Monday, November 23, 2009

Confessions of a Mark Up Junkie!

Hello my name is Alan, and I love tagging things.

It has been 15 minutes since I last tagged some text.

There I’ve said it.

A few days ago I came to the realization that I’m a tagging and mark-up junkie. I do it almost everyday, and I do it without thinking about it. I also never thought about the effect my tagging habit had on others, until a few days age when my wife complained about it.

I’ve been tagging for over twenty years now, SGML, XML, HTML, CGM and a multiple variety of typesetting tags and industry specific ones - I’ve used them all. For me tagging is as natural as using the Ctl+ keys to shortcut a menu.

I even used to have a t-shirt that proudly proclaimed:


But it's time I stopped assuming that others want to join me in this behavior.

What bought me to this realization?

In preparation for our upcoming house move, we decided to sell some of our books on eBay and my wife offered to help set up the listings. I walked her through the steps to sell an item online and all went well until it came to the part where you need to add an item description of the article.

Without thinking I just started applying 'p' tags a 'b' tags and even a few 'a href=' tags . She stopped and looked at me as is to say "What is all this nonsense?"

The feeling that I was perhaps doing something that may not be understood (or needed) by a large percentage of the population was further compounded by various comments and feedback on my article about "Wikis in the workplace" that was published on Ars Technica last week,

Several of the comments made the point that the biggest obstacle to wiki adoption was the perceived notion that you had to learn mark-up to write in a wiki. Whether this is true or not (and it isn't), the idea is out there.

One comment in particular caught me eye.:

I don't know anyone under 40 who will use a wiki at work. The mark-up language is a deal breaker.

While the comment may have been a little facetious, I take the point. I've written before about how we need to observe the way the next generation accesses information. Those comments made me realize that we should do the same for the way that information is created.

In the article I wrote:

Technology geeks need to realize that many of the ideas, features and functions that get us excited and turn us into early adopters of new technology can intimidate the average user to the point where they will be scared off and not use a solution no matter how beneficial it may be.

Everyone is now used to the simplicity and intuitive look and feel of a simple word processor, be it MS-Word or Google Docs, and many other content creation tools, including most wikis, have also adopted the same approach. This is something we need to remember when we become enthused about a new technology or process.

I guess what I'm saying is that having a tagging habit is fine, (and in some circumstances it is a very valuable skill), but it should be exercised when it's needed. When dealing with your audience, customers and general users don't jump in to showing them how clever you are; think about what will make their lives and project easier.

Don't let the technology and techno-babble get in the way.


As an aside - this is the first post on The Content Pool blog not hand coded with HTML tags but written using the in build rich text editor.


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