When we read text on the web what are we doing? How do we deconstruct, demystify it? In what form or fashion must we proceed to the resolution of: read or skim?
You know what we're doing when we read text on the web. We don't read it. We are doing more impatient ignoring than leisurely reading.
We are blind to nearly everything, if it's not the desired object:
a product comparison chart
an answer to a question
a function to perform a task
an email or land address
a bio or About page
a contact form
an order form
a digital butler, virtual assistant
a help center 800 number
a live tech chat
a newsletter sign up form
a site search engine
an RSS feed
a music mp3
an image uploader
a player embed
a blog comment form
These are the kinds of "content" and interactivity that we're looking for. Many of us are not even looking for text per se, we're trying to find a photo or a function, both of which may have text captioning them or describing them, but it's not text that's sought.
All web designers and content managers forget the reality of users, and live in the fantasy of "sticky" web sites, sites that the user gets trapped in, or gets so captivated by the glorious colors and widgets and essays that they don't ever want to leave.
You see amateur sites that say "Enjoy your stay here" or "Have fun hanging out".
What craziness is this?
Visitors to web sites do not "hang out" or "stay" at web sites. Web sites are not video games that you spend hours with. But this is what many web designers think. The actually recoil at the "portal" concept of webs and blogs. They don't want to put links to other sites on their site, fearing that it would be "driving visitors away", but they fail to understand how linking to other sites increases the value and returnability of your site.
Visitors think, "It was at _________ blog that I saw that Tiny URL widget, Library Thing, Digg feedroll, Swicki custom search engine, and a link to Doc Searls Weblog." They associate you with cool functionalities and credible, prestigious bloggers and web sites. You know where to go for authoritative expertise, and your blogroll show it. This is providing value for your site visitors.
If your blog is any good, when they get done checking out the external site, they'll return to your blog. Don't worry about that. Being generous, altruistic, driving traffic to sites you like, sharing tons of practical information and education to the public, helping others with advice or free samples, it is Good Business Karma.
You will be rewarded.
If your site contains the right links, it increases your credibility. A marketing blog should link to the top business book authors, marketing consultants, and PR agencies, for example. An artist's blog better be linking to Art Forum. An astronomy site needs to link to NASA.
You send business to other businesses, even though they are bigger than you. You are directing your fans and allies to who you, in your good judgment and keen insight, are the best and smartest, the visionaries and pioneers, the leaders and prophets.
You abundantly share your wisdom and advice. Others come to your blog or wiki or web site and contribute content. Every blog that receives some form of feedback (comments, email, trackbacks, guestbook signings, etc.) is thereby a online collaboration tool.
It's time to move from (or beyond) isolated, individualistic blogs...to group collaboration wikis.