On Tuesday, I was quite pleased to announce the first formal release of the Publish2 WordPress plugin. With the 1.1 version, journalists on Publish2 can easily add their link journalism to the sidebar of their blog, add a reading list much like I have on my own website, or have simple, intuitive access to their curated links at the point when they’re most likely to need them the most: when writing a story.
Ok, enough with the public relations speak. That last bit is what I’m really excited about. We’re calling it Link Assist, and I’m itching to write about some of the the philosophy driving it.
I digress to set the scene. Link Assist is a widget-y bit of functionality that lives in the sidebar of your edit post page within WordPress (where you’d actually write a post). Getting it set up is a simple process of dropping your link journalism URL (this is mine) into “Your Profile” under “Users” and hitting the checkbox for Link Assist. Once you’ve done this, Link Assist will load automatically and in the background every time you set up to write a new post.
This is where the magic happens.
Link Assist is all about making your own curated web more useful. When saving a link to Publish2 with comments and tags, you’re making an implicit judgement that the link holds value. The immediate return on your effort is that you share the link with your readers, either via Twitter, “What We’re Reading” embedded on your publication’s website, etc. What you’re doing when you’re curating the web, however, is also creating a repository of information whose value is in relationship to you. The comments and tags you assign to a link define this relationship. Link Assist is another step in making that very repository much more accessible. When you have that thought of “Oh, I remember reading such and such which would make a good link to the graf I’m writing at the moment,” the link you’re thinking of should be at your metaphorical fingertips, instead of lost in one of the 50 tabs you have open.
With this first release, there two distinct navigational features to make this happen. The first is that clicking on the tags associated with every link will then filter your links by that tag. Personally, I have a deliberate approach to tagging my links. My strategy is intended to both serve as information descriptive to the reader and give them a broad sense of what the link is about, but also to serve as a navigational tool for me when I need to find that link again.
As an example, I often tag links with the type of link, the location the link is relevant to, and/or broad yet descriptive keywords for what the link is about. I’m also a big fan of using proper nouns. It isn’t an exact science, but I try and mimic my tagging taxonomy across platforms (Publish2, WordPress, Gmail, etc.).
Ultimately, the work building this mental framework for how all of my links fit together pays large dividends. When presented with the right tools, I have a whole set of breadcrumbs I can follow to find the link I’m thinking of. Link Assist takes advantage of this to make navigation, or getting at what you need to find, much more intuitive.
Link Assist also includes a second unique, experimental approach to navigation — as long as you’re not on IE 6. You can use the entire right and left side columns as buttons, as well as arrows at the top, to go back and forth through your links.
There are a number of services out in the interwebs that will automatically populate your posts with links, images, and videos. Link Assist is geared towards those who have a prejudice against a machine and algorithm adding dubious value that is then passed off as their own. It’s the human touch that adds the most value.
Link Assist meets you where you need it and offers a powerful way to better curate the web.