Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Here's something that's always bothered me: signatures.

Why do signatures come at the end?

In The Day, letters were signed - but that was a kind of ending note which left you with a clear impression of the addressee's relationship to the addresser. If I sign a letter, "Forever, Craig", it mean something just a little bit different than, "Thanks in advance, Craig".

But when we picked those letters up, we knew who they were from. "Oh, look, a letter from John and Martha!" The signing wasn't to tell us who wrote it - just to tell us what kind of standing we were left on.

In these days of impersonal communication, a large number of posts are made publically. Like this one.

Most of the time, you'll know who you're reading, just as if you picked up a letter in an envelope. Few bloggers bother signing their work, since it's their freaking blog and you can expect everything on the page to be their work. They have no need to tell you what your relationship to them is, because (A) you probably don't have one, and (B) you certainly don't have the same one as everyone else does.

So, why is it that so many sites have commentary and posts which is FOLLOWED by an identifier?

Blogspot has it right: the comments here are STARTED by the name (and pic!) of the poster. In addition, most forums do okay, with the left column containing the name and stats of the poster.

I want to know who is posting. I would also like to know when they posted. Not because I'm an infojunkie, although I am - I've got tract marks on my brain - but because I make value judgements. If someone is posting good stuff, I will pay better attention to them in the future. If someone is a fool, I want to ignore them in the future. The only real reason to hide that from me until the end of the post is if you want me to read without automatically thinking, "Oh, this is going to be great!" or "Oh, this is going to suck." But if you overuse that, I'll just start scrolling to the end first, because people tend to produce roughly the same quality of stuff reliably.

So, if you're hosting a blog, or a site which allows commentary, or anything of the sort: PUT THE NAMES FIRST.

And don't bother with the siggies at all. They can click on your name for an in-depth tutorial mission in which your on-line persona is explored in great detail. They don't need a link-filled siggie - that's advertising, and it dates back to the eighties. We're past that.

On the other hand, if you want to end with a comment that establishes the mood of the piece, that's perfectly fine. That's the new version of "Yours, Craig".

Yeah, we've replaced the terse but robust signing model with a random quote-of-the-day one-liner.

"Spaceballs the flamethrower! The kiddies love that one."

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