Toward a theory of “Assorted links”

by on May 21, 2009 at 11:29 am in Education | Permalink

Brad DeLong and Matt Yglesias, trendsetters of the blogosphere if there were any, are assembling "assorted links" once a day or so.  As do I and Yves Smith, not to mention the Herculean efforts of Mark Thoma.

Does anyone click on these things or do you simply wish to feel you have experienced a more comprehensive menu of what you have refused to learn?

A second-order question is whether or not I should care about the answer to the first query.

1 ortega May 21, 2009 at 11:33 am

Being a dilettante economist, assorted links is one of my favourite dishes of the menu.

2 . May 21, 2009 at 11:40 am

I stopped clicking on these links for most part after it felt like you increased the frequency of these “Assorted Links” posts.

3 Jacob Wintersmith May 21, 2009 at 11:44 am

Your lists of links are often annoyingly enigmatic. It’d be nice to give the reader some idea of what they will find by following a link.

4 Drucker May 21, 2009 at 11:48 am

I imagine the assorted links as things you find interesting, but you don’t have enough time or content to turn into a full post. Its a good source of information, but I hope if at a later point you do have enough time or content to make a full post about it having previously posted it as a link won’t stop you.

5 law student May 21, 2009 at 11:52 am

I love the assorted links. Thanks for them.

6 RV May 21, 2009 at 11:58 am

Yes.
Yes.

7 JSIS May 21, 2009 at 12:01 pm

yes. no.

8 PaulNoonan May 21, 2009 at 12:04 pm

I click on them almost every day.

9 londenio May 21, 2009 at 12:08 pm

I like the assorted links and usually click through. I prefer informative titles. My click-through rate to non-informative titles has been decreasing as the number of assorted links increased over time.

10 John May 21, 2009 at 12:13 pm

I always follow them. One of my favorite blogs (abnormalreturns.com) happens to just be a series of daily links to other blogs.

11 d.cous. May 21, 2009 at 12:15 pm

“Assorted Links” is my second favorite continuing series on MR, behind “Markets in Everything” (which is itself sometimes contained in “Assorted Links”).

I often don’t click all of the links, but I don’t order everything on a menu, either.

Assuming that you’re blogging at least partially for your readers’ benefit, there should probably be some point at which you care whether or not anyone clicks the links. I’m not sure what that point should be, though.

12 Michael May 21, 2009 at 12:18 pm

I click about half of them. As for a menu of what I refuse to learn, I generally forget what links were there that I didn’t interest me, and therefore didn’t click.

Where time and comparative advantage permit you to make a useful comment for your readers, you should do so.

I would go back and read your own post from back in 2003:

http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2003/10/the_future_of_b.html

13 Bob Montgomery May 21, 2009 at 12:19 pm

I enjoy them and follow some of them.

One thing I don’t like about them is that the resulting comment thread is generally very disjointed since there are multiple topics for discussion happening at the same time.

Should you care whether we follow them? Well, why do you post them?

14 Joshua Allen May 21, 2009 at 12:20 pm

I often follow your assorted links, not so much other people’s. My trust that the links will be interesting is something that builds over time.

In a hopelessly reductionist interpretation, your desire to get a millisecond of deference from a stranger in response to your signal is a vestige of evolution from the times when we lived in smaller groups, and everyone was a potential mate or rival. Even if you accept this absurdly reductionist explanation as wholly explaining your motives for posting assorted links, you might still consider it rational. You need only revise upward (dramatically) the size of your mating pool. :-)

15 Chris May 21, 2009 at 12:21 pm

I follow your assorted links avidly. I read over half of them. I have no problem with the enigmatic titles. Sometimes no title can do the linked article justice.
Thanks for bringing a whole world of knowledge to my proverbial doorstep, Tyler!

16 Todd Fletcher May 21, 2009 at 12:21 pm

I look forward to them.

17 Jake May 21, 2009 at 12:23 pm

(Notice: I missed the captcha. I think that was the problem alluded to above, which now makes no sense. Genuine apologies for that.)

Does anyone click on these things or do you simply wish to feel you have experienced a more comprehensive menu of what you have refused to learn?

I click on them fairly regularly and even occasionally use one in a links post on one of the two blogs I write/contribute to. Indeed, I got the idea of links posts from here, the Elegant Variation, and other blogs; see, for example, this post concerning ARRA funding and the like on Grant Writing Confidential. In The Story’s Story, however, I snagged a link from MR for April Links: EBooks, Zombies, Writing, and more.

