The Culture of Snippetry
One of the question on the survey I’m currently running (TAKE IT NOW) asks you to think about how many blogs you read regularly. Even when writing up the survey I hadn’t thought about this in a long time. So, I went to my trusty Bloglines page to count them up: 70, exactly. Fifty-five of these are wine blogs.
I check these blogs, all 70, daily. It’s a testament to the power of "skimming", a way of accumulating information that Bloglines and other information aggregators clearly endorses.
The fact of the matter is I could probably keep track of double this number of blogs given the way I can skim a head line or first paragraph of a blog post and easily determine if I want to read further. But it occurred to me that there are hints all about the media of a move to endorse "skimming" as a way of taking in information, as opposed to reading–particularly reading in full an entire article.
THE THEORY OF SKIMMING
I think this trend is particularly clear in newspapers. More and more will bold out the first paragraph of a story, giving it even more importance that it already is required to have by standard journalistic conventions to carry. In fact, some newspapers have gone to adding a single sentence or combination of words between the headline and lead paragraph that is not a subhead and not a lead paragraph, but rather an invitation to "get the gist" and move on.
As for books, tell me if you’ve noticed this: with non fiction it appears chapters are getting shorter, include more headings throughout the chapters and now often have pull quotes in boxes on the page.
Have we fully become a Culture of Snippets?
SNIPPETRY AS A WAY OF LIFE
Of course the standard wine review is the ultimate snippet. The vast majority of wine reviews in magazines and newsletters and even on blogs is either a snippet itself, usually no more than 100 words or is made up of a string of even smaller snippets.
It’s all about our attention span, isn’t it?
I don’t know enough about brain biochemistry to really know if they can actually be "re-wired" or if they can become accustomed to taking in data in a particular way or in a particular format. But if they can be, I wonder if many brains are becoming wired to take in and more effectively digest data in small bursts…in snippets.
THE WINE JOURNAL THAT WOULD NOT WORK IN A CULTURE OF SNIPPETRY
I once seriously considered becoming involved in a publishing venture in which on bi-monthly basis we’d deliver a journal-like publication (think "The Paris Review" in size) that examined in depth 5 wines. It would have been the ultimate "wine review" that started with the history of the grapes, region and winery in general, went on to specifics of the vineyards, winemaking, cellaring and marketing, and concluded with a contextual and complete evaluation of the wine. Those of us considering this venture realized that each of the five "reviews" in each issue would easily span twenty pages.
Given the Culture of Snippetry in which we seem to live today, I’m guessing this format for examining wine might attract 12 subscribers, 6 of them "mercy subscribers" based only on friendship.
SNIPPETRY AND BLOGS
I’m both a victim and practitioner of snippetry. So I’m really in no position to decry this development. But it does have implication for the way we bloggers compose our posts if we want them read and for readers of blogs who want to scan many blogs. The fact this, this post alone has probably run too long by a factor of five.