Matrix movie still
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

A few weeks back, I posed the question: Is “stream” as a design paradigm over? I asked because of some behavioral changes that have become prevalent on the internet. First, most of the internet is now algorithmically organized by large platforms, so we are increasingly predisposed to receive information in atomized form. With those two trends in mind, the idea of people going to a destination — say a blog — to consume information in reverse chronological order doesn’t isn’t relevant as much. 

I shared the article with two fellow bloggers who are big thinkers about web architectures, user experiences, and Internet software — Jim Nielsen and Jeremy Keith. Jim sent me an email and subsequently shared his thoughts on Mastadon. He is still thinking about the design concepts, but his way of organizing information is simple: “his words” (aka posts) and other “people’s words” (aka links.) He will turn his email into a blog post, so I will refrain from quoting. I will link to his post when it is published. Last week, Jeremy also weighed in on his blog in favor of the stream-like approach on this website. 

I actually like the higgedly-piggedly nature of a stream of different kinds of stuff. I want the vibe to be less like a pristine Apple store, and more like a chaotic second-hand bookstore. For me, that’s a feature, not a bug. 

Matthias Ott, a user experience designer, also came in favor of the randomness of the stream

You could even think of this home stream as what in literature is called a “stream of consciousness”: a constant stream of the multitudinous thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind of a narrator. Your website is a way for you to share your stream of consciousness, that temporary and subjective and highly biased snippet of the universe, with everyone else, including your future self. In all its multitudes.

This free-stream thinking is contrary to how the general population is now being trained to consume information. People want the information to come to them, and who knows what happens when the “ask for information” paradigm of ChatGPT becomes all-pervasive. Like everything, even the web, its design, architecture, and economics will be transformed with the rise of augmented intelligence. 

Feb 13, 2023. San Francisco

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

I returned from a quick trip to London on the day of Thanksgiving, thus missing the bonhomie of the weekend. While I did miss the slices of pie, it was good to spend the time watching The Silence of Water on PBS Masterpiece (via Amazon Prime.) The Italian crime show is beautiful in location, cinematography, and acting. And despite having to follow the subtitles, it is worth binging. 

The show was an excellent way to stay away from the incessant come-hither siren call of Black Friday — a disease that has also spread to the United Kingdom. I used the opportunity to stock up on memory cards, but that’s all. For the rest of America — despite economic doldrums, it seems to be the season of shop till you drop. I call this the consumerism curse.

The long weekend was also a good time to reflect and read. 

What I am reading

Amazon was losing $10 billion a year on its Alexa business. Google, too needs to learn how to make its voice-interface business profitable. And Apple’s Siri is not going anywhere as, well. So what is the future of voice interfaces in this era of economic frugality

Talking about Apple is becoming an ad company. On its blog, Proton, the privacy company, breaks down how Apple’s tracking works. I, for one, am disgusted by this direction taken by Apple. (Related: The golden noose around Apple’s neck.)

If you are struggling with the whole FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried’s shenanigans, here is a very easy-to-understand explainer of how the whole con worked. Alex Tabarrok has done a good job, and worth a read. 

On the other end of the spectrum is a breakdown of the disaster that was FTX by an accomplished finance professor who digs into the intricacies of the con.(

Ken Kocienda, a former Apple user experience guru, breaks down the design and user experience challenges of Elon Musk’s proposed changes to Twitter’s verification systems. The whole piece is worth reading

Given all the obsession with Twitter, we must remember that the new generation of Internet natives doesn’t care much about the platform or its peer Facebook. For them, it is all about YouTube and TikTok

The A to Z of climate change by Elizabeth Kolbert is the most sobering piece I have read this weekend, and it is an important reminder of the existential threat we are facing as a collective. 

November 27, 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. 

Of Monsters & Media

The paragraph (below) sums up the predicament of the post-social world: there is hardly any difference in information, misinformation, and disinformation anymore. You have to spend more energy and burn more neurons to distinguish what is real and what matters. You are better off paying no attention. And yet, there seems to be no escaping!  … Continue reading Of Monsters & Media

water droplets on glass panel

Should we drop “social” from social media? There is nothing social about this social media. And most of these platforms are essentially networked information distribution systems, and more and more of that information is just noise or disinformation. And humans aren’t helping either. 

Everyone, including Captain America fantasist billionaires and yours truly, in some fashion or the other, are nothing more than mere botnets? In our divided modern “now,” one person’s information is another person’s fake news. Rumors are mere facts for the media to report on with a question mark? And at the same time, the news is a source of rumors; all you need to do is add a question mark. Either way, can we stop pretending that social media is social, about friends & people?

The biggest lie these platforms feed us is the idea of them being “social media” and “social networks.” In reality, they exist to show advertising “content” to consumers, who hopefully would buy more. This endless scroll does its thing on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter. 

It is our sad reality, and no matter how often I repeat myself, it will not change. 

August 23, 2022, San Francisco

Every so often, when I read what passes as news on the internet, I find myself triggered. Whether it is the choice of what to write about, or the news itself, I am gobsmacked by the sheer stupidity that envelopes us.

