Fixing a Hole in the Social Web

Last sum­mer, my friend Karl Mar­ti­no shared this post from Scott Rosen­berg on Face­book some time ago and I got a lit­tle excit­ed. Could blog­ging real­ly be back? I’ve writ­ten about the death of music blogs and Jere­mi­ah declared the gold­en age of tech blog­ging dead back in 2011. What Rosen­berg hit on in his fol­low up — the migra­to­ry pat­terns of the “hive mind” — made me think less about plat­forms and more about the sin­gu­lar tool that enabled blogs to real­ly become pop­u­lar: RSS.

Google Read­er rode off into the sun­set back in 2013. Noth­ing real­ly replaced it, despite a race to rebuild it. Before any­one declares blogging’s back, let’s be hon­est with our­selves: RSS made the blog­gy core of the web pos­si­ble. Right now, I have a bunch of tabs open and I’m click­ing through to addi­tion­al posts and form­ing thoughts and respons­es. This was only pos­si­ble using “read it lat­er” tools.  In the blog­gy hey­day, I would sub­scribe to count­less blogs and refresh Google Read­er end­less­ly to keep up as they col­lect­ed through­out the day. You’d think I was describ­ing Twit­ter or Tum­blr or Face­book, but these leaky net­works are sieves com­pared to the net RSS pro­vid­ed.

Two reflec­tions:

  1. the social web cre­at­ed the sense of FOMO that keeps us refresh­ing feeds cease­less­ly so we make sure we don’t miss a thing. It’s impos­si­ble to be a part of the dia­logue if you miss it com­plete­ly.
  2. The notion that “if news is impor­tant, it’ll find me” is true only if you hope to cement your solip­sism.

In many respects. the social web has evolved into the online equiv­a­lent of Jacques Lacan and Judith But­ler cor­re­spond­ing in pub­lic via aca­d­e­m­ic jour­nals. We can all read the arti­cles, but they’re not real­ly talk­ing to “us.” Sure, the social web enables us to par­tic­i­pate, but that par­tic­i­pa­tion too often feels like tweet­ing at celebri­ties, in the hopes of the odd fave or retweet.

I’m not sure any­thing can be done about that last bit. Part of the prob­lem of say­ing “blog­ging is back” in any mean­ing­ful way ignores how the scope and veloc­i­ty of infor­ma­tion online with­out new ways to cap­ture a dai­ly digest of what hap­pened. Remem­ber when you’d check Google Read­er and it would be loaded with updates from every blog you fol­lowed that reflect­ed the lat­est press release hit­ting the wire? Now the social web is the same echo cham­ber that rever­ber­ates to reach every time zone online. What’s miss­ing from the social web today — and what made blog­ging in the ear­ly days so great — was that peri­od where it felt like you “knew” “every­one” online. To bor­row from Bene­dict Ander­son, we can’t recap­ture those “imag­ined com­mu­ni­ties” that cre­at­ed a sense of inti­ma­cy and shared under­stand­ing on the web.

The clos­est I’ve seen any­one come to acknowl­edg­ing this gap is ThinkUp, which takes stock of your activ­i­ty in the social web. But quan­ti­fy­ing activ­i­ty isn’t the same as chang­ing behav­ior. Bene­dict Evans tweet­stormed about “dis­cov­ery” and I think it sums things up nice­ly as it relates to how con­ver­sa­tion has evolved online. I’ll end here.

 

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.

I’ve Rejoined Tumblr

You can fol­low Ram­say­ings: The Tum­blr by your pre­ferred method. Since I fol­low a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of music crit­ics there, it may be where I enter con­ver­sa­tions about stuff like that? Or pos­si­bly techi­er things? Or social media things? It’s a gar­den that’s grow­ing very quick­ly and I’m scram­bling to keep up.

And, yes, I think I’ve decid­ed to main­tain both Word­Press and Tum­blr plat­forms in some way or oth­er indef­i­nite­ly. Social media is a cru­el mis­tress. I guess it would be cru­el­er if I were also vlog­ging or some­thing.