Toward a supply-side theory of assorted links

Tyler Cowen posted recently about the apparent increasing popularity of bloggers posting daily lists of assorted links. He asks questions of his readers: Do they click? Should he care if they do? The comments are interesting.

That’s the demand-side of assorted links. What about the supply-side? Why do bloggers write these posts? I started providing daily morning links in January, 2008. I based the idea on the twice-daily lists of links provided by The Morning News, my expectation being that they would be a useful way of getting people to visit my site or subscribe to my RSS feed. The links are basically a loss leader: They take a bit of work each day and aren’t directly rewarding in terms of links back, but by attracting readers to the site they make it more likely that people will read my longer posts too. Or as Jason at 37signals put it in a post about why the Drudge Report is one of the best designed sites on the Web, “The more you send people away the more they’ll come back.” (The other main reason for the feature is to give myself a convenient way of linking to things I find interesting but about which I have little to say.)

My rough impression is that this has worked, based on positive feedback from readers and a near doubling in daily traffic in the year or so following the implementation of morning links. But there are confounding variables: In the same period I wrote more normal blog posts, published elsewhere more frequently, redesigned the site, and did a guest stint blogging at Radley Balko’s popular weblog.

Unfortunately the stat programs I’m currently running don’t tell me much about how many readers click on the links, especially those of you who read via RSS. So consider this an open forum on the morning links feature. Do you read them? Would you rather have more numerous, shorter posts, and fewer links each morning? Should they go off the sidebar and onto the main page? Anything else I could improve? Let me know what you think.

(In case you were wondering, I use Kates Gasis’ excellent Sideblog WordPress plugin to make the feature work. It’s a very simple way to shunt selected posts over to a sidebar.)

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New comment features

I’ve added a few new comment features to go with the new design. The first is the use of gravatars, short for Globally Recognized Avatars. If you link one of these images to your email address it will show up next to your comments here and at thousands of other sites that use them. The service is free and available at gravatar.com.

The comment form now gives you the option to verify your identity with an OpenID. Information on creating an OpenID is available here, along with reasons why you may want to have one (you already do if you’re on Blogger, WordPress.com, Flickr, or a variety of other services). The OpenID logo will appear next to verified comments and behind commenters’ name in the sidebar.

Comments now also have a reply-to feature. If you’re replying to a specific comment in a thread, just click on the arrow beneath it to automatically link to that comment and the author’s name. For example, if you want to reply to Bob, clicking on the arrow will start the comment form with “@Bob:” and a link to his comment. This is totally optional, but it can make longer threads easier to follow.

Finally, I’ve added a “Share/Save” button to the bottom of every post. Clicking on this will open a menu for emailing posts or sharing them on services like Facebook, Digg, and Twitter. When you read a post you like, I appreciate your help sharing it with a larger audience.

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New design, new name, same blog

Things look a bit different now if you’re visiting this site directly. If you’re reading in an RSS reader, click over to see the new design. I’ve given the site a long overdue WordPress update and created a new layout with the popular Thesis theme. My goal was to keep what was good about the old site while fixing a few bugs and making it a little less cluttered. There’s no getting around this being a text-heavy blog, but it should be a little more user-friendly now.

I’ve also eliminated the eponymous title, renaming the site “Liquidity Preference.” Those of you who paid attention in your macroeconomics classes will recognize the term from Keynes’ explanation of interest rates. Here it’s also a fitting pun on my own preference for liquid enjoyments.

I still have a few things to add to the site, such as an updated blogroll and navigation menu, but it’s basically finished. Let me know what you think.

Just for fun, here’s a look back at the three previous iterations of the blog. It started out in 2003 before I even knew what a blog was, manually updated in Microsoft FrontPage. Then my friend Adam saved me a whole lot of time by installing MovableType, bringing on the dreaded yellow banner years. A couple years later I switched to WordPress and the relative of the current design.

The one thing hasn’t changed is this site’s Guide to Good Blogging, which I’ll continue doing my best to adhere to:

Rule #1: Be meaningful.

Rule #2: If meaning is elusive, be amusing.

Rule #3: If meaning and amusement are both out of reach, be brief.

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Blog in review ’08

2008 has been good year for this blog. Due to more frequent posting, the popular morning links feature I added in January, guest blogging at The Agitator, and various publications elsewhere, traffic has nearly doubled from this time last year. In personal life I finally escaped the East Coast and moved west to Portland. Though I’m not completely settled here yet — a regular income would sure be nice — things are off to a great start, thanks in large part to the friends I’ve made through writing and tending bar.

