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Death of the Net! Film at 11!

Live from 30,000 Feet Over the Ohio River: Death of the net! Film at 11...

The very sharp Todd van der Werff is the latest to express horror and dismay at the loss of the webloggy and the coming of the social net:

The old internet was... communities... the idea that if you created a place where people could gather based around shared interests, they ultimately would. It was the ideal of the original internet made real, an actual, virtual web.... Now, however, our articles increasingly seem to be individual insects trapped in someone else's web...

He is far from alone. To pick one example: the very sharp Zeynep Tufekci also mourns the loss of the thick connectedness that was part of the bloggy web that she sees as having been lost in the move to the social web.

Zeynep Tufekci: The Web of Relationships We Have to Save: "Here’s the good: Unlike a blogger, it’s very hard to isolate and ban Facebook or Twitter...

...Here’s the bad: these platforms have their own censorship mechanisms.... What happens when an anti-Dove (or insert your product) user-generated content goes viral (or tries to) in a platform in which that product is a key advertiser? Are we back to television which can never cover climate change while so dependent on car ads?

Here’s the ugly.... I have no way to tell my friends on Facebook that I ‘like’ their efforts for charity, or their babies, without Facebook also interpreting that to mean that it should show more and more of that type of content, the opposite of what I actually want.... Facebook will not prioritize a dark update from a friend whose husband is in an Egyptian jail, but will show me a cheery one she posts, simply because we all click on ‘like’ when we see a moment of happiness from her....

We were discussing the need to preserve links, and have them under our control.... A link... is a connection between people. The current attention economy and its obsession with numbers--and virality--obscures this core fact about what is beautiful about the web.... When we write, and link to each other, we are connecting to each other, not merely to content.... I don’t want to go back to a web of political blogs, read mostly by political people that is easily targeted and banned. But I do want to go forward to a web based on relationships, the flow of which is not manipulated on behalf of advertisers.... I don’t fear commercial platforms, per se, nor am I opposed to the intelligent use of appropriate and robust algorithms that can help enrich our experience. (I’m actually for it). The web we need to save is not this or that format, but our relationships, expressed in our links, our updates, our connections and more. There is much at stake.

I read Todd, Zeynep, and company, and I think: Ten years ago today I would read all six things Ezra Klein would put up on the web in a day, while today... well, he has only put up 13 things in a month, and I have read only five of them--and thus have much less of a sense of connection. The average quality of what I read today is much higher. But there is much less sense of voice.

A great deal of this is simply that back a decade ago when we were homesteading the noosphere settlement was just not that dense, and that the pioneer Little-Weblog-on-the-Prairie culture was bound to die. (How much bigger is the audience for the three things Ezra Klein has written in the past week or so then for the six things he wrote on August 3, 2005? Ezra? And both writing for a bigger audience and reading less deeply and much more broadly in individual writers will diminish connection.) But is there something more that is important?

Back a decade ago I was reading, and I was also constructing a whole bunch of little Ezra Klein emulation programs in my wetware. I then could interact with those various sub-Turing instantiations when I wasn't on the net. And that--being able to think: "this is an interesting issue: what would Ezra Klein think about that?" and then being able to answer that question. The absence of that today in some sense a big loss.

Matthew Yglesias's reaction to all this is to add, to his day job at, and to his night job as father of a newborn, by writing a weblog... excuse me, writing a newsletter:

Matthew Yglesias: I'm writing a newsletter: "I made the case for Obama's new regulations...

...did an explainer on Greece... aggregat[ed] some cool diagrams... [and] a cool chart... offered a hot take on partisanship and patriotism. I stand by all those pieces, but... they are all designed for the social web... to be viable as atomic pieces of content read and shared by people who have no idea who I am or what I've done before.... One thing it lacks that I loved about blogging was the sense of direct, continual engagement between author and audience. My solution... is... this newsletter. Communication between myself and a self-selected audience of individuals who I hope will subscribe with the intention of reading regularly and coming back for more.... Blogging, but for your inbox.... Less polished. In a good way...

