EuanSemple: “Blogging is just people showing off”.
“I hadn’t heard it expressed so vehemently for a while but it used to be a very common reaction in the early days, especially in Britain for some reason.” In my experiences here in America, you mention ‘blog’ to the average person, they tend to immediately think of ideological political blogs. Which changes the conversation from interactive weblog to controlled one-way reactionary broadcast device. Since “blogger” has such negative connotations, I rarely use the term anymore. “I keep and maintain an eclectic weblog” seems to keep me away from the prejudice. But just by a gnat’s wing. Even simply extending to “weblogger” rather than “blogger” often redirects the prejudice.
That being said, “I’m a social media expert” brings eyerolls and masses of people ducking for the exits also.
We desperately need a better taxonomy of weblogs/social media. “Blogger” has become meaningless.
Later: “Online Link Curator.” Gag.
Even Later: “Virtual Prognosticator.” Sounds like someone who snaps on a rubber glove and goes to check the ports in back of your extremely reluctant computer.
NiceMarmot: Mavericks Wish.
“Finder needs to get smart about exif data in Get Info.” Concur. This annoys me more than just about any other aspect of processing photos. I could save so much time.
ETP alumnus alert: Dave Rogers is back up and blogging.
At Nice Marmot.
NiemanLab.org: The limitations of how we try to understand online activity.
“A new report from two fellows at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society is out today: ‘Measuring Internet Activity: A (Selective) Review of Methods and Metrics’ breaks down attempts at measuring the impact of the Internet into three categories — infrastructure and access, control, and online content and communities. The main takeaway: Our methods for measuring online activity are fragmented and usually offer only an incomplete, if tantalizing, picture of how people learn and communicate online.” Perhaps the best metric is actual person-to-person engagement (comment, email, tweet or other forms of direct response) rather than measurement of virtual engagement (retweets, pins, etc.) … ?
(Mild formatting change on pullquote - they used bold for the highlighted section, I used italic.)
BlessThisStuff: Camera straps.
The Fully Intended: Kids grow up so fast, girls even faster.
Mollie (daughter of Euan Semple) has another fantastic post. I’m reminded of the difficult time I had as a young child. Surrounded mostly by adults before kindergarten, and trying to live up to adults’ high standards, early school experiences were an exercise in complete frustration when other children would respond illogically. The nearest comparison would be putting a Vulcan child in a human schoolroom. I literally felt like another species. Who said it first: “Suffer the little children to grow at their own pace”? Whoever did, was a wise individual. Mollie speaks to much more than this; ladies will nod their heads more than men, I suspect.
Nature: Bigger groups mean complex cultures.
“ Through laboratory experiments, they showed that complex cultural traditions — from making fishing nets to tying knots — last longer and improve faster at the hands of larger, more sociable groups.” Bingo. That’s why we need blogs in addition to social networking. The more extensive information needs to be recorded and archived, saved for future generations.
Buffer: How a content style guide can enhance your blog’s quality.
“The tone of your blog deals with how content is written rather than how it appears. Again, to borrow an example from the Economist, here is what their style guide’s tone establishes:
Do not be stuffy.
Use the language of everyday speech.
Do not be hectoring or arrogant.
Do not be too pleased with yourself.
Do not be too chatty.
Do not be too didactic.
Do your best to be lucid.”
Me here. Let’s see how I score. #1. Fail. #2. Fail. #3. Fail. #4. Fail. #5. Fail. #6. Fail. #7. Win.
You know, I think I could probably find a day’s postings where I fail all of those within a single morning. I prefer to embrace the colorful foliage of character, without reference to journalistic limitations.
I totally agree about a visual style guide. I used to use no formatting and all-lowercase letters, and STILL was the #4 meme-generator on the internet. Thus, I found being style-less was very stylin’.
Seriously, there are no hard-and-fast rules. Look to your niche, your goals, your competition (if you care), and style accordingly. But please, don’t eliminate character from your prose. Pretty please.
Via Email: A reader says I fail #7 regularly too. Huzzah! Slam dunk.
Story time: Back during the period when I was temping as a word processor in NYC (easy money; I still type over 120wpm when I get going), a close friend of mine got his engineering degree. I did him the favor, and created him a really kick-ass resume. He sent that resume around for three months - nada. I created another one, different in design, still kick-ass. Three more months - nada. I created yet a third, not as cutting-edge, more staid. Three more months - nada. My friend got fed up, and HAND WROTE his resume, even ending the resume with “A Good Man For The Job” in his execrable hand-printed capitals. With two strokes underneath. He sent these handwritten nightmares to three of his best, most desired outfits to work for. I cringed. Well, guess what happened. ALL THREE answered him. “Never do this.” All three gave him interviews. One hired him. Lesson learned: “Quality” be damned. Stand out from the crowd.
