Killer tools for a killer post? March 4, 2012 9:02 AM   Subscribe

What are your techniques and tools for making a killer post? I have a desire to start making somewhat regular mefi posts that have lots of substance and links...

I know I can use bookmarks to do some of the work, but I've also come across PersonalBrain (endorsed by Mr. Connections himself, James Burke)...

What I want to know is if there are any other "knowledge organization"/research tools that can help organize information. Do any of you folks have a preferred research technique/process/flow?

One topic that I'm wanting to do a post on has some seeming scarce source materal online (due to it being in another language) and I'm wondering if hitting up a library and asking a librarian for some help would be a benefit, does anyone ever do that? Is that overkill for a mefi post?
posted by symbioid to MetaFilter-Related at 9:02 AM (53 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

If it's a single-link post: "Oh hey this is cool, let me share that with MetaFilter."

If it's a small bundle of links: "I've been seeing this around before, but this is really nifty. Lemme find those other things in my history and stick them together."

If it's a megapost: "Okay this thing is super mega awesome and I'm going to find literally every single thing that anybody might give a shit about but nobody will actually look at." Then follows a lot of Googling and Youtubing until I find the things I want to find.

I think the trickier thing about a "killer post" is writing it so that people browsing MetaFilter can figure out what the post is about, what the most important links are, and how the other links relate to it. And doing that's basically the same process as writing anything else, only instead of just navigating around thoughts or subjects of interest, you're specifically writing around a series of hyperlinks outward.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:14 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

lots of substance and links... - Substance, yes; lotsa links, no.

Let an FPP flow from you naturally. You should know the topic intimately and the links should almost present themselves with just a bit of Google urging. Craft a lede that excites those in the know and piques the curiosity of the uninitiated.
posted by Ardiril at 9:23 AM on March 4, 2012

There's no formula for making killer posts. That's just crazy talk.
posted by crunchland at 9:26 AM on March 4, 2012 [13 favorites]

When I make big posts, it's usually because something caught my fancy and I've been reading about it on my own for a while, and the post is basically just a big brain dump. I don't think I've ever thought: I'm going to make a big post about X, and then spent several hours researching it. At most, I'll look for a few links to round it out.
posted by empath at 9:29 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a desire to start making somewhat regular mefi posts that have lots of substance and links...

This way lies failure. I make posts when I encounter something that is worthy of being posted, and the rest of the time I don't. I have occasionally made posts a day apart, and sometimes I've gone two months without any post at all.

If you feel compelled to post regularly, then you will end up posting a lot of crap. There's a standard acronym around here: GYOB. It stands for "Get Your Own Blog". If you feel like you need to post regularly, no matter what you're posting, you should do it on your own blog.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:33 AM on March 4, 2012 [7 favorites]

I'm struggling to imagine a post that would require anything more complex than a text file and an editor. Paste in your URLs, write your copy, make some words links.
posted by jack_mo at 9:33 AM on March 4, 2012

I use browser tabs to store links, drag them around to group them appropriately, even use multiple browser windows for top level organization with multiple tabs that I order as I want the links to appear.

Safari lets me save bundles of tabs together and open them together again later, so I can do research, save it, and then bring it all right back up when I want to continue with my search.

I tend to read and re-read things, looking for possible pull-quotes or other avenues of exploration I may want to pursue.

Finally, while creating my post, I compose in the New Post form, and then copy what I've written into TextEdit for storage if I'm not going to be posting right away. When I want to continue, I load up a new New Post form, paste in the work I've done so far into the appropriate input boxes, and continue.

I find it's necessary to put enough above the fold to bring people in to the real meat if I'm making a really lengthy post, so I try to find a way to create a lure which will look enticing when seen on the front page of the Blue.

Also, I've found titles don't matter quite so much (as they aren't displayed on the front page of MetaFilter), so I end up being pretty straightforward with most of my titles to make for easy recognition of the post by search engines and by someone who is doing a keyword search or whatnot within MetaFilter itself.

