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Look, the "labyrinthine maze of nonlinked bylines and PR department messages and institutional contact forms" on many publications' sites is awful, it's true. But I don't know that the answer is this sort of "engagement."

If I had time to talk to people at work, I'd pick up the phone or answer their emails. (OK, maybe I wouldn't pick up the phone. But still.) I don't need an even easier instant communication channel for "PR professionals" to abuse.

'Cause let's be honest: In the majority of cases, that's who would use this to contact me right now. My email address and phone number are posted out in the clear on the websites of both mags I edit, for anyone to use—and maybe one out of every 100 outside emails I get on a daily basis is from a real, live human being without a PR agenda. I know: Increasingly, even sending an entire email is too formal for many ordinary humans. But if perceived formality or inconvenience are problems for readers wishing to connect with me, alternate means of communication are already at their disposal that are both less formal and more convenient.

As much as I personally dislike using Twitter as an instant-messaging app, and inasmuch as PR blasts and SEO/social-media con artistry abound on that service, too, it certainly serves the needs of anyone connected enough to have access to a realtime iPhone connectivity app. Not only that, with Twitter, you're allowed to silently separate the conversational wheat from the chaff. The idea of giving PR hacks another conduit to demand attention in realtime, especially in the name of "media accountability" or "customer service," raises my hackles.

Also, maybe I'm missing something, but isn't this just going to be yet another social-media message notification funneled into writers' already choked inboxes? If not, what sort of system will be in place to ensure that writers respond? (And do we really want to set up systems that mandate writers' response to nonsense?) Or is this just another glorified Web 2.0 comm widget?

7:15 pm, May 25, 2010 :: art of editing

You should follow me on Twitter.