Walt Crawford recently wrote a very interesting article about the printability of blogs. Some of what he said I generally agree with, and some of what he said made me think (ultimately a good thing, too). Here’s what I’m thinking:
Thought #1: Reasons to print a blog post:
Walt gave four very valid reasons to print a blog post. Interestingly, when I read those reasons, I realized I do something very different than what was mentioned:
1. They want to read the content and it’s more than a few paragraphs long [possibly including comments on your entry].
I generally don’t print long blog posts – I read them online. But then, I also read ebooks on my PDA.
2. What you say is worth repeating. People want to save it to cite elsewhere.
3. What you say is valuable—interesting or lasting enough that people want to save it for future reference or rereading.
I sometimes print documents when I want to highlight sections, or save it for a work project (usually a Word document). And I have been known to print articles that I have found via the web (even short stories from time to time). But usually, if I want to remember something that I have read on the web, I will either: A. copy/paste the relevant text into a “remember this” file, or B. I will save it to my Furl account, complete with an electronic clipping of the relevant content. This way, I can access it anywhere, I don’t have to carry around paper, and if the page disappears, I still have my content clip.
4. They’ve been away from the blog for a while and would just as soon catch up in print form, reading a paper copy of recent entries.
Makes sense. Probably easier, too – especially if you’re away from a computer/handheld. And some people just prefer paper. But honestly, if I am playing catch-up with a blog I don’t aggregate, I just skim through the posts online. Doing that works for me, but not everyone!
Thought #2: My Blog or Your RSS Reader?
The other thought I had focuses on the RSS feed of a blog. I’d guess that most people reading my blog don’t actually visit my blog “in person.” Instead, an RSS spider visits my blog and takes my content back to their RSS Reader. At that point, the question of printability has left my blog and falls on their RSS Reader.
So Another question should be asked: “Do RSS Readers honor Walt’s printability challenge?” Honestly, I’m not sure. I use Bloglines to read blogs, and I don’t think it passes Walt’s test – everything prints in a skinny column on the right-hand side of the page. But then, that’s only one aggregator. Others (I’m guessing the desktop-based aggregators?) possibly have built-in controls like setting font size and style preferences, and end up printing more like a Word document prints.