As I’ve often been asked how I choose the half dozen or so daily links I include in my Check out posts, I thought I’d give a quick summary of how I go about it. There are three basic steps: Search, Store, and Select.
First of all, I read a lot of blogs, probably somewhere in the region of 120. No, I don’t visit 120 blogs every day; I use Google Reader and the Reeder app to bring these blogs to me. It usually takes me about 45-60 mins each evening to scan the daily postings and pick out what interests me and also what I think will interest you. Although this sounds laborious, I actually find it relaxing and edifying. It’s certainly a better way to spend an hour than reading the daily newspaper.
Another source of articles is my Twitter feed, where I’ve carefully chosen the people to follow that connect me with the best material on the web. I rarely look for anything from Facebook as there’s just too much junk to wade through. People also email me material that they think might be good for Check out.
As I’m reading these blogs, I’m not only looking for Check out links; I’m also looking for resources that will be helpful for my ministry, my students, and my family.
So how do I organize these resources for future reference? I use Diigo, a free bookmarking service that plugs into most browsers. Basically, when I see an article I like, I click the Diigo icon on my browser, which brings up the Diigo bookmark box. There I quickly add tags that will help me find these resources should I need them in the future.
BTW, if you join Diigo, you can follow me there and get access to all the links and tags I’ve saved up through the years! Just search for my name.
Now comes the difficult part. Of the hundreds of daily links, how do I choose six or so for the daily Check out post. Thankfully, there’s usually no lack of material. I often have to leave out or delay some great links just because there’s so much good stuff around. So what are my criteria? Well, when I started this I didn’t think through or set out any formal criteria, but thinking about it now, there do seem to be some general guidelines (though not hard-and-fast rules) I follow:
1. Christian and non-Christian
While the balance of my links are from Christian authors, I usually include links to articles written by non-Christians too. These may be on subjects that I have a personal interest in or that reflect some current trends. I love seeing God’s common grace in the talents and skills of all His creatures. Most readers have the savvy to understand that I’m not endorsing everything I link to.
2. Positive more than negative
There’s a place for critiques of what’s going on in the church and in our culture, and I sometimes link to such pieces. But on the whole, I try to put Philippians 4:8 into practice and lean towards the true, the good, the pure, the lovely, the praiseworthy, etc. There are many other blogs that lean the other way if that’s your preference.
3. Small more than big
There are some great blogs that will keep you in touch with the well-known preachers, writers, bloggers, etc., and I’ll link to such pieces now and again. As there’s no point in duplicating what is being well done by others, I prefer linking to the less well-known (but sometimes more talented!) speakers, authors, etc. I also assume that everyone reads the mega-bloggers already.
4. Male and female
As the Christian blogosphere, especially the Reformed planet, is dominated by male voices, I like to link to some of the great female writers I’ve come across over the years.
5. Special interests
Obviously a lot of my picks reflect my own special interests, which include:
- Christ in the Old Testament
- Counseling (especially in the area of depression/anxiety)
- Education (especially the exciting changes in how College level education is being delivered)
- Leadership (especially pastoral leadership)
- Race (especially encouraging young African American Christians and more racially-integrated churches)
- Family (raising children, marriage, etc)
- I leave out the salmon fishing links as I think that’s probably a touch too specialized!
Some might look at this list of interests and think, “What a weirdo!” Maybe. Probably. But no point in pretending to be what I’m not. WYSIWYG.
At least, having written this post, I’m relieved to see that there does appear to be some method to my madness.
And finally, a huge HUGE “Hat-tip” to Tim Challies who’s not only the first I saw doing this kind of thing, but who’s also my model and mentor in all things digital.