Heads, decks, and leads

Heads, decks, and leads

I don't write in RSS, but by some kind of accident you can read my writing fairly coherently in a RSS aggregator. I never think about RSS when I'm writing Scripting News (unless I'm writing about RSS). I just write as it makes sense to me. I judge the result by how it looks in an HTML browser. Why? That's the way I've done it for the last few years. [ Scripting News]

Dave, this isn't a discussion you have time for, during the upcoming "what passes for a weekend." You have a product to ship. So, file this for later. But, for the record, I do not wish to read blogs in the aggregator, where (as Shelley rightly says) they are stripped of context. I want to read blogs in situ. I want to scan for items to read (in their native context) using the aggregator.

Ideally, my aggregator would have a Pref like:

Show [Heads, Heads/Decks, Heads/Decks/Leads, All]

Default: Heads/Decks

The principle of heads, decks, and leads is a cornerstone of journalism. I don't consider myself a journalist, really, and wasn't trained as such, so I've come around to an appreciation of this principle more from an information engineering perspective. In engineering terms, we think about optimal allocation of resources. The resource of interest here is one of the most precious there is: human attention. Newspapers and magazines structure themselves using heads, decks, and leads because they know that human attention is a finite resource, and must be conserved.

A strategy that will work in Radio today is:

- Write standalone stories.

- Separately, write heads/decks, or heads/decks/leads, and publish only these to the homepage and category pages, with links back to the full stories. For completeness, the stories should recapitulate the heads/decks/leads.

People could do this, but in general they won't, it's too much work. If they want to blog in a way that respects the attention demands on readers, who -- as blogspace grows and diversifies, must process more and more flow, and will increasingly rely on RSS to help them do that -- they need some help structuring what they publish.

The UI issues are non-trivial, I agree. It's easy to say "just offer a template in the WYSIWYG editor" -- but in practice, it's never so easy to make this work smoothly.

This not something that needs to get solved today or tomorrow. But I believe it has to be dealt with at some point, or the knowledge network that is growing around this technology will be unnecessarily stunted.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2002/03/08.html#a116