My last couple of truly epic posts (Falco and Art Of Noise) both took about 6 months of on-and-off research before I started composing the posts, and each took about 20 hours of actual composition once I had figured out what I wanted to present and how I wanted to present it.
posted by hippybear at 9:37 AM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I skip most of the big, narrative posts with dozens of links. They take too much time to read and I honestly don't need that type of storytelling in my fpps. Link lists - say at collection of great videos - are ok, though. Regarding tools, I use a text editor and dump all mefi related things in a single file - that's it.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:56 AM on March 4, 2012

Here's how I wrote this long post on the Apollo 15 stamp incident:

1. Thought it was cool and interesting and wanted to share

2. Thought it was cool and interesting because I had recently read a lot about the Apollo program. Literally every book written by or about a specific astronaut that was in the program, plus about a dozen more. And I'm still not finished reading about the program!

3. Wrote the post first, didn't bother about links, though I had an idea of what to link to. But first, I wrote the post like a story, with beginning, climax and end. Note the hook right before the jump.

4. Went and found links, added them to copy, all the while rewriting the post to make the text fit the tone of the links.

Mind you, I first mentioned the topic in April of 2011, then made a post about it in December of the same year. That's a long lead time, you know?

After all that, I'm still not totally comfortable with the post, as it feels a bit like an academic essay and that's veering towards "Get your own blog" territory. Have considered doing more space/Apollo related posts like that, but again, I'm not sure it's what Metafilter is for and if it's worth the effort. YMMV.

The text was stored on Dropbox in a .txt file, so I could access from either Mac, Windows of Linux computer, depending where I was at the moment.

Also, in December of 2011, I tried to make a post everyday. This was an explicit exercise in finding material to post, as opposed to just waiting for something neat to come across my desk. The quality varied, so keep in mind that wanting to post something may not be as good and posting something good.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:56 AM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have a desire to start making somewhat regular mefi posts that have lots of substance and links...

It's going to be the "EVIL/Badass/Killer Colonel Sanders" meme, right? I can't wait. Be sure to include these eh?

[1] [2] [3] [4]
posted by Meatbomb at 9:59 AM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Missed one.
posted by empath at 10:01 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

symbioid: One topic that I'm wanting to do a post on has some seeming scarce source materal online (due to it being in another language) and I'm wondering if hitting up a library and asking a librarian for some help would be a benefit, does anyone ever do that? Is that overkill for a mefi post?

Do it. The Metafilter front page is only as good as the posts that go on it. I see no downside to going the extra mile, everyone will be the better for it.

Brandon Blatcher: After all that, I'm still not totally comfortable with the post, as it feels a bit like an academic essay and that's veering towards "Get your own blog" territory. Have considered doing more space/Apollo related posts like that, but again, I'm not sure it's what Metafilter is for and if it's worth the effort. YMMV.

That was a great post and a great post for Metafilter, don't give it a second thought. I personally dislike the "get your own blog" mentality---it's trying to encourage posting that's too high-quality to be taken elsewhere. (And not everyone has the steady stream of material that a blog needs to remain viable. They might have, however, a few real gems every once in a while, and putting them on Metafilter is perfect for that. People telling them to GYOB is people telling them not to post at all.)

As for organization: I generally organize my posts in Notepad; occasional I'll build up links (saving them in a draft in Gmail), but more often I'll spend a few hours crafting a post at once. I've never made one of the truly-large posts, so I can't really speak to the structure of those.
posted by Upton O'Good at 10:18 AM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I tend to skip over the huge posts with lots of links, and don’t really see the point. If someone makes a great, interesting post and I want to know more I can search the internet for myself. I find the megaposts to be unfocused, and I can’t tell what the important parts are. I don’t look to this site to fully educate me, it’s really good at pointing out things I didn’t know about.
posted by bongo_x at 10:20 AM on March 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

6 months of on-and-off research before I started composing the posts, and each took about 20 hours of actual composition

Are some of youse guyse PAID for your posts? Neeevermind, 'tude-alert, everyone needs a hobby.
posted by sammyo at 10:31 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

First, be smart from the very beginning.

A very substantial fraction of commenters in your thread will not read any of the links no matter what you do. There is a balance to be found between providing enough context for those commenters to be talking about something related to the topic at hand, while also either little enough that most will read the links or enough that most don't quite need to. This is of course while providing enough context that your post is not mystery meat.

