Web Writing That Works!

           A Project of
           The Communication Circle

Guidelines Rants Patterns Poems Services Classes Press Blog Resources About Us Site Map

HomeResources > Writerly sites > Viral ideas            


Viral ideas

Concepts that catch on, opinions that suddenly make sense to thousands of people, focal points for overlapping forums--these sites may infect you with an idea that is spreading like a virus through the web community. 

On the other hand, some of these sites will probably repel you, make you back off, or shake your head, thinking sadly about the decline of civilization.

A motley crew, then. In each site, the focus is on ideas, more than practical advice.  And, most of the time, those ideas represent genuine experience, combined with study of the relevant "texts," whether those are sites, interface elements, statistics, or old books.

Enjoy!  And if you run across a ground-breaking intellectual site I should add, let me know.

A List Apart

A magazine, no, a discussion list, no a kind of group blog. Typical topics: accessibility, browsers, content, cascading stylesheets, tools, typography, usability, XML. Good short paragraphs with links to thoughtful articles. Run by Jeffrey Zeldman, who also runs Happy Cog Studios, and wrote Designing With Web Standards

Cluetrain Manifesto

Get a clue, by browsing this manifesto against conventional marketing. Written by Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searles, and David Weinberger, this is the classic revolutionary call to arms in favor of conversation and writing that is "natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking."

No more happytalk. Forget consensus group speak. Let real individuals in the company tell the truth. Engage in discussions with customers. Instead of treating a market as the fortunate recipient of a brochure, join the conversation that is already going on.

"These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked."

Get all 95 theses, and the commentary online. Examples:

  • Thesis 39: The community of discourse is the market.
  • Thesis 50 Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.
  • Thesis 52: Paranoia kills conversation. That's its point. But lack of open conversation kills companies.


Creative Commons

A way to offer your work for some uses, while retaining some rights. This site explores various ways to distribute your work without totally losing your copyright. They say, "Taking inspiration in part from the Free Software Foundation's GNU General Public License (GNU GPL), Creative Commons has developed a Web application that helps people dedicate their creative works to the public domain - or retain their copyright while licensing them as free for certain uses, on certain conditions."

Eastgate Systems

Thoughtful essays on the literary approach to links, in fiction, poetry, nonfiction-or, as Mark Bernstein puts it, "serious hypertext." Some articles and book reviews from the webzine, Hypertext Now. Lists of university courses on hypertext. Eastgate Systems publishes some major pieces of hypertext fiction and poetry, and tools such as Storyspace (an application for creating narrative hypertexts) and Tinderbox (a personal content management system).

The orientation, here, is classical, starting with the early pre-Web conferences on hypertext, growing through the theories of several major academicians, during the early 90s, pondering hypertext as a form of expression. Some of the authors come from Eastgate's backlist, and many folks take a distinctly old-fashioned approach to links, but I'm glad to report that the Hypertext Now site does not make any direct sales pitches.



John Brockman, literary agent and agent provocateur, runs this clubhouse for big thinkers, particularly those with something interesting to say about digital culture. He recruits the digerati, poses questions, and collects their rants, comments, and reactions on the site. So we get to listen in, even if we do not qualify for membership. Another discussion focuses on topics where science intersects with society, creating what Brockman calls the Third Culture.

Who's involved? John Perry Barlow, Stewart Brand, David Bunnell, Denise Caruso, Steve Case, John Doerr, John Dvorak, Esther Dyson, David Gelernter, Ted Leonsis, John Markoff, Scott McNealy, Nathan Myrhvold, Howard Rheingold, Louis Rossetto, Paul Saffo, Clifford Stoll, Sherry Turkle, Davie Winer,. And Richard Saul Wurman. You can gauge how interested you'll be by the number of pings you get, when you go through the list of participants.



These bright folks pull together research from more than 1500 sources (they say), and they cover lots of topics in marketing and ecommerce. They post the top of the iceberg, which is often enough for me. I have read some of their expensive in-depth reports, though, and they do a good job. Often they are integrating fancy reports from the even more expensive consultants.

Get their newsletter, for the tip of the top of the iceberg of information here. Well written, with slick diagrams and charts.


Evaluating Quality on the Net

Hope Tillman wrote the first draft of this essay in the early 90s, when there was no Web. She's updated it several times since then, in the course of doing some books for librarians. She addresses the question: how can you tell whether the information online is any good? She tells you how to look up stuff, but the best part of her essay is the advice on gauging quality. As writers, we look at this article from the other side of the mirror: how can we gain credibility with our visitors?

