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July 12, 2007

Write blog postings, not articles :-)

I have to say that I'm somewhat disappointed by Jakob Nielsen's Write Articles, Not Blog Postings blog entry (that is a blog that Nielsen writes isn't it? - albeit one by another name :-) ).  Disappointed because I've read Alertbox on and off for the last 10 years or so and always found it to be spot on.  But this 'article' seems to fall foul of some of the things he tells us not to do, not least in appearing to start from the assumption that all blog entries take the form of a "short comment on somebody else's work".

Yes, he tries to claw his way back from that position by saying:

Obviously, I am referring to the user experience and to the style of the content in this analysis; not to the technology used to serve up this content. Thus, what I call "articles" might be hosted on a weblog service. What matters is that the user experience is that of immersion in comprehensive treatment of a topic, as opposed to a blog-style linear sequence of short, frequent postings commenting on the hot topic of the day. It doesn't matter what software is used to host the content, the distinctions are:

  • in-depth vs. superficial
  • original/primary vs. derivative/secondary
  • driven by the author's expertise vs. being reflectively driven by other sites or outside events

but it's hard to find this statement compelling when he has used the word 'blog' as short-hand for 'superficial', 'derivative' and 'being reflectively driven by other sites' in the title of the piece.

Blogs and blog entries come in all shapes, sizes and forms.  Even those that are primarily 'derivative' are not necessarily 'superficial'.  Blog entries are part of a debate, as any article should be.  Yes, by now there are probably hundreds of blog entries that are 'comments' on Nielsen's work - but so what?  Does that make all of them shallow or superficial?  I think not.

It's a bit like that moment when you are growing up and you realise that despite giving the impression of knowing everything about everything, your dad is actually talking complete bollocks most of the time.  (Note: I am not saying this of Nielsen... but perhaps I'll read his articles a bit differently from now on).

On a slightly different tack, and with reference to the title of this entry, I was recently asked to write something for a peer-reviewed journal.  Now, impact means different things to different people, but for me, as a non-researcher (i.e. as someone that doesn't have to worry about impact factors and the RAE), writing something for a peer-reviewed journal that won't see the light of day for another year or so doesn't make a lot of sense.  I'm happy with the impact of this blog thank you very much.  There are times when it does seem to make sense, to me, to write for something with a quicker turn-around - Ariadne for example - but I must admit that it isn't 100% clear to me exactly when that makes sense and when it is sufficient to simply put something in the blog.


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Another advantage of blogs is that you can drop in phrases like "complete bollocks" without worry that some fussy peer-reviewed journal editor is going to red-line them :-)

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