What’s your primary content?

I felt a bit guilty about dissing Jason Kottke’s new design yesterday. I didn’t mean to be negative, actually I admire that he’s put all his content in one feed. It has its merits – for example readers only need to subscribe to the one RSS feed. The drawback though is ‘info overload’ for that RSS feed and readers may have difficulty seperating out the different content types. In any case I read some of the 100-odd comments on Jason’s re-design announcement post and it helped clarify my thoughts on what I want to achieve in my own re-design. Anil Dash made the point that Jason’s ancillary content (reviews, links, etc) are merely “page components” and are “subordinate to primary posts”. This is the view I hold too. Jason’s reply was: “But everything is my primary content.” I thought a bit about this and as I wrote an email to Greg Gershman about weblog re-design, the following rule-of-thumb occured to me:

We all have 1 primary type of content that we focus on. For me, my primary content is story writing. And by that I mean both non-fiction articles about web technology and fictional writing like my novel. It’s what I most enjoy doing. So my weblog Read/Write Web is based around my original writing. If I want to add other things like links, reviews, lists (which I do want to add here), then I’ll add them as ancillary parts – I’ll call it side content.

But other people are different. Programmers may use their blogs primarily to make technical notes for their development projects. Some people may use blogs as their personal diary. A lot of people use their blogs primarily to collate links. Others may use their blogs mostly for political rants. Some may just want to write music reviews of their favourite bands. And maybe some people, such as Jason Kottke, really do consider their written thoughts to be of equal value to their links and reviews etc. That’s all fine and noble. It all comes back to something I wrote a couple of months ago and it turned out to be my most popular article: Why would normal people want to write weblogs? And the answer is: they don’t. Normal people want to create content that allies with their interests, that complements their niche in life. One person’s primary content is another’s ancillary.

So anyway, my weblog re-design… I guess I’m saying that the design I come up with must primarily support my story writing. Secondary is my links, music reviews and so forth. I suspect this is different to Jason Kottke’s motivation for re-designing his weblog. Or for that matter different to Dave Winer or Mark Pilgrim. Everyone has a different primary content.