I am not sure that this is the solution. Or even that there is a solution. Or what the problem is. Or even that there is a problem. But it is worth noting that there may be a problem, to which there may or may not be a solution that is anything more than newly-old guys saying: "Get off my lawn!"

Todd van der Werff**: 2015 Is the Year the Old Internet Finally Died: "A very basic fear--the idea that the internet as we knew it...

...of five or 10 or 20 years ago, is going away.... And none of us... can stop it.... Because longform takes time... for writers to produce and readers to read... as both Buzzfeed and Gawker realized early on, well-done longform could be the steak, but it couldn't be the meal.... The internet has made it clear that the kinds of things that people want to read are sort of an endless collection of what's cool. And that might be a longform story, or it might be the quick, clicky little things that repackage the best flotsam and jetsam out there.... The theory always went that BuzzFeed couldn't be all cat GIFs, because it would very quickly wear out its welcome.... [But] social media has, essentially, turned every content provider into a syndicator.... If you work in online media, that's terrifying.... The internet of 10 years ago... of blogs and sites... built almost entirely around voice.... Mobile... downplayed... words.... And... social... flipped... writer/reader balance... you share an article because... it says something about you, whether that fact is that you're angry about a political issue, or that you like cute bunnies, or that you love Back to the Future.... The old internet was... communities... the idea that if you created a place where people could gather based around shared interests, they ultimately would. It was the ideal of the original internet made real, an actual, virtual web.... Now, however, our articles increasingly seem to be individual insects trapped in someone else's web...


Ezra Klein: August 3, 2005:

Ezra Klein: The Peace Army: "Shakespeare's Sister has a good post on the McCain-Bayh bill...

...that'd allow military recruits to fulfill part of their service obligations in the Peace Corps. Apparently, the program was popped into the Defense Bill from a couple years ago and, well, funny thing, no one ever informed the Peace Corps.


I'm a little conflicted on the program, to tell you the truth. On the one hand, it seems like a good idea to give recruits exhausted from the army a chance to wipe the blood from their hands and do some humanitarian work. Nevertheless, I've got to come down against it for three reasons.

1) As Shakes said, it'll break down the traditional barrier between Peace Corps and military, potentially making Peace Corps volunteers targets overseas. That's got to be avoided at all costs.

2) I fear it'll become nothing more than a way to trick uncertain kids into signing up for the army. Even now, they're told that it'll be a breeze, they'll be out in a couple years with thousands of dollars for college, they'll just be doing a desk job. Then they're sent to Iraq. Add in this option that they could spend most of their time in Costa Rica building huts on the beach and, well, I've got a feeling desperate recruiters will leverage it both mercilessly and unethically. I was talking to a recruiter the other day, in fact, and he said meeting quotas was impossible. If it kept up like this, he thought they'd need a draft.

3) In addition to getting tricked into signing up, if you use the Peace Corps as a sweetener, folks might think they're joining for shorter tours. Not necessarily. In this age of stop-loss policies and constant rotations, you may not only never get to your Peace Corps portion, the short tour which you thought would be halved by humanitarian work can now stretch out years, and youll be called up in every future battle fought.

So I come down against. I would love more funds, energy, and cash pushed towards national service in this country, but it's got to be done separately from the military. All ways of serving the country should be honored, but that doesn't mean they should be mixed. The Peace Corps should not be a sweetener to become a soldier. It's not an incentive program, it's a powerful, free-standing portion of America's foreign relations strategy. That we've neglected it in the past few years is shameful. We shouldn't compound the sin by perverting it into an arm of the military.

Ezra Klein: Immigrants and Health Care: "Great post over at the Health Law Prof's blog...

...summarizing a recent American Journal of Public Health article on immigrant usage of our health system. We've all heard, I'm sure, that our rise in health costs and the difference between us and other societies is our enormous immigrant population, which is to say that the goddamn Mexicans keep stealing over the border solely so they can get sick and charge it to America's Express card.

