Walking the world wide web…

I published my first book 17 years ago. It was called Walking the World Wide Web, and it was an edited selection of all the best websites out there, with detailed reviews. It’s hard to believe now, but the web was so young in the mid-90s that it was possible to list a large percentage of the available websites in a book, and not a very thick one at that.

I remember that one of the sites I reviewed in my book was Boing Boing. It’s one of the oldest sites on the web, and it’s still going strong. Back then, it was a catalog of wonderful things — meaning things on the Internet — and that’s essentially what it still is today. But it remains immensely popular because it’s very good at helping people find good stuff to read and look at on the web, which has become an increasingly difficult job for any casual web surfer.

Sometimes I wonder what my career would have been like if I had built on the success of my first book and become a web curator like Boing Boing or Kottke. Who would have guessed back then that such a thing as website curation could be a career, and a lucrative one at that?

I think we are going to need good curators more than ever in the near future. I have read that Google will be making some changes to its search algorithms so that websites can no longer rely on SEO and keywords to get to the top of search results. Instead, links and social networking shares will be major factors in determining which sites float to the top. This is good news for all of us web surfers, because our Google search results will be more likely to show us quality content, rather than all that search engine-optimized filler. But it means there will be a need for more curators who are finding good sites, writing about them and sharing the links with a broad audience.

And I suspect — or maybe I hope? — that busy people will be more willing to pay for good curation.

Let’s all stop saying “after the jump”…

The phrase “after the jump” on blogs is one of my particular pet peeves, and I have noticed that usage does not seem to be abating. One reason why it’s annoying is because the majority of the readership has no idea what it means — including the blogger, in many cases. Besides being unintelligible, it’s also meaningless in many blog-reading situations. More after the paragraph break.

See how annoying that was? Anyway, “after the jump” originated as a newspaper term, referring to front-page stories that were continued inside the paper. Bloggers took up the term to refer to stories that continued after a break caused by an inline advertisement. It might also refer to a break from the truncated story on the blog’s front page to the full post.

Even though it started as a newspaper term, editors did not put the actual words “after the jump” in the paper. Instead, they said something more intelligible and helpful, such as “continued on A-23.” And since newspapers don’t change format from one reader to another, the text was helpful for all readers.

This is not true on the web. In many cases, I see “after the jump” where there is in actuality no jump of any kind. That’s because I’m either reading the full story in the RSS feed or on the interior of the blog (not the front page). In some instances, I’ve seen the phrase used several paragraphs before or even after said jump. This is just confusing. And it breaks the flow of what I’m reading, making me less inclined to finish your post, whether there’s any jump or not.

Even if there is a so-called jump, many readers are still scratching their heads. Jump? What’s that? I may have to click a link to get to the rest of the story, or I may have to scroll down a page. But I am never required to jump.

If you really must signal to your less-than-intelligent readers that they should click on a link or scroll past an ad to continue reading, why not use a phrase that everyone can parse instantly. How about: “Continue reading” or “Click for more” or “Scroll down for more”? And here’s an idea — don’t put this in the content but with the element that the Internet boneheads must successfully navigate around. That way, those of us who don’t have to perform the maneuver don’t have to be bothered with the instructions either.

“After the jump” is so overused these days that it’s becoming a tired cliche. You don’t want your writing to be tired, do you? I didn’t think so.

Rant over.

After the Jump on Ask MetaFilter
After the Jump on Urban Dictionary