Elastic writing is all very well, but…

Blogs and other online writing platforms allow people to write as much or as little as they want.

However, it shouldn't be about what 'they' want but about what the reader wants.

A well-known blogger recently wrote a very long piece making good, but very few, points.

I'd like to know how long the average reader persevered. I read to the end and wished I hadn't.

I was tempted to add the dismissive tl;dr (too long; didn't read) comment. But, since I had read it, that wouldn't have been fair.

I realised that genie is out of the bottle and online writers feel they can do what they like, but now that most of us are online, it means that we have to fight for the right to be read.

And one way to earn that right is to respect the reader's time.

Journalists and robots – nasty dream

Just woke from a nightmare. I'd submitted a piece to the Guardian and, when it appeared, it contained all sorts of stuff I hadn't written.

I was used to sub-editors gently straightening my prose, but this was wholesale wrecking of my original intent. I didn't mind the historical, factual and statistical additions too much – when not too intrusive, they enriched what I wrote. But it was the wholly new paragraphs that put a commercial spin into the piece that made me hopping mad.

I quickly realised that this was a barmy attempt by the newspaper to earn money from erstwhile advertisers who had found that neither print nor web models were working any more.

Fellow journalists shared my horror – mainly appalled that something was going out with their name on that they hadn't actually written. They were also horrified by the thought that their hard-won reputations for objectivity had been destroyed at a stroke by the insertion of automated 'puff'. We collectively decided to stop writing for any paper that did this to us and to make sure readers knew what they were being served.

As I say, this was a dream. (Really – it happens to me several times every night, but this is probably the first that I thought worth sharing here.) When I woke up, and before I wrote this, I dug into 'robotic writing' and found this piece from The Guardian of all places: And the Pulitzer goes to… a computer



Personal Computer World’s birthplace

Rifling around my desk, looking for a misplaced business card, I discovered this Polaroid picture of the Troubadour. It’s where Personal Computer World was born. The magazine was edited and laid out on a corner table. Steve England sold ads from the phone box outside. Angelo Zgorelec was the publisher and Meyer Solomon the editor. I got involved when the magazine was sold to Felix Dennis.

Update: Angelo dropped me a line as a result of hearing about this post. I have linked his name to a mini-bio and a photograph. (How come he’s older than me and has less grey hair?) The last he heard of Meyer (who’s about 70 now) was that he was living in Los Angeles. That particular trail has gone cold.


Welcome to my new blog.

Thirty years ago, it occurred to me that as long as there were people around, they would need to be able to communicate with each other. And, the more effectively they did it, the more successful they would be. This is still the focus of my life.

By way of background, at the time I had this insight, I had been a data processing manager (IT manager in today’s vernacular) for four years.

Without boring you too much, my journey from that point was:

– learning to teach
– teaching management and related communication skills
– going back into management to check the practice against the theory
– editing Personal Computer World magazine
– becoming a journalist and editorial consultant
– starting a software company (it’s still a hobby)
– starting a media skills training partnership
– offering writing and workshop facilitation to organisations large and small

My life comprises the last four items on this list.

This blog will evolve, of course, but I expect it to comprise tips, advice, observations, recommendations, links to useful sources and commentary on anything that fits the ‘effective communications’ category.

I will not fall victim to the “feed the beast” imperative that says that blog postings have to be made at least daily. While this is great for search engine rankings, it can waste both my time and yours if there is nothing interesting to say.

Expect to see something two or three times a week. And let’s see how it goes.