RWW cordially invites you to a @branch about the new insurgent players in Web publishing.
This is my first time posting to Branch, but with this plus Medium, App.net and a raft of others (e.g. Springpad), it seems like we're entering another era of experimentation with publishing platforms. This is the next step from Tumblr / Pinterest / Twitter. Anil's post talks about publishing streams instead of pages. I'm also liking how the newest publishing services enable more organization of content - e.g. I likened Medium to "a categorized Tumblr." (although I should note I haven't yet got write access to Medium)
I don't quite know where this is headed, but that of course makes it exiting!
First branch, thanks for the invite!
Medium, Branch, Svbtle, and App.net are starting something huge. I've got the same excitement for them that I felt at the announcement of the original iPhone, and something I've not felt since then. What it really means, who knows? But something about the internet is going to change in a big way.
Old publication models have been driven to extremes online and what these services provide is content that doubles down on quality and readability. And most importantly, they provide tailored experiences. No more one-size-fits all newspaper subsidized by advertising. With too much information online, people are paring down and focusing on what interests them, and these services empower users to do just that.
Text is useful and there's a lot of room to grow there, but I want to see more and easier sharing of video and animated sequences. I think the Tumblr community's on to something there, and YouTube is getting better at processing video easily for people.
TapIn.tv does this nicely: tapin.tv I'd like to see more livestreams just randomly around...
Also, what happens when I do this:
Content wants to be shared and ubiquitous, but CMS and traditional web publishing can often get in the way of this. The future of web publishing, I think, has to be predicated on up-and-coming publisher standards (such as Schema.org or rNews). If publishers can agree on these standards and start to adopt them then it will set content free. Third parties will easily be able to pull in content from across the web into whatever interface makes sense for the user. There are only a couple of large publishers that have adopted this (NYTimes and the AP, I believe).
Medium, App.net, Svbtle are interesting in that they provide a better experience, but the underlying infrastructure has to change.
As the Director of Media, I recently switched the website of the organization I work for from a Flash template to Squarespace. I was massively impressed with the obvious benefits and usability which Squarespace provided me with, but I was surprised by how often I found myself running into unexpected roadblocks. That being said, I don't blame Squarespace. I blame the state of the web.
As soon as I heard about app.net I hopped on. I'm no developer, but I know a good thing when I see it, and the web needs to be shaken up.
Perhaps more to the point - the web needs to evolve.
For years, communicating on the web was focused on blog + comments. Then came social, with everyone squabbling about whether facebook or twitter (or now google+) would be the king. Personally, I think this "one platform to rule them all" approach is flawed and doesn't represent how people communicate in the real world. My own blog has gone untouched as I've spread over several services: Twitter, Facebook, Quora, Instagram, Tumblr, and maybe now Branch. It may be more chaotic but it feels more natural and allows my online communication to be more focused and relevant to the digital surroundings that it occupies.
Something else that needs to be considered is that publishing is becoming and will become even more so multimedia. People are going to publish by taking a picture/video with their phone (or whatever device comes along next) and annotating it somehow. True multimedia. What's the best way to curate that?
We're in the industrial revolution moment of online publishing. No one knows exactly what the next format will be, and the only constant is change. What we are sure of is that as technology changes, so will the expectations, aesthetic model and ways we consume, produce and promote content. We went from quill and ink to pen and paper to typewriter to computer. More recently blogger beget Wordpress which beget Tumblr. Myspace in many ways spawned Facebook which influenced Twitter. What's next?
Thanks for the invite! I'm SERIOUSLY STOKED by the branch-like structure! One way I see it (I'm a big-picture type), it's about the possibility of having focused collaborations with anyone in the world. We've filled the interwebs with massive amounts of info (pages) but of what value is it if it's not actively connecting the right people. So, yeah totally like @evan_wingfield said, folks are now interested in focusing on what interests them, goals, ideas, morals, causes, etc. and then actively participating with others alike. This is genius! :D
I think "streams" might be the wrong word. Thinking of the perspective of the consumer of published content, there isn't just the division of content into topics and publishers, but also varying depths and media types included which might be specified.
I might, for instance only want summaries from the long winded, and no pictures from people who use them only as ornaments to their content.
Furthermore I want to specify of frequency and volume regulation for the aggregated content I consume as a whole, and I want to shape that based on the time of day, the day of the week, how busy I am.
The publishing system could still be seen as "stream"-like, but I'm trying to think of something more elemental to help wrap up the idea.
I want to respond to Sachin in a branch, but I can't so I'll do it here instead.
I think the backend of these CMSes is a really interesting problem because while it's good to have it be as open as possible, for big publications it's really important to provide structure to how things are written and presented on the page.
Tumblr does a good job of providing explicit structures for these posts, but it can be too limited. WordPress gives you lots of options, but it can be confusing and perhaps those are more than you need. Perhaps WordPress with a much better drag and drop backend would be the nice happy medium.
none of those (google wave, buzz) are really publishing tools, but do serve a point that just because it's a cool tech demo doesn't mean it will be widely adopted.
