A Day in the Life of the Daily Links Post at Naked Capitalism
I read the news today, oh boy… –The Beatles
By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Naked Capitalism’s Links page posts each day, every day, and has for thirteen years, with no interruptions or days off. If a record like that is all you need to hear, the Tip Jar is to your right. Links posts just before 7:00AM New York time, on the site, where readers seem to hang out, anticipating, or in your mailbox if you subscribe to it, having been scheduled to fire backstage in WordPress four or five hours before.
Many of you have shared how much you enjoy reading Links to start your day. For example, this exchange in Comments:
Sam Adams: I used to start my day with the Times and le Figaro. Now it’s first NC. And I’ve learned as much through the comments.
petal: Ah, me too. Now my first stop every day, and I’ve learned gobs about everything — it’s been like opening up the world. Thank you to everyone.
Brian: I was just thinking, I don’t have my coffee and NC yet. Something wrong with a morning like that, incomplete. Morning to you all!
Lee: Two cups of tea and NC, to start the day.
Benedict@Large: NC and coffee start my world turn each day.
Readers also particularly appreciate the Antidote. From reader crittermom:
The photo made me laugh out loud (both cats still looking at me funny). Hilarious! I also loved the Kingfisher video. It was just as funny, as it held its head so still! Nice way to start the day!!
Other readers appreciation the curation. Reader Jennifer:
Thank you as always for the carefully collected links and information.
Still others appreciate the humor. Reader abynormal:
luv a strong does of irony to start the day…
And some appreciate the curation and the humor. Reader Mojca:
Thank you for consistently being the best source of news, useful links and wry humour.
So if you, like these readers, start your day by reading Links, please supply the needful to keep us doing it. The Tip Jar is to your right.
The news does not stop. It always flows. Bringing you links to start your day is a process of acquiring, well, links from that flow, curating them, categorizing them, ordering them, and adding quotes, humor, etc. And of course the antidote! That process is extremely demanding and requires high-level skills. Because to you, readers, Links simply appears, like Athena from the head of Jove, the level of effort involved in creating it may not be clear. I’ll describe the aspects of that effort which involve editorial judgment here; I have relegated the equally demanding technical aspects to a note.
Sometimes the news rages like whitewater; at other times it flows placidly. In either case, link acquisition involves selecting Link candidates from the news flow. Many candidates are sent in from helpful readers; others are acquired from the Twitter, itself a news flow of staggering volume; still others are selected from newsletters to which we subscribe; others from sites that we ourselves regularly visit.
Once sufficient candidates for Links are selected, we curate them. (In my case, I will have read several hundred, acquired 70 or 80, and winnowed those down to 55 or 50.) Curation is where editorial judgment really enters in: We have to balance breaking stories (Trump getting Covid) with continuing stories readers will expect to see (California wildfires) with articles on finance (the latest private equity debacle), articles on new science (aerosols), theoretical excursions (The American Conservative; nonsite.org), human interest (man bites dog), conversation starters (which way should toilet paper hang), and humor, especially about animals. We also add links that are intriguing, from sources that would never be discovered otherwise. Some of these links are on topics are “beats” we regularly post on; others are topics that the relatively sophisticated common reader will be familiar with — or should be!
Having curated the links, we use our editorial judgement to add value to them. For example, for a Covid story, we might quote from the Abstract to give you the gist when they read the popularized coverage elsewhere. For political or financial stories, we might quote something particularly egregious or extraordinary that goes beyond the headline, to make the moral of the story clear. We might also add jokes (mine are ironic, or “sly” as one reader said). We might also simply share our human feelings with you….
Following curation and value-add, we throw the links into categories (“Assange”, “Class Warfare”) because a list of 55 or 65 Links would forbiddingly long, and it would be hard for you to choose the topics you really want to dig into. With a category like “California Wildfires,” readers who are especially interested in — or affected by! — those fires can read those links first. But not all links fit into categories!
After categorization, we order the links within categories, and slide links between categories. I can’t explain this part any better than to say that Links should “flow.” Juxtaposition matters, concrete-to-abstract matters, timely-to-theoretical matters, serious-to-funny matters, interplay between sources on the same topic matters. Here again editorial judgment enters, so that Links isn’t clunky or offputting to read, but smooth and seamless, fluent and easy, with anything jarring intended to jar.
Finally comes the Antidote, a curation process that I also cannot explain. But readers seem to like them! If you are persuaded that Links demands an extraordinary level of editorial judgment and care, then you should contribute generously to compensate the makers for their labor. The Tip Jar is to your right.
