Anil Dash on Streams and Pages

I forgot that the stream versus page debate started over a year ago. Here’s Anil Dash’s roundup.

As Choire notes, this really only works if you ditch owning your content. There was an interesting debate on that last summer. Marco Arment argued against Medium, while Scoble more or less stopped blogging.

I think this takes us back to Madrigal on the stream. We’re living in a media environment where liveblogging is the norm. We want to follow breaking news in real time and we want to watch heated debates unfold on Twitter from the social sidelines. But if we care enough, we want to read analysis, too.

Madrigal’s point on FOMO is critical here. There are communities on the web that want to be in on everything as it happens. That doesn’t work because understanding doesn’t scale. This may explain why journalists TL;DR their own stuff in social. The challenge isn’t a question of format but relevance and the latter is challenged by the former.

We need to be better editors in every sense. We need to identify what’s important and necessary. We can’t dip our toe into the stream and learn by osmosis.

The Golden Age of Content Strategy

A few notes and links on the death of the blog, peak stream and the golden age of content strategy. Please join the conversation and share links in the comments.

  • First, Kottke at Nieman Journalism Lab. I don’t think the stream killed the blog. I don’t even think firsties killed the blog. What killed blogs for me was that once they matured as a medium, they were indistinguishable from the media they purportedly replaced. I observed this among my fellow music critics, many of whom advanced from writing about music on their personal blogs to jobs at media outlets where they took over digital responsibilities at those media properties. I wrote about that phenomenon here. I don’t think it means the medium died; it’s that the pageview-driven business model and the editorial aspirations are out of sync.
  • This brings me to Alexis Madrigal’s piece on the importance of “nowness” to the stream. We’re racing faster down the information superhighway than ever before and we’re tossing all of our souvenirs into Pocket, Instapaper and Evernote as we go. What Madrigal gets absolutely right is how a fear of missing out powers the ambition to read everything exhaustively. This is certainly true among certain discursive circles on the web. When I hit eject on music criticism, it was mere cultural moments before Odd Future hit. To this day, I have not heard Odd Future. This is not me saying, “I don’t even own a TV;” this is me saying that my life continued without this information. What Madrigal longs for is the Internet of the past. He’s underestimating the Internet of the present.
  • Readers still crave destinations. Maybe the fetishization of the longread goes too far, since we’re probably just squirreling those articles away for a day that never comes, but people still want to land somewhere, at least for now. What Kottke and Madrigal’s pieces suggest to me is ushering in a golden age of content strategy. Content strategy was invented to improve business websites, but I’ve seen it applied for editorial, too. Deadspin, among other places, does a great job republishing stories and giving them new life, often decades later. I think that’s what Madrigal wants from the web. That Internet is there if you want it.

Attention still matters most. The best way to overcome FOMO online is letting your friends tell you about stories. You don’t need to have a “take” holstered for every topic out there. Your time and attention are still very valuable possessions. Cherish them.

The Philadelphia Phillies: End of An Era

The last two seasons have been tough in Philadelphia. After a glorious run as one of the best team’s in baseball, the Phillies crashed back to Earth. Charlie Manuel, a beloved figure for anyone who’s followed the Phils, was tossed aside. Roy Halladay, a player who more than anyone made Philadelphia a destination for free agents, retired after two injury-riddled seasons. It was a magical time and now it is over.

The next phase is a familiar one. The Phillies will likely be hard to watch for a long time. With commitments made to an aging core and little to no talent in the farm system, the boom has gone bust. For anyone who remembers what happened to the team after 1993, we know what happens next. It won’t be pretty, but we’ll still be in the stands, basking in the ballpark, thankful for the memories the Phillies gave us.

No Goal But Mileage

It’s been a while since I called myself a runner. After running consecutive marathons in ’08 and ’09, I took a long hiatus. Turns out being awake all hours with a sleepless infant isn’t conducive to distance running. I tried coming back in classic couch-to-marathon style last year, only to injure myself about halfway through training. After months of physical therapy, I still didn’t feel quite right, but that didn’t stop me from trying again this year, only to meet the same end. It’s been frustrating since I still want to run that Boston qualifier I just missed in freezing temps in ’08.
A few weeks ago I started running again. Just three miles, five times a week. No goal but mileage. It’s taking me back to a time before I had a Garmin watch, before I micromanaged every step I took on a run. I’m just out there in the cool fall air putting one foot in front of the other. I’m feeling better than I have in years. Turns out running without a race in sight is helping me build the base I need to get back on track.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I signed up for a half marathon at the end of March. I couldn’t help myself. I need a reason to stay motivated during these long, dark winter months running alongside the Cooper River. In the meantime, I’ll be logging miles at a snail’s pace until I feel good enough to push toward my real goal of qualifying for Boston.

What’s the Future of Blogging?

Two interesting things about blogging lately:

First from Marco Arment

Then from Robert Scoble on why he’s using G+ and Facebook for blogging.

I tend to agree with the former, but I’d much rather do what Scoble is doing. Why? Because it’s much lighter weight than coming here to write AND it doesn’t have the audience built-in that other social networks do. I see that Share button when I’m in Gmail and think, “That would be so easy!”

What’s keeping me from making the switch? Audience. Sure, I have never been good about writing every day, but WordPress makes it easy for people to find stuff I’ve written about since I started blogging. Google+ is getting better at helping people find me in the context of other search results, but it’s not quite the same.

But why not LinkedIn? Tumblr? Medium? They’re all interesting places. I often think I should use LinkedIn as my default social network and share out to Twitter from it!

Put another way: why shouldn’t I switch to G+ or Medium, you know, beyond owning my platform?

To me, the long tail benefits are worthwhile. WordPress is easily bookmarked and shared. Google+ is a neat little ecosystem, but that’s just it: it wants to be self-contained in a different way that most other networks.

The Principled Purge

If you haven’t already seen it, Ian Rogers’ blog post on pruning Twitter is quite good. He followed me back when I wrote about digital music; I don’t write about that anymore, ergo he unfollowed me. It makes all the sense in the world. Why is it so hard?

I wrote Unfollowing Is Hard back in 2012. I pared back to 500 people. It felt like an accomplishment. Could I ever get under 200 like Ian? Doubtful. Even if I followed his lead and turned Twitter into real-time RSS, I’d find myself in the same fix. I pulled over 800 blogs into RSS at my peak! I’m a sucker for information. I just can’t help it.

Worse, I’m sentimental. There are people I’ve been following since I joined. We’ve had lots of laughs. They’ve watched my son grow up. How could I leave them now if they’ve not graduated to Facebook friend status?

That’s what I like most about Ian’s post: clearly delineated friend profiles that identify where they should go. His birthday rule is the best. He transformed Facebook into Path. He just unfriended his way to it!

I call it the principled purge. This isn’t just rip it up and start again; these are malleable platforms and we should evolve as our use cases change. And if you get scared you can always cheat with a handy list!