Teodora Petkova strikes again with her new and tiny (her word) Web Writing Guide. Her savvy recommendations on the Whys and Whats of writing on/for the Web made me wondering if I ever applied any single one of them, and in particular in this blog which has been for years the main place I've been writing and publishing. The rest of my publication track consisting in a handful of conference or journal papers, a chapter in a collaborative book, some of those still published online, but not really written "for the Web". Not to mention hundreds of messages to various community lists and comments on the social Web, but does that really count as Web writing?
It might be too late and pointless anyway to consider those recommendations, since I have no tangible reason to keep on writing altogether. Retired from business for half a year, not participating any more in discussions of various communities, not even following them, I have nothing to sell or even to give away here. I could as well forever hold my peace, instead of indulging in more wordy selfies. Nevertheless, I'll make the exercise of going through some of Teodora's recommendations, to see if I ever met them. Just for the fun of it.
- Write for people
Of course, who else? But I've never thought of anyone in particular as the target of what I write here, although I know I write better when I think about a potential reader. Somehow, each post on this blog could (should) be read as a personal letter to some unknown reader. To make it short, I have no market, no target audience. I know I have a handful of more or less faithful followers, and hope the few serendipitous visitors will bring home some food for thought.
- Write for machines
Believe it or not, I really don't give a damn about that one. I've been a so-called Semantic Web evangelist because I liked the ideas behind it and the conceptual debates it triggered (not to mention I was also paid for it), but I never applied its technology to this blog. I even did everything to blur the radar of search engines by changing both URI and title several times. No semantic markup either, beyond a few (rather random) tags. I like the idea of those pages being as easy to reach as the places I love in my mountains. Not unreachable, but not much advertised either, with paths not difficult to follow, but not obvious to find either. And actually, since I'm not able to define or name what I am about, I prefer search engines to ignore those pages than indexing them under any silly topic.
- Write for joy
This is certainly the only recommendation I follow. Nothing to add.
But the Whys are not the main point of difficulty. Regarding the Whats, I must admit I am completely off track.
- What is it that you really want to say and cannot help but share?
I'm afraid most of the time I don't know before I've finished writing it.
- What is it that your audience needs?
As said above, I've no audience, and therefore cannot possibly know what it needs.
If I try to apply the following ... The intersection of the answers to these questions is the answer to “What to write?” Well I won't say this intersection is empty, but it looks rather undecidable.
Sorry, Teodora, but your recommendations are either useless to me, or they lead to the conclusion that I should not write at all before answering the two above. Unless the write for joy is enough of an excuse to keep writing.
When I was a child, half a century ago, my school teacher (who happened to be also my father, the teachers offer is scarce in village schools) was an adept of the texte libre. This is the writing exercise I still prefer. Following the Freinet pedagogy, the original free production was selected and amended by the group and eventually published in the class journal. The final text was a collective production based on an individual original idea. Does not that sound quite Webby, back in the 1950's, in remote French village schools?