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Category: Barb Sawyers

This is Your Brain Online

Fried Egg It’s no secret that the web has changed the way we read. We quickly scan, then link to something else, consuming information at break-neck speed.

This has some people worried. According to an intriguing article I recently read from The Atlantic "Is Google making us stupid?", our new reading behaviour is rewiring our brains, just as hand writing, clocks, assembly lines and other innovations have throughout history.

The author, Nicholas Carr, laments our declining ability to read long tracts, grasp ambiguity and think deeply.  Lighten up, Nicholas.  Before you rush to judgment, let’s wait for the scientific evidence. In the meantime, let’s consider how this growing reading behaviour may be enriching our minds.

Snack vs feast
Nicholas cites a study of the online reading habits of researchers who snacked on many tidbits of internet information rather than finishing the long feast of research papers. Yes, they were not plumbing the depths of the articles. But, assuming they expended an equivalent amount of energy online snacking and thinking, most were still nourishing their minds, just in a different way.

Of course it’s up to the individual, perhaps with a prod from a teacher, boss or coach, to decide whether to connect those snacks through critical thinking. It’s also up to us to decide how we slice, splice and spice the snacks with knowledge we consume from books, television, personal conversations and other sources.

Exercise the brain
Like muscles, brains strengthen through exercise. The more the reader thinks about what she is reading, the more her brain will develop. Like exercise, more difficult or faster thinking should produce more growth. What’s more, cross-training with different kinds of mental activities, from solving soduko puzzles to playing the violin, should help create a better balanced brain.

So let’s not to be too quick to dismiss scanning and linking as part of a healthy brain workout.

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How to Create Sustainable Content: Part 3

Day planner
It’s all about planning

Most people start blogs and newsletters brimming over with enthusiasm, then lose momentum. In many cases, they’ve quickly used up most of their great ideas. That’s why you need a plan.

Attention spans are short, especially online. So keep your content brief. Do not cram all your best concepts into the first few posts or issues. Spread out your topics to build interest and loyalty.

You’ll need to consider how often to publish. This will depend on the time you want to spend and how often your readers want to hear from you.

Frequency builds recognition and engagement. But if the high quality of content is not maintained, you risk turning off readers and undermining your reputation. Quality trumps quantity.

Once you have a rough idea of your publishing frequency, write a list of topics you’d like to cover and place them in an editorial calendar. You should not be a slave to this schedule, but you’ll be thrilled to see it when you’ve been side-tracked by other pressing concerns.

Of course, you’ll need to be prepared to change course immediately when something relevant happens or a shiny new idea pops into your mind.

To develop your editorial calendar, start with seasonal items. For example, if you’re a real estate agent, you might spend the early months of the year advising prospective sellers on how to prepare their home for sale in the spring, when buyers start shopping.

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