On writing posts and 'writings'

To me, the biggest crime you can commit as a webmaster – other than having an extremely bloated website – is wasting somebody’s time. When I saw “wasting somebody’s time”, I don’t mean writing a poor quality article, or hosting a ‘low-quality website’.

An article, should be a logical whole conveying an overall cohesive message. If you’re too scatterbrain, you end up with a lot of short excerpts that look more like a laundry list of trivia. However, stay on point during the entire post, but make it too short, and it’s more reminiscent of a journal entry. At least my journal entries are few and far in between, discussing serious topics, decisions, events, interactions from my personal life that I’d like to reflect upon.

These short tidbits aren’t necessarily void of useful information, far from it. However, they’re rarely entirely original works, and tend to be the glue stitching a few topics together, or otherwise (inferior) derivatives of the original of much wider scope. So, if they should be considered equal as articles, then I’d say you’re wasting people’s time with it – they can simply enjoy the originals.

What Constitutes a Post #

A post should, at least by the standards I keep myself to, be entertaining, insightful, informative; they should explore as much of the topic while staying relevant, and point to other literature and resources that continue down particular avenues mentioned. A post should also be self-complete – that is, it should cover its bases and address valid criticism ahead of time (read: be proofread and not untrue).

A good example of a post is my piece on sort systems. I think it’s enjoyable (at least to those interested), it gives unique insight into the topic, and compiles many hints in other sources with experience to give a whole. In fact, it took me a week to write it. The estimated reading time is nearly 20 minutes, though it may be longer if you take time to ponder.

On the other hand, using rclone is something I did relatively easily over the weekend, yet I still had more difficulty with it than I’d like to have had. So, to impart some of the experience, as well as introduce the tool, I wrote a short piece on it. It’s humourous in tone and doesn’t give much more than a few heads-ups. The estimated reading time is 4 minutes, though you can easily skim it for just the raw info.

The Practical Aspects #

I like to use a lot of different punctuation, I always have. It gives you the nuances of more closely mimicking speech. In fact, other than the comma – which follows some grammatical rules, too – I employ dashes, colons, semicolons, by feel.

More, and extra punctuation marks help readers track the content of the sentence more easily, while giving the writer more freedom to express himself. There is a downside, though: long-winded run-on sentences become available to the writer.

Since there’s a lot of punctuation you can use, you can also write long sentences and make them legible. However, the mental filtering we do when listening to these sentences doesn’t always kick in for text, and can produce pain for your readers.

I also like to use parenthesis and footnotes; parenthesis for relevant, short interjections – usually a quip, or immediate suggestion. Parenthesis encapsulate constructs too short and improper to be their own sentences.

Footnotes, on the other hand, are bits of text that are tangential to whatever was written there, but something that I’d like to share nonetheless. They never further move the plot, and are either static or even regressive to it!

This isn’t the only reason why I write footnotes, though. Other than being easy to read, text-wise, the presentation of a post matters, too, For instance, reading text that’s in a serif font on a page filled with columns of text is hard. Hi, it’s me (footnote) again. You could say this makes reading books hard, but books usually have sans serif fonts and take a completely different mindset to read. Also, if you’ve ever read Nietzsche or Jung, you’ll know how hard it is to read difficultly written text – thanks in no small part due to German grammar.

Sure, there’s typesetting, font selection, good writing — but the text should also be appealing to look at, with interesting layout, color, shape, etc. and it shouldn’t get dull. If it gets dull, it means that you’re losing ‘content’ density, which means something on your page is over-designed.

That is why I employ a lot of footnotes (which alternate sides), headings (which are uniquely styled), why the Table of Contents looks the way it does (and where it’s placed), the attention to selected text color (try selecting different headings), the arrows on footnotes, or targetted headings.

It’s also why footnotes appear on mobile in the middle of text (that, and having no JS). It’s nice to have an interruption every once in a while. It’s easier to follow text as you’re reading/scrolling, too. I suspect this is why magazines look the way they do.

As much as I hate to admit it, reading a raw HTML page from a GNU manual isn’t very fun – at least not as much as it could be. Manpages are, I think, more fun, because they wrap at 80 characters and are read from a terminal emulator.

The Aim With My Posts #

I write posts that are fun to write. They’re usually on topics that interest me, and I hope that they interest people who aren’t necessarily keen on the matter. The idea is that somebody will be glad to have read a post of mine, and hopefully look forward to the next.

For example, the next posts I’ll write are on intuition (which might also break off into another one about software architecture), and emergent properties and systems, but I’m sure there will be a few of these shorter posts in between.