Avoiding The Fate of WPW's Writing Forum

A good long while before Sitepoint, another web dev forum gave a writing forum a go. What happened was they got pretty much what you would expect: An Auxilary SEO forum.

Because clients write. Web devs don’t. And the only exception is – you guess correctly – the SEO firm.

And, despite every protestation to the contrary, SEOs generally don’t write. Text is cloaking for keyword spam with SEO.

This really wasn’t as apparent until the lone member posting articles about writing stopped posting them. (You don’t have to guess who that was).

First point. Nobody seems to have a problem with it over there. And if there is no problem it is not going to change. If the writing section in a Web Dev forum is holding up a mirror web development would rather not look into, it will not change.

What follows is for people who want change.

First, the easy part. Distinguish a writing section as for everything not related to SEO writing, right in the forum description. Put a link or suggestion to go to the SEO section for SEO writing. Move SEO topics to the SEO forum, of course.

That still doesn’t get you anything but a section nobody will contribute to, at the very best. The problem is not that they don’t know you over at Fortin’s forum. (It has changed hands a few times since then) The problem is this section had been discussed there …and none (zero) people from there came over here to post.

Because Clients write. Web devs don’t. And copywriters can put in their own keywords. What they won’t come out and say: Writing has nothing to do with web development. And web development will have nothing to do with writing. (That’s the gist of the “who writes content? …clients won’t give me content” threads here.)

Copywriters don’t deal with web developers. Copywriters can’t deal with web developers.

There is a whole issue about why, but it boils down to precious few web devs being savvy about content driven design. Or being hostile to it once they get a taste of it.

Web devs literally do not know how to develop the sites which are a copwriter’s bread and butter. (the very structure differs) And quite a few consider that a badge of honor. What’s more, everything copywriters tell them goes against almost everything you’re talking about here as “good design.”

That is okay. Web development doesn’t do well with white papers, About Us pages, catalog merchandising, blog writing (writing not installing), content managment or a slew of human factors either. Writers know this. And they don’t come here.

Copy. Financial. Political. Journalism. White papers. Ploggers (not a mispelling). Poets. Creative. Screenwriters. Technical. Instructional/training. Survey writers. …And about several dozen others. Why? Because none consider themselves greneric, sup par, content writers …only web devs consider them all content writers.

Which is pretty darned funny when you consider what the purpose for a web site was supposed to be.

Web dev is a silo; a monoculture. It’s not supposed to be. It really shouldn’t be to turn out anything even halfway good. But there are a whole range of techniques for bridging the silo and encouraging diversity.

[SIZE=“3”]I’ll tell you what. You tell me if any of this is a problem you want to solve, and I’ll tell you a little about what you can try.

Explain why it’s a problem. Because if it’s not a problem, solutions don’t count.[/SIZE] (Should that be a new or unfamiliar concept, we’ll add that to the list of problems)

I’m glad you finally posted this. I agree with much of what you said. However, there are two major aspects of what you say where I don’t agree with you.

  1. Clients don’t write. They are too busy running their businesses to write their own copy for the web. Additionally, one of the most difficult tasks to complete is to write copy for your own business. While you may know your own business backwards and forwards, it is very difficult to put it into words for someone else to understand.

Sales courses teach face-to-face contact. They tell you to pay attention to body language, to look for the smile, the frown, and the nodding head. They tell you to pause frequently and wait for questions and to ask open ended questions to give your prospect time to respond. You can’t do a bit of that on the web… even if you have “live support”. On the web, your prospect cannot hear the inflection of your voice and you cannot hear the inflection in his or hers. So, the traditional sales course does the web businessman little good.

As you know, people read differently on the computer screen than they read printed media. More, the web does not have the versatility of the screen advertisements that you can see on the tube.

All of this brings me to my second point.

  1. In my opinion, web content is a new genre of media. Web content writers do need to be copy writers, but additionally they need to be able to understand the nature of and write home pages, about pages, newsletters, and press releases for the web developers and the merchants they serve.

As I said in an earlier thread, I have joined or viewed many “writer” forums. Unfortunately, those who write in many of the genres you mentioned above are clueless as how to write web content. Instead, although it may not be their intention, they come off as a bunch of elitist snobs who think that the person who calls web content what it is, is beneath their notice.

The web content writer can get along with the web developer. I believe that is because we both understand the strengths and the weaknesses of our medium. That is why I am elated that Site Point has added this area to its forums. I know that web content writers are out there and I know that some of them are very skilled in what they do. We will attract them.

In the meantime, I am glad you are a part of this forum and I hope you keep right on posting away. I noticed in another thread you started breaking through to a web developer. Little by little they will see the light and we will see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Clients don’t write.

In that case, there are no threads on “who’s supposed to write the content, anyways, 'cause I ain’t gonna.” Whew. That is a relief.

And nobody is calling copy and content a synonym. Whew. That saves me a lot of time. Glad you told me that. I got confused with the topic posts saying that.

The web content writer can get along with the web developer.

Never said they couldn’t. As I point out, everything is content. And anybody (well, you know, anybody who isn’t busy …somebody with lots of time on their hands) can write it. In fact, there is no such thing as a web copywriter. Just uppity content writers. See, there is no problem whatsoever.

Sorry I ever thought there was such a problem. You may now enjoy the fruits of the status quo, WPW 2.0 style.

Good luck in your choice. The forum will be all the better for it.

at the risk of posting a “thanks for sharing” reply that might get removed, i want to add my support for what dcrux is doing and encourage him to continue

I guess when I posted I didn’t consider your sardonic way of writing. I took what you wrote at face value. My mistake.

Of course there are the threads on clients writing content. In fact, I just had the misfortune of reading one of them today. My point is that “these times are a’changin’”. As more web developers (yes web devs) realize that clients can fill a page with words, that they ‘could’ fill a page with words, but those words aren’t going to help their clients’ businesses, they are turning to web content writers to write web content that will.

As for copy and content being synonymous. Of course they can be, but they are not always. About pages and home pages are not examples of traditional copywriting. At least, IMO, they shouldn’t be. The function of copywriting is to sell. Home pages should direct and about pages (along with web site articles) should inform. When so-called “web copywriters” figure that out, we will have made a giant step in progress.

You say, “What follows is for people who want change.” I am one of those people actively working towards change. What about you?

I kind of resent your WPW 2.0 inference as well as your reference to “uppity content writers” if they were directed towards me. I have some experience in my chosen field of work, which is writing web content for small businesses. I don’t need condescension.

As I said earlier, I am very happy you posted as you did because this is a topic that sorely needs discussion, but let’s keep it on a civil level.

I can’t imagine removing one of your posts. Like you, I too, am in favor or what D’Crux is doing and it is very good to hear you say so, as well! I would also be very interested to read your thoughts on where web content is and where it needs to go.