bite size chunks of information

A few years ago, I used to write longer e-mails. Some recipients would appreciate it, others probably didn’t – but only my sister had the guts to directly tell me: “I don’t have the time to read your novels”.

She, being a lawyer by profession, likes it short and precise. Why waste more words on a story if you can say it with a few words?

Twitter taught me a similar approach – 140 characters may be enough for some basic messages and thr r sm hu hv lrnt hw 2 abbrev. cntnt 2 fit in2 a msg.

And this isn’t even about the length of messages, but rather about how 2 keep things short – and thus interesting?

I’ve experienced this myself while replying to customers or else writing to those who are known for receiving lots of e-mails per day. The moment I started keeping it very short, they instantly replied. This especially works with überwomen who like to handle their job, the kids na kadhalika at once. Another great way to receive a reply from such a person is to give her fixed options:

Am I prejudiced?

[ ] yes
[ ] no
[ ] maybe

Seriously, the shorter your question, the earlier you’ll receive an answer. Keep it short & simple.

Tell me, with the load of information out there in newspapers and your rss feed reader, which one do you actually read? The shorter ones? Would you just scan headlines and maybe also only read the teaser?

Am asking because my fiancée just told me that her 11-12 yrs old pupils in school do neither know the difference between China and Japan, nor that Tokyo (Metropolis) is the capital of Japan. “You can not expect them to know this”, she was told her by her boss. Which obviously changes all your plans while preparing lecturing material.

Kids do know a lot of other – sometimes useless – stuff these days. And what they don’t know, or what isn’t shown on TV or YouTube, will be searchable via Google. “Knowledge” as such has never been more accessible.

So…knowledge or information on one hand, and on the other hand the way we communicate. These very same kids have grown up with SMS, MMS, the telephone, video replies on YouTube, instant messsengers and collaborative Google documents.

Speed and instant communication matter these days, fame and/or followers, accessible knowledge 24/7/365, fast typing abilities, answers to questions. The journey way we communicate is the destination.

I am sure you’ve meanwhile all heard about Google Wave and how it will revolutionize the internet and the way we communicate. Well it may achieve this change, either now or within the next three years (see: Twitter breakthrough/acceptance in mainstream German media). But I keep on coming back to the initial question: is this the way we really want to communicate with each other? That is: typing short instant messages into our (mobile) devices and replying directly on point to a question.

A really good example for the attention deficit a lot of people are suffering from (I think it all started with MTV-styled cuts on tv) seems to be the Google Wave Developer Preview video which is over 80 minutes long. That’s 80 minutes of geeks talking about a new technology. Would you watch it?

Since 80 minutes are a damn long time for most presentations, there are various short versions of the Google Wave video available online that sum up all the differences between normal e-mail communication and the Google Wave approach.

Something similar applies to blog posts. With communication tools like Twitter all around, I feel that ppl not only minimize the time they’ve previously spent on blogs, but also stop reading those with longer blog posts. Not because their content isn’t that interesting – but a) because of other, competing online content (on the feed reader) and b) because it takes time to read all this stuff here.

What I am really afraid of and my reason for this blog post is that we will lose a feeling for the poetry between the lines and our ability to spend time on longer articles – just because communication as such is so much more different nowadays and somehow also unconsciously changes the way we read.

Could this scenario be true?

4 comments » Write a comment

  1. D’accord!.Personally,three words email do not do for me .What’s the point? My bro does this all the time and perhaps I will be brave like your sister and tell him ‘why bother’.
    I actually miss the “physical” letter writing. These days going to the mail box just to get some junk mail from departmental store sales etc is such a bore. I miss the days I would receive a lovely letter or card from special friends . It felt really nice

  2. This post is to long, since as you are talking about shortening down writing to the core of its information. And at the same time I (again) realize my style of reading articles has much changed and adapted to on-line “mass media”. While trying to get an overview on everything I just keep scanning all those posts and articles, searching for those keywords that are of interest to me, “Google Wave”, oh, ah. And yes, I’ve watched the whole 80′ of the developer presentation!

  3. Hehe…

    You know how often I am trying to scroll down on a normal webpage, using m to mark paragraphs as “read” in a Google Reader style?

    The question I am having is: how will this reading style on the internet change our behaviour on other media and influence the way we go through information?

  4. Another good example is ppl using their mobile devices to answer on e-mails: don’t expect anything longer than two lines from such a person!

    @iphone-, @blackberry-, @androidusers.