Looking back at the end of a year, I’m always amazed at the many random things that have happened. Here’s the annual highlight reel:

January — Disappointment with Ron Paul, Tom Firey and I write against smoking bans for The Washington Post, the Virginia ABC bans sangria, and a few friends and I taste the newly available absinthe.

February — I get snarky in the Washington Times, Grape and Bean opens in Alexandria, and I play around with a Sazerac.

March — Magicians get no respect, Starbucks gets sued for distributing tips, I talk about secular sabbaths with the AP, and why I like tipping.

April — The BBC broadcasts a miracle fruit party from my apartment, I mix up a Massa Mojito, and the Blue Beetle cocktail gets blogged.

May — Baltimore says no cigars for poor people, libertarians suck at being corrupt, I visit a raw milk dairy, Starbucks pushes “scooped on” dates, and I make enemies in Detroit.

June — NYC pushes fruit carts, Paul Roberts and I have a friendly debate in the LA Times, my friend Amy’s mom gets a cocktail named after her, I go on a rant about cocktail shakers, and a discussion of menthol racism.

July — Why McCain’s health plan would be good for service industry workers, Flash websites bad for restaurants, precious coffee policies, I make a Hothouse Fizz with the new Plymouth sloe gin, and sampling miracle fruit tablets.

August — Bashing the bartender, my 10 desert island bottles, what’s wrong with mandatory calorie counts, how to baconify your bourbon, and I begin my journey west.

September — Conservatives and coffee, organizational tweeting, Thorfinn for president, why we need a magicians lobby, I get vermouthy, and why prices are better than information.

October — The McCain that could have been, Oregon neglects the pipe smokers, LEED hates tobacco, everybody loves an Irish car bomb, Rocky Mountain oysters get eaten, and my trip west comes to an end in Portland.

November — Advantages of a secular Christmas, the Arthur Kaler award, recounts of no significance, and overcoming blend bias.

December — Hello to my new Oregon neighbors, an Oregon smoking ban prediction, stocking your home bar parts one and two, smoking ban stupidity, an ode to Repeal Day in the American Spectator, Doublethinking about Starbucks, and my most missed places in DC.

I’m hoping to keep the momentum going to make 2009 even better. Tonight I’ll be celebrating with my last legal cigar at my favorite pub in Portland, the legendary Horse Brass. Thanks for reading, and have a happy new year!

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Please don’t feed the animals

Ben says:

The logistics of your blog’s layout amount for an interesting contrast. You have a post decrying the GOP’s disregard of civil liberties next to an ad encouraging people to donate to the McCain-Palin campaign. ???

With the election entering full swing, this is a good time to remind everyone that I don’t control what ads show up on the sidebar. They’re generated by Google based on the words used on this site. Right now that’s leading to a lot of political campaign ads.

I could log into my account and block these as they come up, but I don’t for several reasons. One is that it’s time consuming. Another is that I don’t want to put myself in the position of tacitly approving the ads that do appear. The last is that these ads present a great opportunity: when you click on them, you’re taking money away from John McCain, Barack Obama, the Republicans, and the Democrats and putting it into my pocket. Given that they’re all competing for the right to take away our incomes, this is only fair.

This system only works if you don’t donate to the campaigns after you click through. Seriously, don’t do that. If you have money that you absolutely must give away, please get in touch and I’ll be more than happy to help you come up with more effective ways of doing good in the world.

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Happy blog birthday

I always forget my blogiversary, but a fifth birthday is worth a quick look back. In the past few years at the blog formerly known as Eternal Recurrence we’ve waxed lyrical about coffee, obsessed over cocktails, gone tripping on miracle fruit, landed on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, uncovered the stapler’s secret, examined weird fish with Mark McGrouther, pondered the surprisingly large size of prosthetic bull testicles, confused hundreds of foreigners seeking GMail accounts, helped save a local magic shop, encountered my nefarious twin brother David, witnessed the Queso Crusader battle Taco Boy, met a magical politician, proposed an economically-oriented alarm clock, visited a raw milk dairy, combated the nanny state, raised a glass on Repeal Day, practiced Aikido in the cold and rain, faced a surreal navigation problem, received an Aerobie signed by inventor Alan Adler, documented great moments in heterosexuality, nearly burned down the house of one my best friends, and much, much more.

