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The Evolution of Writing on the Web

Experimental post about how writing should evolve to fit the modern web surfer.

A non-functional wire sculpture of a toilet.
By CCRI Artdepartment

Why New Styles are Needed

  • Articles should be swifter for the web.
  • People want to read less as they have more to read.
  • Top ten lists and bullet-point articles make it easier to get through.
  • You can skip around between parts, pick up where you left off.

How Did We Write?

  • Old writing was based on a longer attention span.
  • It had deeper stylistic integrity that the form afforded.
  • Structures of sections of paragraphs of sentences of words.

The New Style, Evolved from the Old

  • Headings of bullets of sentences of words.
  • Pictures to anchor each part (not shown here).
  • Barer sentences, with less complexity.
  • Like a powerpoint put through a wringer.

The Old Style Lives On

  • Books and periodicals, along with some traditionalist sites.
  • Nice for articles you want to go deeper into.
  • Side-by-side old and new allows for reader choice.

Benefits of the New Style

  • Students learn outline forms more easily.
  • Reading comprehension goes up for the new form.
  • Discussion is simplified through easily-referenced sentences?
  • Improves collaborative editing and creation.

Downsides of the New Style

  • Students dislike the old style even more than they already did.
  • Comprehension of the old style diminishes further.
  • Discussions are based on less nuance (Fox Newsier discussions prevail).

I Dunno.

  • I’m curious whether this sort of writing style should become more dominant.
  • I think it has some benefits for the way people use the modern web.
    • Easier to read casually.
    • Possibly more accessible to AI.
    • Less opportunity for verbosity.
  • So I wrote this in a version of what the new style may be, to see what it’s like.
  • Oy vey. I’m hoping that there can be some balance. I do think language and writing styles need to evolve to fit the needs of readers, and long-winded writing can be a pain to read (especially as the number of things to read grows), but let’s hope it won’t be a bullet-point-riddled future.
  • One promising alternative is that AI will allow for real-time reorganization/editing of long texts to elicit the parts the reader is most interested in.

Bad Titles in Social Media

Did you read the title to this post? If you’re like me, you read titles. There’s so much data every day, and a title, like an email subject, lets you quickly acquire the context for that item.

Did you read the title to this post?  If you’re like me, you read titles.  There’s so much data every day, and a title, like an email subject, lets you quickly acquire the context for that item.

But there is a problem in the Social Media realm (I’ll get to the rest of the media shortly) whereby many users are able to submit or title content without giving it much thought.  The main issue from where I stand is the users do not take their audience into account.  That is, some types of titles are appropriate in some communities.

Humor communities often rely on the surprise of the punch line, and so it’s still appropriate to put some of the set-up in the title without giving a full title that would indicate the type of humor or content explicitly.

Communities centered on a particular viewpoint (eg, video games) need not avoid opinion in titles.  If their community agrees that bans on violent games are ill-conceived, they don’t have to avoid that (“Idiot politician wants to ban fun!” might be fine there).

But even in these places, ongoing responses to previous items should provide at least some context.  If there’s been a series of posts and you happen to have been busy that week, it’s a lot like coming out of a coma to find out that the robots have won.

And then there’s the media at large.  Often they have experience in making headlines that push agendas (mainly the agenda that you buy their media or keep watching it).  And they use that to the detriment of their readership.  That’s quickly becoming part of Social Media, too.

The solution I follow in dealing with bad titles is to ignore those items, just like I do items from unsavory sources and spam.  I’m pretty sure that’s the best way, as bad titles aren’t going anywhere, but they shouldn’t be encouraged.

Even if the content of an item is worthwhile, it’s like buying something packaged in that horrendous clamshell plastic: not worth it.  Either someone will submit the item in good packaging, or you’ll spend your money and time on something else.

In closing, I’ve recently got my drawing tablet to work in Linux, so here’s something I drew:

Mishmash of shapes and colors...

Zombies in Fiction

There should be laws for making zombie movies. Seriously.

If you ever create a work of fiction that includes zombies please make explicit as early as possible:

1. The cause of zombification. This includes time from infection to turning and whether an infected person can escape infection via amputation, bloodletting, tourniquets, etc. Can non-human animals become infected/become zombies? Is infection possible via saliva or just blood?

2. The result of zombification. This includes what if any special requirements there are for slaying zombies, whether zombies can die of natural causes, their ability to learn and/or retain memory from before they were zombies. This also includes what desires zombies have. Do they wish to consume non-zombie flesh or merely attack non-zombies? Will a zombie fight another? Do they have an instinctive detection of non-zombies (via pheromones or other means) or is it purely a judgmental decision (and thus deception is possible)? Does the flesh itself become zombified or is the CNS essential to the zombie?

3. If an antidote to zombism exists does it inoculate the recipient from further infection or merely stop current infection prior to turning? What dose is required and can it be diluted? Must it be taken orally, intravenously?

4. Whether any rules exist in zombie “society.” Are there “head zombies” or are they all equals? Will zombies protect each other? Attack each other? What senses do they retain? Are they normally copacetic, but they will fight over my brains?

Zombies in reality are a completely different story, of course. I’ll cover that in a later post. But in fiction it’s okay to deviate for dramatic effect. You should strive for consistency, and strive for believability.

Zombies are not a game. They must be treated with every bit of the seriousness you’d use on a subject like Indoctrination of Youth by Aliens or Interdimensional Tax Law. Fiction is supposed to give the reader or viewer or listener a taste of a world that doesn’t exist. For their tongues to really grip that world it must have enough substance behind it or it will not evoke salivation.

Please, think of the zombies.