• Reading Blog Canonical Form

    It is neither possible nor desirable for me to read every word of every blog and news source to which I subscribe. To read more efficiently I’ve developed some techniques. They can’t be novel, but I wonder how common they are. One of them is backwards reading.

    Very often the final paragraph of a post sums up what the writer thinks and delivers the most important new idea. To figure out if more of the post is worth reading I often start by reading the last paragraph first. If it seems interesting, I’ll move up to the penultimate paragraph. Sometimes I work backward through the whole post that way, though very often I stop when I think I’ve gotten the gist. Quite frequently I only end up reading a small fraction of the entire post.

    This technique works especially well for posts that are in what I’ll call “blog canonical form.” Here’s the structure of such a post.

    Blog Canonical Form

    (A) So-and-so has written something about thus-and-such.

    (B) A substantial quote from so-and-so’s post about thus-and-such.

    (C) But I think so-and-so has got it wrong or right. Here’s why.

    (D) Finally, my own thoughts on thus-and-such include these nuances. Blah, blah, blah.

    End.

    Here are four posts in blog canonical form. Look for it. You’ll see it every day on many blogs.

    See what’s happening here? The real content is at the end of part (D), the “blah, blah, blah” with which the writer explains some important and different ways to think about thus-and-such. Parts (A), (B), and (C) are all set-up. One need not read them, especially if one has already read so-and-so’s post to which the writer refers and quotes. If one hasn’t read so-and-so’s post then reading part (D) and part (B) is sufficient and often no less informative than reading the whole thing.The nice thing is that parts (D) and (B) are easy to find. The former is at the end, the latter is indented.

    If you also find it efficient to read blog posts backwards and you’re doing so with this post you can stop reading now. You’ve already got my point.

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    • Isn’t it interesting that the blog canonical form is precisely opposite the traditional form for journalism, with the most important stuff at the top?