Kicks Condor

Reply: The Web Finally Feels New Again

Joe Jenett

I recently came across a Pinboard user’s note on a bookmark: “Overly commercial tone but looks useful.” That simple note made me think about the web and linking and what it all means to me.

(Joe’s full article is here.)

Yes, here we are again—I think what you’re saying is that even a single-line annotation of a link, even just a few words of human curation do wonders when you’re out discovering the world. (Perhaps even more than book recommendations—where we know that at least we can rely on certain publishers and editors to vet their publications—I’m a big fan of the Dalkey Archive[1], for instance—but we have no idea the quality of writings out on the Internet at large and are desperately reliant on these annotations in the field.)

Pinboard is doing everything right in that regard—of course, it cribs from Delicious before it—giving hyperlinkers an appropriate amount of meta-dressing to put around their link: tags, description, search tools. However, it misses out on the kind of visual styling and layouts that you, Joe, get to enjoy. (I really like how you batch up links for the day, similar to how h0p3 does it.)

I think another of my lingering questions is: what are we really doing here? When I look at h0p3’s links, he’s trying to catalog his discoveries for the day completely—at least, I don’t think he edits this list. You also mention in your essay that you ‘curate links for my own ongoing use’. Whereas I tend to ‘advertise’ links more, to bring attention to the parts of the web that I want to survive.

So it’s more natural for me to work towards a final directory of links, a hub of all the nodes that I want to see connected. I want these individuals to be aware of each other. I see your Linkport as being a type of directory; I wonder to what extent you are doing this as well—and I wonder what kinds of collaborations we could get going between our directories. You do say that ‘people finding me and finding some of my links enjoyable’ is a secondary goal. I guess another angle I keep alluding to is the benefit you give to the authors behind the links you’re publishing—this type of work is a tremendous gift to them.

Along these lines: I see link duplication as being an interesting thing—clearly we don’t all just want the same links, but I think it will be interesting to see how much overlap there is. I also really like, for example, when David Crawshaw’s article last week got linked by h0p3, Brad, Eli, other microbloggers—it made me feel like we were trying to send some kind of concentrated transmission to the author—linking as a greeting, links as an invitation.

With time, many personal sites and blogs disappeared from the web as people flocked to the big silos where their content became a heavily monitized commodity. To me, the web had lost much of its soul as people gathered in just a few, huge noise chambers. […]

Current trends and a rebirth of personal blogging certainly make the type of curation I do much easier, thank you. Had it not been for that stimulating conversation, I probably would not have been writing this.

It’s interesting to me that the corpypastas had this kind of effect. Because they actually eased publishing and participation for so many people. Facebook is a type of gated community—so I see why it had this kind of effect. But it’s interesting that Twitter and Instagram also dampened the growth of the web. I hazard that perhaps this was simply because their game was best played by their rules—an external link to Twitter wouldn’t show up in your ‘likes’ whereas a like from another tweet was fully realized by the author and the… err… liker.

And I don’t want to chalk this up to mere ego—the author and the liker could see each other from across the Internet. And that is valuable. This is also what is assisting us with—we have our blogs, but it is a useful capsule pipeline, so that we can get to each other clearly. (This is why I’m not just linking to your blog post and waiting for you to notice somehow—this communication structure that we’re using here is very useful to us, even if I can almost guarantee that this post is going to be flattened into a massive paragraph by No problemo—I’m just glad to have a direct line to you, Joe!)

Regarding another thing Kicks asked about: Aside from evolving html, accessibility, and design standards and practices, I’m really not sure if linking, in general, has changed over the years. I’ve been doing it the same since day one. But that’s just me.

For me, I do find that Webmentions are really enhancing linking—by offering a type of bidirectional hyperlink. I think if they could see widespread use, we’d see a Renaissance of blogging on the Web. Webmentions are just so versatile—you can use them to commment, you an form ad-hoc directories with them, you can identify yourself to a wider community. I really feel like they are a useful modernization.

But I like that you are true to the linking you’ve always done. It still works. It’s an ideal that we fell away from I guess.

  1. The Third Policeman, of course! But also: Heartsnatcher by Boris Vian (just my kind of meandering, vexing thing), Writers by Antoine Volodine. And soon I will get into Impressions of Africa by Raymond Roussel. ↩︎

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