Monthly Archives: November 2009

Existential Crisis of the Web

“If it isn’t on the Web, it doesn’t exist.” – Tim Berners-Lee

I wonder if Tim Berners-Lee actually believes in that statement, or if he just likes the way it sounds.

If anything, I’d say that the reverse of that statement is closer to the truth. The Web is able to elaborate, update, and put a new spin on things we already know, but at its core our favorite Web sites are simply online versions of what exists in our physical realm.

Social networking sites like Facebook are a replacement for contact books and phone calls. YouTube is TV and home movies on the Web. Amazon is basically just a shopping mall. I hate to break it to you, Tim, but those all existed before the Web.

Also, just because it’s on the Web doesn’t mean it actually exists. Taking a trip out to Argleton will prove that.

To give more credit to Berners-Lee, I admit that the statement can be interpreted many ways. First, it seems like he’s saying the Web can do anything. This part I do not agree with. To me, the Web can substitute, show, and simulate just about anything, but all the pictures, video, and blogs about Paris won’t be the same as going there.

A second, more forgiving way to read this is that everything that exists has a Web counterpart. This interpretation seems more logical, since a Google search pulls up millions of results for obscure topics. But what about the things that Google can’t find? According to Berners-Lee, I guess they might as well not exist.

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Compulsory Education: Web 101 Needs a Place

When I was in high school, the district made a computer skills class a requirement for graduation. At the time, we all hated it.

“I already know how to use a computer!” I thought.

In reality, I knew how to play games and write up my homework on a computer. And I couldn’t even do that well. Until that class, I typed with my index fingers only.

I learned to make a laughable Web 1.0 page, and those meager skills are still rattling around in my brain somewhere. I only wish that I could have learned more.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that—as an aspiring journalist and member of modern society—I will need to know not only how to use the Web, but also know how it works.

These days it’s just common knowledge that computer literacy is a necessary skill in the workplace. However, I think that many people are afraid of new technology. It seems that people are simply becoming more apologetic for their lack of computer skills than taking initiative to learn.

But the Web isn’t going away, and it can no longer be avoided. It’s time to overcome the fear of computers* and the Web.

*And is it just me, or is that Web site ironic or what?

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A Quick Read

I’m going to be brief, since most of this won’t be read anyway.

I’m betting that most people will probably skip right over this part to check out the list at the bottom.

Steve Jobs says this is because people simply don’t read anymore. While there may be a grain of truth to that, the success of e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle prove that people still read, and the market is stronger than Jobs anticipated.

The real reason that this won’t be read is because it is being published on the Web. Web readers don’t want prose, they want easy-to-scan text. They want the information quickly and easily digestible.

Part of it comes down to the fact that a screen can be physically difficult to read in comparison to the printed page (or even displays using E Ink). The other part could simply be a shorter attention span.

Either way, Web users are reading in a different way and writers should cater to the change if they want to be read.

To make sure the Web reader finds all the important—or the most interesting—information, consider the following:

  • Write in lists (like this one)
  • Highlight keywords
  • Keep paragraphs short
  • Use clear, descriptive subheadings
  • Summarize

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