Hyperwriting

One element of good writing for the independent web[1] which is often overlooked is that your writing is part of a larger story which is not under your control. This is to an extent true for all writing which doesn’t stand alone: an article is part of a magazine just as much as a recipe is part of a cookery book. And like all such writing, it’s perceived as part of a larger whole.

What’s special about the online jungle is that you can’t even assume constant assumptions on the part of the reader. For example, NYT articles are democratic, CNN.com has propganda [;-)], and Fark.com is (adult) funny. If you write your articles in one of these media, and if you keep your average reader in mind (you’d do this is you want effective writing, which is what all this is about) then you’d tailor your articles to suit expectations. But in the larger miasma of the web, how do you decide what and how to read expectations? The web is connected, and the spiders that visit your frayed hideyhole might come on from thousands of different places, and there’s no guarantee of any continuity.

One simple answer is that you create your own universe and let your reader be immersed into it. People buy this oh very quickly. The hypothesis is that every page is special, and a click-through from an adult site is as likely to be impressed as one from a search engine.

As an aside, one technique which is underutilized to propogate this mass-hypnosis is clever linking. Hypertext is alive because it can send your user to other pages. Even though Google has perverted the medium with commercialization, people do like to click on links. Use that fact! Lead them on. Make a story within a story (it’s much better than enclosing an aside in parentheses), or even make them read a worthier one. You get to choose.

Getting back, is there a different way? Creating your universe is oh-very-well, but can you match zillions of varied expectations? A good way is to try to reduce it to a few common ones. A lot of sites use a technique where visitors coming in from a search engine get their words highlighted on the site automagically. Let’s say you come here searching for “porn king” (god forbid). To help you out, my site will highlight all instances of that term in your landing page. Is this good for the visitor? Undoubtedly. Does it match your interests, does it tell your story more effectively? Maybe. In this example, very much not, but it’s still a very user-friendly thing to do.

You probably can cook up a different version of a page for a user that comes in from:

  • a social networking site
  • your girlfriend’s site.
  • a mobile browser (device dependent).
  • a competitor’s website, etc.

Condensed, what I’m talking about is that referrals and clever referral management to rewrite your content could pay dividends. True?

[1] Blogs, pages, documentation, stuff which floats.

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