June 22, 2006
Follow me on Twitter

Constructive Hypertext

Aaron Swartz has an interesting (if somewhat defensive) apologia about his writing practice.

I am 19 and live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in an apartment with two others. The three of us together work full-time on the site reddit.com and I spend most of my days working on programming and various related tasks for it.....If you think the writing here is poor, that's probably why. Real writing takes editing. But I don't consider this writing, I consider this thinking. I like sharing my thoughts and I like hearing yours and I like practicing expressing ideas, but fundamentally this blog is not for you, it's for me. I'm sorry. Maybe that isn't how it should be, but at least for now that's how it is. In my defense, nobody's making you come here.

The nature of blogging demands a light editorial touch, because you don't yet know what's going to happen tomorrow. You can't have a narrative overview, and you can't avoid narrative.

The same light touch is needed in wikis and other cooperative spaces. You don't know what the end will be; what you can do today is create a shape, a structure to guide future growth. Michael Joyce called these "constructive hypertexts... versions of what they are becoming, a structure for what does not yet exist."

This, incidentally, is where Jakob Nielsen errs in thinking that people who check weblogs regularly are fanatics. People have a tremendous hunger for closure; they want to know what's going to happen next. Keep things coming, and they'll keep coming back for more.