Relatively few people follow the links, at least relative to the number who read them. Maybe this is because they’re most interested in the short summaries/extracts I usually post than in the full articles themselves.

Still, although I post the links chiefly for readers, I also do so for myself as a record of what I’ve been reading or thinking about. In the case of GWC, they also sometimes become citations I go back when writing proposals.

18 Jim May 21, 2009 at 12:24 pm

I was just discussing this topic the other day, and have often thought about dropping a line to Thoma and DeLong about the lengths of their Assorted Links. MR and Freakonomics are really good about limiting their assorted links to a few choice nuggets, and I almost always find these links interesting. Thoma and DeLong have lists of links that are so long that I usually just don’t read through them. Thoma, who I have high respect for, uses his Assorted Links like a Google Reader- e.g. listing every Olivia Judson article that comes on her blog.

19 William May 21, 2009 at 12:26 pm

I’m bothered by links because I don’t know how they are generated. I mainly look at Thoma’s links and yours, and they seem to come from such diverse sources that I really feel like I need to know how you discovered them.

If you read all the blogs up to a level of obscurity of the most obscure blog you link, there couldn’t be enough time in your day to read them all. I don’t think there is more time in your day than in mine. So I wonder about what filtering process.

I like the links, but “assorted links” is, for me, one of the greatest blogging mysteries.

20 bovis May 21, 2009 at 12:28 pm

I read your blog not because of your posts that consider theories about the American economy or the auto industry but because of your posts about ideas that may be considered off kilter. I am not an economist and I do not wish to be. Original thought and in-depth analysis keep me coming back. Two of my favorites are “Why doesn’t God save everyone” and “When to say ‘I love you.'” In a sense, what I gravitate toward is the rational explanation of the irrational.

Your take on such topics is always refreshing and insightful. This makes me trust that simple, one-or-two word links will be worthwhile. They are also a nice change of pace, allowing me to digest an outside article before receiving anyone’s opinion on the matter. Please, keep them coming.

If anyone would like to read them, here are links to my favorites:

http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2007/11/when-to-say-i-l.html

http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2006/11/why_doesnt_god_.html

21 Bilbo Baggins May 21, 2009 at 12:33 pm

I don’t know click on half of them as often as I should like; and I like less than half of what I click on half as well as the links deserve.

22 DJH May 21, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Simply obeying every exhortation to “read the whole thing” when articles are lovingly excerpted and powerfully recommended would consume every hour of web reading I could muster, given even a fairly narrow range of recommending blogs.

I cannot imagine who has enough time to additionally pursue articles simply on the strength of the headlines.

23 Ed May 21, 2009 at 12:38 pm

I don’t like assorted links, but I click on about 10% of them.

This is probably irrational, but I think if you blog, and you find some interesting internet content, you should be able to generate a few paragraphs explaining the content and why you found it interesting. Is there such a thing as interesting enough to provide a link, but not interesting enough for a blog post? How about one or two sentences of description? It seems that the reader is doing too much of the work.

However I occasionally send friends emails with links to material I think they will find interesting. But then I am not a blogger and I don’t do this every day.

I do find that the reader comments on the assorted links posts are quite often more interesting than the reader comments on the “real” blog posts. Maybe this is due to the commentators reacting to a wider range of material. Assorted links posts might create an interdiscplinary dynamic lacking from more focused blog posts. Maybe we need more unfocused blog posts.

24 Cole May 21, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Why haven’t you install tracking software already? It would answer all your questions.

25 Nartin May 21, 2009 at 12:44 pm

“you find some interesting internet content, you should be able to generate a few paragraphs explaining the content and why you found it interesting”

I view assorted links more as the digital equivalent of a nudge from a companion on a city street. ‘Hey, look at that’! Paragraphs of explication would often be superfluous.

26 Steve Roth May 21, 2009 at 12:52 pm

–Does anyone click on these things

I usually don’t even open those posts. Do occasionally, and occasionally click a link.

I come here for your commentary–even a sentence or two attached to the link can tell me whether it might be interesting to me. Think: annotated bibliography.

–A second-order question is whether or not I should care about the answer to the first query.

That depends entirely on your goals, and thus enters into the whole field of blog/linkonomics.

