Shorter is smarter

Shorter is smarter
: Halley Suitt has a post today about trying to teach people to blog and how it’s hard to convince them that most times, shorter is better. She was nice enough to link to a brief list of bloggers who usually keep it short (I’m disproving that today, though) and she emailed them all for their thoughts. Fascinating discussion ensued.

Dave Winer pointed to Lisa Williams’ post that compares Chinese and Western cooking and the division of labor (in China, the chef cuts the steak; here, we have to) to the growth of RSS (in old media, the editor cuts the steak for us; in a feed world, we the readers get to decide how to slice and dice it).

Cory Doctorow says he thinks of a post as — I love this — writing the nut graf, lede, and dek on a news story.

I like that so much because I think it captures the essence of the post-Internet newspaper or news property: It’s a better service to give people the lead and then let them link to depth if they want it.

The problem is that short gets a bad rep and rap. I think I’ve told this before, but I’ll tell it again: At People and Entertainment Weekly, when I started grading shows, fellow critics scolded me: “People won’t read your reviews; they’ll just read the grade.” And I said: So? If that’s all they want, then it is the ultimate in service and brevity to tell them what they want to know with just one letter.

  • Obvs.

  • No

    Dek? What’s that? Your link to Cory didn’t reveal it anywhere on the page (nor did your link go to a particular story on his page.) Enlighten the ignorant…and add one more rule to bloggers…link reference to an exact story!

  • Umm, if Halley’s post is so interesting, why not give us a link to it? Or at least a domain we can hunt around.
    Throw us a bone, man.
    [ oops! i’ll fix it now. thanks. -jj ]

  • Ah! Thank you.

  • Charlie (Colorado)

    Still, what the hell is a “dek”?

  • In other words, this hack thinks that all bloggers should become nothing more than news aggregators just like Instahack.

  • billg

    One potential problem with linking to depth is that commercial outlets won’t write it if no one reads it, and non-commercial outlets will provide a bastard child of “depth” by draping bias and agenda in a cloak of honest journalism.

  • No

    Thanks, Charlie. Do people read this stuff? This drek? Errr…dek? What the hell is it? Never learned it in journalism school. Let’s have a contest re: the dek neologism. Or meme. Or whatever.

  • There’s room for short and long. Err on the side of short – that’s what I tell my gal who is new to blogging. Cut out the fat and just give us the good stuff.
    The great thing about MT and TypePad is the “Continue reading…” feature. Yesterday I did a post about my (now deceased) dad’s birthday. In the extended post I added a really touching email from my mom. I think of the extended post as “DVD Extras” for those who want to go deeper.

  • Note to self: write longer posts. It irritates pompous pontificators.

  • Charlie (Colorado)

    No. No… er, No, “No” … jesus christ can’t you folks just use your dammit names?! ;-)
    Anyway … “nut graf” is “key paragraph” and “lede” pronounced “leed” is the “lead paragraph”. It’s all terms of art from magazine publishing, and there are decent reasons for them, eg, “graf” is an abbreviation of “paragraph” that can’t be confused with a graphic, while “lede” is a disambiguating spelling to keep it from being confused with “lead” (pronounced “led”) because “lead” refers to additional space added to fill out a line of type. (Which comes from the old hot-type days when actual metallic lead was used.)
    But I still don’t know what a “dek” is.

  • button

    Charlie: I suspect ‘dek’ may refer to a neologism concocted by Dave Winer when he was setting up the anatomy of weblog entries for RSS usage.
    But I could be wrong about that.
    Frequently, making material shorter requires some work. And it may not be viable for everything.

  • JorgXMcKie

    Since I have to grade waaaaaaaay too many papers every semester, let me add something. I spend a lot of time attempting to teach my students (or help the learn) to write short. This is to keep them on point. They tend to write run-on sentences in aimless, wandering paragraphs and expect me to figure out what the hell it all means. No, thanks.
    On the other hand, once they learn to write short, their longer writing improves automatically.
    Thus, write short first and whenever possible. Write at lenght when the subject needs or deserves it. No prob.
    Andrea, I would love to read something you thought was worth writing about at length.

  • I think it’s funny that I’m being referenced in this conversation even though I am most assuredly not a “short & sweet” blogger! But I do enjoy reading that style of blog. But there are a number of long-form blogs I enjoy too, including John & Belle Have a Blog and Unbillable Hours, among others.

  • Oh yeah. I’m reminded of something my wonderful former boss & mentor Bruce Jenkins said, quoting somebody, though I can’t remember who: “I don’t have the time to write you a short letter, so I shall have to write you a long one.” So true. (He often applied it to pieces I’d write for our newsletters…)