A tutorial for formatting articles and websites to share

In the future able2know will have a special topic type dedicated to sharing articles and webpages but in the mean time there’s still a lot of article posting going on and I thought I’d share my tips on making the submissions more useful to others.

  1. Link to the article. Give the users a chance to see the article at its source and give credit to the publisher where it is due. I find the best results are to give the link as a large and prominent headline to the article excerpt you are sharing.
  2. Write a good headline. Good headline copy is too large a subject to cover here but the basics are that you can go for informative or catchy. A title like “Best article ever!” might draw attention but says little about the topic. A title like “computer keyboard” is topical but not very interesting. I find that the best titles are the ones that combine both as they draw interest by being catchy as well as from people searching for specific subjects. Often the website or article has a title by the author and I usually take these and improve on them slightly when I don’t have a much better (in my opinion, of course) headline to use. Sometimes articles come with a main headline and a secondary headline and when they do I’ll sometimes use one for the topic title and the other for the link to the article.
  3. Excerpt the text. Copying and pasting the article in its entirety is not useful to many people (besides being illegal in many cases). An excerpt of the highlights or what you found most relevant does people a favor of giving them something shorter that they can use to see if they’d like to read the whole thing. And since you are already linking to the source (see above) prominently they can read the whole thing in a better format than most of the copy and paste tends to transfer.
  4. Include multimedia. An image is worth a thousand words and a relevant article image can make the submission more interesting to others and draw more people in to check it out. It helps flesh out a bare-looking entry and doing things like embedding a video instead of just linking to it and embedding images can help make your submission more substantial and catchy.

When all is said and done, able2know users tend to react more positively to postings that have at least a little thought and structure to them. Simply dropping a link isn’t enough to get most people to click on it and simply copying the whole text is too verbose to catch their attention. So most people like a nice prominent link and a good excerpt and perhaps even your thoughs and comments on the matter (or even when you tie togehter some related articles to provide them a cluster that they might not have found on their own).

So if you want your post to be useful to the most users and to get more replies follow those style guidelines and you’ll make your posts more interesting to more people.

Here is an example of a post using those principles and the bbcode I used for them in case you’d like to use the same style I do:

Topic title: The toughest animal on earth (Tardigrada) survives trip in space

Post Body:

[url=http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/09/invertebrate-as.html][size=150]Invertebrate Astronauts Make Space History[/size][/url]

[quote]It’s one small step for Tardigrada, and one giant leap for the animal kingdom: The toughest creature on Earth has survived a trip into space.

Except for a few hardy strains of bacteria, any other creature would have been destroyed — but tardigrades handled the voyage as though it were a dry spell on their local moss patch.

“They have claws and eyes. They are real animals. And this is the first time such an animal was tested in space,” said Petra Rettberg, an Institute of Aerospace Medicine microbiologist.


You’ll note that I used the catchier headline “toughest animal on earth” for the topic title while adding a bit of context (the animal’s name) and then used a secondary title for the main link to the article. I then excerpt a bit of the article, link an image and quote it.

To do the headline link to the article I paste in the headline and make any changes to it that I need to, and then I highlight it and change the text size to “large”. I highlight it again (including the size tags) and click “url” to put it in url tags and then add the link inside the opening url tag. The result of that is this part of the bbcode:

[url=http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/09/invertebrate-as.html][size=150]Invertebrate Astronauts Make Space History[/size][/url]