So is it true? Well, no.

  • Immigrants receive an average of $1,139 worth of care per year, compared with $2,564 for non-immigrants.
  • Immigrants, both legal and illegal, consumed 8% of our nation's health care, when they make up 10% of our nation's population. That means they're underconsuming health care, not using an excess amount of it.
  • Health care costs for poor immigrant children are 84 percent less than those for native born kids. 84%!
  • Immigrants, on average, receive half the health care that native born Americans get, saving the system hundreds of dollars per user. If we all used like immigrants do, we wouldn't have a cost crisis.
  • Immigrants are also 200% more likely to be uninsured than the rest of the population. They account for 18% of the costs associated with the uninsured.
  • This isn't necessarily an economic issue, or at least not solely. Cultural factors, language barriers, lack of education, low-income neighborhoods with fewer hospitals and doctors, and no access to convenient transportation affect both how many immigrants get themselves insured and howoften they seek care.

So, many apologies to those who found it convenient, but pin the crisis on the Hispanic just doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Indeed, immigrants are most disproportionately expensive when they lack health insurance. Covering everyone would, of course, solve that.

Ezra Klein: Torture: "The Washington Post has an extraordinary five-page report on torture today...

...In this case, it's not just the crime, but the cover-up:

Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush was being stubborn with his American captors, and a series of intense beatings and creative interrogation tactics were not enough to break his will. On the morning of Nov. 26, 2003, a U.S. Army interrogator and a military guard grabbed a green sleeping bag, stuffed Mowhoush inside, wrapped him in an electrical cord, laid him on the floor and began to go to work. Again.

It was inside the sleeping bag that the 56-year-old detainee took his last breath through broken ribs, lying on the floor beneath a U.S. soldier in Interrogation Room 6 in the western Iraqi desert. Two days before, a secret CIA-sponsored group of Iraqi paramilitaries, working with Army interrogators, had beaten Mowhoush nearly senseless, using fists, a club and a rubber hose, according to classified documents.


Hours after Mowhoush's death in U.S. custody on Nov. 26, 2003, military officials issued a news release stating that the prisoner had died of natural causes after complaining of feeling sick. Army psychological-operations officers quickly distributed leaflets designed to convince locals that the general had cooperated and outed key insurgents.

The U.S. military initially told reporters that Mowhoush had been captured during a raid. In reality, he had walked into the Forward Operating Base 'Tiger' in Qaim on Nov. 10, 2003, hoping to speak with U.S. commanders to secure the release of his sons, who had been arrested in raids 11 days earlier.

Unfortunately, our President is objectively pro-torture, and after this week's showdown on Capitol Hill, there's no longer any way to pretend otherwise.

Ezra Klein: "Hard Work": "A bit too hard, it seems...

...When President Bush kept repeating how tough his job was during the primaries, maybe we should have relieved him of it. Instead, he's decided to blow it off for a bit:

President Bush is getting the kind of break most Americans can only dream of — nearly five weeks away from the office, loaded with vacation time.

The president departed Tuesday for his longest stretch yet away from the White House, arriving at his Crawford ranch in the evening for a stretch of clearing brush, visiting with family and friends, and tending to some outside-the-Beltway politics. By historical standards, it is the longest presidential retreat in at least 36 years.

The August getaway is Bush's 49th trip to his cherished ranch since taking office and the 319th day that Bush has spent, entirely or partially, in Crawford — nearly 20 percent of his presidency to date, according to Mark Knoller, a CBS Radio reporter known for keeping better records of the president's travel than the White House itself. Weekends and holidays at Camp David or at his parents' compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, bump up the proportion of Bush's time away from Washington even further.

As the Carpetbagger notes, previously, the President with the record for most vacation time was Reagan, and he was an old man turning senile in his second-term. This month, Bush will beat his record. And he still has three-and-a-half years of presidency to go.

But hey, you can't really blame the guy.

