Many of today’s social behaviors that led to many billion dollar companies are inspired by blogs and blogging of the yore. My article is here.
"If you look around the media landscape, the media darlings of the moment — BuzzFeed and Upworthy — are doing essentially that, curating a world overrun with information and content and packaging it up for fast-food like consumption. Using the social web to share these content equivalent of McNuggets at massive scale is sheer genius and that is why they are worthy of all the adulation they are getting.
That doesn’t mean you and I can’t do the same. We’ll just do it at a different scale, at a different tempo and with a different lens — our own.”
I got a bit of fan mail today, which is actually relatively rare, so I thought I’d share it (with author’s name dropped, in case they didn’t mean to have others know about its source):
I’m not even sure how I crossed paths with your feed but its having a great impact on me.
I work as a UX professional, trying to help interfaces play nice with people, otherwise I probably relate closer to a luddite demographic in my history of staying ahead of the curve. That said I am now a dedicated digital citizen and embrace the roller coaster we’re all riding but when I read your tumblr posts I feel like a time traveller who just saw his first glimpse of a future world. That, or a character in an old twilight zone episode, where they are somehow receiving transmissions from a different time through a mysterious figure on the other end of the device du jour.
I try to read as much as possible from places like MIT and tech research centric sites/feeds but above all the noise it seems most of all I really value the quotes, excerpts and opinions you share. Aside from my professional path I am an artistic type and really get some great cerebral tangents going after consuming your blog’s content.
In case you don’t get enough encouragement (especially in times when self doubt creeps in) I just want to let you know that your feed is the best thing on tumblr right now and want to thank you profusely for providing such a feast for my insatiable imagination.
My motivations for writing here are fairly personal — I can’t think without writing and curating — but it’s a good feeling to think that doing it all in public adds value for others, and that we are a community of people, looking out for each other.
And I like the image of me as ‘a mysterious figure on the other end of the device du jour’ in a Twilight Zone episode.
Phillip Lopate, The Essay, an Exercise in Doubt
As a writer, I am an essayist, although that term is falling into disuse with the rise of the web. Now, people would call me a blogger, although naming a role for the tools used would mean tailors would be called needlers.
No, I am an essayist, and I share Lopate’s identification with doubt and heresy proudly.
Lopate’s writing is masterful, filled with gems:
Age has not made me wiser, except maybe in retrospect.
Strangely enough, doubt need not impede action.
Argumentation is a good skill to have, but the real argument should be with oneself.
I like the freedom that comes with lowered expectations.
I am an essayist, for better or worse.
I will have to track down one of his books, I think.
The last few years on Tumblr have been great, and really shaped my thinking about social media, ‘the new writing’, and curation.
Thanks to everyone.
John Nolan, a longtime Wordpress developer, mocks up a speculative design for Ghost, a fork from the Wordpress codebase, but intended to be just a blogging platform, and not the CMS that Wordpress has become.
This will get a lot of buzz, and I bet he’ll raise some money right away to make this a reality.
However, my feeling is that plain vanilla, ‘publishing for the masses’ is passé. I switched to the high engagement, very social model of Tumblr years ago. I’d like a better user experience as a Tumblr author/editor/curator — which Tumblr, or a third party, could fix pretty easily — but I don’t want to go back to just posting to a website.
I don’t want to go back to a better 2005.
North Carolina prosecutes a blogger for talking about his cave man, paleo diet:
Adam Liptak, Blogger Giving Advice Resists State’s: Get a License
Steve Cooksey eats what he calls a cave man diet — lots of meat and greens, no bread or pasta. He says it has helped him conquer life-threatening diabetes.
But when he wrote about his experiences and offered advice on his Web site, officials in North Carolina said he was breaking the law by “providing nutrition care services without a license.”
Charla M. Burill, the executive director of the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition, called Mr. Cooksey in January to tell him so. The conversation was by all accounts civil, and Ms. Burill had a state law on her side.
About a week after they talked, Ms. Burill sent Mr. Cooksey pages from his site liberally annotated in red ink. She said that “writing a blog on your beliefs” was fine. But Mr. Cooksey’s Dear Abby-style advice column was unlawful. So was a paid life-coaching service.
