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

Ever since Elon Musk took over Twitter and turned it into a tawdry reality show in which he is the star, the villain, and the comedian, everyone has been talking about a new decentralized web. New products, such as Mastodon, and new technologies, such as Activity Pub, are part of a new desire to build a new “fedeverse.” This is utopian thinking about taking the web back from the centralized web platforms.

One of my favorite bloggers, designer Lars Mensel notes:

We all feed social networks and online platforms with unprecedented amounts of data, hardly accounting for the fact everything might vanish when the ownership of a network changes (as seems likely with Twitter’s ongoing nosedive) or the business model collapses.

Mensel is right. And it makes sense that more of us should be doing it, but we don’t because, in the end, we want an easy way out. Manuel Moreale, a programmer points out:

The more I think and read about it, the more I’m convinced that there’s no solution to the centralisation issue we’re currently facing. And that’s because I think that fundamentally people are, when it comes to the internet, lazy. And gathering where everyone else is definitely seems easier. It’s also easier to delegate the job of moderating and policing to someone else and so as a result people will inevitably cluster around a few big websites, no matter what infrastructure we build. And sure, there is always going to be an independent minority that is going to do things their way but it’s just that, a minority. The rest of the internet will move along and aggregate around a few big hubs and the issues are gonna be the same.

Read full post on

Moreale, who has eschewed all social media services, pours a glass of cold water on the current excitement and hoopla around Mastodon, Fediverse, and the decentralization of the Internet. When reading his post, I found myself nodding my head in agreement. It is not to say that I don’t believe in decentralized Internet, and after all, the Internet’s premise was a lot of federated (interconnected) networks.

I appreciate the excitement and move away from the centralized services, but most of the excitement comes from the people who were part of the first two waves of the Internet. The newer generation of internet natives doesn’t care much about archival or permanence on the network.

Ephemeral is a concept that is more apt for describing that generation. Streaming, on-demand, and vanishing ephemeral content are their native behaviors. The rest of their social media presence is with intentionality — either to create or curate a presence much like a celebrity.

Regardless of age, the big elephant in the room is that we are certified addicts to attention.

It doesn’t matter whether it is Twitter, Instagram, or Mastodon. Everyone is playing to an audience. The social Internet is a performance theater praying at the altar of attention. Journalists need attention to be relevant, and experts need to signal their expertise. And others want to be influencers. For now, Twitter, Instagram, and their ilk give the biggest bang for the blast. It is why those vocal and active about Mastodon are still posting away on Musk’s Twitter.

If we didn’t care for attention, we wouldn’t be doing anything at all. We wouldn’t broadcast. Instead, we would socialize privately in communication with friends and peers.

Here are some of my previous writings on social media, our addiction, and why it is a problem.

January 4, 2022. San Francisco

blue and white logo guessing game

No matter how often this happens, we don’t learn our lessons — we continue to till other people’s proverbial land and keep using their social spaces. Whether it is Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Medium, we get trapped in the big platforms because they dangle the one big carrot in front of our eyes: the reach, the audience, and the influence. 

And we keep doing their bidding — they use our social networks, our work, and our attention — and, in the process, help make their networks gigantic and indispensable. We become pawns in their end game. And then they change the rules of the game — after all, if you own the league, you make the rules.

I have known the truth about social platforms. I quit Facebook and Instagram years ago, and candidly I am better for it. I don’t need 5000 friends — 15 good ones will do. And as far as sharing photos — I am happy that I have about a thousand people interested in my photographic work instead of 100,000 followers on Instagram. You, too, can sign-up for my photo newsletter here.

I have not quit Twitter for sentimental reasons. I sent out the first non-Twitter tweet and kinship with Jack. Even as the platform became unusable, I still stayed. I started using Twitter less. If I don’t visit today or tomorrow, my world doesn’t stop. So perhaps that is why I am not as distressed as others who are mourning about the future of the service. 

By now, you probably know a megalomaniacal space cowboy has acquired Twitter. You have to pay $8 a month to use the service in any meaningful way, though I won’t bet on it being either meaningful or it working. The new owner is known to change his mind about anything and everything. Given this uncertainty about Twitter, it makes more sense for me to focus on using the newsletter as a central point for all my editorial work and everything else.

Going forward, I will aggregate what I usually share on Twitter, including links to interesting articles in an (almost) daily newsletter. You will likely experience the newsletter at a higher-than-usual frequency, but no promises. I will leave the comments open if you want to share feedback or engage in conversation. 

If you aren’t signed up for the newsletter — it is straightforward. Enter your email address in the form below, hit submit, and then allow the email newsletter in your inbox. I hope we can build something together.

PS: If you follow this blog via WordPress, then you don’t have to do anything.  It will just show up as every other post.

November 15, 2022. San Francisco

My Essential Twitter Reader

Here are some of my articles about Twitter. My long history with the company gives me a good insight into the company, which has and will continue to remain ungoverned. It is a service by the people, for the people, and one of its people with the most money now owns it. It is somewhat ironic and befitting. 

A dummy’s guide to killing a golden goose 

Facebook doesn’t understand why it is losing to TikTok and keeps copying them, but it is not working. And in doing so, it has changed Instagram so much that even the most loyal users are giving up. 

Essentially, it comes down to a major shift in user behaviors, away from following your friends, and seeing all the random stuff that they post, to following trends, and engaging with the most popular, most engaging content from across the platform, as opposed to walling off your own little space.

Read article on Social Media Today