Ezra Klein: Bleed 'Em: "Good comment by Hunter, and one that Democrats should take pretty seriously:

A 70% Republican district was turned into an edge-of-your-seat race -- I'd have liked to win the thing outright too, but realistically, these results are fantastic. Make them battle for every seat, in every state. Use our grassroots to bleed the Republican money machine.

Every once in awhile, I jump back on my kick about the Republican's sustained and multifront effort to cut off most sources of Democratic cash. As summary, they've:

  1. Tried to revise McCain-Feingold to kill 527's, thereby cutting off our soft money and our issue groups.
  2. Tried to institute "paycheck protection" for unions, which'd force them to get permission from each and every union member to use any part of their dues for political organizing. Ever heard of this done against corporations?
  3. Attempted tort reform, which'd bleed the lawyers.
  4. Used the "K" Street Project to systematically exclude Democrats from lobbying firms and freeze our groups, industries, and actors who donate any significant sums of cash to Democrats;
  5. Reworked the way legislation is made so, instead of crafting bills able to get the broadest bipartisan support, they do their damndest to write legislation that no Democrat, in good conscience, can support. Then, they can go to the affected industries, explain to them how Democrats are against their interests, and cut off business donations to those Dems. CAFTA was an example of them doing this with the tech industry.

So make no mistake, they're trying to bleed our bank account. We should bleed theirs. If the netroots can continue to support and sustain candidates all over the map, if Democrats can really figure out online fundraising and build lists in every state that can be deployed at any time for any race, we're going to force the Republican party to spend so much in so many unexpected quarters that the rest of their economic sabotage won't make a damn bit of difference.

Hackett proved this. Most of his fundraising came from a few extraordinary days on the net, and it was enough to do, well, exactly what we saw. Force them to spend half a million, get Democrats an avalanche of good press, and almost win a seat. That's a hell of an investment and, in the end, it cost the DCCC very little, individuals very little, and the Republican party a whole hell of a lot.

: Adrian!: "It should be no shocker to hear Paul Hackett fell a bit short... his congressional bid last night. No, what should make you short of breath and leave the children open-mouthed in awe is that he only lost by 4%. 4%! In a district that generally goes Republican by 65%-75%, we lost by 4%! For the GOP, that's a chill wind blowing.

At this point, it's unclear whether Paul Hackett is a bellwether, an isolated superstar, or both. It may be that Coingate and the Republican Majority's arrogance have given Ohioans a nasty case of voter remorse or Paul Hackett himself was such an attractive option that they almost overcame their natural biases. In any case, he'll be a helluva force for 2006.

Remember in Rocky, where Rocky didn't beat Apollo Creed, but went 15 rounds when no one ever has? Remember what a victory that was? This was a total victory. And don't mistake it for anything less. Paul Hackett is Rocky.

Good comment by Hunter , and one that Democrats should take pretty seriously: A 70% Republican district was turned into an edge-of-your-seat race -- I'd have liked to win the thing outright too, but realistically, these results are fantastic. Make them battle for every seat, in every state. Use our grassroots to bleed the Republican money machine. Every once in awhile, I jump back on my kick about the Republican's sustained and multifront effort to cut off most sources of Democratic cash. As summary, they've: They've tried to revise McCain-Feingold to kill 527's, thereby cutting off our soft money and our issue groups; Tried to institute "paycheck protection" for unions, which'd force them to get permission from each and every union member to use any part of their dues for political organizing. Ever heard of this done against corporations? Attempted tort reform, which'd bleed the lawyers. Used the "K" Street Project to systematically exclude Democrats from lobbying firms and freeze...

Ezra Klein: Week of July 21, 2015:

Ezra Klein: The unexpected and ingenious strategy of Obama's second term: "Presidents often turn more moderate to make gains in their final years....

Think of Bill Clinton's 1997 budget deal, or George W. Bush's 2007 (failed) immigration reform effort, or Ronald Reagan's 1986 tax reforms. Second terms can feel like new presidencies.

