How to build a public link archive, and why

There are many reasons for creating a link archive. Maybe you’re involved in a research project, or perhaps just tracking a hobby interest. Maybe your starting a learning process or fact gathering investigation. Building an archive starts when you dig deeper and start making notes on more memorable references.

At first, the notes aren’t really an archive. Even if you return for a second day to add more. But by the time you’ve come back to it a third day, you might be wondering if some structure would be useful.

Keywords

Resist the impulse to divide your notes into sections. After the number of references you’ve noted starts heading into the double digits you have some organizational concepts, but filing or outlining is probably going to get in your way. Instead, write down your top 5 (plus or minus 2) sub-areas of interest, cross-cutting concerns or framing topics.

It’s perfectly ok for a reference to fit into more than one topic. The point here is that the topics you are are creating represent how you want to access things. You’ve collected enough links that have an idea what things you want to look out for when you look through more, so build the topics that represent how you want to access the links in your archive.

Now make keywords for each of your topics.

Yes, keywords. Possibly the most poorly utilized access mechanism ever. That field that is all too often skipped or filled in with whatever springs to mind is actually quite powerful. Use it to access your links by topic. You’ve just created highly useful structure that enables you to find things even if you can’t remember the title, author or exact details. You’ve also just built a way to get yourself back up to speed fast if you put the archive on hold and come back in a month. Keywords are your friends because they enable access by topic, and that is powerful.

With keywords for topics, you’re about halfway to a kick ass archive.

Speed note

Why did I note this link?

Nothing is more obvious right now, and nothing is harder to remember later. Especially if it was an important detail. Write it down! Do you really want to read the whole thing again when you come back? The return on investment for 100 characters of text to jog your memory will save you a lot of time. Repeatedly. Don’t believe it? Try it.

While you’re at it, consider distinguishing between a completely awesome informational resource, and a relatively slow link with a few useful points you want for reference. That’ll help also.

The case for open

Congratulations! Nice link archive you’ve built. Is it just for you?

Seriously, is this just going to sit on your computer? Other people could learn from it. And you’re pointing out some good information sources that would probably appreciate a link back.

Not convinced? I wasn’t either at first but then I remembered what it was like transitioning to open source software development. Why should I show the world my code? Who wants it? What if it’s not good enough? Ultimately I went open source because it was easier to work with and I could get it hosted for free with no hassle.

Then I noticed a change in how I worked. Even though I wasn’t popular enough that people would follow everything I was writing, there was still an accountability and responsibility working in the open that elevated the quality of what I created. Not only are the things I’ve built in the open more useful over time, I can access them from anywhere and show them to anyone.

Since you know how to lay a foundation for an archive using keywords, description and an overall quality rating, there’s lots of software you can use to build a working link archive. Even a spreadsheet will work. Want to try open? Read on.

Building archives with membic.com

For shorthand, call that archive element link+description+rating thing a “membic”. Membic.com is free site where you can make membics and store them in your profile.

On membic.com, a link archive is called a “theme”. Once you have created a profile, create a new theme from the tab on your profile page. Define your keywords in the theme settings.

Themes have numerous great features, including being able to collaborate with others. As always, feedback welcome either here or on the site. Thanks for digging into things.

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How to build a public link archive, and why

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