Think bigger. The internet is slowly but forcefully breaking up old media and destroying business models that have worked for decades. First Music. Now TV/Movies and Publishing, which are proving tougher nuts to crack. I think everything is gradually embracing the decentralized nature of the internet, which, with the right tools and businesses behind them, allow people to focus on content they care about and ignore (or just never see) crap they have no reason to see (ads, link-bait articles, or things that just don't interest them).
Jon, to try and answer your question, here is one thing that is driving these changes:
The need to organize one's content experience. I *think* that's what Medium is attempting to do, by creating "collections" of content based around topics or themes. That's a welcome innovation, in my book.
What else is driving this? Let's see if we can hash that out here in Branch.
I see it differently. I think what's happening is that we're finally getting the right hardware with which to have a natural relationship with the Web. It's not just something we sit in the same position at the same desk to consume anymore. Now it comes with us everywhere, and we're just starting to realize it. We're starting to form habits around it that way.
But the business of *making* things for it is calcified by its old assembly-line methods designed for a very different world. Newcomers might be starting to see it, but we still aren't there. It still isn't natural.
@ablaze I think you are correct with your "natural relationship with the web" statement. We have many means and ways to communicate offline: the way we communicate at work is different than at dinner or at a party or at a debate forum. It's only natural that the web offer a multitude of ways to communicate as well. I think now the technology and the UI complexity has stripped away enough to facilitate rather than hinder online discussions. In many ways, Branch (and Quora) is no different than forums of old, but it also somehow feels more natural and not bogged down by traditional web cruft.
Although I'm so excited as the rest of you about the new platforms we are getting now for publishing and having nice conversations and feedback, I'm not sure how they will survive without a clear business model (not the case of app.net). Will the investors be patient? And also, how do you think the step forward to have the non-tech people interested will happen (if ever)?
Why can't user-supported systems become the norm? For a well organized and worthwhile community, I'd not only pay my own way, but I'd also pay for other good contributors to join. It seems to be working well for Reddit with Reddit Gold. It doesn't even do anything and people are giving it away as special gifts.
I'd happily pay for and promote it freely. Going back to main topic: as a user-centered designer, we approach product innovation & design in complete contrast from the old production-line methods. The user is always at the center and every effort should revolve around them in their ecosystem. This def feels more human-centered. Now I wonder do we/can we tie-in all of our published content in relation to these conversations...
Hello everyone my name is Andrew Torba, CEO of Kuhcoon.com. We were the first brand to create an account on App.net (that I know of). I thought the entire idea was really interesting because I feel like there is a very large part of the marketplace that is looking to escape the chains of commercialized Facebook and Twitter. This is especially obvious in the developer community. As a marketing company our core values drive us to be innovative and stay with the transition in social media and technology. I see App.net as a niche opportunity to market my business. For $50 a year I will certainly take the benefits of embracing a newly established community of early adopters.
Wasn't meant to be an ad at all, maybe the photo overdid it I appologize. The point is: how do you handle brands on App.net? If one of the main selling points is escaping from advertising then what happens when brands start flocking to the community? $50 to a brand is nothing, especially to enterprise companies. Think of this from the side of the consumer: what value does App.net bring? It's too early to tell obviously, but I have a great feeling about the development community starting to grow around the platform and build it up. It will be interesting to see how the community shapes the platform.
Here's what Dalton told me when I asked him about this:
"App.net is a paid, non-advertising supported *platform*. Paid members can use it for promotion at their choice. App.net is *infrastructure* not a "media company". More here: daltoncaldwell.com "
@deanputney standards allow for innovation. Think about why App.net gained so much traction -- it's because people wanted to force Twitter as a standard to build on top of. Imagine if this existed for all type of content (longform, shortform, video, pictures, gifs, authors, etc.).
Having all of this structured at the infrastructure layer sets content free (as I said earlier). You now place the power in the hands of the innovators who want to provide the best experiences for users. You're not beholden to wordpress or tumblr or any other proprietary standard.
That's why the internet was such a hotbed of innovation, because smart people, like Tim Berners-Lee, created open standards for the web. Publishing can get there.
Forgive me, @Andrew, but I really don't want to talk about brands. That seems like a derailment to me.
@art Exactly. We're all reading and writing now, so our responsibilities have changed. What just happened was a great demonstration of that, as well as the surrounding question of access controls on a service like Branch. We have a choice: either we publish closed ideas, we allow a hierarchy of ideas, or we open it up as a free-for-all.
The responsibilities are so different in those three cases. How do we negotiate that?
How do we negotiate that?
I'm sure I don't know, and if I did, I wouldn't be too confident of it. In any new medium, new cultures and cultural tools are needed. The needed tools come about either from the medium's controllers and creators or by the users. (Thinking of twitter, stuff like spam reporting, blocking, @s #s etc.)
