free html hit counter October 2015 - John Battelle's Search Blog

Written First On Medium. Discuss.

By - October 26, 2015
Couple Holding Hands at Sea Sunset

Image Credit Arch Cape Inn

So I had a thought about the state of the publishing world, specifically that part of it that we’d call blogging(1). And it struck me.

Why haven’t we made our own Medium? No, wait, that doesn’t quite sound right. Medium is awesome, and in fact I am writing this post in (on?!) Medium. Historical note: This may well be the first time I’ve written the first draft of a post in Medium. So my beef isn’t with Medium, rather, it’s with the blogging ecosystem’s inability to create something that embraces what Medium teaches us.

It’s not like the pieces weren’t (aren’t?) there. Thousands of superb writers — tellers of tales, diviners of insight, entertainers, jesters, fools (who can stillwrite). And it’s not for lack of code — we’ve got a fucking army working on that. Perhaps — is it a lack of common vision? Did we need Medium to Show Us The Way?

As others have pointed out, Medium is simply awesome, but it hasn’t embraced several ideas core to the culture of blogging. For example, most authors don’t have control of their own domain, though you can now create a “vanity” domain, a commendable move to be sure. However, if you want to add anything to your site — you know, put some lights on the porch, maybe add a bathroom to the place — that’s not going to happen. Yet.

Similarly, an author can’t easily add advertising — or any other third party code that is prevalent in the open web, though Ev told me a few weeks agothey are working on the advertising solution in earnest. Again, a good thing. But most likely, it’ll be a controlled, platform approach with limited APIs. And if I were running Medium, I’d do exactly the same thing, so again, my beef is not with Medium.

But what if blogging evolved more rapidly — or perhaps, in a more focused way? I mean, shouldn’t this aggregated highlight feature be all over the blogosphere? Or this kind of commenting? Sure, I can install plugins that approximate the same thing, but…they are not universally used, they don’t share a common social behavior. (Not to mention, installing this shit is a huge PITA).

Imagine if we had that highlights feature as standard issue over in the blogosphere? I mean, we had comments as standard issue … why not this? Lordy, how cool would that be? Knowing us, we’d turn it into currency driving a magical gift economy, the kind we had back when this all started. It’s that magic that drove blogging’s emergence — and we’ve lost it along the way. I don’t blame social networks or Medium or Apple for this. I think we’ve failed to imagine another way.

We stood by and watched our beloved trackbacks — those deeply meaningful handshakes from one mind to another — deprecate and eventually disappear from our sites(2). And then we let the comments fade — too many trolls, at first, and that fucking spam…it was too much work. Platforms emerged to address the worst of it, but with those platforms came their imperative — we’ve got to make a business of this. If you guys aren’t going to do it, we’ll do it for you, OK? The deal was clear: This is free for you to use, but we’re going to ferry wheelbarrows of data out in return. OK?

Turns out, those wheelbarrows of data were rolling off our sites with every javascripted pixel we dropped onto our site. Sharing buttons? Check. Ads?Checkmate!(3)

OK. And then the comments went away. Once again, I do not blame the data vacuumers, the marketing ecosystem, the struggling independent publisher just using the best tools available to them at the time. Nope. I bemoan our collective imagination.

And Google noticed the spam and deprecation of true intent, and Google began to send attention other places, increasingly (and again, defensibly) to their own shit. But that’s another post, one I am sure I wrote years ago (but can’t quite find since I’m not in the WordPress backend. A bit of micro meta, that.)

So trackbacks went away, then comments, and then…we lost the culture of response(4). When this all got started, someone would write a superlative post, perhaps a controversial post, and then as if on cue, a few thoughtful responses would emerge, a volley might ensue, and behold: a living debate in considered prose watched by thousands. But the mechanism supporting that intellectual sport — that first synapse-jumping trackback, the resulting attention and commentary — collapsed, and with it went the flower that was a new kind of public debate.

And sure, we’ve rebuilt parts of the things we’ve lost, in Twitter, via Facebook, in flashes of reddit brilliance, with blogging pillars yet lost(5)…and now and most promisingly with Medium. But damn, it doesn’t quite feel right yet, does it?

I’m a big fan of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup — take your chocolate, pour it over my peanut butter, and — yes please, may I have another?

