempting to sit on a high horse. This medium lends itself to that. Resist it. Don’t strain at the speck in your brother’s eye. When it’s time to call someone out, make sure it’s serious, and then hold nothing back. Be right, and speak your mind.
- There are two ways to call someone out: publicly and privately. Don’t ever mix the two. If it’s public, talk about them, not at them. Don’t make an open letter addressed to an individual or a company. Don’t publish a public piece and then private message or email them about it. Let them find it on their own, or not. If you actually want to have a critical conversation with someone, talk to them privately, and don’t say anything publicly about it on your site. Keep these lines crisp.
- Never say something just because you think it looks good on screen—you have to mean it. If Software X has a bug that you think is worth pointing out, don’t say you hope to learn how they fixed it. Just say you hope they fix it.2
- Know when to break The Rules.
- There are only two things that Twitter facilitates that a pairing of a commentless site and email can’t: the exchange of public dialog, and searcheability for breaking news at ground zero. The former is the most cringe-worthy aspect of social media. It’s an aspect we can do without. The latter contains true value and will be the only real tragedy if Twitter goes away, but that has nothing to do with the matter at hand, the matter of posting links to articles. A post can do a better job of this than can a tweet. ↩︎
- Unless, of course, you really are curious what the problem was, but expect no one to believe you. ↩︎