I’ve got a hypertext jones

I received two very kind — and very incisive — comments on my last post, from Mike Cakora and Barbara Leonard. " Brad, how lucky can a journalist be? You’ve got the best of all the worlds," wrote Barbara. And Mike’s two cents worth was like unto it: After making an observation regarding my regular columns, he added that "Now with the blog you can provide relevant links."

Yes, Barbara, I do have a wonderful job; I’ve known that for a long time. I get paid to lead a team of talented people, and they and I get paid to tell the world what we and I think — about anything and everything. Sure, there are boring bits — such as reading proofs containing copy I’ve already read, often more than once. And there are things that would turn a lot of people away from this work — such as the constant criticism. If it really bugs you to have people call you a fathead, then this is not for you.

But if you love ideas, and you like to jump from one to another like a kid making himself sick in a candy store, there’s no better job.

And as Barbara implies and Mike more specifically explains, blogging takes it to another level. It’s not necessarily a higher level — this kind of journalism is even more hurried than the other, and thoughtful reflection and deliberation are important elements in formulating and expressing the most worthwhile opinions — but it’s certainly a very interesting level. The feedback — including the stuff about me being a fathead — comes quickly, and is aired in public, rather than in private e-mail. (I prefer that, because such exchanges add to the marketplace of ideas in a way that e-mail can’t. It makes the time spent typing more worthwhile.)

But Mike put his finger on one of the very coolest things about blogging — it’s like writing a column, except that, through the magic of hypertext linking, you can do more. Of course, it helps you save a lot of trouble explaining points that are not central to your argument, by directing the reader to further information on that point and then proceeding with your exposition. But better — oh, so much better than that — you get to take the reader along with you on the kinds of seemingly pointless mental digressions that have always made me one of the slowest researchers and writers in the Fourth Estate. Dictionaries are deadly to my efforts to manage my time, because in looking up one word, I run across five others that fascinate me, and some of those definitions lead to others, and I’m off … as in, off course. (Ironically, online dictionaries provide a way to bypass this problem by giving you a way to search rather than to browse. But if you try this one, you can get lost all day.)

The wonderful thing about blogging is that this sort of undisciplined woolgathering is not only not frowned upon, it’s expected. People actually appreciate it. You can’t beat that, with a stick or any other implement of destruction.

I just hope it doesn’t ruin me for regular work. I’m already finding myself getting frustrated because I can’t insert links into my regular print columns so easily (in print, parenthetical URLs can really mess with the flow of what you’re trying to say, and they’re more laborious for your poor reader to use).

But so far, I’m enjoying being able to do both. And if you’ll excuse me for joining Barbara in her Panglossian enthusiasm, this is the best of all virtual worlds.

7 thoughts on “I’ve got a hypertext jones

  1. Ellen

    Holy classics, Batman. He’s hoodwinked me into reading Voltaire. “Cause and effect” will forevermore make me smirk.

  2. Mike Cakora

    Links can merely serve the function of footnotes, but can also do a lot more, as your link- festooned exposition above demonstrates. Following the links exposes readers so inclined to the boundaries of the blogger’s frame of reference; following the links’ links can take one from the truth found by Voltaire to the facts about a perciform fish, thus feeding the soul as well as the body.
    So far you are using your blog in part to promote transparency, giving readers an insight into editorial decisions, providing more details on items cut for lack of space, and so forth. IMHO that improves the value of the print edition by providing real-time context that’s not space-limited. That should assist in establishing greater trust (or antagonism, I guess).
    One thing that you might re-consider however, is using your picture at the top of your blog. There’s a very good reason for my suggestion.

  3. kc

    blogging takes it to another level. It’s not necessarily a higher level — this kind of journalism is even more hurried than the other, and thoughtful reflection and deliberation are important elements in formulating and expressing the most worthwhile opinions — but it’s certainly a very interesting level.have to be consist of tossed-off spur-of-the-moment posts. There are plenty of blogs out there that consist of longer, well-thought-out, well-written and reasoned posts (mine’s not one of them).

  4. kc

    And as for commenting, some of us ought to take advantage of the “preview” feature. I hate it when I mess up the html tags . . .

  5. Mike Cakora

    Out, durned italics! (What an illustration! The Internet is so wonderful!)
    KC makes a good point about the preview as a check on HTML tags.
    And as a Czech, or of that extraction, I’d like to point out that readers can follow a link and still keep the original web page by right-clicking on the link and then left-clicking on the “Open in New Window” menu option each time they want to follow a link. This method allows them to wander about through the Internet links while keeping the original window available.
    This technique works for Windows, about which we Czechs know something.
    This whole post is so link-rich that I wonder if any other blogger ever saw such links. (Apologies to Pedro.)

  6. Brad Warthen

    To KC’s remark:
    Other blogs don’t HAVE to be hurried, but mine does. I’m doing it on top of a 60-hour-a-week job, and many, many familial and other obligations.
    It’s either do it in a hurry, or don’t do it. I leave it up to readers whether it’s worth doing. The jury’s still out on that.
    In the meantime, you and I will just have to admire those sites that reflect more time on the authors’ time.
    — Brad

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