Back in the mists of time, I wrote about Jakob Nielsen‘s top ten blog design mistakes. Including: not having your own domain name. My response: there are several sites I read and respect that do do this, but if you want to be completely sure you control your own reputation, you need to control your domain name too.
One thing I didn’t consider, though, is that the people who host your site can, if they want, control what you put on it. Filter out things they don’t like. You could, for example, do what News Corporation subsidiary Myspace have been caught doing: censor links to video-hosting sites, presumably because these sites will soon become News Corp’s competitors when Myspace introduces its own video-hosting service. You might think you can say anything you like on the internet – but if you’re a Myspace user, that apparently doesn’t apply.
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?