Category Archives: Link Economy

Rickrolling and Link Inflation

Charles Arthur has a great post on the value of links and your personal linking brand

That currency is the hyperlink, a pointer to somewhere on the internet that holds some information that someone else might find useful. Like any currency, it can be debased, and lose its value. You’ve heard of the dollar/yen/pound/euro exchange rate, of course (and watched in amazement as they gyrate, and yet the price of American hardware and software never alters from a $1 = £1 translation). But in the link economy, when everyone’s passing around links, every person is their own central bank, determining the value of their own currency.

He also mentions Rickrolling, which is a specific yet humorous instance of link fraud, where links promising further content send you to a Rick Astley video.

Link Inflation: too many links chasing too little content. A measure of how many links you need to follow to find content of interest.

The Least Bloggable Unit

In academic publishing there is a pejorative notion of the least publishable unit (LPU). This refers to the practice of researchers subdividing  results into the smallest credible units suitable for publication, as opposed to gathering smaller intermediate results towards a more significant publication. LPU is described in some detail on Wikipedia, where the entry states that the

Least publishable unit (LPU) is the smallest amount of information that can generate a publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The term is often used as a joking, ironic, or sometimes derogatory reference to the strategy of pursuing the greatest quantity of publications at the expense of their quality.

In considering the amount of blogs and tweets I now receive I wonder if this can be explained in terms of LPU behaviour. Does it make sense to speak of a Least Bloggable Unit (LBU) or a Least Tweetable Unit (LTU)?

In the case of Twitter, the medium itself at 140 characters is already small unit to work with – simply an observation or comment with a supporting link. My one-month experience with Twitter suggests that most tweets follow the comment-link couplet, which I would then define as the LTU. One could argue that just the comment is enough but it seems poor etiquette to tweet linkless comments.

For blogs, the LBU can essentially be the same as the LTU, a comment-link couplet, but more is expected since blogs are only restricted in length by the attention a reader is prepared to outlay. And how would we measure that?

Following a retweet from timoreilly, I tracked down a post from Amy Graham which proposes that the main “so what?” must be conveyed in the first 62 words of your online content. This magic value is the number of words that can be read in 15 seconds, assuming a reading speed of 250 words per minute (this is how web analytic urban legends are created). So we surmise that readers are prepared to grant 15 seconds of attention fame to any content that manifests on their screen.

The 62-word theory also spawned the Miniskirt theory which states that

Good writing should be like a skirt: Long enough to cover subject, but short enough to stay interesting

So the LBU is 15 seconds of attention or, for the visual thinkers, a head-turning skirt on a nice pair of legs.