To be fair, stupidity and poor news judgment have always been with us. In the past, that steamy pile of nonsense stayed confined to tabloids and rags sold at the grocery counters. Social media sadly pushes it all right up our noses. And since gods of engagment reward publications with gifts of attention, even respectable publications don’t hesitate to promote and push the vapid and the hollow.

Such material triggers me. And I often find myself wanting to scream out loud. There is a platform for that — Twitter. And all too often, I draft a tweet and then discard it. It is an old habit carried over to this new world: write a blog post, wait for a few minutes, take a little walk, and think before hitting publish.

Lately, the number of tweets drafted and discarded has been going up. It reflects that I am spending too much time online, and the amount of stupidity in the world has increased. The reality is that this act of self-censoring is a realization that the most challenging part of our post-social reality is to shut up. By not saying anything, perhaps we are thumbing the nose to the gods of engagement!

PS: If you were wondering, that writer and that publication are no longer on my daily must-reads, and they lost the trust that rewarded them with my attention.

Captured at San Francisco on 27 Feb 2022 by Om Malik

I recently sat down to talk with my friend Howard Lindzon on his podcast Panic with Friends to discuss the future of technology. Howard has shared the show notes on his blog. I wanted to draw out three core themes I addressed in my conversation, and they are all correlated. 

I have a long-standing approach to holistically understanding technologies and their impact. I look at pure technologies such as semiconductors & networks and think about their impact on products, behavior, and change. At the same time, I look at our behaviors today and how they disrupt the present technology ecosystems. 

Much of my current and future enthusiasm stems from exciting work underway in the semiconductor world, with Apple’s M1 being the most visible example of the possibilities unlocked by cheap computing, cheap GPU, and machine learning capabilities. It is not just Apple — the entire semiconductor ecosystem is experiencing change. 


Value (of technology), not valuations, matters most.

When we try to predict the future, we usually get it wrong. It is just so because we only have the present and past to use us as references. For example, when we think about web3, we look for analogs. “What’s the new Twitter?” without ever wondering do we even need a new Twitter. Or will there be something else that will help us replace it as a source of information? No one thought TikTok would be a competitor to Google Search, yet they are starting to become a threat. 

My approach to thinking about the future is simple: always try and find the inherent value in technology. It helps take a longer view and embrace change. Take the COVID-19 pandemic, for example. The traditional view is that companies like DoorDash and Zoom got a COVID bump, and their valuations went sky-high, then—poof. Then they came down to Earth when the world was ready to return to a world more like 2019.

There’s just one problem: technology only moves in one direction. There is no going back. It is not as if Zoom lost its value along with valuations. Who wouldn’t rather talk to a screen than fly five hours for a meeting? No matter how much we want to use the past as a reference point for the future, we have to override our biases and go where the value takes us. And where it takes us isn’t always where we might think.

I’ve previously written about my optimism about technology and its impact on society; that hasn’t changed. But rather than try to wind vane the tech sector by looking at stocks and startup valuations, there’s a fundamentally better approach to gauging the future. We have to consider what we know about the foundations of tech. And to me, that’s even more exciting than trying to guess what will be the next Twitter.


Processing Into a 3D World

Apple’s M1 chip is a game-changer, even if consumers haven’t yet figured out why. Most think: “Oh, great—a faster computer. That’s neat.” But look at the value underneath it. The M1 chip puts about 25% of the power of IBM’s original Watson supercomputer at your fingertips. Yes, that Watson. Or, as my friend Michael Driscoll astutely points out, “The line between localhost and cloud is blurring.”

Apple’s M1 is a proxy for a new generation of chip technologies that will reshape our computing experiences. Apple’s approach to silicon combines CPU, GPU, AI, and memory into a single entity for a powerful bitches brew with preternatural capabilities. It is an outcome of the smartphone revolution. 

We’re used to our computing experience being flat. Today, we look at a flat screen and interact with the data in two dimensions. Apps—for all their contribution to the mobile phone revolution—are still two-dimensional. But between the M1 and Moore’s Law, we’re moving into place to alter how we interact with data and information. We’re going 3D. 

By 3D, I don’t necessarily mean AR or VR. Those are ideas we can anticipate. But we’re thinking about the future here. Or rather, our interaction with data will be in three dimensions. What about the ideas we aren’t anticipating? 

I am excited because when I think about what M1 can do today, imagine what it can do to our computing experience in half a decade. Or in ten years? Computers would easily handle inputs beyond keyboard strokes and mouse clicks, and they could (more accurately) use lidars, cameras, and microphones to create maps of our surroundings. 

Cameras can interpret our gestures and facial expressions, and earphones with sensors can give more nuance to our gestures. Computers are merely augmenting our reality. It won’t be long before we have the processing power for holographic displays. Think Star Wars-type technology, not 2001: A Space Odessey.

This technology sets the foundation for a new interaction layer between humans and our machines. Whenever I think about the future of technology, I try to imagine it from the perspective of the next generation of users. Kids in the future are growing up interacting with machines. They swipe, they tap, and they use gestures. They talk to Alexa or Siri. They’re already training for a new way of computing. Most of us haven’t noticed that for them in the future, mouse and keyboard would not be as relevant as they’re to us old fogies. 


