Earlier today, I read something that led to the question” do we even need to organize the blogs in the reverse chronological stream? Ben Werdmuller, frustrated by the design of his website’s homepage writes:
As of right now, the homepage is a mix of long-form posts, short thoughts, and links I consider interesting, presented as a stream. It’s a genuine representation of what I’m reading and thinking about, and each post’s permalink page looks fine to me, but it doesn’t quite hold together as a whole. If you look at my homepage with fresh eyes, my stream is a hodgepodge. There’s no through line.
Like Ben, I, too, feel the same way. What Ben is asking and I am echoing: are these end-days of using “stream” as a design and information organizing principle? It has been just over two decades that I have written “for” and published “to” the stream.
I started blogging back in late 2000. It was primarily technology-related blog posts — with an occasional personal blog post. As years passed, the blog became a business, and I had to set up this website as a personal homestead. Its primary function was to be a personal place — less about technology-focused writing and more about life and my obsessions.
With the company’s shutdown in 2015, this website became a catch-all for everything, including technology-focused writing, interviews, and essays. In short, the diversity of information has increased. I often wonder, am I doing too much with this one place? Does the “stream” as an organizing principle even make sense in an information-dense and diverse world?
Across the web, one can see “streams” losing their preeminence. Social networks are increasingly algorithmically organized, so their stream isn’t really a free-flowing stream. It is more like a river that has been heavily dammed. It is organized around what the machine thinks we need to see based on what we have seen in the past.
Social networks seem to have done a forensic analysis of content consumption behavior and have come to the conclusion that most of us can no longer follow the stream and make sense of what’s flowing through, or even catch what’s important. They are not wrong. As humans, our interests have become wide enough that we can at best peck at what’s flowing through.
Heavily visited large web publications such as The Verge, which found their start as “streams” are not using a non-stream-like user experience, and have found ways to combine the urgency of the stream with articles that need to stick around longer. The question is when will this flow down to individual websites, including blogs?
As an old-school blogger, I have found a lot of comfort in the stream. I felt that it was a way to showcase my whole “online being.” And that worked when people were in the habit of visiting blogs every day — even multiple times a day. These days, it is either newsletters or fly-by-visits that account for interaction on blogs. Yes, I have old faithful readers, but they too want to get the stuff emailed to them.
What do you think? Is reverse chronological “stream” still a valid design principle? or should we think differently? Leave a comment below, so I can learn from you.
January 25, 2023. San Francisco