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Writing good articles that have much better chance to be seen by others

 
 
tanix
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      01-16-2010
People may not realize that majority of article views come from
the search engines and not directly reading the Usenet.

First of all, to find some information for some specific issue,
you may be dealing with, is pretty much a hopeless excersize
if you just read Usenet or some disorganized archive.

It may take you days to step through all sorts of threads reading
it all sequentially, without any kind of filtering offered by search
engines.

When people need to resolve some issue, the first thing they do is to
use a search engine.

So, when they click on some link in the SERPS, they only see
one article. They can not even follow your thread in most cases
unless they are willing to spend minutes of their time, the chances
of which are slim as it gets.

So, from this standpoint, try to keep the context of the article
intact. Do not delete some section of the article you are following
upon because you think it is "insignificant" in YOUR opinion.

Because it may turn out to be significant in readers opinion.
Plus it contains the context.

Notes on writing style:
-----------------------

Your articles are available on many different web sites, servers,
search engines and libraries as web pages and will stay there forever.

When you write something, you may not even consider that it is better
to take your time and describe some topic completely so it becomes a
reference material to be used for years to come.

If you write cryptic articles that are viewed by themselves,
and not in a thread, and may not even make much sense to someone,
who is not reading it on Usenet by following a thread,
or as competent as the writer is, then they are virtually useless.

Some people strip most of the article they followup on,
and it becomes virtually impossible to understand what
they are talking about. Because this article may just
appears somewhere by itself, without the preceeding
articles in a thread.

Especially if there is some code involved.

Keep it in mind.

Again, it is better to write a thorough and detailed article
to put the issue to rest once and for all,
instead of saying the same thing again and again.

You can simply refer people to that original article
instead of doing it from top again, wasting your own
time and energy and producing very little additional
information with net effect close to 0.

Unfortunately, some people write pretty sloppy articles
with huge blobs of text, without line breaks between
their followup and the original article, long line lengths,
and generally careless style. The result: their articles
are not a great pleasure to read or understand, and the
chances are high they are going to be skipped in less than
a couple of seconds of viewing them.

Generally, the paragraph size should be limited to separate
different concepts into clearly defined blocks. That makes
it much easier to digest. In today's hectic world, people
are very impatient and will push the next button as soon
as they see the first ugly blob of text.

General suggestions on writing on Usenet:
-----------------------------------------

1. Do not use lines that are longer than 70 characters.
This is NNTP standard limitation. All the lines longer than 79
characters will be wrapped around in in quite an ugly way.
So, considering there may be followups to your article,
and sometimes MANY followups, consider this: each followup
adds at least one character to the line length.

2. Do not "top post", meaning writing your entire response
BEFORE the article you are following up. Do it in place,
commending on a particular statement in the article you
are following on.

Fist of all, it is simply insultive. It looks like you couldn't
be bothered.

Secondly, it is simply sloppy.

Thirdly, is makes it hard for a reader to put YOUR comments
in the proper context. Unless they read the preceesing articles
in a thread, the chances are high they are going to skip your
article.

3. Watch the white space around your comments and the
original article. It is best to have one blank line before your
follow up and one blank line after.

Extra blank lines do not help anything.
No blank lines makes it all dense and hard to read
as things run into each other.

4. NEVER use tab characters. They are not going to be properly
expanded in many cases. Even if you post some code that uses tabs
in your source, replace them with spaces.

5. Try to provide a sufficient description and rationale
for things you are saying. Simply making some statement
without reasoning why do you think it is valid is just a
waste.

Readers are not necessarily mind readers. They may not be
on your level of competence or may not know some issues
as well as you. So, if you do not explain why are you saying
this or that, your article will be useless to them.

6. Do not worry about "on-topic" issues for some thread.
Again. Most of the page reads will be done via search
engine and in the web format and not from a news reader.

It does not matter to search engine what is your subject
line more or less. It will still be able to find your
article by looking at its body.

Sure, having the same keywords in subject header and body
will increase the chances your article will come up in
higher postition in the SERPS. But no need to be paraniod
about it and to keep splitting the discussion into new
and new threads unnecessarily. It is better to see how
some subject evoloves.

Secondly, threads might drift into other things and then
come back to original one. You never know.

7. Do not waste your time on personal attacks, humiliation
and insults. That does not buy you anything. It just gets
the discussion deluted with unpleasant things.

If you think YOUR ego is the most important thing in the
world, think again. Because it is about the last thing
the readers would care for. They need answers to THEIR
"problems" and not your "holier than thou" image.
They could care less.

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