iT was a dark+stormy Nite

;-) Neterature: all the quirky, jerky kinds of writing that is/are on the World Wide Web — blogs, fan fiction, role-playing game sagas, news filterese, spam poetry, prose parodies, etc.

Neterature: Usually energetic passionate innovative and irreverently funny. Not always great or even good. But the best of it is young and sassy and undeniably full of life, in ways that on-the-page writing is not so much anymore.

And it’s blooming everywhere — in e-mail and instant messages and, more and more, spilling off the screen into our daily parlance. It’s changing the way we express ourselves. —Linton Weeks
iT was a dark+stormy Nite (Washington Post (will expire soon))

A good survey. Ultimately, it sides with the wistful “because we are no longer crafting our stories and poems on paper with pens or typewriters, gone are the days when we were forced to think through everything before we wrote it down,” which is 1) an overstatement and 2) missing the point. We come into contact with lots of bad online writing, but those of us with weblogs can make it easier for everyone else to find the good writing. Bloggers are editors — not in the sense that we fix other people’s mistakes, but because a weblog archive is the table of contents of an anthology; a single richly-linked blog entry functions as a separate codex.

Weeks gives a good survey of writing culture online, but still applies old media criteria to it — which is rather like admitting that a horseless carriage does a lot of things horses do, and a lot of things that horses can’t do, but questioning them because you can’t breed horseless carriages. Of course you can’t — because horseless carriages aren’t horses.

A neuropsychiatrist is quoted as saying that, when you read online, “Your critical faculties are in abeyance.” They needn’t be. People can be trained to appreciate modern art, fine wines, and just about anything else that follows discernible principles of aesthetic and meaning.

I do find it very amusing that Jakob Nielsen is introduced as someone who teaches people how to write online. His specialty is usability in human-computer interfaces, and of course he’s great in that realm. But only by trial and error have he and other usability specialists determined what kind of writing permits people to use technical documents most efficiently. Nielsen has no expertise in the use of writing to persuade, inspire, entertain, etc. He has never claimed that he has, of course — it’s this article that presents him as a writing expert.