Sad. True.

Sad. True.


Or, if you’re not paying, you’re the product

“If you are a user of a service on the internet that involves you sharing, friending, following, pinning, writing, networking, book-marking, checking-in or dozens of other versions of expressing yourself, managing your identity or building connections with people, you are not only adding value to that service, you are that service. And when I say you are “adding value to that service,” I mean just that, even when I describe it in positive terms (editing an open-sourced encyclopedia of knowledge) or when I describe it in negative terms (hampters in a cage or share-cropping).”

Just because you can make money from something doesn’t mean you should, and other rules of the web | Rex Hammock’s

‘The popular social blogging site Tumblr is hiring writers and editors to cover the world of Tumblr’

So meta my head imploded:

Chris Mohney, a senior vice president for content at BlackBook Media, will be the site’s editor in chief. Jessica Bennett, a senior writer and editor at Newsweek and The Daily Beast, will be the executive editor and, she said, a kind of Tumblr correspondent.

“Basically, if Tumblr were a city of 42 million,” Ms. Bennett said, referring to the number of Tumblr blogs that exist, “I’m trying to figure out how we cover the ideas, themes and people who live in it.”

Their work — both documenting the Tumblr service and marketing it to users — will appear on the Web site’s staff blog and on a separate part of that has not been set up yet, a Tumblr spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Source: Blogging Site Tumblr Makes Itself the News – NY Times

As if more examples were needed that the lines between so-called “content creators” (curators?) and “platforms” are blurrier than ever.

‘Wanna Figure Out If Your Product Is Any Good? Think Like A News Editor’

I am wildly, obviously biased when it comes to the utility-of-journalists-in-the-product-management-world, but here’s a provocative argument about applying “news logic” to product design:

News logic is a simple filter applied throughout a design project that asks, Is this newsworthy? It is not design just to get noticed. It’s an inherent logic in the new technology culture. Blogs want to get the most views, and what gets views is great content. So working backward, if you design as though a design blog may cover your work, you’re embedding an expectation of quality in the work from the outset of the project, before you even start prototyping. The work benefits, because instead of working in the relative isolation of client/designer, you build in a level of accountability. If what you’re doing is not newsworthy, then why are you bothering to do it? The client benefits because if the designer does her job well, the work will get picked up by a blog and result in more publicity for the client.

Caveats abound, however. Not least of all I’d argue building a product that solves a problem or fills a gap in the market, focussing on customer service and listening to your users are more important than press coverage.

Because journalists and bloggers are hella fickle. We are like the easily-distracted dogs of UP, always chasing after the new, new thing. SQUIRREL! And there will always be a new, new thing.

So by all means, follow the advice offered in the post:

if you have a story worth telling at the core of what you design, then you increase your chances of designing something meaningful for the world.

Just don’t expect that a) frothy press coverage will necessarily follow, no matter how excellent the product or that b) frothy press coverage equals success. Remember Color? Right.

Does gender matter? Or, can (wo)men write compelling characters of the opposite sex?

A polemic from M-Cue regarding the ability of (Hollywood) writers to craft compelling characters of the opposite sex:

Men don’t know how to write likable female characters, and Women can’t write likable male characters.

…let’s start with Breaking Bad…The 2 major female characters that I’ve encountered thus far (Skyler and Marie) are annoying, bitchy, pushy, shallow characters…. Male writer. Perhaps working out some inner issues with the females in his life; who knows, but def not doing his female characters justice.

Moving onto United States of Tara. Amazing show. Awesome subject matter…Great writer, but she lets her female protagonist get away with murder…It becomes more apparent as the show moves forward, that she has no idea how to write a male character who isn’t a receptacle for her drama and emotional scraps…I think its because the writer doesn’t know how to write a strong yet sensitive man, because you have to be one to know how to write one (or at least research a few in real life)


A variation on a theme, this, and an argument I don’t think is as black and white (I know, I know) as presented above.

Responses from the meta-webs (Twitter-sphere) below:

‘Entourage, 2 1/2 Men, prime examples of [men can’t write likable female characters]’ – VeesEye

’empirically not true’ (With link to Jojo Moyes’ “Me Before You“) – Charles Arthur

disagree with the actual piece. It’s bunk. TV series aren’t written by “one person”. Nor, usually, films. – Charles Arthur

‘a click on a Read Later button is…an act of desperate, blind hope.’

As part of my never-ending quest to hack my life to fit more into 24 hours, I’ve been rethinking my Instapaper strategy.

Previously, my Insta-workflow went something like this:

– Favourite a tweet in Twitter + ifttt = add to Instapaper

– Sifting through RSS on mobile or iPad + “ooh, that’s interesting but a bit long and probably about something related to finance” = add to Instapaper

– Skimming aggregator emails à la Percolate’s Daily Brew or Jason Hirschorn’s Media Redefined  + 50 tabs open and Chrome yelling that I need to kill some of them = add to Instapaper


Result: crazy, crazy long Instapaper queue, which I tried to manage by viewing oldest-first, and by binge-reading on planes, trains and weekends.

Result: only a slightly shorter queue, and constant feeling of unease about not being caught up induced by the near-endless scrolling of said.

Could I ever read everything? No. Was I in denial about that? Maybe.

Which is why I found this piece by Megan Garber at the Nieman Journalism Lab (in my Insta-queue since December…) so interesting (emphasis mine):

…if my own use of Read It Later and Instapaper are any indication, a click on a Read Later button is, more than anything, an act of desperate, blind hope. Why, yes, Foreign Affairs, I would love to learn about the evolution of humanitarian intervention! And, certainly, Center for Public Integrity, I’d be really excited to read about the judge who’s been a thorn in the side of Wall Street’s top regulator! I am totally interested, and sincerely fascinated, and brimming with curiosity!