27 a student May 21, 2009 at 1:03 pm

yes yes

28 fmb May 21, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Assorted other commenters: he might not care whether we follow them *so long as* (for example) we “wish to feel you have experienced a more comprehensive menu of what [we] have refused to learn.” In other words, if we like the links posts despite not following the links themselves, it’s possible TC shouldn’t care.

I click anywhere from 0-5, though not infrequently I reject a link after clicking through.

Many of my thoughts already expressed: Short list is useful. More accurate descriptions would generally be helpful, though the appreciation for cryptic/clever descriptions also resonates.

I guess particularly when linking to a blogger I might already read everything by, it would be nice to flag that. It’s nice to see that you thought a particular Kling post was worth linking to, but I don’t need the actual link, I’ll read it eventually anyway.

One way I find it useful is that it creates an imperfect but not useless outlet for MR cravings. I read all posts and usually 0-1 links, but if that’s not enough then I can materially increase time spent with MR by reading all the links.

A barely related thought: when you explicitly request comments, or more generally get an interesting comment thread, an update in the post a couple of days later with a quick summary of what you gleaned from the comments would be cool (though perhaps boring for you). I often see an interesting bleg, but rarely check back 2 days later to read through all the comments and learn the consensus.

29 David May 21, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Yes, I like the assorted links very much and often follow them. But I don’t think you should necessarily care about this. Regardless of whether a given reader likes to follow the links or not, they are certainly getting the message that you are one eclectic dude who thinks about a lot of different stuff. Just knowing that you’re looking at all this stuff will hopefully make your material more interesting to keep up on. So long as you want to keep reinforcing that message, keep ’em coming. And I’ll happily continue to be an ancillary beneficiary.

30 Ron K Jeffries May 21, 2009 at 1:23 pm

I enjoy and find useful the links from you, also Yves and Paul Kedrosky. My day is limited to 24 hrs, unfortunately, so more is not better.

As someone else suggested, I’d MUCH prefer each link be published as a stand alone item to make my Google Reader workflow flow better.

31 Tim Gray May 21, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Make me part of the amen corner: I love “assorted links” on Marginal Revo. and typically click on at least one; sometimes, more than one.

32 John May 21, 2009 at 1:36 pm

If I’m busy, I only select the most interesting to me. Otherwise, I usually click on all of them, at least briefly.

33 Mark May 21, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Definitely use assorted links at DeLong, Thoma and your site. Don’t visit Yglesias. They produce some of the most interesting reading I do.

34 Hussein May 21, 2009 at 2:05 pm

For me too, assorted links is one of my favorite parts of this blog. I click on most (80%) of them.

35 Andrew May 21, 2009 at 2:10 pm

More puffin!

36 Alex J. May 21, 2009 at 2:23 pm

The assorted links present a time management challenge to me. I can read a short post in a couple minutes, but even skimming all of the interesting links takes much longer. The assorted links posts pile up in my reader waiting to be processed unlike all of the other posts. (Video links used to pile up for me, but I just skip them now.)

37 Jack May 21, 2009 at 2:34 pm

I love your assorted links.

38 missmarketcrash May 21, 2009 at 2:49 pm

yes. love your links. Sometimes the titles are the best part….

39 Randy McDonald May 21, 2009 at 3:00 pm

I’ve been posting collections of assorted blog links every Friday morning for the past couple of years, and the feedback I’ve gotten from them is positive.

40 Mike Giberson May 21, 2009 at 3:12 pm

You linked to a post of mine at Knowledge Problem in an “Assorted Links” list.

I can report that many of your readers did click through to my post (and perhaps 10-20 percent clicked through to a related, more in depth post on the topic).

41 James Kwak May 21, 2009 at 3:26 pm

I rarely follow assorted links. I already use a set of blogs to filter down the nearly infinite list of things I could read. If a blogger that I use as a filter thinks something is good enough to put in assorted links, but not good enough for a standalone post, then I assume it’s not worth my time – in part since I don’t have enough time even to read all the posts on the blogs I use as filters. The only exception would be if there is a comment like, “Read it – I have nothing to add.”

42 margaret May 21, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Sometimes I especially click the ones that have no explanation. Sometimes I don’t. But there is some probability of a finding a gem that makes it worthwhile, kind of like a low-cost lotto. For instance, rattraders.com. I have gotten hours of entertainment from that, days even. After the rattraders.com link, I follow Assorted Links much more carefully.

43 kc May 21, 2009 at 3:45 pm

I love assorted links.

