I’m sure I am not the only one who is currently re-evaluating where I spend my time online. Two tangentially related articles gave me lots of food for thought on this topic over the past couple of weeks. First, Dave Rupert makes this point in It takes one person to knock down a silo:
Wherever you end up I want to offer an idea; you are the value. Your ideas, your insights, your compassion, your ability to help someone in need, your dumb puns and dank memes; that’s what’s valuable. This situation has me thinking hard about where I’m distributing my contributions, where I’m adding value (modest as it may be), and who is benefitting.
Second, Jamie Zawinski asks that we Do Not Use Services That Hate The Internet (please read the whole thing, it’s great):
If posts in a social media app do not have URLs that can be linked to and viewed in an unauthenticated browser, or if there is no way to make a new post from a browser, then that program is not a part of the World Wide Web in any meaningful way.
(In other words, don’t use Hive or Post)
I like how these posts urge us to consider how, before Facebook and modern social media, the “social web” was pretty much just labors of hypertext love, loosely held together by the online equivalent of duct tape—RSS, trackback links, blogrolls, IRC, etc. I’m not saying we should go back to those old tools specifically (although ooh.directory—”A collection of 951 blogs about every topic”—is pretty sweet). But maybe it’s worth going back to why we invented those awkward solutions in the first place. We saw an opportunity to connect with like-minded people online, to form communities around niche interests, and to make our worlds bigger. Those are worthy outcomes, even if the solutions we had at the time might not be ideal any more.
So where should we post now? I’m going back-and-forth on that a lot. Depending on the day/time/mood, I either want to go all-in on my blog again, or revive Tumblr, or give Mastadon a solid try, or just double down on this newsletter… In short: I have no idea at the moment, but I know I want to keep writing, so I’m trying a bunch of things and hoping at some point I find something that works and that doesn’t make me feel gross. Wherever I end up, I hope that it’s a place like the one Dave describes in the post above:
I hope you’re somewhere that values your value. Somewhere where the stars, hearts, and thumbs up feel like authentic relationships. Give your contributions to someone or some place that appreciates them. In Biblical agrarian parlance, “Cast not your pearls before swine.”
(Btw, thank you all for not being pigs. That’s pretty cool.)
What I’m reading
Emily Webber wrote up a great talk of hers called Why can’t we all just get along? where she laments how we tend to drift towards working in silos at the expense of collaboration, shared responsibility, and valuable outcomes. The whole write-up is great, but I especially appreciated her call-out to be mindful of collaboration especially when we talk about x-led companies:
Many of us make products, so it makes sense to be product-led. But an anti-pattern is that it can create a hierarchy, with people with the job title of product managers making all decisions in a silo and putting distance between teams. […]
If you view everything through one lens, then you are biased toward that lens.
She makes some great recommendations for how to avoid these pitfalls as well.
Giving and receiving feedback is a practiced art, so begin your practice today. Try giving or asking for feedback, and do your best to adhere to the “5 As”:
Aim to assist. Give feedback to be helpful, and be clear about how it will help the individual or company. Don’t work off anger or promote your own goals
Actionable. Give specific feedback to help make the person better
Appreciate. When receiving feedback, listen carefully and give thanks
Accept or discard. It’s up to the “feedback getter,” not the giver, to decide how you will act on the feedback
Adapt. Be aware of cultural differences from one country to another. Experiment with tactics in giving and getting feedback accordingly
Renée Diresta’s How Online Mobs Act Like Flocks Of Birds is a wonderful essay about the design of social networks and what makes content moderation so difficult:
Powerful economic incentives determined the current state of affairs. And yet, the individual user is not wholly passive—we have agency and can decide not to take the bait. We often deploy the phrase “it went viral” to describe our online murmurations. It’s a deceptive phrase that eliminates the how and thus absolves the participants of all responsibility. A rumor does not simply spread—it spreads because we spread it, even if the system is designed to facilitate capturing attention and to encourage that spread.
A rumor “spreads because we spread it” is such a basic concept but we so often frame the spreading of certain types of content as if we’re victims to the inevitability of it. We’re not. We can stop the spread of dangerous and negative information if we wanted to. The problem is that we can’t agree on what “dangerous” or “negative” means, so round and round we go.
I like these apps
I wanted to mention a couple of reading apps that I absolutely love right now. The first is Matter, where I do most of my article reading. We’ve had reader apps like this before, but Matter keeps getting better and more delightful with every (frequent) release.
The second is Substack’s own app. This is where I start my reading every day. I imagine if you are not subscribed to a bunch of Substack newsletters the app might have a bit of an “empty town” problem. But I am a little bit obsessed with newsletters (you can see all the ones I am subscribed to on my profile), so there is always something to read for me. The app is wonderfully designed for a great reading experience. Give it a try:
Some stray links
🍪 Stardust is a neat browser plugin that remembers your cookie preferences and then automatically consents to cookies when you visit a new website. No more endless cookie pop-up clicking!
👨🏫 The college-age population is about to crash. It will change higher education forever. “The empty factories and abandoned shopping malls littering the American landscape may soon be joined by ghost colleges, victims of an existential struggle for reinvention, waged against a ticking clock of shrinking student bodies, coming soon to a town near you.”
🧓 This week’s “for my fellow olds” content: @Dril speaks on Musk and Twitter is a great profile on one of the characters who defined “weird Twitter.”
📈 Last week’s most clicked link: The Secret to a Great Planning Process — Lessons from Airbnb and Eventbrite.
A good tweet
Thanks for reading Elezea! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Those feedback tips are awesome. Thank you for sharing!
Hi Rian -- I'm a fan of lots of what you do and write about, but I'm not convinced by the "don't use Post" argument. I read the Jamie Zawinski post that you linked to and I know you said it's great but to me it sounded a lot like a biased rant. Can you help me understand in perhaps a less biased and ranting way why I shouldn't post in a place like Post? I've been in Post for a week now and like it a lot, both the UI and the tone being set from the start about civility. Frankly, it's been a breath of fresh air and the different business model strikes me as promising and worth trying to make it work.