Monday Smackdown/Hoisted from 4 Yrs Ago/April Fools All Year/David Graeber Blogging: No, Silicon Valley Did Not and Does Not Partake of the Anarchist Utopian Nature. Why Did You Imagine It Did?

The Sun Rises--But the Sun Also Sets...

Sunset behind the golden gate Google Search

Ever since I was six years old or so, my overriding goal has been to become as smart as possible--not to become the smartest person around (as it was all was clear that that was simply not possible), but as smart as I could be. That seemed to be a very fun way to live one's life. And it is.

I now find myself, I think, passing or past the intellectual peak of my internal brain pack, understood as some combination of occupied flash storage capacity and computational processing power.

That means that from now on “becoming smarter” means:

  • building a better external brain pack,
  • building a better API to hook my internal brain pack into my external brain pack, and
  • building better APIs to hook into other sources of information and judgment.

Then are, of course, other goals besides “being smart”—and of them one important one is “being useful“.

That means making myself available to talk to people to whom I could teach stuff. And that also means some serious thought about both (i) the APIs others can use to hook into my external brain back, and (ii) how I can leverage what I can say to a larger audiences that would benefit from listening to it.

My weblog is thus, in rank order:

  1. my external brain pack, and so it needs
  2. the best-possible API to connect to my internal brain pack; but it is also
  3. a play in the public-intellectual influence game, in addition to being
  4. a resource that others can draw on—provided I find for it a good-enough API for them to do so.

And it is in this broad context in which I am watching As I wrote almost a year ago, I see Ev Williams on a crusade...

Brad DeLong (2015): Ah. So Medium Is Getting Into the Tinyletter Business...: My feeling is that what Medium is aiming at is to accomplish the vision of Vannevar Bush: hypertext done properly, in a way so that the community dynamics and the financial dynamics work, and reinforce the good parts of many-to-many hypertext rather than the bad parts, and avoiding the tearing-itself-apart in the many, many different ways we have seen over the past two decades...

And now both Medium and Ben Thompson are provoking me to circle back around to this set of issues, but I have no conclusions as of yet--either about the future of the public sphere as a whole, or about what individual people who want to contribute should do to max out the win:

Medium: Making Medium More Powerful for Publishers: "Today we are announcing a new bundle of features: Medium for Publishers...

...designed to give more tools and horsepower to publishers and bloggers across the web. We want to make it even easier for publications to do what they do best. Medium is already home to the best writing on the internet. For publishers, we want it to feel even more like home.... Right now on the web, publishers are forced to spend time and money maintaining their aging content management systems. Expensive redesigns inevitably fail to keep up with the rapid pace of technological innovation. On Medium, publishers have full control over their content and spend exactly zero time, money, or effort on tech and hosting, instead focusing their resources on producing great content and reaching new audiences....

Since Medium started, we’ve focused on supporting independent publishing on the web. Today we’re launching two new ways that publishers can opt in to earn revenue on Medium. The first of these is Promoted Stories... host[ing] stories from brand partners on posts in their publication. Our initial brand partners include Bose, SoFi, Nest, Intel, and Volpi Foods. We see this as a first step in bringing brands and publishers together on Medium to create meaningful partnerships.... The second component of our revenue beta is Membership... members-only content and other perks to readers, in exchange for a monthly membership fee.... These efforts are the first step in helping publishers make money from their content and adopt strategies that suit their publication....

We’ll soon launch compatibility support for Facebook Instant Articles and Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). We’ve also brought collections to the web...


Ben Thompson: Medium for Publishers: "Medium basically laid out their strategy to basically own all of the long tail of publishing...

And, if I may be so immodest, it looks pretty much exactly like what I laid out in a Daily Update called What is Medium Doing (sorry about that, I couldn’t resist). First, all publishers have basic needs when it comes to infrastructure: except for a few exceptions (that may not be exceptions), no text-based site is differentiated by its content management system, just like no web service is differentiated by its data center, just like no commerce site is differentiated by its payment processor, and just like no startup is differentiated by its office space. In other words, what Medium is offering to all publishers from the one-person blog to the biggest magazines is very much in the same vein as AWS, Stripe, or WeWork: by leveraging scale we can take care of the infrastructure of your business better than you can on your own, and you can spend your time focusing on what differentiates your business....

Medium also significantly fleshed out its offerings when it comes to making money, both for Medium itself and for publishers. First, though, a bit of context: in Popping the Publishing Bubble I explained that advertising would increasingly be found on aggregators, especially Facebook. To survive publications would have to align their business models with their output:

  • Niche publications should focus on being destination sites that maximize revenue-per-reader via subscriptions or native advertising

  • Scale publications should focus on pushing their content out onto every possible aggregator and make a small amount of money on a huge number of readers

Medium made announcements that touched on all three of these models:

  • First, Medium’s prime business model is to be a destination site in its own right that aggregates the long tail of user-generated essays and delivers it in a feed (which is the best vehicle for advertising, particularly on mobile). To that end Medium expanded Collections — ‘lists of topical or theme-based stories from Medium and around the web’ — to the web and signaled plans to scale their creation.

  • Secondly, for scale publications, Medium added the ability to push posts to Facebook Instant Articles and Google Accelerated Mobile Pages.

  • Third, for niche publications, Medium added native advertising and membership tools. The native advertising option is particularly compelling: selling ads is a scale business, and it is much more viable for one entity to sell and create ads for multiple niche sites.

Memberships, meanwhile, obviously have a special place in my heart: I said in my What is Medium Doing? piece:

"Hosting, design, ad sales, subscription management, all of this is much more efficiently done at scale as opposed to on a site-by-site basis. I do think this type of blogging has a bright future, but for now it’s a future that is inaccessible to anyone but the most technical and entrepreneurial of journalists. A platform that handles everything but the writing could make this path much more accessible to many more highly differentiated writers."

Medium’s initial offering is a little short on features (I can’t move Stratechery there currently) but I could not be more excited about it’s potential: it is now possible for any writer to take a shot at running their own business with the only prerequisite being that they have something to say that people value.

Will most of those writers fail? Probably, but that is the case for all small businesses; what matters is that there is no longer a technical barrier standing in their way. It is very much a full realization of the potential of the Internet: enabling individuals to focus on what they do best, own a niche that is viable thanks to the fact the addressable market is anyone anywhere in the world, and only pay the services that made it possible when and if they succeed.

So is there a way for me to make use of this platform?

Plus we have:

Ben Thompson (2013): The Social/Communications Map

The Social Communications Map Stratechery by Ben Thompson


There's an O'Reilly and Associates book in here somewhere. Somebody should write it...