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Entendre 2.0

16 April 2009

Thinking about the authentic, trusting and open tone essential to social networking reminds me of the very sly geek humour that is so often found in unexpected places on the web.

Take for example this online help text from Technorati:

To see what blog posts, pics or Webpages have been tagged with the keyword of, say, “Privacy”, just go to the URL “”. (Or go to Technorati first, and in the search box search for “tag:Privacy” – don’t include any quote marks, or any space after the colon). This works for any keyword you like; for “Privacy” just substitute, for example, “Politics” (or indeed “Latex”, if you prefer, and who can blame you). [my emphasis]

Well, I find it amusing, but this strategy demands confidence on Technorati’s part: they must be sure of their audience, because the pleasure of the aside is that we feel part of their ‘in-crowd’, and they must be happy to exclude or offend the odd reader. The unexpected interruption to the straight delivery of technical information surprises us, engages us, and brands Technorati as lively, witty and ‘cool’. Humour reduces the power difference between the help text user and the author: I am aware of the artifice, but it still charms me. Tech writing can now be fun, because this kind of writing is not work writing; because we are all nerds now; and because the sharp-eyed reader can score an ‘Easter egg’.

It reminds me of the way Lewis Carroll might sneak in a murder reference:

`I mean,’ [Alice] said, `that one can’t help growing older.’
`One can’t, perhaps,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `but two can. With proper assistance, you might have left off at seven.’
`What a beautiful belt you’ve got on!’ Alice suddenly remarked. (Through the Looking Glass, chapter 6.)

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jamy permalink
    20 April 2009 11:25 am

    Very funny Penny.
    I agreed with your comments completely but unfortuntely am not sure if I will ever know my audience well enough to get away with those sorts of comments!

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