Some great advice on how to start your own business online! 
For more information please visit

Linking and thinking

Steven Den Beste, on his now sadly defunct blog USS Clueless, supported the notion that the blogging community is divided mainly into "linkers" and "thinkers": Linkers, as the name implies, link to other stuff out there on the Internet, while thinkers write longer pieces setting forth their own personal views and theories.

There's clearly a distinction between link-heavy bloggers like Glenn Reynolds or Wes Roth, and essayists like James Lileks or Bill Whittle. But I've never much liked the "linkers versus thinkers" dichotomy.

First, it implies that linkers don't do much thinking. It seems to me that the very act of selecting links itself takes careful thought; otherwise we'd all be reading Google News, where stories are chosen by a mechanical algorithm. The popularity of Instapundit has something to do with the self-reinforcing nature of power laws, but it's also a testament to Prof. Reynolds' ability to select interesting links, and quickly place them in a relevant context. (And of course, he also writes longer pieces for other websites.)

Second, it unduly exalts bloggers who write long. While Den Beste and Whittle have frequently produced insightful, thought-provoking pieces, I'm not ready to add them to the canon of great Western philosophers. Calling them "thinkers", while strictly accurate (they do think about stuff, after all), strikes me as pompous.

And finally, it creates a false dichotomy between two ends of the spectrum. Few blogs are either purely a list of links or a series of essays. Most of them (including the blog you're reading right now) fall somewhere in the middle.

One of my own personal blogging guidelines is to avoid posts that merely link to another blog or news story, and say, in effect, "Go read this!" I try to make every post add something original to what's already out there.

Sometimes, that means doing a little investigating, or making an original point not directly related to any particular article elsewhere on the Web.

Other times, it means critiquing an article in point-by-point fashion, or comparing and contrasting two different events.

And often, it just means adding something as simple as a quick observation, a group of photos, or a snarky comment.

Actually, looking back over my old posts, I'm pretty heavy on the snarky comments. But at any rate, I want readers to feel like they got something from reading about the story here, that they wouldn't have found somewhere else.

One unfortunate side effect of this philosophy is that I end up not writing about a lot of interesting developments, either because I don't feel I have anything original to add, or because fleshing out an entire post would take too much time. Some examples of the dozens, even hundreds of old stories that fell by the wayside include:

•  The fallout from an accident at a major Tokyo shopping center where a six-year-old boy was crushed to death by a revolving door

•  Research that suggests attacks on ancient Japan were foiled not by a "divine wind", or kamikaze, but by the invading Mongols' own poorly-built ships

•  Giant Hello Kitty crop circles near Stonehenge, visible from planes taking off and landing at London's Heathrow Airport

In addition, there are other "thinker"-style posts I'm working on that aren't particularly time-sensitive and will, I hope, eventually see the light of day. And I'm also considering whether to include a sort of "catch-up" post every now and then that would point out interesting links I haven't had time to discuss.

But I'm not going to try to be another Instapundit. And I don't have it in me to churn out full essays all the time.

I'm trying to strike the right balance, and I hope the results are worthwhile.


Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I don't have the same feeling for the word "thinker" as you do. To be added to the Western Canon, you have to be a GREAT thinker, but there are lots of thinkers out there who will never make the Canon. It's the difference between being an artist and being a great artist. At least, that's my feeling for it. In any case, I certainly think your results have been worthwhile. 

Posted by a guy in pajamas

Anonymous said...


Posted by GaijinBiker



Powered by Blogger.