Finished

by Volker Weber

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Just finished my Lotusphere 2004 report. Writing for the mag always takes a while since you have to make sure it is neither too long, nor too short, and it should contain things the readers wants to know, not leave out important things, weigh them correctly. It would be much easier to just write ten pages or so.

I have used the lazy route the last few years: Write for the online medium. That is much easier. You have to be quick and it is not as important to get to a certain length. You just write what is interesting and then you stop. And you don't have to balance things since you only write about exactly one topic in an online piece.

This year, I will try to write more for the mag. :-)

Comments

I hope we'll see a link to it sometime?

Ragnar Schierholz, 2004-02-01

I hope it is in your mailbox in a week from now. :-)

Volker Weber, 2004-02-01

Am I right that you meant the snail mailbox? Hope to hear from you soon :-)

Dirk Bartkowiak, 2004-02-02

Yessir.

Volker Weber, 2004-02-02

Sorry if its a silly question but... which mag do you write for ?

Chris, 2004-02-02

c't, a german publication. Think BYTE.

Volker Weber, 2004-02-02

Will there be a link, too? Some of us are a little far away to get c't. Plus, Bill will enjoy trying to read it in German.

I've written for both print magazines and online publications. The nice thing about writing -- or assigning articles -- for Online is that the author can write as much or as little as he needs to, in order to tell the story. as the Red Queen told Alice in Through the Looking Glass, start at the beginning, go on until you reach the end, and then stop.

However, one not-so-great side effect is that the freedom can sometimes encourage an author to get... not sloppy, exactly, but perhaps a little less concerned about the value of the reader's time. Despite the size of the "huge piece of paper" that you can write on, statistically online readers have very short attention spans. Back at PlanetIT.com, where our articles were split into multiple chunks ("continued on page 3..."), we could see that in action. People would read page 1, most would continue to page 2, most of those would make it to page 3... and then there'd be a big cliff as folks gave up.

Online also changes the way you write a lead. Among my favorite magazines (for which I was tech editor) was PC Techniques, which later became Visual Developer. (Its editor, Jeff Duntemann -- who also owned Coriolis Books -- is still online.) The lead paragraphs in PCT/VDM were wonderful, usually telling a story or relating an anecdote that would segue into the development topic at hand. But you can't do that online; in the first couple of paragraphs, you have to whack the reader over the head with a summary of the problem and the proposed solution. Or you have to write a heck of a good teaser, which tells the reader what this article is all about. (Fortunately, I'm pretty good at this.)

Still, this is far better than having to cut 50 words from an article when you run out of space, when you KNOW the reader needs the information in those 50 words.

--Esther
(who by the way has a new writing/editing gig at ziffdavis, too, in addition to InformIT)

Esther Schindler, 2004-02-02

Only a small fraction of the mag is published online. If it does show up there will be a link from Selected Readings. A couple of observations:

Yes, there is a danger that you can be too sloppy. Are too careless since one can slipstream small changes. Just happened this week. I meant to write "not connected to a server", but my fingers wrote "not connected to a browser". That was up for an hour or so until I noticed. That hardly ever happens when we go to print.

As for the "continued on next page" page thing, I never click on them anyway. Computerwoche also does that and it is the major reason I don't read the site often. I think it is an unconvenience wich only exists because the site wants more pageviews. In my case that translates to less pageviews.

I was extremely lucky with this story. Usually I would shoot for a one page thing. But although there was lack of real news stories at this Lotusphere, it was an excellent time to elaborate on the future of Notes applications in the Workplace world. And that made me shoot for two pages. The text turned out to be even longer, but my copy editor decided that we extend it to another half page instead of chopping it.

But it is alway the same thing: No matter how long the story is, I always find something afterwards that I would have liked to squeeze in. In this case: Notes 6.5.1 seems to run on Linux again.

Volker Weber, 2004-02-02

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