The return of Web 1.0
Social-media platforms once promised to connect the world. Today’s digital communities, though, often feel like forces for disunity. Anger and discord in 2018 seemed only amplified by the social-media institutions that now dictate our conversations. Executive Editor Matt Thompson sits down with the staff writer Alexis Madrigal to find out how we got to this state, and whether we can do anything to change it.
Discussion topics include: why our online problems are really offline ones, what these platforms have lost in pursuit of scale, and how Matt’s and Alexis’s experiments with solutions have fared.
Last year, Alexis removed retweets from his Twitter account (and was pessimistic about new changes bringing back the old Twitter). Matt just began an experiment turning his Twitter account into a place for conversation rather than performance by reclaiming “the ratio.” The effort reminds Alexis of another noble attempt at making your own rules online. Has it Made the Internet Great Again? Listen to find out.
Definitely a fascinating episode; potentially worth a second listen.
Of primary interest here, Matt Thompson discusses his concept of “Breaking the Ratio” (🎧 00:23:16-00:27:28) a take on the idea of being ratioed on Twitter.
His concept immediately brings to mind a few broad ideas:
Micro.blog is, to some extent, a Twitter clone–loathe as I am to use the phrase as it is so much more than that–which acts in almost exactly the way that Matt and likely Alexis wish Twitter would. Manton Reece specifically designed Micro.blog to not have the idea of retweets or likes, which forces people to have more direct conversations and discussions. Instead of liking or retweeting a post, one must reply directly. Even if one just sends a heart or thumbs up emoji, it has to be an explicit reply. Generally replies are not so sparse however, and the interactions are much more like Matt describes in his personal community.
(I’ll be clear that micro.blog does have a “favorite” functionality, but it is private to the user and doesn’t send any notifications to the post on which it is given. As a result, the favorite functionality on micro.blog is really more semantically akin to a private bookmark, it just has a different name.)
The second thing, albeit tangential to the idea of breaking the ratio, is Ben Werdmüller‘s idea of people taking back agency and using their own voices to communicate.
The single change social networks could make that would have the most positive impact is to remove all kinds of resharing. Force people to speak in their own voices or not at all. Using other peoples’ language to express yourself forces you to evaluate the world on their terms.
— Ben Werdmuller (@benwerd) October 29, 2018
While the retweet is a quick and useful shorthand, it decimates the personal voices and agency of the people who use it. He’s suggested that they might be better off restating the retweet in their own voice before sending it on, if they’re going to pass the information along. I wonder if he’s ultimately ended up somewhere interesting with his original thesis and research I know he has been doing.[ ]
If one thinks about it for a moment the old blogosphere was completely about breaking the ratio as most writers wanted to communicate back and forth with others in a more direct and real manner. The fact that the blogosphere didn’t have likes, favorites, or retweets was a feature not an issue. The closest one usually got to a retweet was a blockquote of text which was usually highlighted, featured, and then either argued with or expounded upon.
I’ll note that I most typically use Twitter in a read-only mode almost exactly like Alexis indicates (🎧 00:29:56) that he uses it: plugged into Nuzzel to surface some of the best articles and ideas along with the ability to see the public commentary from the Tweets of the people I’m following and care about. To me this method filters out a lot of the crap and noise and tends to surface a lot more interesting content for me. I’ve created several dozen Twitter lists of various people and plugged them into Nuzzel, so invariably almost everything I come across while using it is useful and interesting to me.
Finally, I’d invite both Matt and Alexis, as fans of the old-school blogosphere, to take a look at what is happening within the IndieWeb community and the newer functionalities that have been built into it to extend what the old blogosphere is now capable of doing. My experience in having gone into it “whole hog” over the past several years has given me a lot of the experiences that Matt describes and which Alexis wishes he had (without all the additional work). I’m happy to chat with either of them or others who are looking for alternate solutions for community and conversation without a lot of the problems that come along as part and parcel with social media services.
The independent blog has been in decline for years. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s why you should start a blog in 2019—and host it yourself.
A great argument here for the IndieWeb, and his second in probably as many weeks. Even better, it sounds like he doesn’t yet know some of the cool new things that blogs are capable of doing now that they couldn’t do in 2006.
