In a meeting here at SitePoint HQ the other day, we were discussing blogs—what were our favourites, what makes a blog successful … Someone in the room made the comment that the conversation is more important than the topic—a statement that is certainly true for a sustained community and a sensible goal for most blogs to aim for.
Only yesterday this point was reinforced (to an extreme, one might say) when the prolific Michael Arrington posted to his TechCrunch blog a post with a one-word title and no content in the body. The entire post consisted of this one word:
Because of the loyal community built around the TechCrunch blog, the context in which this word was framed resulted in Arrington’s one-liner generating over 400 comments (and counting), including a number of video comments that appreciated the humour and propagated it with their own nonsensical responses. The post made the front page of Techmeme, the New York Times and will certainly shape up to be TechCrunch’s highest performing post ever in terms of traffic per-word-count.
What exactly was that context, you may ask? Well, it was largely due to interpretation by the readers. It could have been any of the following:
- a cry of frustration at the service being constantly down
- an affirmation that the service has become an enormously powerful medium for mass communication upon which Arrington is both thankful for and reliant upon
- a statement about the uselessness of the service, delivered with irony in the succinct way in which users post to Twitter using only 140 characters or less
- an acknowledgment that Twitter, the company, is the main news story at the moment, given their current debate over whether users of their service who violate their terms of service should be banned (in case you’re wondering, the answer is “it’s complicated“)
- an experiment to “test the waters” to see how well the context would be understood and appreciated by his readership—in a sense, an attempt at “messing with the medium” that could be viewed as one big joke (the modern equivalent of installation art?)
At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t really matter exactly how those readers interpreted it, just as long as they didn’t all just say “WTF? I don’t get it.” (there were one or two of this type of response, but they were in the minority). The readership were the ones responsible for the success of this one-word post.
Sure, the post made people laugh, ignited discussion and sparked their creativity to play along. But essentially what Arrington was doing is jumping off his stage—luckily his readers were ready to catch him and carry him to the top of the hill. It certainly could have gone the other way. Hmm, let me see.
Matthew Magain is a UX designer with over 15 years of experience creating exceptional digital experiences for companies such as IBM, Australia Post, and sitepoint.com. He is the co-founder of UX Mastery, and recently co-authored Everyday UX, an inspiring collection of interviews with some of the best UX Designers in the world.