44 right side of the river May 21, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Assorted links and Markets in everything are my two favorite things about your blog.

45 Jim Gannon May 21, 2009 at 4:19 pm

I enjoy them and click on many.

http://www.reason.com/blog also has good assorted links posts.

46 Jason May 21, 2009 at 4:30 pm

I enjoy them.

47 Brendan Keleher May 21, 2009 at 4:35 pm

I visit the links.

48 Zach May 21, 2009 at 4:43 pm

I generally click on 1 of the assorted links per post.

49 Daran May 21, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Follow links if topic sounds interesting, usually bookmark the target if content is generally of interest and well written. If the target stays interesting and has regular output it may be promoted to the RSS feeds.

50 CThorm May 21, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Get a free Google Analytics account and just start tagging the URLs when you post them. It’s Easy and you’ll get data to answer your questions. If you really want to blow your mind, implement it on your blog and you can view a “heat map” view showing where people are clicking on your site, even if it isn’t a live link.

51 Diogo May 21, 2009 at 6:04 pm

I love the assorted links. Please, keep them coming.

52 Larry May 21, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Please keep providing links.

53 Stephen Bank May 21, 2009 at 7:18 pm

I love assorted links posts. Although right now my “Read it later” folder is stocked up with linked articles.

54 sharath May 21, 2009 at 7:38 pm

Very much. I would think they are at least as good as your average posts.

55 Ward May 21, 2009 at 8:02 pm

There is so much information out there that it is great to find people like you who filter me into interesting stuff. Thanks. I read them all the time.

56 CJS May 21, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Basically the only reason I look at nakedcapitalism is for the assorted links and to skim the other posts for interested tidbits. I also like the assorted links here at MR, though I read all the other posts, too.

What it is difficult to do with an assorted links post is to get a good comment thread. I doubt that affects whether you care whether we care about assorted links…

57 Kat May 21, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Yes; most of the links you select are interesting to me, so I continue to follow them. (But I have little patience with bloggers who only link to the same few things everyone else is linking to, and generally stop reading those blogs altogether.)

Should you care? I assume you post them so others will see them, since you’ve already seen them yourself, so it would seem somewhat silly for you not to care…

58 Jacqueline May 21, 2009 at 9:20 pm

I like it when you link to puffins.

59 Phil May 21, 2009 at 9:58 pm

I agree with Jacob. I wish I had a better idea of what the link was before deciding whether or not to click.

60 Chris May 21, 2009 at 11:29 pm

I follow some of the links if your little blurb leaves me intrigued.

As to whether you should care – that entirely depends on why you are posting them. Are you posting to increase google rankings or expanding readership? Then certainly.

If it is just because you like sharing things you find interesting – then absolutely not.

61 Jeff May 21, 2009 at 11:58 pm

Keep going with the assorted links, please. I click over 50% and probably read half of the linked articles all the way through.

62 YSK May 22, 2009 at 12:07 am

Yes, Yes.
There is a lot to read out there. By clicking on the links I am trusting your judgment in providing your readers a good eclectic selection.

63 Yarotsky May 22, 2009 at 2:49 am

I love links!

64 c0wb0yz May 22, 2009 at 8:07 am

I am a fan. Two remarks though. On the one hand, I like the simplicity of your enigmatic presentation. On the other hand, more context would be welcomed. See Tim O’Reilly : http://radar.oreilly.com/2009/05/four-short-links-21-may-2009.html

65 nate May 22, 2009 at 9:20 am

aren’t all blogs really just assorted links? (with varied levels of adding “2 cents”)

66 Will May 22, 2009 at 10:28 am

I enjoy them and usually open them all.

And I would guess that the links will be better if you don’t care if readers follow them.

67 Douglas Knight May 22, 2009 at 11:11 am

Since you do it to signal your breadth, no, you shouldn’t care much whether we actually click. But you might find a more efficient way to signal. (Yes, I do click.)

68 anon May 22, 2009 at 4:18 pm

abnormal returns is a daily read…i read 100% of the links and it really depends how many i click through.

69 raivo pommer-eesti May 22, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Vaclav Klaus, the President of the Czech Republic, chairs the delegation of the European Union at the EU-Russia summit in Khabarovsk. The Russian-speaking politician conducted successful reforms to establish capitalism instead of socialism in his country. However, the European Union sees the Czech leader as a politician who impedes the process of the European integration. Klaus has never released any anti-Russian statements, despite the problem of the notorious US missile defense system.

