How do you find inspiration for posts? August 24, 2002 7:24 PM   Subscribe

Mediareport hinted recently in his Russel Wright thread that items from the media should be no more than starting-points for building an interesting post. Perhaps it might be useful to share research strategies, tactics, tricks and shortcuts for those who enjoy building out of the blue front page posts. That is, those which aren't extracted or glossed from the news media or simply borrowed from existing weblogs.

How do people here go about googling, finding and selecting links? Does the idea for the post come first or do some people still go surfing in the raw, as it were, waiting for something interesting to turn up? And then build on it? Is there life outside Google? Are there any good online guides for direct research on the Web? Does haphazard, serendipitous, anarchic surfing yield worthwhile off-beat results or is it generally a waste of time?
posted by MiguelCardoso to MetaFilter-Related at 7:24 PM (16 comments total)

The most successful threads (in my opinion), start with something current, a press release, news whatever. And then build upon them with really interesting, obscure, good links.
[link]Museum showcases Photshopped enhanced art. Many [link]people, have been using both [link]digital cameras and Photoshop for a long time, but will things like [link]this and [link]this be taken seriously? Or will the digital medium just be viewed as a bunch of [link]tricks?
Not the best wording, but what that does is open up the door. The discussion can go onto Photoshop tricks, a discussion of digital cameras, a discussion of photoblogs or similar web sites or any combination of the above.

Of course that's if you're aiming for the angle of "informative links that most people haven't seen followed up by an interesting dicussion route". It will most likely harness people in who are passionate about the subject and would give intelligent responses followed up by great links.

Then again, so many times posts are great with just one link that needs no discussion, this is hardly a rule, but could help people who don't have cool friends that link them to super cool sites.
posted by geoff. at 7:38 PM on August 24, 2002

I hardly ever make posts, but i'll write this since lately everyone seems to be hyping a kind of post i find completely boring.

I like posts where people just found something weird in their normal web activity. If you start a post with an idea, then research it, chances are if I cared i would have already looked it up myself. that's not always the case, but usually. posts about fish, or donkeys, or salsa are boring. if i care about a random topic i know how to use google.

i'm not saying i want to stop the crazy random multi-link posts though, sometimes they are very cool. what i don't want are newer people thinking, "oh, this post only has one link, people will think i'm lame" because if that link is something new and cool i don't want to miss out. those are my favorite kind.
posted by rhyax at 8:08 PM on August 24, 2002

One tip worth sharing, which has often paid out, is to include contemporary references in your search. I'm a devout Samuel Beckett reader (and translator) and, by Googling "Samuel Beckett 2002" I learnt about Apmonia and got an upcoming event (and a 2003 symposium ) on which to hang my post and make it topical.

I think a post is greatly enhanced by a link to something that's happening or about to happen. For instance, I'm currently working on the American Political Science Association's conference on August 29th. I wouldn't have found out about it (even though I was invited through the mail) if I hadn't typed in the dates.

I've also got good results by just searching blindly for, say, "new 2002 exhibition". "September 2002 edition" or "2003 releases" and then ploughing through the entries until I find something that's interesting.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:19 PM on August 24, 2002

I'm with rhyax. If you're out researching to build the perfect post, there's a good chance you're doing something wrong.

We already have too many posts. We don't need a lot of people going out and manufacturing a reason to post. Now, if you're hopping around the web on your daily journey and you find something so interesting or cool or unique that you desperately want to share the wealth with the MeFi masses, then wait 3 days. If after 3 days you still remember the link, and you still think it's cool, and nobody else has already posted it, then post away my friend. I want to see that post.
posted by willnot at 8:47 PM on August 24, 2002

I've got this bad habit at work of punching strange phrases into while I wait for active directory to replicate. Being a more visual than narrative person, it's a hella good way of finding wacky shit. Of course, wacky shit is best left to one's weblog.
posted by machaus at 8:55 PM on August 24, 2002

consensus: no consensus.
posted by joemaller at 9:09 PM on August 24, 2002

Now, now, there are at least three kinds of good posts.

* a fascinatingly new 'thing found on the web', regardless of source (though reconsidering stuff already seen on slashdot, fark, plastic and kuro5hin is strongly advised)
* a well-researched current news article laying out the major arguments OR a more perfunctory wire story, embellished with background material and countervailing points of view
* a narrow-topic research post juiced by hours of personal googling pointing directly to the amazing goodies and framed by strong personal knowledge of the subject matter

I believe all are valid, all can lead to MeFi at our best, and the key here is either starting with compelling material, or using one's own writing and research fu to mold a post into a true gem. Even cubic zirconium is acceptable, as long as you polish till it shines.

