Structuring blog entries for scanning

· Syndication

Jon Udell, one of the deeper thinkers around on matters of weblog, syndication, journalism, and information overload has come up with some important “best practices” suggestions for structuring weblog entries to facilitate efficient scanning by readers trying to follow many information sources through their RSS feeds, in Heads, Decks, and Leads:

I’m reversing my former stance on truncation. Here is a Wall Street Journal view of all of my feeds so far today. And here is a full-content view of all of my feeds so far today. It includes this long item I’m now writing, which shows how a mixture of truncated and untruncated content is optimal for neither scanning nor for reading.
Here are my conclusions:

  • Nobody needs to truncate feeds in order to enable front-page views (although some will still want to in order to drive traffic to websites).
  • Everybody’s content should be HTML (if not XHTML).
  • Authors should think of the first HTML element (normally a paragraph, but could be a list or a blockquote or something else) as special: the lead, or deck, that will appear in a front-page view.
  • Feedreaders should XHTML-ize what they read.
  • Feedreaders should then offer a front-page view (e.g., just the first HTML element found in each item) as well as a full-content view.