Recovered from the Wayback Machine.
A joke for you:
A woman approaches the counter at a bookstore. The guy behind the counter smiles and says, “May I help you?”
“Yes. I bought this book last week,” she said. “And I wasn’t able to put it down for a moment”.
The clerk replied, “It was that good?”
“It had everything”, the woman exclaimed. “It had laughter. It had tears. It had drama, and comedy, and angst. This book explored every aspect of the human condition.”
The clerk smiled. “Great! We like to hear from happy customers. Thanks for coming by and telling us you were pleased with the book.”
“Oh. That’s not why I came by. I want to return the book and get my money back.”
The clerk was puzzled. “But you said this book had everything. It had comedy and drama, and tears and smiles, and even angst. Why would you return the book?”
“Because,” the woman explained. “The book is supposed to be about programming Python.”
My favorite new papa, Gary Turner, is talking about weblog writing at his weblog. Specifically he wonders if there’s anything about good writing in the Essential Blogging book, which I co-authored:
Shelley had a hand in Essential Blogging, which I haven’t read, but does anyone know if there’s any focus at all given to writing in Essential Blogging? Knowing Shelley and how she highly she values good writing it would seem a little ironical if there’s no coverage on writing in EB. Presuming, of course, that good writing is an essential part of good blogging.
Must be something in the air because a few other people are talking about weblog writing. Maybe it’s that end of the year reflectivity that strikes us all, that desire to look back at where we were and figure out where we’re going. Auld Lang Syne.
Steve Himmer the question:
What are we we writing, and how are we writing it? What constitutes good writing on the web, and is it determined by the same criteria that determine good writing elsewhere?
As you can see from the joke that started this post, good writing is relative. With computer books ‘good writing’ is measured by how little you really notice the writing. Why do you want the book? To learn about Python, you say? Well, did you learn about Python? And did the book help? Then that’s good writing.
“Jeff Ward answers Steve by comparing forms of writing. He writes of what I call the LinkerLoggers (Blinkers?):
Link heavy blogs create persona through a process of selection, of valuation. It’s interesting that this is perhaps the longest surviving mode of blogging, which does not show much sign of fading— I remember when I started that this seemed mostly bush-league. It takes guts to put yourself out on the commons without any trinkets to sell.
After first counting the number of links in this posting (four), I thought long and hard about what Jeff is saying. He has a point — why weblog if you don’t write? Still, there’s that relative thing again. Isaac Asimov once wrote that short stories were the truest challenge to the writer. Anyone can write a story in 400 pages, but only a great writer can write a story in 400 words.
There is skill involved in linking to a story and providing just enough information about it that people want to follow the link, to see how the story ends. Just because the diamonds are tiny doesn’t mean they don’t still sparkle.
What do I think is good weblog writing? I think weblogging is weird. If there’s a crack between all the traditional writing forms — the books, the articles, plays, and poems — weblogging fills that crack. We’re not bricks, we’re cement and we’re oozing all over the world. We’ll never know what is or is not good weblog writing, because the writing is as unique as the number of writers, as good as the worst of us and as poor as the best. We define the rules and we can break the rules, and the first rule we break is to throw out all our assumptions about ‘what is good writing’.
I once said in a post that weblogging is writing the world’s greatest novel with 10,000 of your best friends. Hell on royalities.
Jonathon Delacour joined the writing discussion with the following:
Comparing the link+quote+comment weblog to show-and-tell made me laugh, even though I started out that way myself. I didn’t stay there for long—within my first week of blogging I’d written my first long form post. Thinking back to how I approached blogging in those early days, there was an element of wanting to please that’s less evident now (to me anyway).
…there was an element of wanting to please that’s less evident now… I watched Jonathon emerge, from dark background to light; from frequent small posts heavy with links, to creating lovely melodies in virtual ink. Doing a Dave. The less he cared about wanting to please, the more pleasing the work. Odd that.
Jonathon discovered the real essence of ‘good’ weblog writing — not really caring if others think your writing is good, or not. Try putting that on your scale and see if you don’t get jello.
I haven’t said Happy Holidays, have I? Happy Holidays, fellow authors. I wish you joy in your words.