President Obama's increasingly successful second term has been the exception to that rule. It's been a concentrated, and arguably jaded, version of his first term. The candidate who was elected to bring the country together has found he can get more done if he acts alone — and if he lets Congress do the same.

That has been the big, quiet surprise of Obama's second term. Congress has become, if anything, more productive. And that speaks to a broader lesson Obama has learned about polarization in Congress: Since he's part of the problem, ignoring Congress can be part of the solution.

Obama's diplomatic breakthroughs with Cuba and Iran call back to a controversial promise Obama made in the 2008 primary but seemed to abandon once he won the White House: to negotiate with dictators with few or no preconditions. This was among the biggest fights of the Democratic primary and the most radical promises of Obama's campaign — but it seemed almost completely forgotten in the first years of his presidency.

Obama's first-term foreign policy was largely defined by George W. Bush's wars. It's only been in Obama's second term that the foreign policy philosophy he previewed in the 2008 campaign has really been visible — and where Obama has shown himself to be to the left of many in the Democratic Party.

Even some congressional Democrats have balked at his negotiations with Cuba and Iran. But not only is Congress largely irrelevant to these deals (at least unless the opposition can overturn a presidential veto, which they almost certainly can't) but Obama doesn't have much pressing legislation before Congress, which makes it safer for him to anger them. In that way, Obama's increasing distance from Congress has been a boon to his foreign policy efforts.

The results will profoundly shape Obama's foreign policy legacy. As my colleague Dylan Matthews wrote, 'Obama has reestablished productive diplomacy as the central task of a progressive foreign policy, and as a viable alternative approach to dealing with countries the GOP foreign policy establishment would rather bomb. He established a viable alternative to the liberal hawks that dominated Democratic thinking during the Bush years, and held positions of influence on Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign. And he developed a cadre of aides who can carry on that legacy to future Democratic administrations, and keep a tradition of dovishness alive.'

But it's not just foreign policy where Obama has swung left. When he ran for president in 2008, he opposed same-sex marriage. It wasn't until 2012 that he 'evolved' on the issue. But by 2015, he was embracing marriage equality as part of his legacy. He even turned his home into a symbol of celebration:

Similarly, Obama has sought to use executive action to achieve in his second term what Congress wouldn't permit in his first: sweeping action on both immigration and climate change.

In some ways, the immigration action is the most telling of the two. Prior to his second term, Obama had repeatedly told immigration advocates that he simply didn't have the power to stop deportations on a significant scale. 'I am president,' he told Univision in 2010, 'I am not king.'

But Obama eventually decided that the president had more power than he initially thought. Similarly, he is pushing strong regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Both efforts show a basic reality of Obama's second term: Rather than working to find more compromise in Congress, which would necessitate choosing different issues and agreeing to much more modest solutions, Obama is sidestepping Congress with more aggressive, more polarizing actions. To put it another way, he's prioritizing the liberal policy outcomes he promised in the 2008 campaign above the compromise-oriented political approach he promised in the 2008 campaign.

Given Obama's actions, you might expect Congress to have devolved into yet more partisan rancor and paralysis. But over the past year, the opposite has happened. Democrats and Republicans shocked everyone by coming up with a fix to Medicare's broken payments formula. The Senate agreed on a replacement to No Child Left Behind. There have been no government shutdowns or debt ceiling disasters. And Republicans have even been willing to make some common ground with Obama on trade authority.

Evidence of Congress's relative productivity can be found elsewhere, too. The Bipartisan Policy Center keeps up a 'Healthy Congress Index' that 'tracks key metrics like substantive days in session, amendments offered, and bills reported out of committee.' Of late, Congress is looking a whole lot healthier.

Which, in a way, makes a twisted kind of sense. Obama is a polarizing figure, and his efforts to pass legislation were part of what was polarizing Congress. Obama eventually realized he couldn't solve a problem that was created by his very presence. And so he's more or less left Congress to do its own thing — particularly since Republicans won the Senate in 2014.

