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Lazy (old) eyes

One of my favourite resources for writing for the web is Michael Agger’s Lazy Eyes article for Slate. Written in 2009, much of the content is still relevant for digital writers as Agger observes the techniques that are required to sustain limited attention spans. For those playing along at home, these techniques include using bullets, shorter sentences and subheads. Moreover the article acts as a junction box of links to excellent resources including the man Agger calls “a cross between EB White and the Terminator”: Jakob Nielsen.

Gremlins creep in everywhere,
Original image U.S. National Archives and
Records Administration
On checking out the article recently it was disappointing to see that Agger falls down on maintaining his links. When I first looked at this article, Agger finished with a gag that our attention span could only be held for so long before we’d wander off so he links to a Rickroll video. Unfortunately Rickrolling has fallen out of favour so that video has disappeared. And another crucial link (to William Power’s discussion of longer form Hamlet’s Blackberry) delivers a university homepage (which once hosted the original article). 

So the web writing skill that is missing here is content maintenance. Sure Agger is a busy writer and Slate publishes hundreds of articles a year, but this article loses its punchline when the last three links are broken. A dead link checker would fix it.  I'll still use this excellent article for an upcoming ACT Writers Centre course, but now it is an example of content maintenance as much as for great links.