I definitely can get behind the idea of throwing fewer “edufuzzies”, because while they’re cute, entertaining, and can lighten the mood, it’s the conversation that matters more. The tougher part is that attempting to have a substantive conversation on Twitter can be difficult because of the character limitations as well as the painful UI involved of properly threading a conversation. I also suspect that taking the conversation somewhere other than Twitter will up the level of the conversation by an order of magnitude.
I far preferto communicate back and forth:
Even better Bill is if we had such conversations from the comfort of our own backyard using bridgy and webmenbtions, rather than someone else’s playground?
So I’ll post my reply to you on my own website and manually copy it across to yours and (begrudgingly) syndicate a copy into Twitter, so everyone can play along. I’m hoping that the ability to automate these sorts of conversations from site to site will improve them all around in the coming year.
What did I say about blogging again? I’m seriously considering all internet output/consumption in 2019 to be a blog, email, and feed reader. Join me in turning back the clock!— Meg (@djgussieberger) December 29, 2018
Personal websites and email can replace most of what people like about Facebook—namely the urge to post about their lives online.
There’s a lot of talk about leaving Facebook again in the last day or two, but very little on where to go other than a few people talking about Twitter or other toxic social media that will just end up starting the same cycle of pain and frustration again. This is at least a start, but it could lean more towards a full IndieWeb approach.
The web was amazing before Web 2.0 and the advent of so-called social networks. Many people had their own sites and blogs from which they shared ideas and interacted with others in the community at large. It seemed to me like meeting others in their own homes back then and there was a widespread enthusiasm for blogging and personal expression. Then came the big social networks. With time, many personal sites and blogs disappeared from the web as people flocked to the big silos where their content became a heavily monitized commodity. To me, the web had lost much of its soul as people gathered in just a few, huge noise chambers.
(Joe’s full article is here.)
Yes, here we are again—I think what you’re saying is that even a single-line annotation of a link, even just a few words of human curation do wonders when you’re out discovering the world. (Perhaps even more than book recommendations—where we know that at leas...
Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia
it made me feel like we were trying to send some kind of concentrated transmission to the author—linking as a greeting, links as an invitation. ❧
December 19, 2018 at 04:14PM
I do find that Webmentions are really enhancing linking—by offering a type of bidirectional hyperlink. I think if they could see widespread use, we’d see a Renaissance of blogging on the Web. ❧
December 19, 2018 at 04:17PM
I’m really not sure if linking, in general, has changed over the years. I’ve been doing it the same since day one. But that’s just me. ❧
December 19, 2018 at 04:22PM
Earlier this week, Taylor Lorenz, staff writer for The Atlantic on Internet culture, posted this on Twitter: Is there any good way to follow writers on a bunch of diff websites, so anytime they post a story I see a link or something in a single feed? This resulted in a series of over 40 replies with...
Interesting that it looks like she subsequently deleted the original post….
Earlier this week, Glenn Reynolds, known online as Instapundit, published an op-ed inUSA Today about why he recently quit Twitter. He didn’t hold back, writing:
“[I]f you set out to design a platform that would poison America’s discourse and its politics, you’d be hard pressed to come up with something more destructive than Twitter.”
What really caught my attention, however, is when Reynolds begins discussing the advantages of the blogosphere as compared to walled garden social media platforms.
He notes that blogs represent a loosely coupled system, where the friction of posting and linking slows down the discourse enough to preserve context and prevent the runaway reactions that are possible in tightly coupled systems like Twitter, where a tweet can be retweeted, then retweeted again and again, forming an exponential explosion of pure reactive id.
As a longtime blogger myself, Reynolds’s op-ed got me thinking about other differences between social media and the blogosphere…
Cal has some interesting thoughts on blogging versus social media which I’ve been seeing more and more about in the past several months. In addition to the major efforts by the people taking up the IndieWeb philosophies (of which I recognize several people in the comments section on the post, though they all appear as pingbacks because Cal apparently doesn’t yet support the prettier webmention specification), I’ve been seeing more people I don’t know directly talking about these ideas in the wild. I’ve only recently begun to tag some of these occurrences on my site with the tags slow social and blogosphere revival though many other examples are assuredly hiding untagged this year and last.
