Writing for the Web: "Join the Conversation!"

It probably sounds rather naïve, but the synergy of bloggers that Technorati mobilized (synergized, connected... what's the right verb to describe this kind of social interaction?) around Live8 actually inspired me. "Join the Conversation!" Technorati called, and 4,497 people answered. At the moment, that's 11,828 posts about Live8. Sure, many are discussing Madonna's use of the F-word, or how much total botox was keeping those aging rockers' faces intact. Regardless, there's some real social engagement going on, and damnit, I want to be a part of it. Now, not to toot my own horn, but I'm a pretty good writer. Like any good writer I also know my limits. When I was a kid I was a great action-adventure storyteller. In high school, I surprised myself by getting a comdedic stageplay produced. Recently it's been pretty dry educational planning, marketing, and of course my academic work. Each style of writing has its own rules, and those rules are determined by how the audience interacts with the text, and what the text is supposed to achieve. So, like I did for each of my other writing styles, I turned to some expert advice to outline the groundrules (so I'll know how to break them later on!) It turns out that this advice came from a surprising, yet familiar source.

Although not the article I was first searching for, my first Google for "effective web writing" turned up a great article by Crawford Kilian, called (what else) "Effective Web Writing." He really captures the idea of web writing as engaging in a multi-level conversation, under what he calls a modern constructivist communication model (differing from the instrumental model):

The constructivist, interactive communication model isn't concerned with firing an information bullet between anyone's eyes. It wants to start and maintain a conversation. In any conversation, those who take part are both sending and receiving, changing each message in light of the latest response. They may be amazed at where the conversation leads them. The implicit message here is: "Is this what you want?"—which presumes a very different social relationship from the instrumental model: a relationship of equals.

Now, the name Crawford Kilian struck me as rather familiar, but I first assumed that it was because of his web writing. Visiting his website, I quickly learned that not only was he a fellow Canadian, but was also from North Vancouver... and had written many scifi novels. Then I got it. Crawford Kilian had visited my highschool English class in probably grade 10 (just before I became a famous playwright ;)) So now I owe a Mr. Kilian another debt of gratitude for imparting another writing lesson to me... 17 years later.

Posted on July 5, 2005 and filed under Blogging.