But I am less brimming with time. So, for me, rather than acting like a bookmark for later-on leafing — a straight-up, time-shifted reading experience — a click on a Read Later button is actually, often, a kind of anti-engagement. It provides just enough of a rush of endorphins to give me a little jolt of accomplishment, sans the need for the accomplishment itself. But, then, that click will also, very likely, be the last interaction I will have with these worthy stories of NGOs and jurisprudence.

This strikes me as a modification of the Gollwitzer premise – that there’s a gap between intention and action that is worsened by a (public) declaration of intent. In other words, saying you will substitutes for doing; in this case, bookmarking is a substitute for reading.

To quote Garber again:

The line between the aspirational and the actual is thick

I’ve since changed my bookmarking behaviour. Now, Twitter favourites go to Pinboard (via ifttt) where they are marked as unread. And then, when I have (set aside) the time I very deliberately go to Pinboard, choose some of these unread items, and send them to Instapaper for proper perusal on my iGadgets, or better, my Kindle*. 

Result: Pinboard now acts as a digital repository for all things I would-like-to-read (intention) and Instapaper acts as a platform for things-I-will-read (action).

And I find that while I might be skimming much less, I am reading much more.

The lifehacking continues.

[*Re the Kindle – reading on the Kindle is a much more immersive/much less distraction prone environment for me than reading on the iPad. The downside is the Kindle makes it damned hard to then tag/archive those articles in a way that fits into my metadata obsessed intensive workflow. Using the Instapaper app on an iGadget, for instance, I can easily email articles, share them on Twitter or add tags/comments and archive them to Pinboard. If I read an article on the Kindle that I want to share or tag, I have to fire up an iApp or my computer…breaking me out of the immersive reading experience]

‘The New York Times’ offices are a surprisingly inert environment’

So said GorkanaPR in a comment on Monday 5 Dec 2011 (emphasis mine):

The end of empires

The feature length documentary, Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times was aired as part of the consistently excellent Storyville series a fortnight ago, although for the purposes of the Beeb it has been renamed Deadline (it’s available on iPlayer until next weekend). It was filmed in the same fly-on-the-wall manner as The September Issue, a similarly conceived film about Vogue, but unfortunately it focuses less about the editorial direction of the publication, and more a look at the US equivalent of Media Guardian. This may in part be because The New York Times’ offices are a surprisingly inert environment (the editorial meetings are especially disappointing) and you have to constantly remind yourself that this is the pinnacle of the US media establishment and not some logistics office of a multinational on the outskirts of St Louis. By focusing on the media team it also allows the film to use a number of incidents throughout the year from WikiLeaks to the collapse of the Tribune group to analyse how the newspaper market has changed in the US. It also allows the gruff and laconic media columnist David Carr to take a starring role. 

Institutions, Confidence, and the News Crisis – Clay Shirky 

‘iPad magazine content shouldn’t look like scanned printed-magazine pages’

I’ve been binge-reading my way through my (scary) backlog of Instapaper’d articles and RSS feeds. Deciding to read, as it were. More on that concept in the next Galavant Times.

Meanwhile, this quote from a longer digression on advertising-in-stuff-you’ve-already-paid-for (Double-Dipping) by Marco Arment struck me:

 On the iPad, I find that the magazine-like layouts get in the way and make the reading experience more difficult. iPad magazine content shouldn’t look like scanned printed-magazine pages.  

Are incredibly complex and expensive-to-develop iPad apps necessary, or would simpler ones suffice? Are enough customers really demanding the expensive features — especially those with big per-issue costs, like all of the multimedia “extras” — to make them worth their costs, or would most of the readership still pay the same amount for just the text and a few optional photos in a nice, reusable template? That’s how most websites publish their content, and we’re all fine with it. In many ways, such a structure could result in much better apps: adjustable fonts, text selection, highlighting, and many other reader-friendly features become much simpler to implement in such an environment. Higher quality, lower cost.

I subscribe to the New Yorker. And I absolutely loathe the format of their archives – a user-hostile “e-magazine” format that is hard to read, difficult to navigate, and ugly. The New Yorker isn’t the only one to do this – print publications are enamored of the idea of “e-editions” and “e-magazines” that replicate the print format online.

(See also: ‘This approach privileges print and its design conventions, imposing them on new platforms’)

Another trend, as publishers herald the iPad as the saviour of all (old) media (companies): those whizz-bangy ooh-look-a-pigeon apps alluded to above – in which the “extras” distract from the actual reading experience.

But the piece isn’t just about simplifying the reading experience; it’s also about the economics of that complexity, and of print vs digital-only media:

Ads are supposedly necessary to subsidize the publications so they can be sold at an acceptable cost to most readers. But if ads didn’t need to be sold, the staff and operations related to ad sales could be cut, reducing the cost of delivering each issue.

If the publication went digital-only, the entire infrastructure for printing and distribution could be cut, too.

If all readership is on the website and an iPad app, how much of the layout staff is necessary?Web publications don’t need custom layouts for each post…

Emphasis mine:

With a smaller staff, and with most resources allocated to content generation, how much management and support staff could be cut? And would the huge offices in prime Manhattan locations still be necessary?

For a reasoned counter-point to Marco’s argument, see Blast Radius on the cost of reinventing The New Yorker as “a modern, digital-only version”.

Newsstand Is Promising, Yay! But Enough with Issue-Based Publishing – global moxie
The New-World Economy of a Modern Magazine, or, A Single-dip – Blast Radius