The future of social Internet is not in scale, but in intimacy. Whether it is the present web or future web, we are going to see more and more focus on smaller, social circles. Internet, will become an internet of multiple identities. Continue reading What is the future of social media?
As a man who has always had the wand'ring ways Now I'm reaching back for yesterdays 'Til a long-forgotten love appears And I find that I'm sighing softly as I near September, the warm September of my years. The September of My Years, Frank Sinatra
I love this song by Frank Sinatra – a reminder that even the very best of us can’t escape the tick-tock of time. We all eventually accumulate enough knowledge through the life lived to appreciate the days after summer. I, for one, love September — it is a gateway to the visual charms of Autumn.
It points to cooling temperatures that are tempting enough to visit my parents: the holiday season, and hopefully a chance to take photos somewhere of snow-covered landscapes. Whether all this happens, this year remains to be seen. Lies are still costing lives. And America is hoarding toilet paper again! The smoke from the California wildfires will soon waft its way to our city as well.
As the sun breaks on the second day of the month, I am thinking about August, specifically my blogging. At the start of the month, I challenged myself to write every day.
“I find that all the research and information I gather is put to good use if I write it down. More often than not, I tend to write my notes in longhand in a private journal. However, I am sometimes overcome with an urge to blog.”
Looking back, I am actually not that “overcome” with the urge to blog. I ended up writing 24 posts though I didn’t write a post a day. Somedays, I just wrote more than once, and other days I couldn’t get inspired to type away.
It is not that I was short of ideas. It was a hectic month of learning — everything from security, crypto, biomaterials to new developments in physics was on the menu. I talked to quite a few interesting people. Those conversations sparked quite a few thoughts. I just found it easier to write more privately in my journal.
After giving it more thought, I have concluded that since I don’t have a deadline (and it certainly isn’t my job), I prefer to fully marinate the ideas before putting them out for public consumption. It is not that the world is short of words these days anyway.
See you around, somewhere erratically. Have a great month ahead, everyone.
September 2, 2021.
E. B. White, an essayist for The New Yorker (and author of many books), once said:
"A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper."
He probably was describing me — during the last week. At the start of this month, I set myself a goal — blog 500-word pieces every day. It was an effort to become a writing fit. I hope to write for a column for a publication shortly, and I want to regain my writing skills. As you might have gathered, I didn’t hit my goals this week.
This week’s failure made me reflect on my past. When I was a professional writer (blogger, if you are pedantic), my writing was reactive, whether to some breaking news or a conversation or an interview. And on rare occasions, it would be like a finished lego set — where many bits and pieces from conversations, facts, news events, and theories would all neatly fit together. Whatever it was — being in the flow is a big part of writing steadily — one needs external input to spark internal creativity.
Another crucial difference, perhaps, is that I have different commitments on my time today than in the past. I am less singular about writing about technology (and its impact) than I used to be. While technology is still a primary lens with how I view my world (and life), I find myself spending more time on the science of technology and have found a waning interest in the business of technology. Unicorns don’t excite me. And more importantly, the world of technology has become more complex and thus needs a lot more research, understanding, and deliberation.
Since leaving the profession, I have discovered a passion for photography, and I think about it a lot. And with age, I have started to gravitate towards the “finished lego set” type of writing. And the timing of that writing has a bit of unpredictability to it. It is also an outcome of a set of random events that don’t happen as often. (Example: my essay, 40 Kilometers.)
In that sense, I am much closer to writing like Susan Sontag, who, when asked about her writing regimen, said:
I write when I have to because the pressure builds up, and I feel enough confidence that something has matured in my head and I can write it down. But once something is really underway, I don't want to do anything else.
Nevertheless, I know I have to develop a schedule to sit down and write for the remaining days of the month. Ideally, it will be first thing in the morning, long before the sun comes up and my phone starts distracting me from the words that matter. The good news is that I am an early riser.
August 7, 2021. San Francisco
TWeek That Was
Aug 2: It is not the customer’s fault the network is being deprecated. So @AmazonKindle has to step up & not be cheap. Replace old Kindles with the new ones. They will make up the costs in years of buying the new ebooks. The Verge
Aug 3: Tom Standage is an editor for The Economist and has a new book coming out on “the social history of the car, and why it’s the 1890s all over again.” Tom is a great writer and a wonderful book author. Every one of his books sits in my library. Victorian Internet was/is my favorite.
Aug 4: Here is @SpaceXStarlink by the numbers: 90k subscribers. Active in 12 countries. Half a million on the waiting list. 1700 satellites deployed. My takeaway: huge demand for rural/off-the-grid connectivity, that incumbents failed to deliver.
