The evolving Scribe

The evolving Scribe

the Blue FeatherIt’s quite interesting to note how writing is evolving. When I was young, my poor handwriting and spelling categorized me as a poor writer. While I still have those qualities, the technology of writing is evolving so handwriting and spelling are no longer obstacles. Indeed, my children have been expected to submit all assignments word processed. Basic computer skills have become more important than handwriting. Calligraphy has become more about good font tools. The computer takes care of spelling (mostly) – I even have a browser add-in to check my spelling in boxes like this. (laughs)

One downfall of poor handwriting though is that my digital clipboard, which digitizes everything i handwrite at meetings and such, cannot OCR my handwriting into anything useful. Can’t always even read it myself.(laughs) So i tend to transcribe a short time later. Some use a laptop this way but they’re not as portable as a clipboard, nor as long lasting. A Palm computer with a keyboard is another alternative I’ve used.

Keyboarding skills are not mandatory either – though they help. Much as I have sporadically practiced touch-typing, I remain a fast 2 finger typist. I also have Dragon to speech dictate in, but I find that best for long form writing. My writing style for stuff like this is too fiddly. (yes, i do write first and edit later as they recommend.)

Nowadays, desktop publishing and eBooks means you can write, prep and publish long form writing from your computer at minimal cost. You can even go to paper and self-publish with places like Trafford. Get yourself on Amazon, now a household name. The traditional scribe becomes a Digital scribe.

Email has evolved to become an essential part of most workplaces and many peoples personal lives. From quick communication to the many shared jokes and pictures, to record keeping and statements. Not too many people use it as a scribes medium though. Its more straight communication. Occasional shared writing of others perhaps.

About 3 years ago, I began contributing to a couple of discussion groups online. This added a new and unique form of communication. You could now message a group of people with similar interests, scattered remotely. Good practice at getting your point made in short form. Ideally, it lead to some great discussions, though many readers did not participate. So they are dominated by what we might call the Group Scribes, with a few Soapbox scribes. The new coffee shop. I still occasionally contribute there but now find it more limited. The more important one closed the forum from public access to control message spam but that closed the audience.

Last year, I then climbed on the blogging wagon, something I’d considered for a long time. I actually expected it to be fusser to get started than it was. Now I have my little online journal for sharing my thoughts to a greater public. Only the actual traffic here is smaller than the discussion groups get. People have only so much time in the day for individual voices. Its also notable that the most active commenters on blogs are usually other bloggers. Mostly as they are more vocal but partly as it helps draw in new traffic. Many bloggers are a mercenary lot. 😉

Thus develops a kind of community of people around a subject area, oriented to a journaling style of writing. Like the discussion groups but more specific voices. The Diary Scribes. With some Soapbox Scribes thrown in.

With all the information out there on the wide open net, one has to choose carefully. You can hang with a favored discussion group. You can go it on your own in a blog. And more recently you can also “skim” the net.

The skimmers are an interesting lot. They use social networking tools like Digg and StumbleUpon to quickly browse and gather information across a wider range, rather than going deep. They share their gems with others through the above. The service can have an interesting effect on blogs. A recommendation to an article can cause a huge spike in hits but the spike is short-lived. People go on to the next gem in the blogosphere. Those who do drop in rarely follow the links or browse further. They are skimming for the summaries. Thus you see blog posts about other blog posts.

Twitter is a similar beast. Quick messaging about the life in motion. This and text messaging are evolving another form of writing, a writing in code, a new semaphore. These we could say are the Flitting scribes, segmenting ever smaller segments of information over time.

Modern technology is opening up avenues for many styles of writing. Many ways to communicate. And creating niche markets for everything you can think of. Too bad its not changing time. Just filling it up with more possibility than we could ever consider.


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  1. Shadowduck

    Interesting thoughts. I’m one of those rare commenters who doesn’t have a blog, though it was your comments on Tom Stine’s blog that led me here (and I got there from the Urban Monk) so obviously it does help to grow your audience to some extent. 😀

    I avoid Digg, Stumbleupon etc. because they’re just too good at what they do. I usually like to go into things in some depth and investigate the little side tracks on the way – the sheer volume of information on those sites would bring me to a dead stop! I even have to prune my RSS feeds periodically and remove the ones that take more time than I can justify for the content.

    I think there’s still a place for individual voices with something to say. 😉

  2. Davidya

    Actually its a good sign that non-bloggers comment. Otherwise its a kind of closed loop. Discussion groups run on feedback like this and it sure helps blogs too.

    I agree on Digg, etc. The volume of possibilities… They have a role but the recent surge I got from a recommendation was like a huge crowd of people rushed in, then rushed out again. Less than 1% clicked through to read the rest of the article in question and even fewer read anything else here. On to the next best thing…

    I’ve been to meetings were people were twittering each other down the table. Its like a focus on the minutiae of life, missing life itself.

  3. I found you through your comment on Shilpan’s The Change Blog and could resonate with what your friend said about procrastination: “A wise person said to me recently – In order to be you must do.” This is so true.

    Your post is interesting in how you point out the culture today in how we read and write. I agree in that it appears speed is everything but there’s not much depth to it. It’s mostly skimming the surface.

    It makes me wonder if that translates to our personal and business relationships and how we connect to ourselves. Is it skimming the surface? If it is the new trend, we will be sacrificing so much more than we realize.

    Happy to find you and thank you. You gave me an idea for a new post.


  4. Davidya

    Thanks, Pat. I would say there is 2 concurrent movements. One is an effort to go wide, to cover as much territory as possible and be “informed”. However, the approach means skimming the surface in a number of ways. Spreading ourselves thin and going superficial. Its actually a handy avoidance method for feeling.

    The other movement is to go deep. To see the world as superficial. This is reflected by some discussions and bloggers, but many fall into the first camp.

    Typically, the first evolves into the second when at some point we realize that it is lacking.

    It remains a tricky balance to go deep yet not treat life superficially. One still has limits to where we place our attention and the time we have (in the superficial) to offer it.

  5. Shilpan |

    David –

    It’s rather interesting read and enlightening perspective on how the world has evolved into a medium of communication with the advent of the computer, internet and certainly social media. I wonder what would Tolstoy or Shakespeare would say if they were alive today.

    Wonderful read, as usual. I’m stumbling it.


  6. Davidya

    Thanks Shilpan, and thanks for sharing it with the world. Of course we can recall a certain well known quote – “The Medium is the Message.” As the medium evolves, so too does the way we communicate.

    I’m not sure people of the past would know what to make of it. I have trouble understanding why some people choose certain things (laughs)

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