The verbal hat tip

November 15, 2005

I’m not sure who started the blog custom of crediting a link or an idea with a “hat tip,” an informal public credit, preferably with link. A quick survey of Google and Wikipedia did not turn up anything remotely definitive or useful. I welcome updates.

However, in a strange tech crossover in the real world, I’ve started hearing all the verbal hat tips that are part of normal conversation and noting the commonality. “In the NY Times yesterday, there was an article…” “Blue is more powerful than green, Rich told me.” “Four out of five dentists agree…”

The blog adoption of the age-old habit of coopting authority from other sources is both obvious and useful. It’s humble, in that it shares the credit. It’s fascinating in that we depend, even when listening, on someone besides the person we’re talking to for validation of the ideas or facts which are shared.

What happens when the idea is original? Do you throw out there, “As I always say, haste makes waste” and live with the possibility of sounding like a pompous ass, even if you are the source?

Here’s my Technorati Profile.

The Atlantic Monthly isn’t monthly (10 issues/year). Newsweek isn’t quite weekly (one double issue in late summer). I expect there are many, many other examples. The lesson? Be careful what you promise, and consider whether your frequency of publication is part of the value you provide to be part of your brand.

The Atlantic magazine cover, September 2005I think The Atlantic suffers slightly for lowering its frequency simply because it’s a read I look forward to. It’s a weighty read most months, but I think it’s compelling, and getting more so. Certainly, the quality would suffer if the editors attempted to up the frequency.

Newsweek, to me, feels lost. Clearly, the publication long ago gave up being timely, but a week is too short to embrace “timelessness” — I wonder if a focus on being a really good summary of what happened in the past week (see The Week), thereby replacing the need for people to even attempt to keep up with a daily paper, is a viable option?

The Atlantic long ago reduced the emphasis (understandably!) on the Monthly in its name, as you can see in the September 2005 cover in this post. So maybe it’s only old-timers like me who will even associate the publication with the time period. We’ll disappear. ;-)

The posting interface at WordPress.com offers several options beyond the basic Title/Post fields.

I believe WordPress.com is running the multi-user version of WordPress 1.6, which has not been generally released yet, so my descriptions may not match your reality even if you’re running WP.

The Write Post page no longer is separated into Basic and Advanced screens. Instead, the page offers nine supplementary options on the single page, ranging from Post Timestamp to Password-Protect Post to the open-ended Custom Fields. The embedded screenshot shows several, though not all. Options in Write Post page in WordPress.com

I’m thrilled that most options are hidden by default, which is applied progressive disclosure at work. Very smart to reward exploration, custom options, and repeat usage without overwhelming the introductory experience. The use of plus and minus signs to denote more information available is commonplace enough to be a standard, and well applied here. The only feature which was not obviously available was the in-page ability to move the various options up and down. Buzzword-compliant… AJAX. Quite nifty, but I wonder how long it would have taken me to stumble across this possibility if I hadn’t been shown the motion. How do you invite learning and exploration without adding labels no one wants to see repeatedly?

With all that, I will say that the choice I want most of all is more themes, or an ability to customize the provided themes ever-so-slightly, perhaps with a header image? Opening up that choice is risky, of course, but this kind of broad strokes customization helps provide some visual distinction with little effort. A safer choice might simply be to allow color alterations, at the style sheet level. Many of the themes available for WordPress come in color variations which are assigned by the creators.

WordPress.com is a new audience for WordPress. While a few of us right now are exceptions, the real audience for WordPress.com is those who are not already blogging. So, those of us who know conventions, are willing to experiment, and generally are coming in with preconceived notions are likely not the best early testers. What I don’t know yet is who will benefit from (a) starting a blog right now (b) the capabilities of WordPress.com. If any of my family were interested, I’d certainly suggest WordPress.com… and I have an invite to share. Also probably better than me doing hosting support, though that’s a possibility, too.

Choose your filter

August 31, 2005

Yes, I have a personal blog, but when given a Golden Ticket to WordPress.com, how could I pass that up? (Thanks, Matt.)

The hardest challenge was deciding which, ahem, filter to apply in blogging at filter.wordpress.com. I’ll deliver occasional notes here on how I choose my filters. Mostly media, but perhaps a bit broader.

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