Also, always make sure that there are at least context clues that would allow your reader to know at least roughly what each individual link goes to. A link to each letter within a word is uniquely worthless, at least a sentence fragment is generally best.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:32 AM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I finally made a FPP; was reading a blog I subscribe to by a witty author, the topic was in the news, did a search and found little on mefi. Was surprised when I hit post that it appeared instantly, I thought there was some kind of queue that was reviewed for, well obvious badness.
posted by sammyo at 10:35 AM on March 4, 2012

Well - I find that some people like long posts some like 1 linkers. I appreciate both - I'm not here to argue the merits of what post is good. I've seen plenty of long huge posts get favorites (that is NOT what I'm going for, btw)... I've seen plenty of single-link posts get favorites. I've seen both types of posts praised and trashed. It's all about how well crafted it is (hence, my query).

I'm not looking for a "formula" just some basic ideas of organizing thoughts and research. Each person has their own style of posting, their own personality they can add to a post. They have their own way of sharing info. Nobody can have a "formula" and I want to clarify I'm not looking for that (again: this isn't about "favorites" or being popular -- if it was, based on this thread, I'd just give up and post only single link posts).

And when I say "regular" or "frequent" bear in mind that my last post was like... Feb 2008, and before that it was 2004. So, not even like once a month (Hell I've been tossing this one around for a month in my head and haven't even gotten many links due to the nature of the topic)... Maybe a couple times a year if that. :P

I always see GYOB less as an attack on long well thought out posts and more in "editorial" content. But maybe that's just how I saw it. Regardless, I have my view you have yours. If you skip it, that's great, you're prerogative.

It looks like a lot of folks who do more complex posts just use simple text tools and bookmarks. I guess I'll just fiddle with a variety of approaches (hell, maybe just even notebooks to scribble ideas in)...
posted by symbioid at 10:37 AM on March 4, 2012

I usually either start with something I can to share and flesh out, or I just find something flying around the internet that amuses me and I would like to share. I always try to provide as much context and history as possible and not to bury the lede or do mystery meat stuff

I also sacrifice butterflies and hummingbirds to the Gods of Internet.
posted by The Whelk at 10:57 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I always appreciate through tagging.
posted by The Whelk at 11:03 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh! A genre of post I always like but isn't seen as much is linking to a big, content filled site and then curating a few links from it to give us an example of what's inside. Not exactly complex, but can be time consuming and I like the extra effort shown.
posted by The Whelk at 11:11 AM on March 4, 2012

I feel as though I should say something worthy here yet I sense that someone will come along to say it better than I. I shall wait a little longer.
posted by infini at 11:31 AM on March 4, 2012

There are two fitting subjects for a metafilter post, imo: Links to things which are interesting on their own, about a subject which is interesting to talk about, and the very best metafilter posts are both interesting on their own, and also a good topic for conversation.

For links which are just inherently interesting/enjoyable, I think the structure of the post should generally be to put that link first and foremost, and with as little framing material as you need to include so that a member of the general public would be able to understand it. (This can be hard to gauge, but I tend to go with less-is-more, and if people are still confused, hash it out in the thread.)

For links which are good topics for conversation, I think generally, more is better. Usually the best hook for this kind of thing is a story that's in the news or bouncing around the blogosphere. One should be very careful not to editorialize, and to present as many varied viewpoints as possible. The idea here is that you are presenting a topic of conversation to the hive mind and implictly (without explictly) saying: "What do y'all think about this?". It should never, ever be, "This is what I think about this", or "This is what you should think about this." If this is a subject that you already have a passionate interest about, you shouldn't even post it. If this is about a topic that has already been hashed out a million times on metafilter, you should probably not post it, either.

For links which are both good topics of conversation and an inherently interesting link, you should put the 'hook' above the fold, with as much explanatory detail as necessary to enjoy it, and then pile on the additional detail below the fold.

There's another style of post, which tends to get a pile of favorites, which is the 'many examples of a thing' post, where you post articles or wikipedia pages about a topic, and then post links to dozens and dozens of examples of it. These are best for weekend posts, when you're going to have an audience with a ton of spare time to watch two dozen music videos or cartoons or something like that. This is also best done by someone who is an 'expert' in the topic, and basically already has an exhaustive list of resources handy to dump into the post. There's another similar style of post which is the 'here is everything I know about this subject' post, which can also be great, but it's a lot of effort, and if it's kind of obscure subject, be prepared to get a lot of 'A for effort' favorites, and not a lot of great conversation about it in the thread.
posted by empath at 11:34 AM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

One topic that I'm wanting to do a post on has some seeming scarce source material online (due to it being in another language) and I'm wondering if hitting up a library and asking a librarian for some help would be a benefit, does anyone ever do that? Is that overkill for a mefi post?

