Stanley’s weekly feature READ.LOOK.THINK., highlighting her favourite reads of the week, now is one of my most trusted sources of interesting online articles. For this Blogger Adventure, I asked her about the discipline and decision behind picking those links, link curation for business and pleasure and ranking above a Twilight character on Google.
You’re a writer, and going by your Voiceless Writers piece, a really good one - why isn’t there more of your writing on your site?
That’s really kind of you to say. I am not really suited for blogging at all because, truthfully, in my private life and personal time I don’t like arguing with, explaining to, contextualising for or persuading strangers. I do all these things every day for work! (I work in advertising.) And I don’t like talking about myself in more than 140 characters at a time.
That means I am unsuited for the type of writing on the web that I love so much to read: personal essays, opinion pieces and the like. I can do it, I just don’t like to.
Anyway, the writing I’ve been working on for the past few years has either been quite long pieces of fiction or feature length screenplays, and neither of those forms are really suitable for blog-sharing. That means my poor site is quite nude when it comes to my own stuff and probably will be forever!
Your READ.LOOK.THINK newsletter is one of my favourite emails of the week. How do you pick the links you feature?
Recently a few themes have emerged: women’s first person writing, film and screenplays, mood and the mind, communicating and solving complex problems, animal rights, social media and how it affects us and our behaviour.
But there are no rules really except that I must personally find it interesting. Not “will other people find this interesting?” Just “do I find it so.” And then I run a little informal analysis over each link too, like “is the page it’s on too ugly to link to,” or “is it from some terrible disingenuous source” or “does this person really know what they’re talking about?” Though sometimes I love linking to misspellings and weird formatting when it really represents the personality of the person who wrote it, so all these guidelines are bendable.
How did you get the idea for READ.LOOK.THINK?
It was a complete whim. By the end of 2011 I knew I was going to turn freelance after years of being salaried, and I thought, sadly, well I’d better get a more professional “web presence” happening.
Before I’d just had my Twitter (very silly) and Tumblr (also quite silly). Then I was like, what on earth will go on this crappy empty Jessicastanley.com.au? I started with two things a week: 10 Photos for photos and READ.LOOK.THINK for links.
The name READ.LOOK.THINK. came about in about ten seconds because I knew I needed some kind of structure to arrange my links in. But I didn’t think about it more than that. It is lucky the structure has held up and seems quite robust.
Last week’s READ.LOOK.THINK was guest curated. What criteria do you pick curators on and how much freedom do you give them in terms of the links they can choose?
All curators of READ.LOOK.THINK. so far have been “Internet friends.” You know, people I’ve followed on their blogs and Twitters for years and whose taste and humour and brains I admire so much I feel I know them really well even if we’ve only met a few times in some cases.
Of course, I give them total freedom and have not changed a single link in any guest post. I love reading their posts and clicking every link. It is a treat for me. And it gives me a break too if I am bored of doing it, which does happen. I go through phases of disgust with the Internet and with myself for paying it so much focused attention. I know I shouldn’t, but I do.
READ.LOOK.THINK. is completely selfish and based around me/what I care about. Linkness, a reading round up I do as part of my work with Nextness, is for others. When I do it I am trying to be thoughtful and empathetic.
The primary audience for the blog are people in STW Group and its 75+ agencies, their peers and clients. I ask myself, “what do really busy people in communications/business/the creative industries need to know about this week? How can they keep up to date in taxis between meetings? How can I help them cut down on the absurd amount of RSS feeds they have to read by ploughing through them myself and cherry picking what’s important?”
And I choose links accordingly. Of course there is a large segment of the Nextness audience who are very advanced, very up to date, and profoundly knowledgeable, much more than I am. For them I focus on depth, detail and stories from different disciplines to round out or complement their expertise.
How do you find the time to read all this?
I have two separate Google Readers. On Chrome are all my work feeds - advertising, technology, business, general. Ploughing through that is paid work for me and I take it really seriously.
On Firefox I have my personal Twitter and Google Reader. That only takes an hour a day to get through, really (though I click in and out of it all day between working and writing). Then I can read my Instapaper in the bath or on the Tube or waiting in a cafe when someone’s running late.
One thing I am good at is deciding almost immediately if an article is worth proceeding with. If it’s not, I mark it as read and move on without regret. An early hard judgment saves a lot of time. Other time-savers: I don’t watch video, I don’t follow memes that aren’t funny, I don’t read gossip, I don’t read or follow silly news stories about things that will be relevant for about a day.
So yes, finding the time to read all this is not hard. What’s hard is finding time for, say, exercise but that’s because I find that so boring! (Tragically for my fitness.)
I mostly read READ.LOOK.THINK. in my emails, rather than going to your website. What’s your view on traffic to your own site vs being read in a newsletter?
I love the thought of an email coming in to someone’s inbox that they might see as a gift. That is, something done for nothing in return, that’s not advertising, and to which you don’t have to reply. I am always really pleased and excited when people tell me they like it. That means more to me than numbers.
You have your own website, and also a Tumblr. Why the two platforms?
I love Tumblr so much and have been on it since 2007. I use Tumblr now for visual things - it’s so easy to scroll through my archive and find a striking image. I also use it to extract and record quotes or facts from long stories that are otherwise a bit boring to plough through, and therefore not good for READ.LOOK.THINK.
How do you see READ.LOOK.THINK. evolve over the next few months?
I think I will take a little break over the holidays perhaps. I am getting married and we’re also having 12 people over for family Christmas. Though by Boxing Day I could be desperate to take refuge in some really quiet, manageable reading! After that, I am not sure.
I have been thinking recently that people who like READ.LOOK.THINK. must surely like the same things as me. So how can I get their recommendations for things that I might like, like a sort of discovery engine/Netflix algorithm? And also, if READ.LOOK.THINK. is a record of my fascinations, which my friends and readers share, might they not want to watch a film that I’ve written, based on many of the same thoughts, feelings and preoccupations? Would they watch it, if it were made? Could they help put me in touch with someone who’d make it? I don’t know about this yet. It might be a bridge too far.
What is having a Twilight character with the same name as you like?
I just wish so much it was a vampire character rather than a school kid!
You can subscribe to READ.LOOK.THINK. here
Photos courtesy of Jessica Stanley.