The debate over share buttons on blogs

In March, Jason Kottke launched a redesign that included something that I had long looked down on — sharing buttons. He explained:

I’ve always thought of kottke.org as a place where people come to find interesting things to read and look at, and design has always been crafted with that as the priority. A few months ago, I read an interview with Jonah Peretti about what BuzzFeed is up to and he said something that stuck with me: people don’t just come to BuzzFeed to look at things, they come to find stuff to share with their friends. As I thought about it, I realized that’s true of kottke.org as well…and I haven’t been doing a good enough job of making it easy for people to do.

After thinking about it, I agreed with that argument and added some sharing buttons to my post as well — only to services that I actually care about. Lots of people who I know use Facebook. I am a big fan of people sharing things on Twitter and Tumblr, and I find Hacker News to be useful at times as well, so I included those buttons.

Jason found that people are using those buttons. He has seen great results from mirroring his blog on Tumblr. I find that some people are using the buttons on my site as well.

Today, inspired by a post by Oliver Reichenstein provocatively entitled, Sweep the Sleaze, I learned that including those buttons made me look a bit desperate. Lots of smart people who I read agree with that assessment, and I more or less agreed with it myself until Jason Kottke changed my mind.

What Reichenstein’s post immediately made me think of was Nick Bradbury’s post from yesterday, Screw the Power Users. Here’s his advice:

But if you’re building a mainstream consumer product, then from day one you need to tell yourself, “screw the power users.”

That’s hard to do – after all, you’re a developer, so you’re one of the power users. You want to make people like yourself happy.

But I’d argue that’s one of the biggest problems that has plagued the software industry. We’ve all built stuff for ourselves, even though the vast majority of software users aren’t like us.

This is essentially the point of view that I came around to when I added the buttons. Am I a user of these share buttons? No. They’re a waste of space as far as I’m concerned. But other people do use them. They’re not slowing down the page load to any meaningful extent, and they’re pretty unobtrusive. I reserve the right to remove them the second they start to annoy me, but for now, I see including them as a worthwhile experiment.

In the meantime, writing a strident post entitled “Sweep the Sleaze” that takes dead aim at fish swimming around in a barrel is a much more obvious cry for attention than any number of sharing buttons on a blog post.

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