I'd argue it's overkill, yes. This isn't work--you're not teaching us nor are you getting paid to post--so I'd say if you want to go to a reference librarian and learn more about a topic, do it for yourself and less so for a potential resulting FPP.

Were you to approach me at the ref desk (where I am right now) and ask for assistance with obscure topic, I'd be happy to help. I'd feel very, very weird if I then saw that topic on MetaFilter.

Finally, if you speak that other language and know what's going on with the links, why not just post (some of) the links for your post in that language? Guaranteed someone else on MetaFilter will speak the language and those who don't can use Google Translate to get a rough idea and the other, English-language links to get the rest of it.

MetaFilter sounds really, really weird when you say it in your head over and over.
posted by librarylis at 12:05 PM on March 4, 2012

I'm wondering if hitting up a library and asking a librarian for some help would be a benefit, does anyone ever do that? Is that overkill for a mefi post?

Not overkill necessarily but maybe not helpful to find cool information on the web about your topic. Put another way: if you are an okay online researcher and are good at reading and reading comprehension, you're likely to do as well as an average librarian unless you happen upon their area of specialty. Here are a few tips I have for making good posts. This is what works for me, may or may not work for you

- Find a topic by accident. Most of my best-received posts have come from books I was reading. This makes it really easy to hit the "people haven't likely seen it before" bar because it hasn't been on a zillion different blogs in the last week or so.
- Do a search. Search for tags and links on MetaFilter either with the site search or via Google to make sure it hasn't been posted before. If it has, see if your approach is either over 5-6 years later and/or has new stuff in it.
- Find links. This sounds simple but you want to find links that help explain and illustrate your topic, preferably with a combination [if it's a multi-link post] of short and long stuff to read/view/listen to. I really stick to the "links should be something on the web" and try not to post about a bunch of giant PDFs or having a Google Book be a main link, though they're great as supporting links. Add extra links for people who really want to delve in but think about whether your topic is something that people could at least get their head around in five minutes or less.
- Make an interesting post. Don't be provocative, just outline what you're talking about with maybe a little "this is why it might be interesting to people who aren't me" angle to it. Make your title something interesting.
- Post and walk away. You can't really dictate how a thread will go and the less you try usually the better you'll feel.
- Participate in the conversation. If there is one and it's a topic you're jazzed about, feel free to talk to other people about it.
- Evaluate. How did it go? Did something go in a way you weren't expecting? Can you see how you might want to do things differently next time? Keep that information for next time.

I know there are many schools of thought on how to make good posts and I'm one of those people who never reads the super long multi-link posts so I have no advice for them. I think killer posts can be super short or super long or anything in-between. Think of a bunch of posts you particularly liked, or ones that you felt went particularly well and see how you might want to do something more like that only reflecting your particular style and interests. I'd stay away from being cute or sarcastic or ironic or button-pushing in your post because even though that can start really lively discussions, it usually fractures the userbase response which can be interesting but often not what I'd necessarily consider positive.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:18 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Finally, if you speak that other language and know what's going on with the links, why not just post (some of) the links for your post in that language? Guaranteed someone else on MetaFilter will speak the language and those who don't can use Google Translate to get a rough idea and the other, English-language links to get the rest of it

I have asterisked a quote or two in the past with a paraphrased translation so even that approach in small might work.
posted by infini at 12:20 PM on March 4, 2012

Heh - Brandon Blatcher's post upthread was one of my "favorites" so, yeah, that's kind of what I'm looking at in terms of how to approach it (not necessarily that style, per se -- as I said, that's his style, I'll have mine when I end up getting it posted).

As for "don't be a creeper and research for a post", I'd argue that's a bit of a judgement call for one person to make about what they consider "appropriate" research.... But in fact, this IS a topic I've recently just started finding out about, AND it is something I'd want to learn for myself, and because I think it's so interesting and some others may find it interesting I also want to share it on metafilter :)

I don't think someone would do such in depth research for a post if it wasn't something they themselves wanted to write about/had some curiosity about, right?