First Monday

An excellent peer-reviewed journal about all aspects of the Internet, with a particular focus on the Web. Well edited, thoughtful analyses, with a nice mixture of crusading arguments, economic theory, rhetorical study, and rant. In the archives, use the article index, even though it is alphabetically arranged by the first word in the title. You'll find plenty of serious, statistically valid research here, along with theories only lightly encumbered with quantitative proof.

Industry Standard

Not the magazine. That crashed with the dotcoms. Now four editors from the old magazine have created a blog using their old logo. Amy Bernstein, Jimmy Guterman, Eric Savitz, and Jonathan Weber alternate weeks reporting on stories on the web about the Internet economy.

Innovation tools

Chuck Frey has put together this site to ponder new ways of thinking, writing, and communication. Articles, reviews, discussions, and an email newsletter. How to boost your creativity, encourage innovation in the organization, map your mind, manage ideas, brainstorm, solve problems-you name it, you'll find your brain expanding here.

Journal of Electronic Publishing

Aimed at publishers, librarians, scholars, and, oh yes, authors, this academic journal brings together comments by practitioners, research by publishers, and essays by professors. Interesting topics, such as the Internet economy, lessons on electronic journals, and hypertext. Alas, they need a new designer: black text on blue background means the articles are hard to read onscreen.

Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization

Dave Weinberger's strange but intriguing site with lengthy reflections on communities, concepts (like metadata), legal and moral debates (who owns what I create?), current technology (Bayesian fun with filters). Dave waits a few months, gathering together several thoughtful pieces, so this is like a slow-motion blog, or a very personal magazine. No matter what the topic, Dave's unusual point of view always widens my perspective.


No emperor, just clothes, they claim. Short paragraphs summarizing trendy or influential ideas, products, or activities. Memepool is run by Joshua Schachter and Jeff Smith


Want a stat right away? NUA collects summaries of all Internet surveys, and gives you links to the original research. Plus Gerry McGovern and his staff comment on online writing. Check their count of Internet users: How Many Online?

Rhetoric and Sophism Rules

Richard Johnson teaches professional writing, modern rhetoric, proposal writing, business communication-you name it. And he will tell you what rhetoric really is, if you want to know.

Seth Godin's Blog

Author of Permission Marketing, Purple Cow, and Unleashing the Ideavirus (which he claims is the most popular ebook ever written, with m than 1,000,000 downloads), Seth started out with a Stanford MBA, but he has overcome that handicap, becoming an inspiring writer and speaker at conferences on marketing, content creation, and ecommerce. Whatever meme he points to turns out to be a trend-in a few years. If you want to expand your brain, look at his shiny skull, and read his thoughts.

Silicon Valley.com

Dan Gillmor, who writes for the San Jose Mercury, tries out column ideas in his blog, and because he is alert to the latest trends in the tech economy, his ponderings alert you to twists in turns in the meme field before they appear on other sites.

Stuart Moulthrop

One of the early hypertexters, author of Dreamtime, The Garden of Forking Paths and Victory Garden, Moulthrop takes a a broad view of both fiction and nonfiction in hypertext. Here he archives old hypertexts and articles, as well as some talks, next to intriguingly surreal images that change randomly as you watch a page. Unfortunately, Moulthrop has rather let this site slide, so you are looking at history, not breaking news.

Theory Org

A fascinating, if arty, take on all forms of communication over the Internet. Lots of theory, and examples of hip design.

David Gauntlett offers the intro to his book, Web Studies. Check out the archive of his old NewMedia Studies site, for a lively idea map. Also, an ad for, and supplements to his book on media, gender,and identity. Special treat: the Lego version of Michel Foucault. Collect the Theory.org trading cards from Adorno through Weber.

The Word Spy

Neologisms, new twists on old words, and strange phrases that are becoming popular. To qualify for this site, the new terms must have appeared multiple times in "newspapers, magazines, books, Web sites, and other recorded sources." Once a word has been spied, the site tracks its most popular words over the last week, yielding the top 100 words, in order, with the date on which the word first got onto the site. For each word you get a learned definition, an early citation, examples, and notes. This site is like watching the dictionary happen in front of you.

Uncharted Shores

Fun rants on personalization and identity on the Internet, from Eric Norlin. Successor to the much-loved Titantic Desk Chair Rearrangement Corporation newsletter. Topics ebb and flow, including identity conversations, open source memes, Internet luddites, and, oh yes, revolution.


Home | Guidelines | Rants | Patterns | Poems | Services | Classes | Press | Blog |
Resources | About Us | Site Map

Web Writing that Works!
  2004 Jonathan and Lisa Price
The Communication Circle
Discuss at HotText@yahoogroups.com
Email us directly at ThePrices@ThePrices.com
Order Hot Text (the book) from Amazon