Sounds depressing? But it's not meant to be. It's more of a philosophical approach that makes me wonder who the hell is supposed to read my writing. I find this self-congratulation, this self-indulgent 'posing' and 'sharing' and 'chatting' and 'liking' sometimes unbearable these days. The value of a text is measured by the number of thumbs underneath it. Nevertheless, I want to manage the balancing act that my writing is read and that I 'like' writing it and, above all, that I write the text according to the rules of the art I am currently studying.
The art of writing to call out to the world and thereby make oneself heard... how does that actually work?
What do I have to do in order not to drown in the sea of texts that are churned out and delivered every day?
Is there a way to mark texts somehow so that the willing reader can find them?
Theodora Petkova is happy to answer these (and other) questions in her lectures, which I had the pleasure of listening to during my studies of Content Strategy at the FH Joanneum in Graz. And - spoiler alert -
yes, there is a rescue for the written documents that seem to get lost in the tide.
One sentence, that stuck to my mind during these lectures was “writing is like weaving”. You weave your words together into sentences, to a paragraph, to another paragraph, to a story. And in the end - and if you mind the other side of the monitor, who you’d like to reach - you get a fine, shiny and light woven substance.
But unfortunately just because you have written and posted this nice, light and shiny new piece of text it won’t guarantee that it will be read. How you are gonna transport it out there? How make sure it is findable?
How make sure that writing a blog post about your latest trip to Paris in France is shown to someone who searches for “Paris” to find some travel tips? And that he or she don’t get results for Paris Hilton. Or Paris, Texas? Or the latest movie reviews?
And this gets to the other side of the coin. You now have to get into the insides of the text. You have to break down the meaning, you have to segregate and fillet. And once you have those small particles named and labelled, these parts also want to be woven in your text, but this happens invisible - in the code, your e.g. blogpost is creating when written.
This is about the Semantic Web as an extension of the world wide web. Humans are able to get the meaning of a word like “Paris” out of the contexts it is written in but machines cannot do that. So we must make the context machine-readable, in order to be found well. With the help of additional information, woven into the text in the background.
Tim Berners-Lee had this vision of computers “become capable of analysing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers” 1) in 1999.
Inserting machine-readable metadata in the concept of the semantic-web-model was formed by a group of researchers already in early 1960. So the background of this idea was founded much earlier than Berners-Lee thought about it, but the term itself was coined by him.
But how does this thing work? Documents are written and provided in HTML. Taking our example above, a search engine does not know, if “Paris” is a city or a person or a film. But in this HTML code the word “Paris” can be annotated by using a schema.org vocabulary to insert microdata (understood by the major search engines) and sort of clarifying the meaning of “Paris” in your text to the machine.
So this is a way one can ‘help’ search engines and other applications to display your content in a relevant way.
1) Berners-Lee, Tim; Fischetti, Mark (1999). Weaving the Web. HarperSanFrancisco.