How I Blog  AUG 07 2006

Seth Godin, who ruminates for a living, wrote a little something about how ideas are transmitted last year:

For an idea to spread, it needs to be sent and received.

No one "sends" an idea unless:
a. they understand it
b. they want it to spread
c. they believe that spreading it will enhance their power (reputation, income, friendships) or their peace of mind
d. the effort necessary to send the idea is less than the benefits

No one "gets" an idea unless:
a. the first impression demands further investigation
b. they already understand the foundation ideas necessary to get the new idea
c. they trust or respect the sender enough to invest the time

Seth hits the nail right on the head with this. When I'm deciding what links to post here, I'm essentially curating ideas, collecting them to "send" to you (and to myself, in a way). And unconsciously, these seven points factor into my decision on what to post here.

a. they understand it - I read everything I post and attempt to understand an article enough to represent it accurately when linking to it.

b. they want it to spread - I pick links and write posts based on ideas that I think are in some way important, meaningful, relevent, or good for the soul. And sure, I want those ideas to be more widely known or enjoyed, even if it's something as simple as someone getting a needed chuckle from a video of a monkey teasing a dog.

c. they believe that spreading it will enhance their power (reputation, income, friendships) or their peace of mind - This factors into anyone's motivations for anything. In George Orwell's 1947 essay Why I Write, his #1 reason is "sheer egoism".

d. the effort necessary to send the idea is less than the benefits - If I wanted to, I could post 30 links or more a day without too much more effort on my part, but in this case, part of sending the idea is making sure the reader has enough attention to consider it.

a. the first impression demands further investigation - I spend a lot of time on getting the description of some linked text, photo, or video just right, so that the reader has a good idea of what they're getting into. Choosing a 1-2 sentence pull-quote that accurately represents the idea of an article is key in getting people's attention in a productive way. "This is an awesome link" is only going to cut it so many times; you need to tell people what the link is and give people an honest reason to click.

b. they already understand the foundation ideas necessary to get the new idea - I assume visitors to the site are regular readers and that they have a good sense of what happens here, but I try to limit my reliance on jargon or "in-crowd" references so that everyone can follow along.

c. they trust or respect the sender enough to invest the time - If I do all that other stuff right, hopefully you'll trust me enough to be receptive to the ideas I'm sending you. And if not, you probably won't trust me for long.

Like I said, all this was pretty much happening unconsciously. I've worked consciously on bits and pieces of it, but until I read Seth's post, I didn't know that this was the end-to-end process.

Read more posts on kottke.org about:
georgeorwell   sethgodin   weblogs   writing

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