I don't read the language it's in, unfortunately, which is why it's that much harder to get source material. I do know that there's a book containing some English stuff. And I found a personal blog of one of the people involved in the topic, and it's in English, so that's one resource I plan on using, though I don't know how it touches on the topic at hand. Maybe I can even write the guy. He's a professor, so I don't know how much time he'd have to deal with some strange kid on the net.

Ultimately I want to put my heart into it, but I don't take it personally. I don't believe people should *steer* a conversation in a thread to one way or the other. I'm sure I'll be involved in the thread it provokes (IF it provokes any discussion - it may not), but I wouldn't worry too much if others don't like it or are negative towards it.

I think I'll probably end up using a combination of notebook, folders/bookmarks (tabs/groups), that brain thing mind mapper I linked, and a text editor.

Thanks for all the interesting responses.

I find it fascinating to see so many views on what metafilter is or isn't and what someone thinks is a good post or not. Seems everyone has their own preferences and desires and views. Just like jessamyn said -- you don't know where the thread will go!
posted by symbioid at 12:52 PM on March 4, 2012

I don't read the language it's in, unfortunately, which is why it's that much harder to get source material.

Just to stress here, a good post is also at its core about something on the web. I'm not totally sure what you're after here but posts about interesting topics but ones that can't be illustrated by good web links often go less well than posts about more prosaic stuff but with killer links to illustrate them.

And at the point at which you're contacting a subject directly to talk about a post topic, we just have to put our mod hat on and make sure it's clear that linking either to things you've put up on the web to illustrate your topic [i.e. "hey I scanned some extra stuff and it's available on dropbox" totally 100% not okay] or linking to stuff by people you know is less okay. Not that the professor is going to immediately become your friend or something, but it's important that your post isn't about someone you know personally. Let us know if you have questions and we'll be happy to be a lot more specific. I don't want to be all "Here are the ways this WON'T work" but it's almost as important to avoid the common failure modes as it is writing a post that hits all the high notes.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:59 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just forget I even bothered.
posted by symbioid at 1:10 PM on March 4, 2012

You took me to places I've never been, I can never forget that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:15 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just forget I even bothered.

What were you on about then?
posted by cjorgensen at 1:17 PM on March 4, 2012

Seriously, some posts that spark the most interesting discussion involve one or two links and, apparently, no more than five minutes of work on the poster's part. I like lots of posts that look just thrown out there with little effort. Don't over think it.
posted by jayder at 1:39 PM on March 4, 2012

The Wonderchicken Method: I come across something neat on the web, and then I post a link to it. Sometimes it hasn't even been posted before.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:13 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think the most important thing is to have sources of online coolness other than the nerdy/techy community of bloggers that MF usually draws from. Reddit is ok but often behind the curve. i follow some great internet wizards on tumbler and twitter and discuss weird corners of the web with communities of people who just aren't in the same social circles as the rest of Metafilter--hence: new things.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:14 PM on March 4, 2012

I've written nearly 400 posts in my time here, perhaps more. Here's the no-fail Blazecock rule:

If you have to pad your post with extra links, start over.

The only decent "formula" is that the link is interesting and worth sharing. Don't pad your posts with Google search results unless those additional links are also as interesting and also worth sharing, or otherwise provide useful background info for readers who aren't familiar with the subject matter. Pay absolutely no attention to the tiny-minded scolds who fuss over single-link posts.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:15 PM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

I haven't made a ton of posts but some.

My posts are almost always organic, I rarely go looking for something to post on MeFi. My posts are generally about topics I already follow, like astronomy or architecture, and am very interested in. Sometimes, I see something and think "maybe that'd be a great MeFi post" and then I do nothing, wait a few days and check back, sometimes I find even better information or further information just by waiting a couple days (this post is an example of that, the letters themselves weren't online when I first stumbled on it, they appeared in an update a few days later).

Like someone said above, sometimes I make frequent posts (which has sort of been the case since the beginning of this year) and sometimes I go months without posting at all.

