Doctorow has all the wrong opinions about some of my favourite things, like copyright, but I think he nailed this one about how much better writing things online could have been. (Like everyone with a Twitter account, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much better things could have been.
[In] the early years of internet publishing… we wrote what we wanted to read, and then waited for people who share our interests to show up and read and comment and write their own blogs and newsletters and whatnot.When the first ad networks came along, they leaned into this model: “Here is a writer whose audience has this approximate composition and interests; if that’s a group you’re trying to reach, then here’s a rate card to show those people ads.”In the golden years of internet publishing, the point was to find the weirdos who liked the same stuff as you. Freed from commercial imperatives, the focus of the blogosphere was primarily on using your work as a beacon to locate Your People, who were so diffuse and disorganised that there was no other way to find them…Readers who want to read what you want to write are a gift.
[In] the early years of internet publishing… we wrote what we wanted to read, and then waited for people who share our interests to show up and read and comment and write their own blogs and newsletters and whatnot.
When the first ad networks came along, they leaned into this model: “Here is a writer whose audience has this approximate composition and interests; if that’s a group you’re trying to reach, then here’s a rate card to show those people ads.”
In the golden years of internet publishing, the point was to find the weirdos who liked the same stuff as you. Freed from commercial imperatives, the focus of the blogosphere was primarily on using your work as a beacon to locate Your People, who were so diffuse and disorganised that there was no other way to find them…
Readers who want to read what you want to write are a gift.
Indeed, they are. The Doc goes off (as he often does) with a spiralling sidewinder argument about other things, primarily the attention economy. And that’s fine. That’s his thing.
But I want to spend a moment on that last line.
You can flip that so easily to 'writers who want to write what you want to read, are also a gift. I like writing what I like, obvs. But I like sharing it even more, which means finding the weirdos who like the same stuff as me.
Twitter was very good at that for a while early on. Not so much later, when it grew large enough for the network effects to start feeding on themselves. I often dreamed about setting up another account just to follow my people, my weirdos. Maybe a hundred of them. Perhaps a hundred and fifty.
But I didn’t, of course, and now here we are.
Weirdly, though, I’ve been feeling not entirely bad about losing 80000+ Twitter followers should the whole site collapse. In the same way, I felt weirdly stoked when Facebook shut down my advertising permissions after somebody complained about a column I wrote. Suddenly I couldn’t use the Zuck’s creepy Orwellian algorithms to sell shit, so I no longer felt the need to hang out on the Zuck’s creepy Orwellian hellsite.
I still drop in there once or twice a day to check on messages and read the posts on a couple of barbecue and strength training groups I follow. But do I need to do that? Solid nope.
I half-joked on the bird site the other day that we should all go back to blogging. But I’m thinking I really should. Like seriously. I don’t need 80K ‘followers’ (in itself a profoundly creepy concept when you think about it).
I just need my weirdos. We all do.
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I am reminded of the observation that if your particular individual kink is a one in a million occurrence, then there are seven other people just like you in New York City alone.
Spread that out over the rest of the world and there are some 6 or 8 thousand of you around the planet. Or there could be if the future (that as we know thanks to @GreatDismal is already here), was distributed evenly.
Is that the tribe you’re looking for? Is that the tribe you want to be a part of? A set of clones of yourself and your interests?
For me, I think the answer to those questions is no, not really. That would be boring and stifling both.
Yes, I want some commonality. I want to be comfortable within that community – to the point where I am happy to take some suggestions and follow my nose to discover other things that also interest me.
That’s how I used Twitter in the early days – follow some specific individuals and see where they led me.
And that worked for a while.
But then Twitter got too big and ugly generally and characters like the Trumpenfuhrer came along and derailed it. And don’t get me started on Murdoch and the MSM. And #auspol – what a sewer that is.
I learned to use lists and filters in Tweetdeck so I can try to limit the crap coming at me down my timeline – you put someone on a list and you don’t need to explicitly follow them.
I’ve even managed to eliminate most of the time wasted doomscrolling before the last federal election, but Ukraine is still a trigger for some reason.
And there are other things I wanted to get to here, but it needs more thinking time. Maybe tomorrow.
It's all about finding your tribe, for sure. The right kind of idjits who will laugh at your jokes and appreciate the same type of 'splosions and stand their round when it's their turn. Old blog communities were good for that... the blue bird site, not so much. For all that I hate the echo-chamber nature of things, life was better online when it was much smaller echo chambers driven by passion for something rather than giant echo chambers driving hate against something.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman ... RIP...line from Almost Famous. - The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.
I'm watching the birdsite shudder and thinking: well, this could be good for me.
I can't quit the drug but can the drug quit me?
Don't know where else I'll get to debate the minutiae of RBA decision statements and ABS data releases with actual economists from different research houses real-time like some kind of econo-wonk specific town-square, but really?
I do wonder if I'd have lasted 6 years work from home without it. But it's a sinkhole now.
Prompted by Lucas' comment about echo chambers and followers: there was a report of some recent research into just how "echo-ey" twitter really is, and it found that it's used quite differently by different groups of people. Apparently most people don't follow dozens of celebrities or influencers or politicians. Maybe one or two tops. Most of the people who do are themselves celebrities or influencers or politicians (or journalists). Point being that apparently most people don't experience social media as an "echo chamber" at all, and probably wonder what all the fuss from journalists is about.
Dunno: I'm not on the bird site myself: I let RSS feed me the news, from actual web pages and blogs, one of which I run myself.
Happy to be one of the weirdos who hangs around just because it's fun and I enjoy the company.
I also have some more serious thoughts on this topic. Let's see if I can articulate them properly in another response a bit later. I'll be back.
80,000+? Great Ghu, man. In Mongol horde terms, that's over 8 tumans ie twice the size of Genghis' army. When you set up #The10000 all those years ago, I thought yes - that could be my tribe: a tuman of our very own.
I am definitely one of your weirdos and I am proud to remain a member of #The10000. I just wish I could get promoted out of the war elephant clean-up unit.
I am 80% on Twitter to read what others have written in long form - 20% for the shitposting. Substack may be a good fit for me