Thanks for reading, commenting, arguing, linking, and sending in tips. And if you’re not reading regularly, please subscribe with RSS. I hope the next five years will be just as fun, and I’ll keep writing with my rules for good blogging in mind:

Rule #1: Be meaningful.

Rule #2: If meaning is elusive, be amusing.

Rule #3: If meaning and amusement are both out of reach, be brief.

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More tasty content, less del.icio.us

If you take a peek to the right, you’ll see that the del.icio.us feed is no more. In it’s place is a mini-blog where I’ll be posting collections of links, short reviews, and brief asides.

Two complaints about the del.icio.us links were that they required a separate RSS feed and that they couldn’t be commented on. Thanks to the handy Sideblog plugin, both those problems are solved. Side entries will show up automatically in the main RSS feed and are open to comments; just click on the headline to get to the form.

If for some reason you want to search my del.icio.us archive, it’s available here.

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Back in DC, good coffee in TX

Sorry for the lack of updates — the combination of an overloaded server, no wi-fi, and being on vacation put writing at the bottom of my priorities. But there is some good news: I’m on a new server now and there’s good coffee in Texas!

First, the coffee. Starbucks is still the only decent option I know of around Spring, but Austin’s got the good stuff. Caffe Medici makes a good cappuccino in a cozy space. JP’s Java boasts the only Clover in the state and uses it to serve up delicious single origin coffees from my favorite Seattle shop, Zoka. They’re both a long way from home, but it’s good to see great coffee making inroads into Texas.

Then, the server. Good things come from complaining sometimes, and after enough service requests DreamHost transferred me over to their new virtual private server plan. What does this mean? That I’m paying a lot more per month to have dedicated server resources, thus escaping the commons problem of shared hosting. I still have some adjustments to make to improve the efficiency of the site and may increase my server resources, but so far pages seem to be loading much faster. If you any problems with the site, please let me know.

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Bad server! Really, really bad server!

Yeah, I know, the downtime and page load times have been awful this week. That will hopefully change soon. It turns out that the Google web crawler has been hogging resources on the site. To stop it, I’ve got to sign up with Google webmaster tools and tell it not to visit so often. This would be easier to do if my laptop AC adaptor had not also broken this weekend. Technology is conspiring against me.

I’m also now on the waiting list for DreamHost’s virtual private server option. Within a few weeks I should be transerred to it, and if all goes well I’ll be able to adjust settings to make this site load as quickly as it should.

Until then, subscribing to the RSS feed would be a good idea if you haven’t already.

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Email issues

It’s come to my attention emails sent to my addresses at this domain are being very delayed or possibly lost before forwarding to GMail. If you’ve sent me something recently and I haven’t replied, I probably never received it. Please resend to my GMail address directly (jacobgrier@).

Details about the problem are here. I’m not sure to what extent the fault lies with DreamHost, but I’m still looking for new hosting recommendations. Thanks to everyone who’s responded already.

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Eternal Recurrence…

… is no more! Though with a finite number of desirable blog names and an infinite amount of time in which to use them, it will inevitably return.

In the meantime I’ve decided to remake the banner into something that better describes the content of the site. Eternal Recurrence seemed like a good name when I started writing in 2003, but no longer reflects much about what I’m doing here now. Obscure philosophy references out, SEO in.

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Hosting recommendations wanted

The downtime and slow response issues with my current hosting service have continued with no sign of getting better. My contract is up soon and, though switching servers is a pain, I’m looking to sign up with someone more reliable. The main requirements are multiple domain hosting, multiple databases, and actually being online most of the time. Any recommendations?

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A note on ads

Speaking of disgusting creatures, I apologize for the giant close-ups of presidential candidates that have been appearing in the sidebar ads. Newsmax.com has been hereby blocked from advertising on this site.

Remember, though, I can blacklist sites, but I don’t otherwise filter what Google throws up there. Given the long electoral season, there will likely be more ugly mugs sneaking through until election day.

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Bad server! Bad!

The servers that host this site have been badly overworked the past few days, resulting in very slow page loads and some downtime. Dreamhost has addressed the problem with an additional file server and things seem to be working better now, but I’m told issues could reappear while they set up a more long term solution. Apologies if the slowness continues.

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