Wednesday

Read my [links]

Engage me in conversation and you run the risk of being there for a while. I like to talk (or should that be converse? It's not just a one way thing) and tell stories that wander and digress, but hopefully find their way back on track eventually.

Writing is different though (state the bleedin' obvious Smith, why don't you?). Even blogs that adopt the less formal conversational style that PR and marketing gurus aspire to harness, the written word will always be more concise and structured than the spoken word. At a recent training session I ran with some academics, I was trying to convince them to cut their lengthy web content down by at least 50% in order to make it less daunting and impenetrable. I demonstrated a few techniques and edited some of their copy to show how the same information can be conveyed equally (if not more) effectively by being succinct and even went as far as to suggest that they don't include every single piece of information they have on their pages.

The web is revolutionary in its structure. Being able to link to other documents and pages, not only on your own site but on others, enables you to create mini-hubs of information. Just see how rich the BBC news pages are with their links and archives, without being too dense. This got me thinking about a recent post on Serge Cornelus' No-copy blog. Following up a promise to post on the subject of Belgian beers, Serge took the sensible decision to link out to an authoritative source rather than regurgitate the source material. This, for me, demonstrates excellently the potential of the web as an infinitely rich resource and publishing medium. Not only that, it encourages the reader to read deeper and explore sites that they may or may not have visited before.


It does in some cases however raise the issue of authority. Where blogs are acting as sources of information rather than casual reading there is a danger that linking to the wrong information or incorrect information can do as much harm as good. Andrea Weckerle prompted some interesting debate on the point in her posts on avian flu and in the spirit of this post I shall link to them rather than 'reinventing the wheel'.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Andrea Weckerle said...

For me half the fun is following a post’s links to referenced material. Not only do I get access to the actual source material, but I also get a glimpse into the mind of the blogger, i.e., what did s/he consider link-worthy, authoritative, etc.

You statement “where blogs are acting as sources of information rather than casual reading there is a danger that linking to the wrong information or incorrect information can do as much harm as good,” raises two issues:
(1) Shouldn’t readers be critical thinkers?
(2) Doesn’t the actual linking to other sites, as well as the ability to examine those other sources, enable readers to determine the accuracy and validity of the initial post?

3:03 pm  
Blogger Pub said...

Andrea - I totally agree that the act of linking to other sites enables readers to determine the accuracy and validity of the original post but I think that there is a danger of assuming that all readers are critical thinkers.

While most are and all should be (in an ideal world), experiences in web design and content production have left me with a rather cynical view of the end-user.

My point being that while we are using blogs to inform ourselves by making critical decisions over the content that we read, there is a danger that the same level of critical thinking may not be applied across the board which is where the danger I alluded to arises.

3:48 pm  
Anonymous Serge said...

Readers should be critical. But the use of the modal 'should' says it all, as far as I am concerned. How is that for being concise on the net ? ;-)
BTW: thanks for the link, Sam. And Andrea: I know what you mean about following links. Kept me up a couple of nights. The net is like a black hole if you're not careful: it just sucks you right in. Link after link after link after link after...

8:52 pm  

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