Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Sub-Titling A Regular Feature (or The Great Scotland Problem)

Never, ever comment on the title of a blog post without having read the full blog post. You run the risk of looking like an idiot if the blog isn't at all what you thought it was, or you make an erroneous assumption. 

How does this relate to sub-titles, you might ask?

If you run a regular feature on your blog, it makes sense to 'sub-title' those blogs so it's readily apparent it belongs to that feature. It may not always be clear from a main title that a post fits within a regular feature, so this acts as an immediate flag. 

Of course, on blogs you can't actually use a 'sub-title' as they don't have that functionality, and even if they did, the distinction would be lost on Twitter anyway. So I signify a sub-title by writing the main title first, then the sub-title after a colon. I have a number of these, including my medieval weapons series and my touring Scotland series. 

The Great Scotland Problem

Just to be clear - Yes, London is still where I
always thought it was in relation to Scotland
My 'touring Scotland' feature is a series of posts about planning for my trip to Scotland. Of course, I don't live in Scotland, so there is some necessary and incidental travel to get there - about 5 days or so, probably, of a 6-7 week round trip. I dearly wish I had a teleporter so I could instantly step from my living room to Scotland, but alas, I have misplaced it.

Now all the posts in the series are sub-titled 'Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne' - including those incidental travelling posts in which I'm not actually in Scotland yet. Some of the early posts had titles where it was more readily apparent we were travelling, but I found I couldn't keep doing that because the titles not only became repetitive but unwieldy if they were to give any sense of what the post itself was about.

And someone took exception to this and assumed that I was stating that London is in Scotland because of the use of the sub-title. Sure, it may not be readily apparent from the title how it works, but reading the post would quickly clear this up. Many of us know from reading the news that the headline is not the whole story - if it were, why would we read it? It behooves us to be informed before we pass judgement. 

Eilean Donan Castle - in Scotland
Instead, I was essentially called an idiot for believing that London is in Scotland - when that's not what I said - and continued to be told I thought London was in Scotland when in fact I do not and never have thought that and even explained why the post was titled the way it is. It would have sufficed for the commenter to state that she didn't agree with my analysis rather than to continue misrepresenting and belittling me. Instead, she has taken the view that there is some 'error' in my post title. 

The only error is in the inference drawn, and as anyone who writes knows, there will always be someone who misinterprets it. If I called the series 'Touring Britain', someone would later complain that I spent too much time on Scotland. You might also complain if I had a post titled 'Sydney Airport: Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne', but this is also a post that legitimately relates to my trip.

I have no issue with someone bringing a misinterpretation to my attention. I won't necessarily agree, but I'm open to a rational discussion and swapping of explanations. However, over 24 hours this situation quickly deteriorated into a series of snide and cruel jokes at my expense for something I never said at a level that can only be called bullying. 

At the end of it (or possibly in the middle of it, but I am resolved not to reply any further), I sat down and re-assessed my reasons for using the sub-title - and I still think they are sound. 

So here's why I chose to sub-title 'Touring Scotland' even on posts where I had not yet arrived in Scotland.

London is On The Way to Scotland For Most of the World

For six billion nine hundred and thirty million people, London is the gateway to Britain. For most, it's not only the gateway, but literally on the way to Scotland. While Glasgow is an international airport, relatively few flights go there directly without a layover at London. From Australia, you can only fly to Glasgow without a layover at London if you fly Emirates - and then it's a 39 hour flight! No thank you...

If you layover at London, you will disembark an international flight and board a domestic flight. This means you must clear immigration and then pass back through security for the domestic flight - it's a major pain in the rear, especially if your first flight runs late - they won't hold that plane for you! It's even more an issue if you have kids in tow and have been travelling for 24 hours already from somewhere like, say, Australia. The alternative, of course, is to stop in London for a few days of sight-seeing. 

So, it seems reasonable that most people would understand that a post title including the words 'London' and 'Scotland' is probably referring to travel on the way to Scotland - since for 99.1% of the population, they will nearly always travel to Scotland via London.

You Were In London and Didn't See It?

London - NOT in Scotland, but relatively close by compared 
to that part of the world OUTSIDE Britain
(i.e. most of the world).
I did this on my first trip. I flew into London twice and out once. I even drove in and out of London. But we didn't stop. And I still remember the aghast looks I received from people. 

Apparently it is inconceivable to be anywhere in the vicinity of London and not see it and its sights. I kind of understand this, although for me I like Scotland a lot more. But since I encountered this attitude so much last time, I figured I would stop this time to see what the fuss was about.

Also, I figured that given the prevalence of this attitude, it would be readily understandable that I would stop in London on my way to Scotland. 

I still think these are valid reasons to sub-title the post that way, even if one particular person took a different inference from the title - an inference that would have been resolved quickly if she'd just read the blog post, instead of relentlessly misrepresenting me on a public forum. To continue stating that I said London is in Scotland, when I never said that at all, and after I have explained why the post is titled the way it is, just makes you look like a bully and an idiot. By all means, disagree with my reasoning - but don't misrepresent me.

In any case, it's now redundant as in the next post in the series we will be leaving London and on our way for Scotland. 

Side note: Be careful of misrepresenting people. You can actually defame someone by doing this. It's not really my thing, but if you did it to the wrong person, or in the wrong circumstances, you could find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit

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