10 Tips from Boing Boing on making online content sing

Fast Company excerpted a chapter from a new book, The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well, by Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield. The chapter is an interview with me about what I've learned so far about writing for a blog.

5. Don’t waste people’s time. People are busy. They resent it when you waste their time. When the reader comes to our site, they’re not going to land on a post that says, “This is amazing,” and forces you to click on the link. Our posts explain what’s important about what you’re reading and why. It may be tempting to write cute headlines but the most important function of a headline is to sum up what the post is about. If you’ve developed a trust with your readers that they’ll get good value for the time they invest in visiting your site, they’ll be back.

Camille and Josh interviewed a bunch of other people for the book, including: Laura Linney (How to act), Cesar Millan (How to be a dog whisperer), Ken Jennings (How to be a game show champion), Alec Baldwin and Robert Carlock (How to be funny on TV), Will Shortz (How to create a mind-bending crossword puzzle), Jill Tarter (How to find extraterrestrial life), Ed Rosenthal (How to grow killer weed), Stephen Dubner (How to write a runaway bestseller). I'm interviewing Camille and Josh about The Art of Doing next week on Gweek.

10 Tips From Boing Boing on making online content sing | Buy The Art of Doing


  1. Because this is on BOING BOING, I totally read that book title as ‘The Art of Doing’ (Rhymes with Boing)….I will go to bed now.

  2. Does “Don’t waste peoples time” apply to incredibly long Boing Boing posts that take dedicated mouse wheel abuse to scroll past? I’m talking about the Ed Piskor interview. FIFTY FIVE pages of scrolling! 

    Hiding the bulk of articles behind a cut is old news in on line formatting. Why is it so hard for Boing Boing to use basic formatting to stop wasting readers time?

  3. Mark – unfortunately I beg to differ with your opinion about BoingBoing headlines. BB headlines seem to me to waver between the excruciatingly simple and non-helpful type, and the long, incomprehensible type.

    Witness this crazy headline a few posts before yours by Xeni –

    NYT reviewer takes Tesla on road trip, “wasn’t smiling.”
    Elon Musk: NYT review is “fake.”

    This isn’t a headline, it’s some sort of odd intelligence test.

    “NYT Review May Have Been Faked” probably would have sufficed

    I do appreciate BoingBoing’s constant attempts to bring the personal (and quirky) touch to articles and headlines, but without a doubt a good headline should let readers know what an article is about…not confuse him or her. I’ve passed by dozens of BB articles because the headlines have utterly repelled me. And as you say: DON’T WASTE PEOPLE’S TIME. I think BB has a bit of learning to do when it comes to headline composing.

    1.  You’re missing “Get an attitude” — Your suggested title is dead boring, even if it doesn’t require an intellect to decode. Leave the lowest-common-denominator journalism to the mainstream. I think that part of Mark’s advice was that a blog needs to have a personality. What you’re complaining about is part of BB’s personality. Yes, it drives some people away, but it draws in more than it loses… It’s this personality that also helps create a vibrant community around a site.

      1. The art of the clear, readable headline was developed slowly over decades and centuries through the work of thousands of writers and editors working for thousands of mainstream newspapers, underground papers, leaflets and handbills. It’s taken Internet innovators about 10-15 years to collapse all that hard work into unreadable Textual Silly Putty – headlines can be boring, as long as they give an indication of what the article is about. We don’t have to be entertained and coddled by every little thing we read. Sometimes knowledge is a bitch.

  4. Great advice, especially #2 (be original)… Any time anyone asks me how to make money online I always tell them to look for all the things they love online, and when they come up with something that they can’t find a decent resource for, they’ve found an “in”. There are still many niche markets left to develop, and because of the internet’s ability to collapse population density, there are now all sorts of markets that could never have existed pre-Internet.

Comments are closed.