Steven Pinker’s new book cuts through traditional non-wisdom in praise of Twitter, which can actually improve people’s writing style. The high tech start-up model is changing the face of charity donations forever. And website accessibility for everyone is easier than ever to achieve…
How the internet changes everything
Here are three of my favourite copywriting, content creation and digital marketing stories for December 2014. It looks like the interweb really is capable of changing everything.
Accessibility law – What does Cynthiasays.com say about your website?
Is your website legal? It should be wholly accessible to disabled users whether it’s people with poor eyesight or no sight at all, hearing difficulties, mobility issues or cognitive problems like dyslexia. And it’s really important. If your site doesn’t meet the appropriate design standards, you an be sued for discrimination.
While very few companies have been prosecuted so far, two cases brought by the Royal National Institute for the Blind have been settled out of court. It’s a sign that a court case could prove ruinously expensive to a business’s finances as well as its reputation.
Thankfully the Cynthia Says website is there to educate us about website accessibility, making life so much easier. It helps website owners find and deal with accessibility errors according to the Section 508 standards and WCAG guidelines. Better still you can use it to test individual site pages and it provides clear feedback.
Steven Pinker’s latest masterpiece praises Twitter
Steven Pinker’s latest book, The Sense of Style – A Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, is designed for people who know how to write and want to write better. It’s a brilliant read whether you’re a student, critic, journalist, author, reviewer or online content creator.
Inspired by the latest linguistics and cognitive science research, Pinker’s book chucks previous style guides away and creates a highly contemporary thinking person’s guide to good writing. He reveals why style still matters to effective communications, enhancing the way ideas are spread, earning readers’ trust and ‘adding beauty to the world’.
It’s laudable stuff. And it’s directly relevant to all of us who write online content for a living. Take Twitter. When The Guardian newspaper posed the question, “Your new book is a style guide. Is technology making us bad writers?” his response was definite, positive and really great to hear. Especially in a world where the snobbish, traditionalists and scaremongers gleefully claim the world’s writing skills are going to hell in a handbasket, and it’s all the internet’s fault. Does technology make us bad writers? As Pinker says:
“No, why should it? I get this question a lot. There’s a funny assumption that if you write in 140 characters for Twitter it suddenly means you have lost the ability to write in any other way, as if the brain only has room for one kind of writing. It’s just one out of dozens of ways to write. If you take it as a challenge it can hone your skills as a writer. One of the cardinal rules of style is omit needless words. That’s what Twitter forces you to do.”
How the internet is changing the way we donate
Watsi uses crowd funding to pay for medical treatment for people in need. Those who need help are identified by hospitals working with Watsi. It has funded healthcare for more than 3000 individuals across 19 countries since launching in 2012, and it heralds a sea change in the way we donate to charity.
Watsi isn’t the only non-profit organisation leveraging the online world for the common good. Like many others it modelled itself on high tech start-ups instead of following the traditional charity model. There’s Donors Choose, for example, which lets supporters fund school projects in the USA. Omakase chooses different charities for its donors to support each month. And Kiva lets us lend small amounts of money to actual individuals in developing nations.
It’s just one more way in which the wonderful world wide web is changing our lives. Donors love making tightly-targeted choices about which individuals, causes and micro-businesses they’d like to support. It makes giving so much more personal. And when people enjoy giving, they tend to give more, more often.
Giving to charity the new way is direct, fast, super-efficient, easier and more pleasurable to engage with. It’s more of a two-way street. You don’t just throw your donations into a black hole. You can also ‘meet’ the people your money is benefiting online.
Roll on the charity revolution!