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((((((((((((((((( WEBREFERENCE UPDATE NEWSLETTER ))))))))))))))))) October 5, 2000


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New this week on WebReference.com and the Web:

1. CONTEST: Signup and Win! 2. FEATURED ARTICLE: Webnotes: Writing for the Web 3. NET NEWS: * Netscape.com Unveils New Look * Red Hat Talks Big at Open-Source Conference * Automatic Syndication of Content to Web and Wireless * Carnivore Review: A 'Stacked Deck?'

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As always, we are looking for reader submitted articles through our Open Publishing Initiative. Did this article inspire you to write? Submit an idea today and your words could be here next week!


This week, we break away from the domain name buying and selling discussion for a Web writing workshop. Author Robert Anthony shares with us the way most Web browsers read and what this means for our online content.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. FEATURED ARTICLE: Webnotes: Writing for the Web

>A Need for Quality Content

Good news for writers: editorial content - the written word, is the chief method of communicating on the World Wide Web and demand for quality content is growing exponentially. Currently, there are an estimated 259 million Internet users worldwide. Forty-three percent of these users are U.S. citizens. The Computer Industry Almanac reports that there will be more than 490 million people online by 2002. But even though the Web doubles in size with over a million new sites every 30 days, it will be another decade before it exceeds the size of our worldwide telecommunications network. So, to cash in on this unfolding and emerging new writing medium there are some important details that good Web content developers (Web writers) will need to know. Let's look at a few.

>Resolution and Eyetracking

Text on the Web is published in an uncomfortably low resolution. To demonstrate this quickly, think about reading your next issue of Writer's Journal on your television, printed in a 72-dpi (dots per inch) Times New Roman, 10-point font. Get the picture? It's too uncomfortable and strenuous for reality-based carbon life forms (we humans). It hurts our eyes. So, on the Web, in order to avoid this discomfort, we keep the browser stimulated and initiated with movement, flitting short blocks of large, high- impact sans-serif text that gets abruptly to the point across the screen. The most effective Web material will keep the reader constantly initiated with interactivity through a series of structured, interlacing hyperlinks and bookmarks. We let them 'cyber-plunge' into the material to wherever they see fit, but always offer substantive information to them once they arrive. The trick is to manipulate and control (this can be a good thing!) the interest of the reader/browser toward the end objective of informing him or her with our worthy prose.

A good example of this technique is demonstrated at the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook (http://stats.bls.gov/oco/ocos089.htm). Here you will find the BLS employment outlook on writing and editing careers. Those intending to write for the Web will find it useful and profitable to learn the necessary linking and book marking skills for developing this kind of text content.

It's important to understand that Web browsers scan editorial material, searching for points of specific interest in an effort "To find useful information as quickly as possible," says John Morkes and Jakob Nielsen in their Web usability studies dating back to 1997. "When a page comes up," they said, "users focus their attention on the center of the window where they read the body text before they bother looking over header bars or other navigational elements." Apparently, Web sites score 58% higher in measured usability when their editorial content was written concisely, and 47% higher when the text was scannable. (See http://www.useit.com/papers/webwriting/).

Eye tracking movement studies conducted by the Poynter Institute in conjunction with Stanford University have further confirmed what most Web writers and content specialists had long suspected, that headlines and captions capture readers first and foremost. (See http://www.poynter.org/centerpiece/071200.htm) Although sinister news to the graphics industry, the fact that text is the true Web 'master' is good news for writers.


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>The Great Pyramids

Because readers on the Web demand instant gratification, Web writers would do well to borrow the inverted pyramid custom for written material, from the news industry. With the inverted pyramid, the most important information is offered first, trailed by detail in a descending order of importance. Headings and captions should convey a crystal clear and concise understanding of its supporting text, and be capable of standing on its own. This 'micro-content' should be no longer than five to eight words and offer conclusions and summaries that help the reader/browser quickly understand the nature of the text. Avoid teasers or cleverness like the above heading, "The Great Pyramids", for example, which was written originally for a print publication. Online such wit (If I may be so bold) is more of a detriment than an aid. Because of the Web's reduced capacity for visible written content, the lead - the first two or three sentences of written material - should then engage the reader with the most important facts to be communicated.

>An Historical Aside

During the American Civil War, an entire news story took too long to transmit across wire via Morse code. So, field reporters wired their stories starting with primary information first, a more efficient way to get important facts to press. The story was supported with as many lesser important fact as was possible during one telegraph transmission. In written form, this evolved into a news style referred to as the Inverted Pyramid, which stands as a standardized method for writing news stories.

>A few suggestions for effective Web content:

* Use bulleted items: Short, high-impact sentences that attract attention.

* Use hyperlinks at the beginning of the writing that are book marked to specific points of interest within the text, allowing readers to dive directly into their desired information.

* Use a series of inverted pyramids in presenting information. The inverted pyramid style of writing presents important information first, and supports that information thereafter with detail.

* Use headings wisely. Make sure that headings are used often and are short and concise.

* Use hyperlinks to add credibility and support your material. Web readers like hyperlinks to outside sources that are reliable and trustworthy. A caveat: use them sparingly or you risk losing your reader to another site entirely!

* Use objective language. Readers do not respond favorably to writings with an overt or obvious agenda. Web writings should be generously supported with evidence and remain objective.


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About the author:

Robert Anthony has been a freelance author, marketing consultant and technical writer for more than 20 years. He has been a Web content specialist since 1994 and is the co-founder of Online Content Development Theory (OCDT). Check out the content of his Web site at http://www.profilesonline.com. Comments, questions or suggestions for future columns are welcome at editor@profilesonline.com.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3. NET NEWS: Netscape.com Unveils New Look, Red Hat talks big at open-source conference, Automatic Syndication of Content to Web and Wireless, Carnivore review: A 'stacked deck?'

>Netscape.com Unveils New Look

Netscape unveiled Wednesday a redesigned site designed to maximize the user experience, giving quick access to the most popular areas. Also, the final beta of Netscape 6, PR3 is now available for download. Netscape 6, based on the Open Source Gecko engine claims full standards compliance with multiple Internet protocols, including XML, HTML 4, CSS1, and W3C DOM Level 0 and 1 and JavaScript 1.5. ftp://ftp.netscape.com/pub/netscape6/ http://ipw.internet.com/clients_servers/web_browsers/916162589.html http://www.internetnews.com/prod-news/article/0,,9_476391,00.html IPW/Internetnews.com, Oct. 4, 2000

>Red Hat talks big at open-source conference

Red Hat, the seller of Linux software and support, always has been ambitious, but the company grew a step bolder today, taking credit for launching the open-source programming movement that underlies Linux and several other software packages. http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1003-200-2932538.html CNet.com, 001004

>Automatic Syndication of Content to Web and Wireless

Active Data Exchange and CTNY joined forces this week to allow Internet users to syndicate Internet content to web sites and wireless devices like cell phones, interactive pages, and personal data assistants (PDAs) simultaneously.

http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article/0,,3_477571,00.html Internetnews.com, 001005

>Carnivore review: A 'stacked deck?'

The ACLU has criticized the Department of Justice, saying it "stacked the deck" by appointing government insiders to a committee reviewing the FBI's Carnivore Internet surveillance system. The panel of experts will decide whether the software violated search and seizure provisions of the Constitution. http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/news/0,4586,2636879,00.html ZDNet.com, 001004

That's it for this week, see you next time.

Andrew King Managing Editor, WebReference.com update@webreference.com

Catherine Levy Assistant Editor, WebReference.com clevy@internet.com

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