Jakob Nielsen on Articles vs. Blog Postings

July 20, 2007 at 3:09 pm | Posted in Analyst biz, Blogs, usability | 3 Comments

I’ve been writing this blog for about 10 months (and 115 postings) now and have enjoyed the opportunity to participate in my small way in various debates in the internet community. I’ve been able to get feedback to ideas I’m working on, publish smaller pieces of content that don’t normally fit the heft or formal voice I use in my professional writing, and plug an event or report now and then. In all, it’s been a good experience.

So reading Jakob Nielsen’s (a usability guru) recent screed against casual blogging (“Write Articles, Not Blog Postings (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox)“) I can’t help but feel he’s missed the point of this particular style of blogging (blogging technology can also be used to do other styles of blogs such as formal content publication and internal enterprise blogging).

He begins by relating a conversation he had with a “world leader in his field” about whether to blog.

… I recommended that he should instead invest his time in writing thorough articles that he published on a regular schedule. Given limited time, this means not spending the effort to post numerous short comments on ongoing blogosphere discussions.

I’d summarize the rest by saying Jakob describes how the wildly varying nature of most blogs (entries of varying level of quality, expertise, and depth) leads to a scattershot approach that sinks the writer below the thin upper crust of top experts in the field. Longer, in-depth, carefully written entries would be better since they would maintain the appearance of having the highest level of expertise.

That may be true if the goal is to be a good writer. But I think most bloggers want to be a good conversationalist. If you were trying to engage people at a dinner party I would not recommend you stand up, talk for thirty solid minutes in a properly formatted argument with numbered points and rebuttals for anticpated arguments, then sit down. If you were at a conference that would be appropriate. They are different forums. His comments seem to frame blogging as being about content when it’s really about community.

As for the variance in quality, expertise, and depth I think readers of blogs have different expectations than they do of a white paper, conference presentation, or academic thesis. In many cases, the reader simply wants to live in the head of the blogger to see what they find interesting and what they’ve been reading. That’s an attention management characteristic of new technologies such as social tagging/bookmarking as well – people pay more attention to content that people they respect are paying attention to.

Many bloggers just link to articles or provide minimal commentary on the topics of the day along with the links. Jakob dislikes this – “Blog postings will always be commodity content: there’s a limit to the value you can provide with a short comment on somebody else’s work.” But I think back to one of my first posts in 2006 where I talked about David Foster Wallace’s writing style: “The point of Wallace’s writing style, to me, is that the value of his content is the unique structure he superimposes on it. More than most other writers, Wallace really gives you a feeling of not just what he knows and thinks, but how he is thinking about it.” That is what is going on in many blogs as well. Even if a blogger is just linking to information, he provides value by the structure imposed on it – what is selected.

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3 Comments »

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  1. […] (like those in PowerPoint 2007 below).  I’m going to disagree with Jakob here, and it isn’t the first time.  I’ve been diving into Office 2007 more extensively lately and am not a fan of the new […]

  2. Here I call these SELF-CONFIDENT LADY!

  3. It has already been shown to work. ,


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