Even if the original post is weak, there's no reason that commenters can't beef it up by adding their own contrapuntal and contextual links. Mad props to sheauga for her posting style here (I don't have the shut-up gene that allows doing that). Still, sometimes the original post is simply so lame, lacking in context, and clearly in need of better framing, that the original poster should be taken to task.

Those consistently charged with posting lamely ought to consider a personal weblog. Nobody complains there; in fact, a lame post is often evidence of a pulse. And you can be as single-topic, or opinionated, or wacky as you like. Maybe posting for a group blog isn't your thing.
posted by dhartung at 1:10 AM on August 25, 2002

Now, now, there are. . .

Mad props to. . .

I'd like to send a shout out to dhartung for using colloquialisms from two equidistant classes separated by generations.

And, good points too about good posts.
posted by crasspastor at 1:28 AM on August 25, 2002

There has been way too much yellow in some posts, it just puts me off. I think, Oh Dear Lord, I cannot wade through all that. Often the post itself is willfully obscure so you have to go into the links to find out what the chuff it is about. Having said that, any post is a good post to someone, it's all subjective.
posted by Fat Buddha at 2:52 AM on August 25, 2002

any post is a good post to someone

Well said, and it's redundant to say that you can't please....

posted by hama7 at 4:15 AM on August 25, 2002

There's a type of post I miss... the non-news "bizarre web-toy/web-film/web-crap" post that used to be quite popular on MeFi (especially during the AYBABTU phase).

What happened? Did people stop producing funky-cool-shameless webcrap, or did people just stop linking to it?
posted by Neale at 5:52 PM on August 25, 2002

rhyax: I like posts where people just found something weird in their normal web activity. If you start a post with an idea, then research it, chances are if I cared i would have already looked it up myself.

willnot: We don't need a lot of people going out and manufacturing a reason to post. Now, if you're hopping around the web on your daily journey and you find something so interesting or cool or unique that you desperately want to share the wealth with the MeFi masses, then wait 3 days.

It was "hopping around the web" in my "normal web activity" that first led me to this. Three weeks later, I posted this. Calling that process the equivalent of "manufacturing a reason to post" is almost insulting, and I'd love to hear further discussion of why a researched, multi-link post is somehow less authentic than one with, say, the single Canaan dog link I first found.

I like the simple "here's a cool link I stumbled onto" kind of post, too. The virtual tour of Edo posted today is, to me, a *perfect* MeFi post. Also, what dhartung said.
posted by mediareport at 7:14 PM on August 25, 2002

Another thought occurred to me. I could have written my Popular Mechanics cover gallery post as a simple one-linker ("The Popular Mechanics cover gallery includes covers from 1902 through 2002 and is full of great history and fun images" or something), but instead chose to have some fun with it. Surely, taking time to craft a more creative post isn't a problem?
posted by mediareport at 7:37 PM on August 25, 2002

mediareport - I think you generally do a good job with your posts. But, the premise of this thread seems be encouraging people to think of some random topic, go out and research up a few links and post it. I, and I'm guessing most everybody else coming to the site, could probably come up with a reasonably good post like that every single day. I certainly could easily manage 1 or 2 a week, but there are so many posts right now, I just hate to think about where that kind of thing would probably lead.

Found treasures, particularly for people who don't quite have their posting legs yet, are more valuable than manufactured posts if only because there are less of them out there. Cubic Zirconia can be very pretty, but if we're going to have a lot of people trying to sell jewelry let's send them out looking for diamonds since there's less chance of flooding the market with cheap, garish costume jewelry.
posted by willnot at 8:09 PM on August 25, 2002

Anyone with time on their hands can add good links to existing threads- not just me! For hints on how to find neat links and news, check my user page.
posted by sheauga at 10:39 AM on August 26, 2002

PS: One of the best things about the MetaFilter is seeing the way that people with different expertise and websurfing directions can add more depth to a topic. My observation is that we often get even more diverse, insightful material when a bunch of people contribute links than we do from a single multi-link front page post. So I'd like to encourage newbies to take a look around on the net and see who else is on their wavelength, then link those like-minded folks into the discussion too.

As for putting together a front page post: Sometimes you'll get more response if you look at what's already on the front page that day, and add your material on a day when it balances the general content. (I've learned this one the hard way.)
posted by sheauga at 12:50 PM on August 26, 2002

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