All about This., the new link-sharing network

About nine months ago, Capital New York noted that Atlantic Media was entering the social network business. It had a link-sharing site in development. Heading the effort: Andrew Golis, who had been appointed general manager of The Wire in January.

The project’s name, This., may be a nod to Twitter but it harks back to early days of the Web. It illustrates a human need to emphasize “emphatic endorsement“, and its early life as a signifier reminds that we acted “social” on the Internet long before the advent of “social media”.

Fark.com, an online news discussion community founded in 1999, is cited as a source of the meme by Urban Dictionary user J. Harvey, and it’s still visible there today.

Metafilter (also launched in 1999), the pioneer one-post-a-day link-sharing site, provides this suggestion for content:

A good post to MetaFilter is something that meets the following criteria: most people haven’t seen it before, there is something interesting about the content on the page, and it might warrant discussion from others.

This., still in closed beta, also limits members to sharing only one link per day. However, Golis has developed a site where discussion is not an option. Instead, the “thanks” link is both a nod to the Facebook Like and the sole means of interaction. This is a silent network.

 

How to post to This.

Unlike other link-sharing sites (such as Delicious, Diigo, Evernote, Scoop.it, to name a few), the only way to share a link is via the This. bookmarklet. Thus the site is not mobile-friendly.*

My bookmarklet works only with Safari (Mac) 8.0. When I try to use it with Chrome (Mac) 42.0.2298.0 dev, the application throws this error after log-in:

Bad Request
Invalid CSRF Token

When activated, the bookmarklet has three text fields and an image selection option. Two of the text fields may be pre-populated.

Bookmarklet example

This. bookmarklet with fields pre-populated.

 

What can you do on This.?

You can post one link a day. If you get desperate, you can delete today’s link (“only in case of emergencies”) by going to Settings and scrolling to the bottom of the page.

  • You can thank someone for a link.
  • You can connect your Twitter account, which shows you who you follow on Twitter who is also on This.
  • You can follow other This. members. You’ll see their links by default as your home page.
  • You can see everyone’s links on your home page by clicking All.
  • You can see all of your posts on Your Shelf, another name for a profile page.
  • You can see who has followed you or thanked you (Activity).
  • You can see prior day’s posts one-day-at-a-time, by going to the bottom of your home page and clicking Yesterday. Again. And again. Or by changing the date in the URL field: https://this.cm/1-february-2015/ or https://this.cm/1-february-2015/all. I’m sure all the WordPress people are fainting over that single-digit date field.

 

This. home

Example of This. home page.

 

What would make This. more useful?

  • Hashtags for discoverability.
  • An easy way to discover how many times a link has been shared. Or by whom. Or when. Currently, there is no way to do this.
  • Search, for links or for people.
  • Be able to edit the post — change the image, shorten the headline, correct a typo in your pitch. You know: error correction. One of the prime tenets of web and application design. Even if there were a limited time, say 15 minutes, for making changes.
  • Offer a few optional images for those cases where there is no image or they all look like junk. Let us avoid eyesores. Appearance matters.
  • Added: show the date a link was shared when looking anyone’s shelf

 

First impressions

The novelty (shiny!) factor is a selling point for This, and the nightly newsletter curated by Golis is a plus. Interesting gems from my first week: a 1994 interview with Jon Stewart, many Facebook users don’t realize they are on the Internet, and the art of the (movie) title.

Like any network, digital or “real world”, its value to you is a function of the people in the network. Who you chose to follow is the key to its utility, perhaps even more than on Twitter because there is no public retweeting. And figuring out who likes something is tedious. But I want to find interesting people I don’t already follow on Twitter, and that’s not easy.

visual nightmare

This. visual nightmare.

I usually find an article that I’ve not found elsewhere, but with one exception I studiously avoid the predictable 1-in-5 sources that I’m already seeing everywhere else: New York Times, New Yorker, The Guardian, Washington Post and YouTube. That exception is Medium, because I’ve not been spending the time there that I should.

I appreciate the serendipity but I’d really like a taxonomy and a way to identify links shared by more than one person. At an average now of about 400 postings per day, that’s too much to deal with on an ad hoc basis.

And the visual clutter makes me want to stab my eyes out.

When I shared an invitation with a peer journalism educator, her response about the lack of mobile support mirrored this tweet:

Given the mobile-first mantra circulating through today’s newsrooms, the indifference here seems inexplicable. And I’m struck – in a not so positive way – that Golis equates “mobile” with iOS apps. Huh?

All the decisions about how to approach it were premised on what is the most flexible and inexpensive way to test the idea. here are a few problems that go with launching something as an app. One is you live and die by the Apple App Store. Secondly, it’s very hard to originate sharing inside of a mobile app. There’s tons of resharing inside mobile apps, but if you look at Tumblr, Pinterest and Twitter, a lot of the original sharing has to start somewhere else, because it’s so hard to copy a link, leave the app, go into another app, and then paste it.

To which I reply: Bootstrap, for mobile-friendly websites. Delicious, for a website that pre-populates article titles when you paste a link onto a normal web form. FlipBoard, for an iOS app that makes it one-click easy to share stuff you’re reading.

It may be “so hard” to copy and paste a link, but millions of people do it every day on Twitter and Facebook. On their phones. And not always using the app. Hint, hint: you can use both Twitter and Facebook inside a web browser. App. Not. Required.

That’s a lot easier than the work-around I’m writing for folks who want to share to This. from their phones.

 

Finally, if the idea of curated links and community has appeal, I encourage you to try out Metafilter ($5 one-time fee).

 

Addendum:
work-around coming for using a Chrome bookmarklet on your phone or tablet

Written by Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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