To excerpt or not to excerpt

A thought occurs to me. Is it better to excerpt your blog posts on the home page, essentially giving the reader a little teaser that he then follows to the article’s page; or do we throw the entire text of the article onto the home page and be done with it?

Maybe if I had advertisements on this site, I would care more about page visits, and therefore, I would have an incentive to get people to visit as many pages on this site as possible by showing the teasers on the home page. But I have no ads.

So while I like the look of a page full of excerpts leading to the full articles — it looks so very newspapery, is it good blog practice to make a visitor click through?


A plethora of posts

Andrew Sullivan caught my eye after I picked up the latest, redesigned, issue of the Atlantic with his article “Why I Blog.” The article refreshed me, reminded me that blogging can be cathartic and fun and that I shouldn’t worry about writing masterpieces with each post. Writing blog posts, he argues, should be more human than that, more personal, a direct line between author and reader where conversations can actually happen. Let the mistakes flow. Fix ’em with another post and let God sort them out.

So, like a good netizen, I added Sullivan’s RSS feed to my feed reader and prepared to be pleased with his writing. It seems funny now — and maybe I’m the last one to get this joke — but I put Sullivan’s feed under my “essays” category of RSS.

Well, day one found something like 450 new posts in that particular feed. No big deal, I thought. The software’s just catching up with all the posts still on the server. That’s probably like a month’s worth of posts, quite a few posts for a month, but maybe he’s prolific.

Understatement. Pure understatement. For you see, those 450 posts happened in the past eight days.

I have buried myself with Andrew Sullivan. Only time will tell if I can dig myself out.

Reading the newspaper

David Sullivan at That’s the Press, Baby put up a post today that started me thinking. Just what does it mean to read a newspaper anymore these days. Sullivan says that reading the sometimes jangled assortment of articles in your local print edition isn’t all that much different than nonlinear reading habits with online news sites.

He also wonders just what it means to “read the newspaper.” For him, that means picking up the hardcopy, scanning the headlines, reading a few articles, mostly leaving the sports section untouched. That’s just about how it is for me whenever I pick up a paper copy of the… ahem, paper.

But what about online? Does reading Time’s site equate to reading the newspaper because it posts stories every day? What about blogs and news sites that post with regularity, updating themselves around the clock? Sullivan writes:

I have a sense that no one really knows the answers to this, which is part of why newspapers are having the troubles they are having.

The answer to newspapers problems seems to be — as it always is — that they have lost their identity, and if only we could figure out just what newspapers are, then we might solve some of the problems facing the news business today.

Why is it that we are so hesitant to grant the title of “newspaper” to anything that’s not actually printed on newsprint? Is this some language thing? A hang-up so deeply buried in our news-consuming brains that those people who would normally never quarrel over a point of language now refuse, subconsciously, to accept that “paper” can refer to anything online?

And just what is a newspaper, if it is not a collection of the most recent stories that will interest and inform its readers. The fact that “paper” is part of its title is a matter of practicality. When printers started printing these things, there wasn’t a name for them. They were papers that contained the news, hence newspapers. Why should we hold so dearly to a term that was mostly likely chosen out of sheer utility?

Maybe we need some new term to take newspaper’s place before the news online can begin to replace the news on paper. “News site” just isn’t as catchy, too many “s” sounds in a row right there in the middle. Any other ideas?

Political for a moment

I’m sorry about injecting politics into this blog, but I couldn’t resist this. CNN is reporting that vice president candidate Sarah Palin went “off script” at a rally Sunday in Florida. From the article:

A senior McCain adviser told CNN that those comments “were not the remarks we sent to her plane.” Palin did not discuss the wardrobe story at her rally in Kissimmee, Florida, later in the day.

The story tells of tension between the McCain and Palin advisers and of how some McCain advisers are none too happy with Palin for “going rogue” and being a “diva” who “takes no advice from anyone.”

I’m sorry, but when did things become more about how the advisers feel and less about what the candidates are actually saying? Shouldn’t a candidate for public office speak his or her mind and not the minds of advisers, people with their minds on the polls and on their job prospects, not on the public good?

As a linguistic and minority studies side note, check out this paragraph from the CNN article:

This adviser also decried the double standard, noting that Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, has gone off the reservation as well, most recently by telling donors at a fundraiser that America’s enemies will try to “test” Obama.

When did it become appropriate to use the metaphor “off the reservation” in a news article?

An impatient world

The New York Times gives us this morsel today, from writers Matt Richtel and Ashlee Vance:

There is nothing new about frustration with start-up times, which can be many minutes. But the agitation seems more intense than in the pre-Internet days. Back then, people felt less urgency to log on to their solitary, unconnected machines. Now the destination is the vast world of the Web, and the computer industry says the fast-boot systems cater to an information-addicted society that is agitated by even a moment of downtime.

The article equates the PC-makers’ rush to get boot times down with automakers’ attempts to narrow the time gap between 0 and 60 miles per hour.

I’m almost embarrassed by this labeling of our culture as speed obsessed, so impatient that even a few minutes (or seconds) of waiting for a computer to boot is an eternity of wasted time. I’m embarrassed, but I know it’s an accurate label. I have waited those endless seconds while my computer does something that is taking, no doubt, a reasonable amount of time. In those moments, I really feel like my computer has it out for me, that it wants to kill me with frustration.

But I’ve learned to use those times when nothing else is happening. I consciously switch my mind into “thinking” mode, instead of “computer” mode (where my mind resides far too often). I’ve learned that the moments in between activities can be very useful, and interesting insights are often found in those “liminal” spaces — to use a term from my undergrad days.