He almost lays out an interesting thesis for the idea of “slow social” which is roughly something I’ve been practicing for nearly 4+ years. While I maintain my personal website mostly for my own benefit as an online commonplace book, I also use it as a place to post first everything I write on the web and only then syndicate it to social media sites. The little extra bit of friction keeps my reposts, likes, and other related micro-posts (or is it micro-aggressions?) to a relative minimum compared to the past.
I’ve also noticed a lot more intentionality and value coming out of people who are writing their own posts and replies on their personal websites first. Because it appears on a site they own and which is part of their online identity, they’re far more careful about what and how they write. Their words are no longer throw-away commentary for the benefit of a relatively unseen audience that comes and goes in a rushing stream of content on someone else’s social site.
I hope this blogging renaissance continues apace. It also doesn’t escape my notice that I’m serendipitously reading this article right after having seen New Clues by David Weinberger and Doc Searls
Hear, O Internet.
It has been sixteen years since our previous communication.
In that time the People of the Internet — you and me and all our friends of friends of friends, unto the last Kevin Bacon — have made the Internet an awesome place, filled with wonders and portents.
But now all the good work we’ve done together faces mortal dangers.
When we first came before you, it was to warn of the threat posed by those who did not understand that they did not understand the Internet.
These are The Fools, the businesses that have merely adopted the trappings of the Internet.
Now two more hordes threaten all that we have built for one another.
The Marauders understand the Internet all too well. They view it as theirs to plunder, extracting our data and money from it, thinking that we are the fools.
But most dangerous of all is the third horde: Us.
A horde is an undifferentiated mass of people. But the glory of the Internet is that it lets us connect as diverse and distinct individuals.
We all like mass entertainment. Heck, TV’s gotten pretty great these days, and the Net lets us watch it when we want. Terrific.
But we need to remember that delivering mass media is the least of the Net’s powers.
The Net’s super-power is connection without permission. Its almighty power is that we can make of it whatever we want.
It is therefore not time to lean back and consume the oh-so-tasty junk food created by Fools and Marauders as if our work were done. It is time to breathe in the fire of the Net and transform every institution that would play us for a patsy.
An organ-by-organ body snatch of the Internet is already well underway. Make no mistake: with a stroke of a pen, a covert handshake, or by allowing memes to drown out the cries of the afflicted we can lose the Internet we love.
We come to you from the years of the Web’s beginning. We have grown old together on the Internet. Time is short.
We, the People of the Internet, need to remember the glory of its revelation so that we reclaim it now in the name of what it truly is.
Old school blogs are the new social media. It’s nice to be ahead of the curve, isn’t it?
I have personally been been doing something similar to this for several years now, so I’m obviously a big fan of this idea. My website is my social media presence and everything I post online starts on my own website first (including this reply).
I’m excited to see so many people in the comments are into the idea as well, but it seems like several are having problems knowing where to get started or where to go. I’d suggest many spend some time to check out IndieWeb.org and the resources not only on their wiki, but within their online chat. There are a lot of us out here who have experience doing just this and can help kickstart the process, not to mention we’ve built up a huge wiki with details, tools, and processes to help others out.
Asha, if you’re game, perhaps we could set up some video chat time to help folks out?
The best part is that the old school blogosphere has been growing again and adding some cool new functionalities that make having and using a personal website a lot more fun, useful, and even simpler. Let me know how I might be of help.
Lee (t), thanks for the mention in Profhacker. I’ve only just seen it thanks to an old Web ~0.4 technology called Refback. You’ve done a great job of calling out the recent blogging renaissance, some of which is being powered by the Domain of One’s Own and the IndieWeb movements.
There are a bunch of us who are happy to help out anyone who’d like to jump in with both feet.
Blogs are back! At least, they seem to be making a resurgence as we try to disentangle ourselves from the predatory social media platforms that took all the words many of us used to write on blogs. I’ll admit, I started my own tinyletter in part because I wanted to find an audience again that was a little more personal that what gets lost in the algorithmic facebook feed and the firehose that is Twitter. My blog (which is my domain) is kind of an experiment in long-form writing now. I’m working at another Domains school, so we are thinking about how students are using their domains, owning their own data, and writing publicly.