So I guess I’m asking that someone toss the wooly peanut buttery world of WordPress and the damn-near-perfect yet somewhat-lacking-in-connective-tissue chocolate world of Medium into a Blendtec Stealth and give us that sweet and savory goodness we so badly crave? Pretty please?(6)

— –

(Thanks to Barcelona for this rant)

(1) Yes, we all can pause for the obligatory and derisory images of a dated epoch now muddling through its senescence. There, now let’s continue. (2) I mean, WTF? The first Google response for “trackback” is the Wikipedia page?! (3) Yes, I am fully aware of my own role in this part of the story. For the record, I’m a huge fan of marketing as part of the ecosystem. Duh. But the strengths of the open web are also its weaknesses. I am arguing we’ve forgotten to tend to the strengths. (4) I read several really good related pieces— on Medium! —  which informed my thinking here, and this post is in essence a response to them. But I can’t fucking find them, and I can’t figure out how to see what I’ve read on Medium or even what I’ve recommended. I am sure it’s in here, I just can’t find it. (5)Hell, even in a search for “AVC,” Fred’s site comes in third to Twitter and Antelope Valley College now.

(6)OK, now I have to cross post this to Searchblog. Weird.

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Maker, Soylent, Hyperloop, USC: The Places I’ll Visit In LA Next Month

By - October 22, 2015

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(cross posted from NewCo)

Picking a schedule for a NewCo festival is an art – it takes a lot more time and thought than your average event. But it’s also fun – each session and company description has been highly curated, and I learn a lot simply by reading through the diversity of experiences that are on offer.

This year in LA there are 80+ companies to chose from. The festival runs over two days – the afternoon of Monday Nov 9th through the evening of Tuesday Nov. 10th. It wasn’t easy, but here’s where I’ll be visiting:

Monday, Nov. 9th

1.30 pmMaker Studios. Video is the hottest medium on the Internet, and the model keeps evolving, as the recent YouTube Red news illustrates. Maker is one of the most successful of the original “MCNs” and has grown past its YouTube roots into a powerhouse in all things video. I want to get behind the scenes and learn about video because NewCo will be launching video channels next year, along with its media business. I also want to see the Culver City neighborhood where Maker has its HQ – it’s home to an abundance of LA’s best entertainment startups. Wish I could go: Cross Campus, MomentFeed, Inspire Energy.

3.00 pmHired. Another selfish business reason here: I’m very interested in the recruitment field, both because NewCo is growing, but also because I sense opportunities for what we’re building as well. Hired has been on a tear lately and has a lot of buzz. I’m looking forward to seeing how the sausage is made. Wish I could go: Tradesy, Omaze, Google.

4.30 pm – USC Institute for Creative Technologies. Who knew Oculus Rift came from the lab we’ll be touring during this session? Very cool. Also, my daughter is looking at USC for college (kills me, I went to Cal…) and this is a chance to check out an innovative program at the school. Wish I could go: Factual, Homeboy Industries, NOVICA.

6.00 pm – VIP Kickoff & Reception at Dollar Shave Club Dollar Shave Club Dollar’s headquarters are really cool, and the program – featuring Dollar Shave CEO Michael Dubin and a host of other NewCo CEOs.

Tuesday, Nov. 10th

9.30 am – Hyperloop Technologies If these guys pull off what they are talking about doing, well, it’ll radically redefine long haul transportation. I want to be able to say I was there back when it was just an idea. Plus, I’ll get to meet the CEO and grok the tech behind it. Wish I could go: The LA River Revitalization Corporation, Oblong Industries, dSky.

11.00 am – Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti One of the things I love about NewCo is how the municipal governments get involved, both at the VIP kickoff and by opening their doors and talking about civic innovation. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s new at LA’s city hall.  Wish I could go: Psychic Bunny, CBRE, FEM, Inc. 

1.30 pm – Soylent. This food-replacement drink has been the subject of much derision and celebration. But it’s certainly pushing the envelope of how we think about nutrition and the role of food in society. Wish I could go:  Science, Inc., Funny or Die, Upfront Ventures.

3.00 pm – Surf Air. Another new approach to transportation – one that promises to rethink how we do shorter haul flights. We’ll get to board and tour their airplanes as well! Wish I could go: Parachute, Expert DOJO, VNTANA (another Manatt pick).

4.30 pmFlightly. I’ll admit, Flightly’s location helped me chose it (bc it’s near the meetup afterwards, and traffic is rough in LA in the afternoon!). Then again, I’ve wondered about the company ever since it was announced as Twitter’s only e-commerce integration. I’ve long thought Twitter had a huge e-commerce business lurking inside of it – and now’s my chance to hear about it from the source. Wish I could go: WeWork, onefinestay, Crowdfunder.

6.00 pm – Meetup at Boingo Wireless Boingo Wireless After seeing a dozen companies, it’ll be time for a drink and conversation with my fellow NewCo festival goers. See you there!

Register for NewCo LA here!