“You are no longer just providing information when you do this,” she wrote of the column and the service. “You are assessing and counseling, both of which require a license.”
Indeed, a North Carolina law says that “assessing the nutritional needs of individuals and groups” without a license is a crime. Many other states license nutritionists and dietitians, but the North Carolina law seems to be among the stricter ones.
In her markup of Mr. Cooksey’s site, Ms. Burill underlined examples of unlawful advice, including this one: “I do suggest that your friend eat as I do and exercise the best they can.”
Mr. Cooksey reluctantly made the requested changes. Then he filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Charlotte, N.C., saying his First Amendment rights had been violated.
“Cooksey’s advice,” his lawyers wrote, “ultimately amounts to recommendations about what to buy at the grocery store — more steaks and avocados and less pasta, for example.”
“The First Amendment simply does not allow North Carolina to criminalize something as commonplace as advice about diet,” they added.
What about Dear Abby? Does she have to get a psychology license?
- Women make up the majority of bloggers, and half of bloggers are aged 18-34
- Bloggers are well-educated: 7 out of 10 bloggers have gone to college, a majority of whom are graduates
- About 1 in 3 bloggers are Moms, and 52% of bloggers are parents with kids under 18 years-old in their household
- Bloggers are active across social media: they’re twice as likely to post/comment on consumer-generated video sites like YouTube, and nearly three times more likely to post in Message Boards/Forums within the last month
- Three out of the top 10 social networking sites in the U.S. – Blogger, WordPress and Tumblr – are for consumer-generated blogs
Tumblr launches ‘highlighted posts’.
from Tumblr Staff Blog:
Introducing: Highlighted Posts
Every now and then, a post comes along that’s meant for big things. It could be pulling the wraps off your new project, promoting your next show, raising awareness for a cause, or just sharing a truly incredible photo.
Today you’ll have a new option to Highlight those extra-important posts. For one dollar, your post will stand out in the Dashboard with a customizable sticker to make sure your followers take notice!
MG Siegel thinks its a good idea. I guess I am ambivalent, and I will have to see what strange interactions highlighted posts might have with other Tumblr features, like Explore and reblogging.
Note that I don’t seem to have access to this new feature yet, or I would have highlighted this post.
Jeremiah Owyang wants to declare the end of the golden age of tech blogging, or, even more portentously, he says
The tech blogosphere, as we know it, is over.
This could be interpreted in a number of ways, but at face value — and leaving aside for the moment the specifics of his argument — I agree. The ‘blogosphere’ — that mid ’00s concept of a community of bloggers writing for each others and cross-linking through trackbacks and threaded comments — that communitarian vision has been superseded by other ideas of what is, or should be, happening, online.
However, I don’t want to adopt the metaphor that is used by people that fear the future, and long for a halcyon past. I won’t go along with the ‘golden age’ rhetoric, which is generally employed by those arguing a fall from a better past into a less virtuous present. (The concept comes from ancient Greek mythology, with its Golden, Silver, Bronze, Iron ages, and then the present, debased age.)
I prefer Winston Churchill’s trope:
Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Churchill was, of course, referring to a turning point in the struggle with Germany during World War II, while we are discussing the transition from a more primitive and less social phase in the web revolution, into something more complex and, ultimately, more rewarding.
The points that Jeremiah makes to support his argument are very tactical, not looking at the strategic changes going on technologically or societally. His ‘trends’ aren’t really trends, but narrow extrapolations from recent events masquerading as business advice. They are these, in brief:
Trend 1: Corporate acquisitions stymie innovation
Trend 2: Tech blogs are experiencing major talent turnover
Trend 3: The audience needs have changed, they want: faster, smaller, and social
Trend 4: As space matures, business models solidify – giving room for new disruptors
These observations are interesting as far as they go, but aside from the ‘faster, small, and social’ I don’t think these are major, in any sense.
I’d like to offer a few trends that may be implied by Jeremiah’s lists or by the comments of various bloggers that he cites, but aren’t really characterized very well in his post.
