Writing a blog is about the 80-20 rule

To demonstrate world-class expertise, says Jakob Nielsen, avoid quickly written, shallow blog postings.

Instead, says the web usability guru, invest your time in thorough, value-added content that attracts paying customers.

No doubt there are any number of quickly-written shallow blog postings out there – and isn’t that a highly subjective opinion! – but what you write in a blog depends on what your goals are for that blog and, indeed, for your writing.

Not everyone is after paying customers.

Nielsen’s lengthy article with its black-and-white conclusion shows he’s not quite in touch with how things have moved on from static websites as the primary means to get content on the web, where ‘engaging’ with those who read that content was just a link to a form or email with no means of connecting people.

In this day of quite sophisticated information-management and -manipulation tools – RSS is king – you can access, retrieve and interact with content anywhere on the web in almost any way you want.

Rivers of news style, by keywords or phrases, by topic or author, by organization or individual… the ways and means are almost endless to get hold of the information you want in ways that let you interact with it that just aren’t possible with static websites.

Meaning, websites as locations to visit are becoming less relevant as favoured places you go to to read someone’s writing, whether it’s lengthy content or the shorter stuff that Nielsen disdains.

And I wonder how he would view micro-blogging tools like Twitter and Jaiku, geared as they are for the quick and concise comment that’s also eminently discoverable and connectable.

That said, Nielsen’s article does contain some valid opinion. For instance:

[…] be as brief as you can; use bulleted lists and highlighted keywords; chunk the material; and use descriptive headings, subheads, and hyperlinks.

Good general advice – although I’d probably substitute ‘concise’ for ‘brief’ – whatever length of content you want to write.

Still, I prefer the wisdom of Marc Andreesen – best know as co-founder of Netscape and co-author of Mosaic in the early 90s – whose blog I discovered recently:

[…] I think it’s an application of the 80/20 rule — for 20% of the effort (writing a blog post but not editing and refining it the quality level required of a magazine article, a published paper, or a book), you get 80% of the benefit (your thoughts are made available to interested people very broadly).

In fact, adding Andreesen’s views with those of Nielsen, I come to a simple conclusion:

It depends.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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  2. Tobias

    actually I don’t quite agree on the statement that nielsen hasnt moved on. not because i have an interest in defending him but because the history of weblogs is clearly a different one.
    when blogs were born, they were short, used as a tool for information management. they contained posts that were merely made up of one or more hyperlinks along with a comment.
    only with blogs becoming a mainstream medium did not only the content change but also its dimensions. with almost 100 Million blogs out there today, nielsen is simply trying to guide newcomers to how they will not only be able survive but also how to promote themselves: by becoming more thorough and more extensive.

  3. neville

    A good point, Tobias, thanks.

    Yet it seems to me that Nielsen remains stuck in his thinking about websites that recognizes neither the rapid evolution of those websites (eg, Twitter, Jaiku, etc) nor the myriad subtleties of why individuals blog.

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