Watching digital readers

Posted in content, Data, ideas, Online by solle on 02/06/2009

One of the things our grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we distinguish the digital from the real‘ William Gibson

Somewhere between Nicholas Carr’s ‘Is Google Making us Stupid?‘ and Clive Thompson on the Future of Reading in a Digital World there is the issue of how we are viewed when we read. It has become increasingly evident that depending on how you are reading, what you are reading and upon what you are reading you are viewed very differently.


It is said that it is more acceptable to read a newspaper at the breakfast table than a paperback novel. Why? Is it because the viewer can see something of what the reader is reading and approximately where they are in their reading but with a paperback novel it is hard to establish exactly what is being read and where the reader is? Books can seem private and cut off.

Is reading a newspaper or magazine or book at the breakfast table more acceptable than reading from a Kindle (or like), laptop or iPhone (or like)? Why? Is it because the viewer can see something of what the reader is reading and approximately where they are in their reading – be it the title, the cover, the cover story or at very least that it is a book or a newspaper etc – but when the reader is using a digital device they can’t even be sure they are actually reading and if they are reading you have no way (apart from maybe facial expressions) what they are reading? Viewer feels no sense of engagement.

Of course in some circumstances (ie dinner party) it is frowned upon to read anything but especially a newspaper or a paperback novel but you might just be able to squeeze in reading a short summary of a sporting event on your mobile phone without too much objection (or risk of never being invited again).

Likewise when attending a lecture, panel event or roundtable it is perfectly acceptable to multi task reading connected and non connected stuff from a mobile phone or laptop – the feeling is that the reader is still engaged with their surroundings, involved with the event, in the conversation – but reading a newspaper or book in this environment would give the impression of non interest, non engagement, being separate from their surroundings (even though they may be reading something directly relevant).

Like the William Gibson quote describes, in time these differentiations will become quaint references to a time when individuals discussed the digital and non-digital/’real’.

Please comment below with any other references on the subject.

Thanks newhousedesign for Ladybird picture


should we keep writing?

Posted in content by solle on 24/11/2008

 at Information Architects recently published another decent thought-provoking post. 

I don’t think we can help writing. But we should all really cut back. Keep it short or not at all. Remember Scott Karp’s Join the Web Content Conservation Movement:

“We should also be working on the INPUT problem.

How do you reduce noise on the web? Simple.

Produce less content.”

We all struggle with the filter problem but we’d probably all moan if there was a dearth of content.

Try this plan for a week:


“sentenc.es is a personal policy that allemail responses regardless of recipient or subject will be a pre-determined number sentences or less. It’s that simple.”

Send send them away

Posted in content by solle on 17/09/2008

It has to be said that Scott Karp doesn’t bother writing anything until he’s got something decent to say. Most of his entries deserve a star in anyone’s Google Reader. Drudge Report: News Site That Sends Readers Away With Links Has Highest Engagement and Why Every News Site Should Put a Continuously Updated News Aggregation on the Homepage add to the continued debate around the production of and linking to content and the drawn out Google epiphany of send send them away and they’ll come back most days.

Another element that requires a footnote in this debate is the fact that many of the sites in the list found in the first of the above articles carry ads (some of them many many ads) that encourage users to click away – and some sites (even those in the list) carry competitor ads.

So many slow uptakers and fence sitters and walled garden sites have to (a small degree and in a perverse way) been practicing a form of send send them away for years.

(Obviously the average numbers of clicks on banner ads is miniscule compared to average site traffic but nonetheless the principle is worthy of mention.)

make that content work (and help me with editorial)

Posted in content by solle on 18/07/2008

whilst working on a content and editorial strategy document for where i’m working i thought it best to also publish here too. most things are self-evident but it’s nice to bring them all into the same place as there are still tons of content driven sites that are failing to implement most of the basic things mentioned.

next up i’ll get one published about presentation & layout

Make that content work (and help me with editorial)