(Too Many) Variations on a Theme

It’s great that people blog– I just wish they’d stop saying the same thing.

Through school, students write papers to demonstrate subject knowledge, less so to articulate original thought. Old habits die hard, people start blogging, and in this age of instant worldwide publishing, we end up chewing on a lot of cud.

It’s not that people are boring, stupid, or have nothing to say– (though, that’s debatable…) Years of response-based writing inclines people to offer reactions than articulate their own, original ideas.

It’s much easier to write reactions than create ideas and be wrong. Save nothing of the social anxieties for being wrong, describing new ideas is a hard thing to do.

People tend to follow the path of least resistance and thus the blogosphere saturates itself with commentary. And, since the blogosphere moves with such great velocity, it’s near impossible to keep track of everything that’s been said. 

Unfortunately, all contributions — and I use that term loosely — are indexed and compiled into the same channel. We call it “Google”, and the signal-to-noise ratio goes up. Way up.

Responses typically fall into certain categories. (Ask anyone who grades papers or reads hundreds of blogs.) With blogging, there’s just more. It seems more people are interested in demonstrating knowledge than contributing new thought.

My theory is that this happens subconsciously. Years of response-based education create this need– it’s how we were graded by our superiors and evaluated by our peers. People need to show that they know something.

There’s no problem with that, except that this need generates millions of blog posts. In result, we saturate our knowledge space and make it near impossible to wade through.

A New Blogging Format

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I’m trying a new prose form that should improve clarity and eschew verbosity. This blog will only use this form.

In my last post on michaelgruen.com, I charged that blogging tends towards inanity and verbosity. That sentiment remains; but, in following a strict set of guidelines, I think I can satisfy my laconic inclinations while still providing digestible content.

Think word sushi: delicately-prepared high-quality content that’s easy to consume.

The guidelines:

  1. The post should take no longer than a minute or two to read. The average adult can read 250 words per minute. 300 words should be more than sufficient to make a point.
  2. The post opens with a statement of 140 characters or less because anything worth saying can be compressed into a Twitter-sized nugget. This statement is the core message of the post. Additionally, it doubles as a summary so visitors need not re-read the entire post to remember the punch line. And, quite obviously, it provides a “tweetable” hook to the content.
  3. A short phrase cannot always capture an entire thought. So, a brief introduction follows to contextualize the opening statement. 50 words or less should do.
  4. Following the Twitter-sized précis and brief introduction, the bulk of the post is largely free-form. In this case, it’s an enumerated definition of a new form.
  5. The post concludes with an optional final thought, consideration, or link to more information.

This post opens with 112 characters. This entire post comprises 271 words and takes under a minute to read. It took me just under an hour to write.

And that’s the point: Posts should take longer to prepare than to digest.