BREAKING NEWS
Russia-EU relations reach peak of tension

Meet Russia’s Pamela Anderson – Anfisa Chekhova
More…

Klaus is considered the prime adversary of the European integration. His counterparts did not want him to chair the European Union six months ago. Vaclav Klaus refused to introduce the euro in his country. He was the only European politician, who welcomed the results of the Lisbon Treaty referendum in Ireland in 2008 (the EU Constitution thus remained unchanged).

In February, Klaus compared the European Union to the USSR, when he said that the EU had become a non-democratic structure that left no freedom of choice, similarly to communist regimes of Eastern Europe.

Vaclav Klaus is probably the most prominent politician in Europe’s former socialist camp during the recent 15 years. He became the finance minister of the Czech and Slovak Federative Republics after the collapse of socialism in 1989. Klaus became the president of the Czech Republic in 2003 and was reelected last year.

Vaclav Klaus’s reforms to change the political and economic regimes in the country were absolutely painless. Czech cars are competitive and reputable in Europe; the country’s agriculture can fully supply the nation with high-quality and inexpensive food. The Czechs do not travel to neighboring states for earnings as it happens in most of other countries of the former socialist camp. The living standard in the Czech Republic has become higher than that in Poland, Hungary and in the Baltic States.

In the beginning of the 1990s, Klaus wanted to make his country become a NATO member. However, he harshly criticized the wars in Yugoslavia and Iraq in 1999 and in 2003. He also stood up against Kosovo’s independence. He repeatedly supported the idea to deploy elements of the US missile defense system in the Czech Republic, although he did not take any efforts to give the process a go.

Klaus’s attitude to Russia has been changing periodically. He was a totally pro-Western politician in the beginning of the 1990s. As soon as he became the president, he said that he did not share anti-Russian sentiments of his predecessor, Vaclav Havel. Klaus has never said anything negative about Russia during the recent six years. When Georgia attacked South Ossetia in 2008, the Czech president stated that Georgia should not be justified for its actions.

On May 13 Klaus set out a protest against the attempts to rewrite the history of Second World War and urged other leaders not to blacken the role of the USSR and Russia in the history of the 20th century.

Vaclav Klaus can considerably improve the relations between Russia and the European Union. However, his European counterparts may not want it at all.

70 Alllison May 22, 2009 at 6:30 pm

In general, I think bloggers post (and especially, re-post) assorted links too much, without adding any analysis. Long excerpts don’t qualify as analysis. On my own site, I try not to re-post links from bloggers big enough that my readers have probably seen them already, except when I have analysis to add. (Of course, in my case, that’s complicated slightly by the fact that my readership comes from two almost entirely distinct blogospheres, and I’m trying to cross-polinate.)

The top bloggers do have a unique role as content filters, however. You have a large enough readership that for many of your readers you will be a first source of a link, even a popular one. That makes them worthwhile, I think. I do find them a big enigmatic, though – an average of, say, three more words per link might save me a lot of time clicking on things that I’m not interested in. The current format has a certain visual appeal, though.

71 Steve Myers May 23, 2009 at 10:26 am

I never click on assorted links (OK almost never). I prefer the short lead-in that I get in my Google Reader. If intrigued with the beginning I read the rest.

72 Vera te Velde May 24, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Yours are the only “assorted links” posts that I pay attention to, due to their simultaneous eclecticism and high percentage of interesting content. Too often economic bloggers all link to the same stories and to each other in a flurry of redundancy that is aggravating to try to ignore. Don’t change what you’re doing.

73 matt May 26, 2009 at 7:13 pm

absolutely i click on those that grab me, nearly every day. i scan most but will read a handful on the bus each week. but there is a link limit of a list that’s useful: i think 5-10 is probably about right. less than that and it feels like you’re trying to point me to or plugging for each (turn off), more than that and i move on (tune out).

74 Braden May 27, 2009 at 6:15 pm

I frequently click them, particularly the more miscellaneous stuff like corvid intelligence. I also would prefer slightly more descriptive link text.

75 ZKO June 4, 2009 at 6:57 am

I came here following a link from the Free Exchange blog of the economist. The daily link collections are valuable because I use them to trace interesting economic background topics/stories. And in my humble opinion, Yves Smith wasted the page by adding guest posts which seem … uninteresting, written by people who try to sell theirs views – compared with these guest articles, the daily link post is much more interesting.

Click rate: 40% of all

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