Attention Spans

Since I started working full time, and don’t feel I have (or at least should spend) a lot of time reading the (116) blogs I’m subscribed to, I notice I started skipping long posts. Especially 1200 word almost philosophical essays, like are often posted on ReadWriteWeb.

During my bachelor in computer science we had to take communication classes. A typical result of companies complaining about computer science students being really smart, but not being able to communicate through other means than IRC and Jabber. Ironically, the class was taught by the most nerdy caveman of them all. Incidentally, without the contemporary west-coast American accent like in the not-so-hilarious Comedy Central sitcom Cavemen.

But I digress. One day, a guest speaker came to talk about writing for the web. She gave some rules. Most importantly: keep it short. “People do not like reading on computer screens, so keep it snappy and to the point. Make key words jump out, for instance by italicizing them or making them bold. Add illustrations that draw attention and are illustrative. And, if for some odd reason you need more space. Write a longer document and offer it as a PDF download.”

The initial weblogs were essentially link dumps. You’d link to some funny cat picture and write “funny cat!” Now that was snappy, that was to the point, that was consumable. Why did we ever move away from that?