person typing on laptop computer
Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

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

Smartphone photography keeps marching on — and why not. After all, cameras, screens, and battery life are the key distinguishing features of most phones, especially in the Android ecosystem. And that is why we continue to see Android hardware makers — Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei, and others try to one-up each other with camera technology and megapixels. 

Samsung will soon launch a new Galaxy (23) model featuring a new 200-megapixel camera sensor. The new sensor, the ISOCELL HP2, will pack 200 million 0.6-micrometer pixels in a 1/1.3″ optical format. This isn’t the first 200-megapixel sensor made by Samsung. The higher pixels allow for “pixel binning,” which allows the sensor to perform better. So, for instance, four pixels can be binned together to create 1.2μm size pixels to output 50-megapixel images. Bin 16, and you get to a 12.5-megapixel image, which can lead to a better quality of images. Apple’s iPhone also uses Pixel Binning in the latest iPhone 14 models. Apple uses Sony sensors.

Samsung says it has a new technology –Super QPD that leads to faster and more accurate auto-focusing, especially in low-light environments. In addition, Samsung says the sensor uses a “Dual Vertical Transfer Gate” that leads to better colors, less overexposure, and fewer washed-out colors. 

Since Samsung supplies these sensors to others, such as Xiaomi, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see new phone models show up with these sensors. What will distinguish one phone from another is how the software harnesses the capabilities of these new sensors.

Pixels aren’t the only thing, for image quality improves with sensor size. Larger sensors have better dynamic ranges and less noise. But don’t tell that to those who create marketing hype around the notion that “more pixels are better.” It would be cool to see Apple introduce phones with one-inch sensors. It was done before. Leica has collaborated with Sharp to make two such phones that feature a one-inch sensor.

You move, Cupertino! 

January 18, 2022. San Francisco

Here is my take on what happens to traditional camera makers in the long run:

The camera industry is going to become an industry of niches. The likes of Leica, Hasselblad, and PhaseOne will have a lucrative, albeit the smaller, higher end of the market made up of brand loyalists and those in need of specialized devices. Others will depend on working professionals — wedding, sports, and event photographers — to keep the home fires burning. And that isn’t that big a market.  It will be a bruising battle for the enthusiasts who like landscape, urban, and wildlife photography. 

“Time moves in one direction, memory in another,” said William Gibson. I was reminded of these words when reading two long pieces about my friends Mathew Ingram and Wesley Verhoeve. 

Both stories (tangentially involved me,” and inadvertently took me down memory lane. Mathew wrote about the first Mesh conference, where he invited me as a keynote speaker. When I returned from the conference, I quit my day job at Business 2.0 and started working full-time on GigaOm. The year was 2006; since then, life has been a journey. Mathew later became a writer and confidante at GigaOm, and some of the folks I met at the conference have become lifelong friends. Like many events at that time, Mesh captured a vibe and a feeling of optimism about what was to come. Mathew’s piece reminded me of one truism: “life is a contact sport.” Going-out, mingling, and learning are how you grow. 

Wesley is now a professional photographer, but a long time ago, he worked in the music industry. He started taking photographs late in life and has been doing so for ten years. My archive shows the first time I met Wesley was 12 years ago, when I went out to have a coffee with him and dragged along Naveen Selvadurai, co-founder of Foursquare. In 2015, I published an interview with New York Times writer Jenna Wortham, and Wesley took her portraits for the profile. At that time, he was chronicling the stories of creatives who moved away from big urban centers on his website, Wesley’s story was a good reminder that success is never overnight and takes a lot of passion and belief. 

January 16, 2022. San Francisco