Arrg kxrrt!

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Byline

In which we think about design and credibility


Going back on last week’s post on Jakob Nielsen‘s top ten blog design mistakes: his Number Two Mistake is: no author photo on the site. Thinking about it, out of all the mistakes on his list, that’s almost certainly the most commonly-made.

Faces are better-remembered than names, he says. People will come up to you because they recognise you from your photo, he says. How many bloggers actually want that to happen to them, though? I know I don’t. It makes you personable; it improves your credibility if people know who you are.

I said before that I don’t believe it would give me any extra credibility. I don’t think you need to know what I look like in order to believe the stuff I write here; and frankly, I don’t care whether you believe it or not; I know myself how true it all is. Thinking about it again, though, I’m a bit suspicious of his reasoning; and what makes me suspicious is: comparing his theories to the way newspapers work.

If you look at most national newspapers – I mean, British ones – their regular columnists will have byline photos.* You know what they look like, so, the theory goes, you should trust them more. Columnists, though, aren’t there to write things you need to trust them about. They’re there to write down their opinions, which may well be – and often are – complete bollocks. The news pages, which are the parts you’re supposed to believe are true, don’t bother with byline photos. They don’t always bother with bylines. These people, though, are the ones you’re supposed to trust, and their words are supposedly more trustworthy because of their relative anonymity.

Of course, this all breaks down when you consider that most bloggers see their role in life as over-opinionated commentators, not the byline-free just-the-facts news types. I wanted to mention it, though, because it’s a different angle on how trust works in the media. Who do you trust more?

* There are occasionally exceptions, of course. Satirical writer Charlie Brooker‘s Guardian byline pic is a drawing of a vaguely person-shaped blob.

Keyword noise: , , , , , , , , , ,

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12 comments on “Byline”

  1. Dimitra says:

    I think it’s nonsense that you remember names more than faces – I don’t! It depends on which your predominant sense is, and some people out there are assuming that vision is everyone’s predominant sense, which, as I said, is nonsense. The whole idea that “you trust what you see” is nonsense too, based on the idea that the camera never lies, which, of course it does. And appearences can be deceptive and so on…

    I trust those that I have a good feeling about. As for you, I don’t trust you very much because I know you… 😉

  2. Forest Pines says:

    Hey! Does that mean that you don’t have good feelings about me either? 😉

  3. Somewhat says:

    I know what Richard Littlejohn and Jeremy Clarkson look like, but that doesn’t make me trust them.

  4. Somewhat says:

    And anyway, I thought that gorgeous creature saying “Argh kxrrt!” was you?

  5. Forest Pines says:

    Strangely enough, that isn’t me. I have been thinking about putting it on t-shirts, though.

    (and also about explaining what it actually is)

  6. Jo says:

    Yeah, after reading that list I came away with the strong impression that he didn’t really know what he was talking about. A lot of those points apply to a very narrow definition of what blogging is for that most blogs I read wouldn’t fit into at all.

  7. brian w says:

    Jakob’s pronouncements make sense when you accept the audience he’s speaking to–the people behind business websites (and I think this is something you know, FP, right? You’re just addressing his concerns conceptually). When he talks about blogs, he’s not talking about you, Jo, he’s talking about companies trying to open up their organization with “transparent” publicity practices.

    If people can come up with good reasons not to do what he says, he’s fine with that, too–his articles are meant to be used as ammunition by downtrodden web lackeys who are tired of the CEO telling them to make the homepage spin and make lots of noise. Heh. Silly Jakob.

  8. Marcello Carlin says:

    Anonymous writings have less credence than something that’s signed.

    That’s the Bible and the Koran out of the window then. Shall we tell the President?

  9. Forest Pines says:

    But, Marcello, they’re not anonymous – they’re written by God!

  10. Marcello Carlin says:

    Has anyone ever seen an “author photo” of God?

  11. Forest Pines says:

    I don’t know, but I’ve never seen one of Marcello Carlin either 😛

  12. Marcello Carlin says:

    health and safety regulations innit

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