If you do feel like you want your posting to be regular, then stick with what you know and love.
posted by IvoShandor at 4:38 PM on March 4, 2012

In addition, my posts have come in all shapes and sizes, single link, a few links, several grafs, etc. I don't think there is a real formula to it, just let them evolve. I'll shut it now.
posted by IvoShandor at 4:40 PM on March 4, 2012

A great link is WAAAAAY more important than a lot of links. I don't generally like the posts with a gazillion links, I prefer one main killer link and maybe one or two background info links clearly indicated as such. Despite people insisting otherwise, a single link post is awesome if the link is awesome, and a multi-link post sucks if the links suck. What's most important is that you have something interesting on the intarwebs to share, and do so clearly, not how flashy and huge your post is.
posted by biscotti at 5:24 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing the all shapes and sizes thing. But here was the process for the multi-link illustration post I made today:

1. Accidentally stumble last week onto Coles Phillips magazine covers in a box of paper ephemera that came from my boss' wife, a former artist. (1/2 hour, plus ogling)

2. Get blown away by the Cole Phillips art, say to self, "How have I never heard about this fucking guy before? These would make a great MeFi post if there's anything on the web about him." (20 seconds)

3. Search. Find and enjoy lots of cool images. Ogle, read and learn a bit (no "intimate" knowledge required, really) about this new thing I found and think is cool. (2-3 days)

4. Try to figure out how best to present this cool thing on the web so folks will get what I think is max joy. This is where I strongly disagree with the "I hate multiple link posts" crowd, I suppose. I could have just made the post one or two links to the few sites that collect the most images, but that wouldn't be very interesting on the front page at all. I prefer to pull out the cool images/links I liked best, thinking it will grab busy eyeballs better and lead to increased joy, and then link the full collections further down, and include relevant (emphasis) links where they fit in the text.

5. Write the post in Notepad or a draft email and think about it for a little while. (with step 4, this took another 2-3 days)

6. Let the fuck go already. Post.

Anyway, I'm sure I overthought it at times, but the process felt very natural to me, and was fun. When I was posting regularly, there were some I worked on that never saw the front page, some I had on the back brain for weeks or months, waiting for inspiration to finish up (I have one now I'm kinda hoping I finish before the subject dies but the sites are so rich it's taking me forever to read them, which is fine, because they're great), and some that were just Bam-Pow see it-post it deals. All of those seem fine to me.
posted by mediareport at 5:38 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

If number of favorites received has any correlation with "killer"-ness, I would say the most important thing to include in your posts is some combination of pasta, cheese, and bacon.
posted by Trurl at 6:05 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I should note "2-3 days" means "finding 20 minutes or so in the evening or morning to think about the post outside of work/lifestuff over the course of 2-3 days."
posted by mediareport at 6:56 PM on March 4, 2012

A great link is WAAAAAY more important than a lot of links.*

* Does not apply to posts about our Reptilian overlords.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:26 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

To be honest, the reptilian overlord link itself kind of sucked, but it was one of those things where the topic was interesting enough to carry it.
posted by empath at 7:53 PM on March 4, 2012

Hit enter too soon.

Flagged for bad advice!
posted by mannequito at 8:21 PM on March 4, 2012

To be honest, the reptilian overlord link itself kind of sucked

That's exactly what I'd expect one of them to say to us. Do you prefer hands and knees worship or just straight sacrifice?
posted by IvoShandor at 8:24 PM on March 4, 2012


I loved learning about Coles Phillips (I’d never heard of him) and really appreciated the post. But when I saw that post earlier I just looked over the links trying to figure out which one was the most useful without actually clicking them, clicked on the one, decided I wanted to know more and put it aside to search later. It’s probably just me, but I’m never going to click on a bunch of links in a post, even if I’m fascinated with the subject. I’ll just search out more info on my own. That’s why I think it’s always a good idea to point out one.
posted by bongo_x at 9:04 PM on March 4, 2012

empath: Problem is you are not going to find a "quality" RO link - they are by definition wonky crap. So I suppose that in some cases quantity has its own quality? Sinlgle link post was nuked in 20 mins, multi link post (of similar crap links) got bazillion favourites.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:35 PM on March 4, 2012

The multilink post was hilariously well written and included enough context to get what was going on in the first video. The first video by itself was purely wtf.
posted by empath at 9:42 PM on March 4, 2012

I find it's easiest to make a great post when the subject matter is something you really, truly love. Looking over my most popular posts, I've got my favorite sci-fi author, my favorite obscure adventure game, two posts on television ephemera growing up, one of my favorite albums, my favorite late night host, and my favorite documentary.