99U: B.S. And Making Up Your Own Self-Mythology.
“It’s a shame that so many people find it difficult to do the things they’d like to do because they feel cowed by seemingly successful people who appear to never do anything wrong, or always learn from their mistakes. That just rings as a lot of B.S. and self-mythology to me.” Well-said. That’s the great harm of over-optimism and concealing the actual springs-and-levers behind many popular web presences.
Well, if nothing else ...
Feedburner’s woken me up to the fact that entities in my blog titles totally bollix up my RSS feeds. Working on a more permanent (idiot-proof) solution to my frenetic copy-paste obtuseness.
Slate: J. Alfred Prufrock comic ... T.S. Eliot poem illustrated by Julian Peters.
I’ve told the story of my encounter with a recording of TS Eliot reading “Prufrock” before; I’ll just paraphrase my teen sympathies to his thin, asthmatic rendering: “I grow mold, I grow mold … [extended wheeze] … I will wear my fungus … [extended wheeze] … rolled.” And I can do a bang-up impression out loud, even still. Not quite the long-lasting impact my English teacher intended.
I like his “Four Quartets” better:
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.”
Ghost in the Machine: Still Too Big to Jail.
“Today, the four biggest banks are 30% larger than they were five years ago. And the five largest banks now hold more than half of the total banking assets in the country.”” Check out the rest of GitM’s posts today as well; seems Kevin had a backlog.
Kottke: Plane lands/takes off in only 20 feet.
I have to chuckle. Jason learns of STOL aircraft, seemingly for the first time. Generational gap, I guess. Popular Mech in the ‘60’s was full of this sort of thing - all of us boys were nuts for these things. Super Cubs are nice, but a Maule can haul (bigger engine, more capacity). A Cub can go anyplace a Maule can go, but slower and with less stuff. And it’s easier to fly. A Maule’s a bit more demanding (it enjoys swapping ends on landing, particularly, if you don’t respect it). All are too cool for school.
Can’t afford the real thing? Build yourself a Kitfox in full bush config. It’s on my personal ‘if you ever win the lottery’ list.
Later: How could I forget the De Havilland Beaver? Alaskan bush staple.
MeFi: Mahna Mahna.
Perhaps a new Muppet Show wouldn’t succeed, because there aren’t enough truly charismatic celebrities left.
Technoagita: Fed up with Feedly and especially with Google.
InstantShift: Hummingbird - What It Means For SEO, and What It Does For Google’s Status.
“In an attempt to completely overhaul Google’s search algorithm, Hummingbird becomes more context intensive. Keywords no longer do the job. Now, a person truly has to write to comply with the browser’s latest Knowledge Graph version.” Content over keywords. I hope it works; long overdue.
NY Times: A Founder of Twitter Goes Long.
“But what’s to say that a mathematically mediated site — basing quality on reader attention — will elicit the truth?” It won’t. Popularity is only rarely ‘best.’ The ‘recommended’ button will be swiftly gamed.
I get frustrated when I find something great through Medium’s Search function (a tiny magnifying glass in the left-side pullout menu, hard to find for first-timers) that wasn’t simple to discover through the existing Reading List/Collections interface. I tend to find Medium pieces through Hacker News, and then dive directly in. I allow others to venture in and find the good stuff, and have them help me ‘point and shoot’ my way to a great read. Only rarely do I visit the site directly.
If one has time, serendipity works well. The Most Recommended at the top of each Collection are of worth, but they do tend to be the ‘same old crowd’ who most of us already read and could recite their viewpoints blindfolded.
This points to the weakness of a just-started service: a small group of quality content creators. Tumblr had this problem in the beginning. They were starving for creators. On Tumblr, if you are a content-creator you have instant popularity because the ratio of content-consumers to content-creators is huge. Tumblr’s main driver is images, which then get linked hundreds of times. Medium’s got a shallower row to hoe … the pool of creators and readers is exponentially smaller than Tumblr’s posters and likers. Long form writing is slower to process than a simple image. Easy to take a snap and post it; sweat and blood to write a good piece. Getting read and appreciated, even longer. Being recommended on Medium is nowhere near as beneficial as a ‘like’ on Tumblr; fewer eyes to see the accolade. A Tumblr ‘like’ tends to replicate like a virus. A Medium recommend is a single vote. Your best score on Medium is either an Editor pick, a listing under “Most Recommended” for a particular Collection, or a link from an external service (like Hacker News or Reddit). I think the best play is going for the external link; popularity inside and outside the service first. The Most Recommended will come later, if the article’s popular, and an Editor Pick may result.
I have some suggestions (of course), because I’d love to see Medium succeed. I’m going to use online photo sharing services as an example. [Damn the torpedoes.]
