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Issue № 162

A Fairy, a Low-Fat Bagel, and a Sack of Hammers

by Published in Writing, Business, State of the Web · 83 Comments

One bright, sunny day, the Bad Internet Fairy closed down every company and organization site on the web.

No more shopping. No more sites selling endless products and services. No more university, non-profit, or political sites.

All closed.

So all the programmers, designers, and usability engineers went home, shaking their heads.

Too bad! No more web.

And they all slept in the next morning. After all, with the web gone, why go to work? They stayed home, got up late, sipped on their cappuccinos and nibbled on low-fat bagels.

And they missed something.

They missed the fact that even though all those company and organization sites had closed down, the internet was still ablaze with activity.

Tens of millions of people were sending billions of messages to each other. Young people and old people alike. Instant messages were flying. Blogs were being written and updated. Newsletters were being edited and sent out. Discussion lists were being read and replied to. Personal sites were being created and published. Emails were being written to family and friends.

People were reading and writing. Frowning and laughing. Crying and cheering. Agreeing and disagreeing.

People were engaged. Tens of millions of them. They were reading line after line, page after page. What did they enjoy the most? The best writing. The most interesting opinions. The most original thinkers and voices. Yes, everyone was reading like crazy. People love to read when the subject is close to their hearts, when the writer is known to them and trusted, when the writing is exciting and well crafted.

No surprise here, of course. It’s always been that way. Since the first Usenet groups. (Drugs, Sex, and Rock and Roll ... naturally. 1988.) Since the early days of The Well. Since the first Bulletin Boards.

Regular folks, those tens of millions of “prospects” and “customers,” have always loved to read online. They love to write, they love to read, they love to get involved, feel engaged. Just text, just the words. (“Just the words?” What a terrible to thing to say about writing!)

Although these millions of people don’t think about it or analyze it, they all know a simple truth: their experience of the web is about words, the text. Always has been. Always will be.

This is their place, their medium. They were there, online, before any company or organization. They were there before venture capital companies had wet dreams about “upswings” and IPOs. They were there before a thousand experts decided that the web was about technology, design and process. They were there before some of those same experts announced that people don’t like to read online.

Anyway…

After a few days, the Bad Internet Fairy, who wasn’t so bad after all, put all the websites back online, and the designers, programmers and usability engineers heaved a collective sigh of relief and went back to work.

And they did what they always did. They designed, programmed and constructed, using the latest software, adhering to the most recent standards, following the coolest design trends.

And when everything was set, mapped out, constructed ... they had someone find a writer to fill in the blank spaces with words.

Too bad. Dumb as a sack of hammers.

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