I came across this opinion piece about the role of social media in the demise and subsequent rebirth of blogging, a topic not unfamiliar to readers of my blog. It credits Twitter for providing a platform that allows for interactions similar to those that distinguished early blogging communities. And at least in a superficial way, that’s not wrong, I guess. But there is a wide gulf between the impulses that drive social media and the “why” of blogging. And the author completely overlooks the latter in his eagerness to report that, after many bloggers were wiped out, some elements of the activity formerly known as blogging survived. (Fact check: classical blogging continues to flourish in all corners of the Internet.)
As I have noted a time or two, blogging and the behaviors it inspired were the genesis of many contemporary activities on the Internet. Yet, despite this, we still seem unable to fully appreciate what was at the heart of blogging — that thing that makes so many of us nostalgic for its heyday, even as we tweet until our thumbs ache. And this brings me to my long-standing quibble with the media establishment: why can’t they recognize significant changes until it is too late?
Marc Weidenbaum, a music enthusiast and founder of Disquiet.com, expertly captures the distinction between blogs and social. “Social media expects feedback (not just comments, but likes and follows),” he writes. “Blogs are you getting your ideas down; feedback is a byproduct, not a goal.” In other words, one is a performance for an audience, while the other is highly personal, though others may end up finding it interesting. Weidenbaum also admirably points out the difference between blogs and all the suddenly ubiquitous newsletters. “And newsletters = broadcasting,” he says. “Blogging is different.”
Bingo. By the way, for this exact reason, I recently decided to rethink the whole notion of my newsletter. I realized that it is just a way to get my words, as I wrote when I announced some recent changes, “from my computer to your inbox in order to spare you the trouble of coming to my website.”
The main reason media stalwarts couldn’t understand blogging is that they couldn’t see beyond their all-too-familiar containers and distribution mechanisms. They were too entrapped in their dogmas. The author of the opinion piece that kicked off this post offers up a telling account of his own transition from blogger to an employee at a legacy media company.
“A key lesson I learned from my new colleagues was that we couldn’t cater to our regular readers the way many classic blogs did,” he writes. “Our salaries were supported by advertising. To make the whole project financially viable, we needed a lot of readers. Practically speaking, that meant bringing in a lot of new readers.” In other words, the company couldn’t conceive of any game other than the one it was already playing.
This problem persists. Rethinking news requires a complete reconsideration of media, what it means, how it gets consumed, and how it gets distributed to those who want it. Even now, the media establishment is so stuck in text that they can’t fully see the extent to which we are transitioning to a world of primarily visual media.
For the future of media — including blogging — look to YouTube, Snap, TikTok, and Instagram. By the way, the content on these platforms is often created and engaged with in a spirit much more analogous to that of traditional blogs than anything you’re likely to see on Twitter. A whole generation has grown up with cameras — and front-facing cameras at that. Smartphones make it so much easier to create daily logs (What else are “stories” on Snap and Instagram?). The behaviors on these platforms will define the media consumption of the future. They are already reshaping the present.
Let’s take music journalism as an example. You are unlikely to stumble upon any new music through a traditional music magazine or even on many traditional music blogs. Instead, people are finding new musical acts on TikTok. “Mainstream music journalism is largely uninterested in promoting discovery, focusing instead on blanket coverage of superstars and seemingly endless traffic-grabbing lists — which may buoy an existing reader base, but often fails to capture newer, younger music fans,” reported (ironically) Rolling Stone. “Enter the upstart music blogs of TikTok.”
TikTok’s rise as a taste maker for music (and culture) is just the evolution of (news) media away from the written word model. Magazines, radio and late-night television shows helped with music discovery before the social era. Blogs came next, by their human curation. Individuals as taste makers and cultural deejays was a trend that became stronger with YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And TikTok is the newest evolution for a generation that lives at the network speed.
And a generation growing up on the beat of the network wants their news in TikTok-style packaging. The future of media and news is a combination of visual, virtual, augmented, and metaverse realities. It is not a matter of if, but when. I am not saying that the traditional media formats won’t have a role — but they will have to compete with a different reality.
Back when media companies were making a mess of the blogging world, they were hamstrung by their failure to understand and appreciate the “why” of the activity they were seeking to replicate. As they slowly key into the world of visual media — and inevitably attempt to stuff it into their preexisting boxes — let’s hope they don’t make all the same mistakes again.
June 7, 2021. San Francisco
Lately, I find myself admiring HEY World, a new tool from the makers of the collaboration platform Basecamp. Here’s how it works: If you use HEY, their (paid) email service, you can write an email, send it to a specific address, and publish it for the world to see. The published email is distributed to readers, … Continue reading HEY World makes what’s old new again with blogging.