First, Medium needs more quality content. A great deal more, arriving faster.
Medium should take the same tack as 500px. Ask for ‘best work’ only, rather than just talk up the writing experience. Do 500px or Flickr have photo editing interfaces? Hell no. That sector is well-covered by apps. Well, for writing, everyone’s experimenting with distractionless writing environments, Markdown editors are a dime a dozen. *Yawn*. Challenge people to strut their stuff, rather than talk about your great new pencil. Everyone buys a cool looking Moleskine; few fill them. [Monetization idea: in the online editor, have a button to hire a professional editor, and tout those collaborative editing features. Editing makes or breaks long-form writing, and Medium wants to showcase the best long-form writing. Help improve writing on the web! Micropayments?]
My point - I’m getting there - I own a half dozen different distractionless writing apps. Everyone has their particular favorite. I habitually use one. Scrivener is what I would use before cutting/pasting to Medium. On a tablet? iA Writer. On a smartphone? Never. Likely I wouldn’t do any editing in Medium, other than to format the text to maximize aesthetics on the service. Why waste the time and effort making another writing environment? Emphasize best work. Give people just enough tools in the interface to make their content look great on Medium. A great story is a great story, no matter if it’s spoken, written with a piece of charcoal, hunt-and-pecked into a vintage typewriter, or touch-typed into crummy overdeveloped Microsoft Word.
Will an emphasis on ‘best’ work? I think so. 500px has content that’s still a long step above all the other photo services out there, because of this emphasis on ‘best’. I myself hesitate to post items unless I feel they are surpassingly good. The competition’s stiff. Perhaps that ethic would help weed out some of the personal branding “I’m a thought leader!” pablum. Leaders are a dime a dozen these days. Toss a stale croissant into a group at a coffee shop, you’ll hit a ‘leader.’
Second, as the available content grows, Medium needs to make finding quality writing on their service faster and easier, more personal. The discovery mechanism needs to scale, without the cutesy hipster (and increasingly useless) “Collections.”
Taking this 500px comparison further, that service relies on four mechanisms to help people discover new photos. In addition to the default river of people you follow, 500px offers Popular [highest audience ratings], Editor’s Picks, Upcoming [rising in the ratings, within ten points or so of being highest] and Fresh [raw input feed]. Every photo still ends up with categories and keywords (which Medium should absolutely still use, cutesy or not, and make direct access to in Search), but one consumes first through those four mechanisms. Search is always visible, available. I rarely venture into Search; Popular, Editor and Upcoming feed my curiousity very well and I feel completely rewarded for my time.
Does this critique mean I don’t like Medium? Absolutely not. I think the goal is admirable, the first iteration a success. Compare to, say, Technorati’s similar attempt to encourage category-based long-form writing. [Blech.] No, Medium’s not the first. Yes, Medium’s a success. I’d say writers should use Medium as photographers use 500px, Tumblr and Flickr. You’ll see savvy, popular photographers on all three services, reposting items freely across all (with watermarks and links back to their main websites). It would behoove anyone with a knack for writing to echo some of their best work over on Medium, because early hype is directing many potent eyeballs in that direction.
Long term, I’m sure the interface will evolve into something more useful. It has to, and soon. “What I Learned Today” has nearly 5,000 posts, and the only navigation is Most Recommended, an infinite scroll of chronological posts, or Search. Good luck finding quality beyond the Most Recommended. If you wrote something great six months ago, well … noone can vote on it if it’s ten screens or more down the infinite scroll.
Kahunaburger: Google Voice - this alone was worth the switch.
I’ve been slowly reapproaching Google Voice, and hadn’t even considered this benefit. Isn’t the service on the ropes, as far as Google’s concerned? I thought we heard it might go the way of Reader soon … ?
The Atlantic: Is Economics ‘The Biggest Fraud Ever Perpetrated on the World?’
Wouldn’t have had to wait ten months if they’d had blogs, rather than Twitter and newsprint.
Metafilter: WWI in Color.
Another amazing find on MeFi.
FT.com: Can the art of letter writing survive?
You know, that gives me an idea. Let me percolate on it a bit, and I’ll get back to you.
Busy, as usual.
Links soon. Have to concentrate at the moment. No multitasking (see below).
Literature and Latte: Scapple for Mac OS X and Windows.
Never realized the makers of Scrivener (my favorite writing tool) released a new free-form mindmap-ish sort of tool. Fifteen bucks. I may swing for it. Unstructured thought recording has been lacking, even on iPad (IMHO) … having to adapt to a system is more annoying than pen and paper. Perhaps this might be a breakthrough. Thanks, Euan, for pointing it out. While I’m at it, be sure to try out Euan’s podcast series, Shift. New epi out today.
Sad Etsy Boyfriends.
Just what it says.