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I hope I have conveyed how Links, despite the seeming simplicity of its editorial design, is in fact a complex and demanding process performed under deadline pressure and for which Naked Capitalism has made the commitment that failure to deliver is not an option. Delivering Links to you also requires an uncommon combination of curiosity, news judgment, editorial judgment, and technical skill. Fortunately, we have not one, not two, but three people with those attributes. You should tip generously so they can keep doing what they do. Thanks for reading!
 There is no better way to convey the demanding nature of links than to describe the actual labor that goes into it, in detail. However, since the mechanical process of creating Links may be intimidating to some readers, or even boring, like the whaling chapters in Moby Dick, I have placed that material in this note. Technical readers enjoy, since the production process of links is also a master class in high-speed and, though I say it, high quality blogging. If you want to give the people who labor to create Links a decent hourly rate, the Tip Jar is over there.
I’m going to start at the end, when Links fires, and work backwards, back to the beginning, at the start of the working day (although in fact Links never really starts or ends, as we shall see). Yves and Jerri-Lynn have their own methods and styles, but I can only describe my process.
At some point before it is scheduled to fire, Links — title always of the form “Links D/M/YYYY” — will have been saved in our WordPress editor, which looks and works like a comments box, except with a lot more bells and whistles (like the button to schedule with). As with a comment, the text box contains HTML code, angle brackets and all.
Links is not topped with a byline, unlike posts, on the theory that personalities should not enter (although, in style, they sneak in). Links is tailed with a chunk of HTML for the antidote artwork, always an image of an animal — cute animals having been proven to provide health benefit — the file for which will have been uploaded to WordPress and scaled to Naked Capitalism’s standard width of 600px. Sometimes readers help us with antidotes; sometimes we forage for our own. Sometimes there are bonus antidotes (and even anti-antidotes). If you’ve felt the health, or morale boost, or happiness of antidotes, you know where the tip jar is.
In between the title at the top and the antidote at the bottom is a great mass of HTML code that displays as the familiar links that you see. For four or five hours before posting time, I will have been curating those links, which I have been accumulating, like a great whale scooping up krill, throughout the day.
I will have exported that great mass of HTML code from David Dunham’s wonderful, efficient, and ancient outliner, Opal. (Sadly, Microsoft’s horridly cumbersome and inefficient Word killed the outliner category, and Apple is threatening to make Opal unusable with its next upgrade, which means my Mac is frozen at MacOS 10.13.6. You could signal your appreciation for this sacrifice, except it’s not one; every “upgrade” seems to make things worse.)
In Opal, I will have sorted all the links into categories, like “Our Famously Free Press” or “China?” (There is a question mark after China because nobody really knows anything about China.) Some links don’t fit into categories, so I put them in the outline between categories. (Links in its editorial design is very pure; besides categories, one of the few tools to work with is ordering and juxtaposition.) Sometimes I add a comment after a link, sometimes a joke. (For scientific links — I prefer to hunt down the originals rather than use a reporter’s version — I try to quote the most salient material, generally in the Abstract.)
Before sorting the links into categories, I will have triaged them, since I start out with many more links than I actually use. This brings me to Link acquisition and curation, covered in the main body of the post. (This is my own acquisition practice: I am extremely online. I carry my iPad with me at all times along with a WiFi hot spot, and read the news flow on Twitter (even when reading in bed before sleep). When I see a tweet that seems like a good candidate for Links, I send it to myself via email. And again. And again. And again. So I started out by saying Links takes about four hours. In fact, for me, Links takes the waking hours. Links does not start or end. Links wraps around the entire day. As I said, it’s fun — endlessly fascinating, curiosity-satisfying, life’s rich pageant — but if to you it seems worth some coin, you know where to toss it.)
Which brings me to the start of my process, which I suppose we might as well call primitive accumulation. I am extremely online. I carry my iPad with me at all times along with a WiFi hot spot, and read the news flow on Twitter (even when reading in bed before sleep). When I see a tweet that seems like a good candidate for Links, I send it to myself via email. And again. And again. And again. So I started out by saying Links takes about four hours. In fact, Links takes the waking hours. Links does not start or end. Links wraps around the entire day. As I said, it’s fun — endlessly fascinating, curiosity-satisfying, life’s rich pageant — but if to you it seems worth some coin, you know where to toss it.