Anthony Mayfield didn’t say ‘democratising force’ once in his lecture, but the phrase was in my head throughout.
He said we are going through a revolution, but as we’re in the middle, it’s difficult to put some of the changes into perspective.
But he did an excellent job of putting them into a wider context, by comparing this revolution to the 16th century print revolution and also explained some of the more technical details, such as how Google works.
He said Google is a reputation management system, as it lists the most used results first, rather than sponsored websites. It also separates spam from trustworthy websites to make sure you get what you need.
I remember when I was doing my GCSEs at the turn of the century; there was a level playing field for search engines. I was introduced to Dogpile, which I rather liked because of its name. Yahoo was okay and AskJeeves.com took a different approach because you asked it a direct question, rather than searching a few words. But like Mayfield, I found as a soon as Google arrived, it became the only option.
Google became an integral part of my internet use when I installed its toolbar, which meant it was no longer just a website I visited to find information, but part of Internet Explorer (or Mozilla Firefox now).
Nowadays, if I accidentally search on another search engine, I abandon the search regardless of the results and switch to Google, because I trust it more than any other search engine.
Although Google is fair, Mayfield said the way it searches means there should be some changes in the way journalists write headlines. If they want to top search lists, headlines can no longer be at all ambiguous, but clear and bold.
Mayfield’s lecture reflected good internet practice. Not only did he speak clearly, concisely and to the point, but he spoke fast. For me, he was exciting to follow because I understood him. But, if I was fifty years older and didn’t understand the internet as much as I do, I might have stared, dumbfounded in the way my Nana might look at Facebook.
Although convergence has caused an almost overwhelming amount of change, good journalism will always be good journalism and good writing will always be good writing.
On the internet, clarity in writing is more important because people tend to scan read rather than read in detail.
The Economist style guide says “Clarity of writing usually follows clarity of thought. So think what you want to say, then say it as simply as possible.”