Reading from the Bottom Up
by Dick Kaser
Content management guru Bob Boiko, speaking at the London
Online Information meeting in December, urged those who
are developing enterprise portals and intranets to note
that the audiences for their services expect information
to be in the form of publications. They will evaluate
the information services the portal provides based on
their expectations developed from using other media, such
as books, newspapers, and TV shows.
As I instantaneously published Boiko's comment on
our Live from London blog, I immediately identified
with his point and made a connection with the project
we were in the midst of doing.
As a publishing experiment, my loyal editors and I
were attempting something we had never done before.
We were using blogging technology to immediately publish
our thoughts to the Web. But did we produce a "publication"?
First a little background.
Though blogs (aka, Web logs) are often hailed as a
new publishing medium, I don't see it that way. Actually,
it's the Web that's still the new medium. Blogging software,
such as blogger.com, which we were using as our publishing
platform, is just a basic content management system
that facilitates immediate publication on the Web. It's
a nifty tool, but it's not a new medium.
If there's anything really new here, it would have
to be the format of the messages that bloggers publish,
that thing which literary critics might call the form
of expression. What many bloggers do with their message
is very similar to what they do with e-mail. They jot
down a brief thought, connect it to a link, or attach
something. They end up with a stream of consciousness
that isn't really meant to be read sequentially like,
say, a book.
As reporters, writers, and editors for newspapers
and magazines, the Information Today, Inc. staff wrote
some messages that could stand on their own. But we
ended up with something that as a whole looks much more
like something that ought to be read from beginning
to end. Unfortunately, to start at the beginning of
a blog, you have to scroll down to the bottom and read
backwards. If producing a "publication," as Boiko says,
is the objective of good e-stuff, reading from the bottom
up strikes me as a little strange.
At any rate, I think we ended up publishing something
that looks more like a publication than a "traditional"
blog. And I guess that's why I related to Boiko's point
about audiences expecting publications. He said something
that, as a traditional writer and editor, I liked hearing.
Whether or not what we did with our Live from London
blog is what he meant is something that deserves further
consideration. I invite you to see the result of our
experiment at http://www.infotodayblog.com.
Dick Kaser is Information Today, Inc.'s vice president
of content. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org