Sunday, August 20, 2006

Blog writing

"Blog writing is different than almost any other sort of exposition. Some people have been with you for years. They understand your conventions, your shorthands and your biases. They know you’ve written a few books, appeared as a child actor in Star Trek or have a deep and abiding hatred for cats. You can drop a few hints and they get it.

The rest of your readers are left clueless.

Which leads to the squeaky wheel problem. Among your newbies are several people who won’t hesitate to send you an email, post a comment or leave in a huff. They don’t get it and they want you to know they don’t get it.

Your inclination, if you’re at all like me, is to have that person’s voice in the back of your head every time you post an entry or design a page. “But what about Fred, who just got here?” If you’re working in an organization, the voice will be even louder. Your peers will remind you of the Freds of the world every time they hear from them.


Starbucks doesn’t start over every time someone walks in, and neither does your church. Great websites don’t explain every little icon in big type--they give newbies a chance to figure it out and they let the regulars use a tool they enjoy.

Some of the most popular blogs and websites on the web are hard to understand the first time you get there. Not hard for hard’s sake, but hard because there’s a lot of power in a little space and explaining it all would actually make it work worse.

If I was always trying to catch people up, I’d end every post by pointing to my lens. But I won’t, because then you’d stop reading, wouldn’t you?

One opportunity that's underused is the idea of using cookies to treat returning visitors differently than newbies. It's more work at first, but it can offer two experiences to two different sorts of people.

Nothing grows forever, and no doubt, one day in the next decade the bulk of your readers will be caught up. But until then, the calculus of starting in the middle is always going to penalize--at least a little--the folks who just showed up, the folks who have been there for a while, or the writer. Just something to keep in mind when you are building your UI or writing your next missive."

1 comment:

rimone said...

i agree w/most of what Seth said. then again, i post for myself and i also keep changing my writing style, spellings, grammatical style, usual in subtle ways.

since i write for myself, my thinking is, if people don't get it--fuck 'em, they're not clever enough to keep up.

i've gotten mails telling me similar to the same, e.g., i didn't know what the fuck you were talking about until i read some of your past posts and noticed your differences in style.

personally, i'm one of those who has absolutely no aspirations or desires to be chosen as a paying hack (a la wonkette) so i feel i can do/write how i like.

um, nyah, lol