When you really care about something, you'll instinctively know all the best aspects of it to share, and have the drive to track down all the best links in order to give it the showcase you know it deserves. It also gives me inspiration on the hardest part -- figuring out the most efficient and expressive way to word the post while also accommodating all the links. It's easier to reach for a phrase like "one of the most extraordinary documentaries ever to grace television" when that's how you honestly feel about it.

The downside to this is people shitting on what you love, but happily it looks like my faves match up pretty well with the community.

It also helps to have a strategy for big posts -- what's the best way to present everything? Sometimes laundry lists work, sometimes compact blocks of text, sometimes pullquotes, sometimes lengthy narratives. Earlier this week I was thinking of doing an Alice's Restaurant-esque spoof of The Lorax incorporating links to news stories, reviews, old videos, etc., into the poem itself (but got beaten to the punch before I could finish it). Whatever is most appropriate for the material.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:46 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not really on-topic, but I have no problem with posting a short FPP that could only appeal to .5% of the entire MeFi population.
posted by Ardiril at 11:45 PM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've made nine posts. Most of them suck. I have two pieces of advice:

1. Don't rush it. I made a post about an awesome band that I had discovered a week earlier. I spent a fair amount of time sifting through YouTube videos to find good, representative samples of their music, but if I'd waited another month or two, I would have been able to include some much better links (like this) that I came across just by following up on my personal interest in the band.

2. Not every interesting subject is a good topic for a post. I'd like to do a post on Hugh Kenner someday, but there just isn't enough material to work with on the easily-accessible parts of the Web.

Corollary: Politics can make for good discussions, but it rarely makes for good posts.
posted by twirlip at 4:02 AM on March 5, 2012

Step one: Save yourself some effort and when you find something, check to see if it has been posted before. More than once, I have found something utterly cool and seemingly esoteric and crafted a post about it - maybe even investing an hour or two to include some background links - only to find that someone posted it before me.

Don't just check the URL because so many people "repurpose" content. Check multiple tags. While certainly not essential, I consider it a courtesy and a service to add high-quality prior related mefi post links via the "more inside."
posted by madamjujujive at 7:56 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, my main piece of advice (echoing several others here) is that you should include just enough information in your FPP for somebody to understand what it is they'll be clicking on.

The original "Cat Scan" post is actually a great example of this. It did what it said on the tin. You knew exactly what you were in for.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:33 PM on March 5, 2012

Don't stress out about making "killer" posts. Share things that strike your fancy, and maybe they'll intrigue others, too.

As for the how: I agree with empath's assessment of Single Link/ Site/ Video vs. Topic posts.

Don't water down the single interesting thing. If you feel like there are tangents of interest, but they aren't as good as the main item, tuck them in below the fold. Tools required: desire to find new things.

I've picked up books solely to learn more about an interesting topic, which I also think could make an interesting post or two. But I'm reading the books because I like the topics and the books, not because I want to make an awesome post. If you're interested in a topic that is largely in another language, you might be able to find a book or two in the library that then gives you more names and terms to search for online. But as jessamyn said, you can't make a post if the only resources are in books.

I'm a fan of subject posts. Because of MetaFilter, I've learned that I love the hunt for interesting things, for context, for general understanding of something new to me, and for sharing this. Spotted Lake could have been a link or two, "look at this weird natural phenomena," but then I'd miss out on the history. The Percy Fawcett bio post was definitely a subject post, but was probably overkill, but there were so many interesting tangents I wanted to share. Maybe someone will skim through and find a few things they like.

The Spotted Lake post was crafted in ~30 minutes, searching for bits of information. Tools: search engine, New Post window. The Fawcett post was made over the course of months, following the first reading of the book, then skimming back through it to pick out highlights. Lots of searching online, including searching of old news articles. Google News is pretty good for digging up old references online, though a lot of major papers only offer a snippet of articles and charge for the rest. I save my links in a Gmail draft, and I currently have 5 drafts full of random links and the bones of a new post. If I'm writing a mega-post, I'll save the text in Textpad, my text editor of choice. Especially after the folly of '10, which crashed my browser a number of times, and even crashed my computer twice, I learned 1) to save frequently when actually crafting large posts, and 2) never make something so link-heavy and lengthy again.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:26 AM on March 7, 2012

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