It’s obvious that Jeremiah is caught up in the issues confronting three groups of web denizens posting their contributions posting on technology platforms based on a now well-established model of web publishing, which we call blogging. This is unexamined in his piece, but the model of a website made up of chronologically ordered posts with comments in a thread on each piece, and a variety of navigation or advertising widgets in the margin may be getting tired, and may not gibe with other modern advances in online media dynamics. At any rate, Owyang’s concerns seem to be directed toward three constituencies:
He doesn’t seem particularly concerned about the problems of major media companies, which continue to be deadly serious, nor does he refer to the notable advances that media companies like The Atlantic have accomplished. Nor does he spend much time talking about the technology companies — like Tumblr, Twitter, and Flipboard — that are involved in the tectonic changes going on today; changes that make the ebb and flow of small-potato business models surrounding tech blogging look like the scrambling of ants underneath the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Yes, we are veering into a new era of web media; and it’s about goddamned time.
Here’s a few of the most powerful trends, in summary:
Obviously, Owyang and those leaving comments on his post weren’t necessarily treating these trends. The post was ostensibly about the changes in the world of tech blogging, after all. But I don’t see how you can meaningfully explore that niche without the larger context.
Brian Solis sees the larger context as necessary as well:
I recently wrote about my thoughts on the state and future of blogs, which is of course far grander than the world of tech blogging. And as you can see, blogging is alive and clicking.
Yes, micromedia, video, and social transactions/actions are breaking through our digital levees and causing our social streams to flood. And, yes, Flipboard, Zite, and the like (get it?), are forcing our consumption patterns into rapid-fire actions and reactions. You have a choice. You are either a content creator, curator or consumer. You can be all of course. But, think about this beyond the mental equivalent of 140 characters. What do you stand for and what do you want to become known for? The answer is different for each of us. But, content, context, and continuity are all I need to learn, make decisions and in turn inspire others.
I don’t buy the consumer angle — after all, every person is curating for at least one person, themselves — so I consider it a cardinality distinction: curating for one is not appreciably different than curating for two or ten. All curators — of whatever degree of discernment — started by curating for themselves. But Solis clearly gets the big picture, and I agree totally that what is bubbling up today will make the web a place where we continue to come to learn, make decisions, and connect with — and perhaps inspire? — others to do the same.
Richard McManus shows the numbers for Tumblr and Wordpress. Tumblr is growing much, much faster than Wordpress, and then tries to explain it:
The two services offer different things, so this is somewhat of an apples and oranges comparison. Wordpress.com is a fully-fledged hosted blogging platform, while Tumblr is a light blogging and curation service. I myself use both products. However, both are blogging services and so it’s worth comparing the statistics.
At the end of last year we estimated that Wordpress.com was larger than Tumblr in terms of unique visitors and number of bloggers. However we noted that Tumblr had about twice the number of page views per month.
On the page view front at least, Tumblr has exploded in recent months. Quantcast puts it at 12 billion per month currently, compared to 1.4B for Wordpress.com. So Tumblr now gets 8.5 times more page views per month than Wordpress.com (at least according to Quantcast, which in my experience tends to be the most accurate public web statistics tool).
People continue to skin this cat the wrong way.
If you pretend that there are two neatly discretely markets, one which is ‘light blogging’ or ‘microblogging’ and the other is ‘full-fledged blogging’, then you can try to make an apples and oranges argument.
However, if you look at this in terms of the spreading of the social stream metaphor it looks completely different. Then it looks like people are simply adopting the Tumblr social stream experience, and defecting from the not-particularly social, old school blogging experience of Wordpress.
I create a great deal of long-format writing here at Tumblr, and it’s ‘fully featured’ enough for that. So Tumblr isn’t something less that Wordpress. I haven’t given up something that Wordpress offers to blog here. On the contrary: the experience is richer, and people enjoy the social dimension of Tumblr more (see this for a description of the social dimension, if you don’t have a Tumblr account).
Wordpress may still have time to go social, but I am wagering that they will a/ wait too long and b/ sell out to someone like Google or Microsoft.
Also, Tumblr could destabilize Wordpress and other conventional blogging tools by allowing Tumblr users to follow external blogs, pulling that content into the social stream via RSS or other mechanisms. Then I wouldn’t even leave the comfort of the Tumbrl stream to read Mashable or other ‘fully featured’ blogs.