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.

ortega May 21, 2009 at 11:33 am

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

. 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.

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.

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.

law student May 21, 2009 at 11:52 am

I love the assorted links. Thanks for them.

RV May 21, 2009 at 11:58 am


JSIS May 21, 2009 at 12:01 pm

yes. no.

PaulNoonan May 21, 2009 at 12:04 pm

I click on them almost every day.

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.

John May 21, 2009 at 12:13 pm

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

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.

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:

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?

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. :-)

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!

Todd Fletcher May 21, 2009 at 12:21 pm

I look forward to them.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

Cole May 21, 2009 at 12:40 pm

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

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.

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.

a student May 21, 2009 at 1:03 pm

yes yes

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Andrew May 21, 2009 at 2:10 pm

More puffin!

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.)

Jack May 21, 2009 at 2:34 pm

I love your assorted links.

missmarketcrash May 21, 2009 at 2:49 pm

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

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.

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).

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.”

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, I have gotten hours of entertainment from that, days even. After the link, I follow Assorted Links much more carefully.

kc May 21, 2009 at 3:45 pm

I love assorted links.

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.

Jim Gannon May 21, 2009 at 4:19 pm

I enjoy them and click on many. also has good assorted links posts.

Jason May 21, 2009 at 4:30 pm

I enjoy them.

Brendan Keleher May 21, 2009 at 4:35 pm

I visit the links.

Zach May 21, 2009 at 4:43 pm

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

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.

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.

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