Now that they've stopped arguing so much over Obama, both sides in Congress have more time and more inclination to work with each other — and, surprisingly, to work with Obama on the rare occasions when there's an obvious common ground, as proved true on trade authority. The result is that even as Obama's second term has become more liberal, the agenda he's actually pursuing with Congress has become more conservative — and more successful.

Ezra Klein: Is the media becoming a wire service?: "I'm going to make some predictions about the future of the media... this piece, and they come with the disclaimer that predictions always come with: They could be entirely wrong. The media is moving fast, and what looks like an unstoppable trend today might seem like a hilarious detour a year from now. (Remember, for instance, when the iPad launched, and apps were going to save journalism? Lol.)

But my guess is that within three years, it will be normal for news organizations of even modest scale to be publishing to some combination of their own websites, a separate mobile app, Facebook Instant Articles, Apple News, Snapchat, RSS, Facebook Video, Twitter Video, YouTube, Flipboard, and at least one or two major players yet to be named. The biggest publishers will be publishing to all of these simultaneously.

This sounds stranger than it will feel: Publishing to these other platforms will be automated. Reporters will write their articles, and their content management system will smoothly hand them to Facebook, Snapchat, or Apple News. There's nothing new here, really — this is already how RSS feeds work.

But there will be more of them, and they will matter much more. The RSS audience is small. The off-platform audience will be huge. The publishers of tomorrow will become like the wire services of today, pushing their content across a large number of platforms they don't control and didn't design.

The upside of being a wire service is the potential audience: It is vast, and it is diverse. The possible downside is innovation. Wire services have to provide a product all of their subscribers can use — no matter how they publish or design their paper. So wire copy needs to be simple. Stories the Associated Press sends to its customers can't be as innovative in their form as stories the New York Times or the Washington Post lovingly design for their front pages.

There's a huge benefit to all this, and it's the obvious one: audience! And not just the old audience fractured across more sites. These platforms offer new audiences — people who might never have navigated to but, because of their social networks, or their interests, or because of the platform's curation, will now see Vox's stories.

An example is the video Vox did explaining the role the euro has played in Greece's crisis. It wasn't one of the more popular Greece posts on, where the audience responds better to long, text-heavy explainers and analysis. But it's been watched about 4 million times on Facebook — including, I would guess, by millions of people who don't read Vox and aren't typically interested in detailed explanations of European monetary policy but who, on that particular day, really did feel confused by the news, and so suddenly became our audience.

Our core mission is to explain the news to people perplexed by it, so that's a huge win. And it's one reason I'm enthusiastic about the coming off-platform world. A longtime problem for the news business is that the people who use our product most often need it least. The people who regularly come to Vox, or to the New York Times, are already into reading the news. Some of the people who see our content on Facebook are not. I love that.

My biggest frustration with the new media — including, on some days, Vox — is how much we're like the old media. Most outlets — even the digitally native ones — still publish pieces that could, with few exceptions, be printed out, stapled together, and dropped on someone's doorstep. So long as that's happening, it's a pretty safe bet we're not fully realizing the potential of this new technology.

But there is so much potential! Length no longer matters — it's as cheap to publish 100,000 words as 100. Digital text can be continually updated, so it's no longer necessary to write a new article every time there's a small change to a story. Digital stories can be interactive — readers can enter their information, and the story can change to reflect their circumstances. It's really exciting stuff, and we are just beginning to figure out how to take advantage of it.

So now we're getting products like Vox's card stacks — topic guides that can be embedded anywhere on the web, and updated continually. Or look at the Upshot's social mobility feature, which created a new article depending on where you live. Or think about pop-up annotations, which Vox is beginning to use but that also exist at Grantland and Medium and New York Magazine. Or check out the Washington Post's spread on 'The N-Word.' Or BusinessWeek's 'What Is Code?'