Authentication is the Value Store

If you have been a long-time reader, you know that I firmly believe that what technology giveth, technology taketh. Technology is not without its consequences. The rise of powerful chips, coupled with new forms of artificial intelligence approach to software and services, can do both good and ill. 

Think of what computers can already do: deep fakes, phishing scams, simulated voices, etc. Future machines and software would make these even more realistic and thus more harmful. In a world of cloud computers powered by ever-powerful chips creating uncanny deep fakes, authenticating who you are will become paramount. 

And this is where we would need the emergence of a new authentication layer, which is more robust than whatever we have. Regardless of what you might think of web3 mania, it will help create a new approach to identity and authentication. 

We need the authentication layer to distinguish between the artificial “us” and the real us. Mark Zuckerberg isn’t spending billions on the Metaverse for shits and giggles. The real value of Facebook will continue to be the “login,” which will eventually become the identity verification —that’s even more important than all the information they’ve gathered. 

What’s one thing you’ve barely noticed about living in the mobile phone world? How often do you “Login with Facebook” or “Login with Google” because it’s more convenient than setting up an account? There is a lot of value in whichever company makes authentication easy in this world. 

What if Apple offers a Metamask-like product as an authentication system and in-exchange charges a small subscription fee? I would happily pay for the convenience alone. Authentication and payments can be critical to a post-app store world. Facebook, too, is hoping to ride the payments and authentication gravy train to the future.) 

Talking about Facebook, let’s talk about Metaverse. Today, we mock it as a cartoony version of Zoom call. What if it is far bigger than that. Take Facebook out of the equation, and you start to see that we have rudimentary building blocks for the next version of the Internet. You can call it web3, but in reality, it will be the next version of the Internet. 


No Longer Living in the “America-First” World

My last point is about the changing nature of the network itself. When we are trying to predict the future, those of us who live in America often have an America-centric worldview. This isn’t without good reason. There was a time when the majority of relevant tech consumers lived here. 

For as long as I can remember, American technology habits did shape the world. Today, the biggest user base doesn’t live in the US. Billion-plus Indians do things differently. Ditto for China. Russia. Africa. These are giant markets, capable of dooming any technology that attempts a one-size-fits-all approach.

Whether it is their adaptation of drone deliveries, novel climate change ideas, or revolutionizing technologies (such as solar) by large-scale adoption, these big markets will define new behaviors, inspire new ideas, and spread technology-driven change. It might not be perfect or ideal, but we need change — especially in a world facing monumental challenges.


You can listen to my appearance on Panic with Friends with Howard Lindzon on Spotify, Apple, or here

Here are links to my two previous appearances on Panic with Friends.  

March 31, 2020: The Pandemic Editon

July 2nd, 2020: Are we there yet?

litter signage
Photo by Gary Chan on Unsplash

It was early during the pandemic lockdown I was chatting with Scott Belsky, a long-time friend who is now the chief product officer of Adobe. We talked about products that would emerge as heroes or villains from the pandemic, and he predicted that Twitter would be on the debit side of the ledger. 

Every time I check out Twitter, I can hear Scott’s voice — Twitter has become a cesspool. Despite my best efforts, I ended up caught in the slipstream of negativity, anger, and just a feeling of righteous dissatisfaction. 

Elon Musk is wrong on this one — Twitter is no public square. It is a babel of loudness. Whatever it is, Twitter is not a social network. It isn’t even social media — it is a personalized propaganda network. 

In my effort to cope with Twitter — at present my only “social” platform — I have been liberally using the mute button. I feel it is the best feature of Twitter as it is the only way a participant can reduce the noise and the annoyances. I, for one, find it easier to mute folks than deal with the drama of blocking someone. And it is also something that one can undo at an opportune moment. I sincerely hope the Twitter team can help bolster “mute” with more powers. 

We need it. Everyone wants to be Musk-lite. As the saying goes, the more you say, the less you are heard. As I have started to avoid news and social media, I have taken refuge in work. These are turbulent times for our founders, and I hope to give some solace to those feeling nervous. 

However, for my personal and intellectual salvation, I am spending time connecting with interesting people. I have started working through a stack of books piled up on my nightstand. My journal is overflowing with many little notes to myself. There are quite a few post-its with random thoughts and one-liners for future reference. Who knows that someday these notes might find their way into a future essay. 


Talking about writing, I immensely enjoyed this short little piece by Shawn Blanc about coasting in life, which according to him means that you are either:

Going downhill;
living off the momentum of your past effort; or
being pulled/pushed along by someone else.

It is easy to fall into that trap, especially when you transition. I found myself in that state of stasis when I knew I was working for others at the end of my term as a journalist. It was a signal to transition into a new life as an entrepreneur. The same feeling gripped me before I took a step into investing. I do feel the same way right now — something new awaits. Though I am short on details, I have started to sketch the future. Regardless of what it will be, it will involve words — a lot of words, both written and spoken.

May 25, 2022. San Francisco.