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July 13, 2007  |  Jakob Nielsen blog: don't blog  |  2522 hit(s)

One of Jakob Nielsen's recent "Alertbox" entries is "Write Articles, Not Blog Postings" in which he advises people, in his irritating ex cathedra style, to, um, write articles instead of blog posts. Nielsen has rendered many an opinion about blogging, many of which I find annoying for various reasons. His recent posting suggests why his advice can seem off.

It turns out that Nielsen has a pretty narrow and possibly idiosyncratic definition of what constitutes a blog entry. As he explains:
Blog postings will always be commodity content: there's a limit to the value you can provide with a short comment on somebody else's work. Such postings are good for generating controversy and short-term traffic, and they're definitely easy to write. But they don't build sustainable value. Think of how disappointing it feels when you're searching for something and get directed to short postings in the middle of a debate that occurred years before, and is thus irrelevant.

Obviously, I am referring to the user experience and to the style of the content in this analysis; not to the technology used to serve up this content. Thus, what I call "articles" might be hosted on a weblog service. What matters is that the user experience is that of immersion in comprehensive treatment of a topic, as opposed to a blog-style linear sequence of short, frequent postings commenting on the hot topic of the day. It doesn't matter what software is used to host the content, the distinctions are:
  • in-depth vs. superficial
  • original/primary vs. derivative/secondary
  • driven by the author's expertise vs. being reflectively driven by other sites or outside events.
If I understand this right, a blog post is not defined by the fact that it appears as a post on a blog. A blog post is defined by its content. If the content is temporal, short, and linky, it's a blog post. If it's in-depth, technical, and timeless, it's an article.

This is, AFAIK, not a distinction that many people are making. People have different philosophies about what to blog, obviously, but even people who rigorously adhere to the Nielsen's suggestions still call their entries blog entries.

What Nielsen seems to be telling people is "make your blog content worthwhile." That doesn't strike me as advice I would need someone of Nielsen's fame to hear. (On the contrary, I've willfully ignored the same advice from many lesser lights. :-) ) Why he makes this semantic distinction between types of blog content puzzles me, tho. But hey, he's the expert. Perhaps in future, I'll post anything worthwhile, should I ever get around to writing such stuff, under the title "article." On my blog.

Anyway, Larry O'Brien, who has edited software journals, recounts his own experiences with blogging (versus real articles). [O'Brien link via Daily Grind]

Dave   13 Jul 07 - 9:44 AM

I had exactly the same reaction to his article. It came off as pretentious and not very accurate at all.

I normally enjoy all of his usability ideas. He should really stick to that, instead of soapboxing outside of his niche.

Harry Miller   16 Jul 07 - 7:13 AM

He does seem to be missing the whole 2.0 idea -- that when bloggers you trust link to an article, they are providing value by helping you filter and find interesting content. Jakob comes across as pretty stuck in the old-media "we produce the content, you consume it and like it" paradigm, whereas nowadays the content is often already out there and the value comes from combining, juxtaposing, and commenting on it.