Learnng to think in Hyperlink

I’ve been blogging for about six months now after more than 30 years as a professional writer in the linear medium of print. Professional means I got paid. Linear means every written work, from start to finish, was self-contained. What-you-read-was-all-you-got. So now this old dog is trying to learn a new trick — how to insert useful digressions into a written work by using hyperlinks. Of course, one of the first things any writer learns is that, when think you’ve had a brainstorm, there’s a good chance that someone else has had it first. That was the case when I used terms like “hyperthinking” and “hyperwriting” to search for this concept in cyberspace. Sure enough, Doc Searls, who is well known in blogging circles but who may be unfamiliar to newcomers, once delved into this area in his own folksy way by asking his readers whether “they appreciate(d) the linky way I write?” John Waterson responded and Doc posted John’s reply — from which I have snipped this double-edged bit: “Good links should open up the conversation; they should present participants in the discourse with options which they can follow up on, if they so choose.” But, John warned, they can also stifle conversation when and if they present “an obligation that must be fulfilled if you want to keep up.”

A New Zealander named Matthew Thomas also wrote a thoughtful do’s and don’t of links that also marveled at the wonderfulnew tool of digression which I have discovered through blogging: “This is the true beauty of hypertext,” he wrote. “If someone wants to explore a particular idea, they can jump mid-sentence into a linked document, returning to the original at their leisure — or not at all.”

I must say that the “or not at all” bit worried me. After all, I’m not getting paid for this. I’d at least like to get read.

In looking for how to craft links so as to add information value without losing readers, I came across Kairosnews, a scholarly forum to help “hyperwriters … master a new process that includes electronic links, visual images, sound, animation, and other forms of data within a single digitized writing space.”

And the English Department at the University of South Florida offers an introductory course on blogging that would be of particular interest to teachers — and contained this nugget that should be heeded by all denizens of the blogosphere: “Blogs gain power over time, showing how the writer’s (or writers’) mind (or minds) works. Over time, bloggers become known for being informative about a topic or set of topics. Bloggers attract readers by researching their topics, by providing evidence for assertions, and by creating a tone and persona that readers find informative or entertaining.”

Given all this wisdom on the topic, what can an old print hack contribute to the grammar of hyperthinking? Perhaps the discipline of writing short and tight — because even if there exists an infinite amount of space to be filled with our words, links or whatever, who has time to follow them! And perhaps I can offer the occasional amusement. So as it is now fashionable to say here in “Kalifornia” — Hasta la vista, baby.

Tom Abate
Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media