Sunday, October 15, 2006

[Info] How a B-List Post is Created

[Info] How a B-List Post is Created

This is a brief overview of the process of how a typical B-List post is created. Hopefully it gives you an idea of why I got a bit tired of doing them, and why I've decided to change my approach to posting to this blog :)

Step 1: Collecting Links
When I browse the web, I often come across stuff that other people might like. For example, an amusing news story, a cool new web site, or just something silly. So I started keeping a catalogue of such links in a text file. This file got quite large, so I used an application on my Mac (MacJournal) to help manage them all.

Step 2: Categorising Links
The links are basically just three lines: a headline, the url (or web address) and a short summary. The links are grouped with related links into categories (e.g. "Strange Laws", "The Things People Say"). And related categories are kept together in a MacJournal page (e.g. "Amazing human feats", "Law and Order"). Once a week I would take the links collected in the "to be sorted" list and put them into appropriate categories.

Step 3: Posting an Item
When I've collected a reasonable number of links in a category, that category becomes a candidate for a B-List post. The theme is often obvious, but sometimes I come up with a catchy title (e.g. "The Things People Say"). In an ideal world this would simply be a matter of cutting and pasting the links into an email and send it off. I've even set up some Perl scripts to automate the formatting the links. But as you're probably aware, the web is not static: pages expire, sites are reorganised, and some sites disappear completely. So I need to manually check each link in a post before sending it. If a links has expired, I'll try using Google to find a similar page, or at least see if someone else has archived it on their site. This takes time.

Unfortunately, each step in the process outlined above has broken down. My browsing habits have changed. I'm reading more technical stuff, so I have less time to find generally-amusing links. When I do find such links, categorising them among the 400-odd categories (containing a total of over 5000 links) takes too much time. Finally, I found that the themes were becoming repetitive. I guess this is understandable: I've been sending B-List emails for about 6 years, with over 800 posts. In April 2003 I started the B-List blog,, and there have been 380 posts since.

In the long break since my post in May, I've been thinking what to do about the B-List. I could use a database to help with the collection and categorising of links, but the issue of repetitiveness and change of reading habits would still be there. I actually miss posting - I needed a new approach. So I've decided that, at least for a while, the B-List will morph into something of an observational thing. What has caught my interest lately? Have I noticed something interesting or unusual?

I'll still post items about sites of interest. For example, on Friday I sent the now annual post about the Ig Nobel awards. But I doubt that I'll return to theme-based collections of links.

In conclusion, I hope you enjoy the "new" B-List.