How I Share Links

I rarely share links. When I do it hap­pens in spurts while I’m rac­ing through Google Read­er or Flip­board. I gen­er­al­ly don’t share much. I don’t real­ly retweet that much either, and I think I know why.

I don’t like “viral” content.

There. I’ve said it. In my years as a music crit­ic and edi­tor I was frus­trat­ed when I the same sto­ries and angles every­where. But that was just a func­tion of the news cycle and part of the mat­u­ra­tion of the news out­lets we came to know as blogs. Viral con­tent does the same thing, but fric­tion­less shar­ing enables an alto­geth­er dif­fer­ent kind of expo­sure to the iden­ti­cal piece of con­tent, most­ly with­out com­ment. There’s no avoid­ing it. It infil­trates every chan­nel, social or oth­er­wise. If you spend any time on the Inter­net, you’re haunt­ed by meme after meme. It’s awe­some and fun the first time, but then it quick­ly becomes that pop song you can’t escape all summer.

Yet those pieces of con­tent are what you’re expect­ed to share because as much as any­thing else, when you share a link you’re let­ting peo­ple know you’re in on the joke. It’s the lat­est end­point in the ongo­ing Inter­net phe­nom­e­non of “firsties,” which is dif­fer­ent from, say, a “scoop” because there’s no report­ing involved.

See, to me, link shar­ing is noth­ing more than con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion. Ele­vat­ing it to “cura­tion” is just a joke. When you share a link, all you’re real­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ing is “look what I’ve seen.” To me, this is like invit­ing peo­ple to your dorm room to wow them with your music or books. Chances are, plen­ty of peo­ple have those albums or books, just like lots of peo­ple will see a link to a par­tic­u­lar piece of con­tent. There’s noth­ing espe­cial­ly cura­to­r­i­al to it. “Cura­tion” is sim­ply a func­tion of reach or author­i­ty and the leisure time to read and share. It does­n’t mat­ter if you cre­at­ed the piece of con­tent, or if you were even the first to share it. What mat­ters is that peo­ple per­ceive you as the first per­son to share it, there­by cement­ing your sta­tus as a curator.

But that’s not even the worst part of cura­tion. The worst is when you find your­self being tricked into read­ing arti­cles in famil­iar sources. Sure, some of it is a piece of clever copy with a good call-to-action. No shame in that; it’s a lost art. But when most of what’s being shared is in obscure pub­li­ca­tions like the New York Times, well, then, how exact­ly are you curat­ing one of the best edit­ed pub­li­ca­tions in the world?

Increas­ing­ly though that skill, name­ly, get­ting peo­ple to click on links, is online cur­ren­cy, mea­sured by ser­vices like Klout and Kred. Pub­lish­ers and con­tent cre­ators should rejoice; nev­er before in the his­to­ry of the web have peo­ple been so incen­tivized to share con­tent online. But the prob­lem is we’re gam­i­fy­ing a prac­tice that reduces us all to click­bots cir­cu­lat­ing the same con­tent in 24 hour shifts.

When I read the web, I want to read and look at things that were shared thought­ful­ly and mean­ing­ful­ly about a vari­ety of top­ics, not just some­one opti­miz­ing their social pro­file by shar­ing the most pop­u­lar item of the day. To me the vari­ety of con­tent is what makes read­ing the web spe­cial. I’d hate to see that sort of con­tent dec­i­mat­ed by the push for pageviews.

Now I’ll share a link that express­es very clear­ly how I feel about cura­tion. I LOVED this arti­cle over at The Awl, espe­cial­ly the part about “ ‘peo­ple who are real­ly picky with what they share on Facebook.’ ”

Readers Crave Destinations

Last Decem­ber I offered my two cents on what’s hap­pen­ing with blog­ging in response to Jere­mi­ah Owyang’s provoca­tive post that pro­nounced the gold­en era of tech blog­ging dead. Now, I’m not sure how peo­ple feel about that a few months on, but some­thing that’s stuck with me is how we gath­er infor­ma­tion online today. Sure, we’re hav­ing lots of “con­ver­sa­tions,” but read­ers still crave destinations.

Good writ­ers know that in order to get any­one to look at any­thing online, you need a hook. When we share links on Twit­ter and Face­book, they’re only inter­est­ing if you can tease peo­ple to click into the sto­ry. We’re all writ­ing head­lines for every­thing we share with the online com­mu­ni­ty. To me that means we still need blogs, websites…anywhere you can put lots of words and ideas next to each other.

We like info snack­ing, but we’re real­ly picky eaters. Giv­en the amount of infor­ma­tion that’s out there it’s only fair that read­ers only sam­ple what they like at the con­tent buf­fet. But make no mis­take, cura­tion takes more than the almighty “con­ver­sa­tion.” So, writ­ers, don’t despair: read­ers still crave the yum­my con­tent that’s always made the web great.