But even now, the rules around off-platform distribution constrain innovation in quiet ways. A daily choice we face at Vox is around updating existing news explainers versus writing a new article each time a story changes. On the one hand, updating the old story is the most efficient way to use our resources and serve our readers. On the other hand, Facebook penalizes us if we repost the same link within a few days, and so an updated explainer is basically useless on Facebook. We could get around this by creating a whole new article (and thus a new URL) to house the slightly different explainer. Facebook would treat that as fresh content, but it would confuse the hell out of Google.

There are lots of these little quirks hidden in the distribution system, and they quietly, but surely, enforce a status quo bias across the industry. That isn't because Facebook, Google, or anyone else is trying to staunch innovation — it's just because these services can't possibly be built to support every new idea.

So fast-forward three years. Imagine it's not just distribution. Now every article has to work in the publishing systems built by Facebook, Apple, Snapchat, Flipboard, mobile app developers, and so on. Even if these systems are great — and, in many cases, they will be — they're not all going to be the same. A lowest common denominator effect will set in quickly: The pieces with the highest possible audience will be the pieces that work across the most platforms. So it won't make much sense to pump endless energy into innovative, custom articles. Why spend so much of your time on a piece or a format that will only be available to a fraction of your audience?

The same goes for site design. Why roll out a powerful new annotations system on your site if the resulting work won't survive on other platforms? Why create an interactive video if you can't upload it to YouTube and Facebook? What's the point of a new method of grouping related content if no one on Snapchat will ever see it?

There are answers to these questions, of course. The on-platform audience will still matter, even if it's smaller. Gorgeous, interactive features can win you prizes. Building something beautiful for Facebook can net more likes for your page. Brand is important, and in some ways might matter more in the coming world. And hell, if all anyone in journalism wanted to do was get audience, they would have gone into TV, and if all they wanted to do was make money, they would have gone to Wall Street — in the future, as now, media organizations will do big, ambitious work because they want to do big, ambitious work, even if it doesn't offer an easy return on investment.

But innovation will slow. The case for massive editorial investment that only benefits the on-platform readership will weaken. The big publishers — at least those that sell scale to advertisers rather than subscriptions to a loyal audience — will become like wire services that operate across many platforms. And like the wire services of today, that will make them absolutely essential, but it will also keep them from being as experimental as was possible when they controlled their own platforms.

Ezra Klein: On Paul Krugman's theory of hipsters: "Paul Krugman went to a concert in Brooklyn and left wondering...

...about the aesthetics of hipsters.

I’m perfectly OK with topknots and tattoos, but obviously a lot of employers won’t be. So where do all these people work? They can’t all be baristas…. But that, surely, is part of the point. Probably not an original observation, but surely one main goal of personal styling is to make it clear that the person so styled is not, in fact, part of the workaday bourgeois world, that he or she doesn’t work at a 9-5 office job during the week and put on trendy attire for the weekend.

I think that gets the point of the hipster aesthetic slightly wrong. In this post and in a follow-up, Krugman suggests that hipsters are signaling a rejection of the workaday bourgeois world by flouting conventional dress codes. I think the truth is closer to the opposite: They're signaling a mastery of the workaday bourgeois world by flouting conventional dress codes.

You can find a gentler version of this in Silicon Valley, where hackers proved their skills so valuable that they won the right to dress however they wanted. Eventually, shorts and sandals became something weirdly close to a uniform. To wear a tie to work came to signal that you weren't good enough at coding, and thus didn't have the market power and independence to not wear a tie to work. As venture capitalist Peter Thiel writes in Zero to One, 'Never invest in a tech CEO that wears a suit.'

I suspect something similar is going on with topknots and tattoos. The trappings of the urban hipster don't signal the absence of a job but rather the presence of the right kind of job — the kind of job that values your individual, creative talents enough that you can be covered in ink and a lumberjack's beard and still pull down a comfortable wage.

That's particularly true when you spy the aesthetic in the hipper parts of Brooklyn, which have become wildly expensive places to live. In a city otherwise full of people who became rich at the cost of becoming boring, it makes sense that the residents would develop a way to aggressively signal that they had become rich without becoming boring.

Whether the signal is actually true is, of course, a whole different issue.