One thing's for sure, no medium comes with a complete toolbox and like everyone else, I've been pretty bad at predicting at what's needed by the users (though I have to say I've never defaulted a rich text editor).
I think the near future of all content publishing includes context.
It doesn’t make sense to feed me the same content whether I’m waiting in line to get coffee, sitting on a train or settled in at my desk. These things could all be happening at 9 AM but I have different interests and available reading time for each. We have sensors in our pockets that can help detect your context.
@art Twitter is neat because they made the interaction as open ended as possible, then added the features on top of it. How would you write something like a book review or a blog post if you started with a blank slate?
I imagine myself doing a lot of dragging and dropping, image URLs becoming properly sized embeds automatically, using something similar to Markdown to include links and style. What's that bare minimum that gets you publishing but can show what's really needed?
(I had already written this when Dean posted, but I think they're complementary)
How good are most people at figuring out how to make the most of new media?
My instinct is to say "very good." I'm still kind of amazed by how Tumblr and Instagram have flourished, and we're apparently already on to the next thing.
Tell me if this sounds to you like what's happening on the tech side. It seems interesting to me:
As the tools get more essential, closer to the way people would naturally capture and share their experiences, they get easier to adopt, and the differences in features become more like minor tweaks.
My pet peeve right now is finding the best content, not just the most popular or timely for everyone else. The best for my individual need at the precise moment I'm looking for it...
It is insanely difficult to find information that matters to you when we're all seeing most recent first. Of course, if you are a regular reader of a blog, it's very helpful, but I think most people that we reach on a daily basis aren't. Anil's post excited me not because it was necessarily revolutionary, but because he voiced my concerns better than I could have.
Social media allows us to 'hit' folks with content, willy nilly, hoping something will stick, but I know that people are generally looking for something when they visit a web page, especially if they've found a site via search. Right now, search is the way that we're somewhat meeting this need of personalized content now, but it's obvious that people want a better way. I wonder how true customization of content will affect search. When I have a need for info, search is typically the first place I check. Will that change if publishers are able to customize content like Anil describes?
@Jon, feel free to slap my hand if I've branched off into an area you don't want to discuss.
@robyn i think it's relevant to humans needs and communication (publishing) :D search engines keep trying to figure out what we're searching for, semantic, etc. i've actually started to search more on twitter bcuz im so disappointed in search results. this branch-like communication could change it all! :)
The thing I love most about Branch is also what I find potentially the most troubling: The need/mandate to curate conversations. On the one hand, this helps the signal to overindex the noise, but there is kind of the Sunday Morning Shows vibe about the closed discussion: Only the approved few can join in.
This is good, in that the conversations will be manageable and, if that's what the participants want, civil. And this is bad, in that it discourages casual participation by knowledgeable and/or opinionated newcomers to the conversation. It's like being at a party and trying to insinuate yourself into a group of fascinating blabbers.
So, how do you actively encourage the 10% who should jump in to, well, jump in?
@Robyn I think that's definitely something we need to talk about. Maybe discovery is not up to speed as much as creation is. It seems like those things have to stay in balance, right?
I get shown lots of discovery tools over the course of a given quarter, and I've never seen one that truly interested me. They all want to use machine learning and all this fancy stuff, but it all feels sterile and cold. I'd rather furiously prune my Twitter and Instagram feeds for authentic humans and slowly grow my collection of RSS subscriptions.
But "most people" don't want to put in the work, right? That's why search/discovery tools want to personalize for us automatically. But I don't trust them! Do you?
In 1996 I helped build a proto-blog service, since then I have worked with in-house hacked up solutions, lots of custom TypePad installs back in the day and for the last 6 years or so been working with and hacking self-hosted Wordpress.
At the core, I think WP is brilliant, if only their tiny MCE-style editor didn't suck so badly. Fix that and clean up the interface and reduce the ridiculous amount of un-secure plugins and the solution is pretty much there in terms of forgetting the tools and getting to works.
Discovery is the next problem. Google Reader? Haven't touched it in years, I just hit Techmeme. A Techmeme-style service should be open-sourced so we can all build our silos of expertise and cross-promote them, a bit like tumblr.
I believe that new publishing powers that question the behemoths by underexaggerating the following adage by Einstürzende Neubauten: "Destruction is not negative. One must destroy in order to build."
While more free publishing platforms are, mainly through advertising and the contracts stipulated while agreeing to show people ads for money, throwing in ads and little features that show you and your readers what they should want, it's refreshing to see more bare-bones services like Branch and Quora that set sights on the creation of good replies instead of quick ones.
I think Nieman Lab addresses to several of these issues we are talking in this thread, and we are on the verge of a very new way of thinking and working on the web, where people centered ness is going to give way to theme or content centred-ness, and arguments will keep building around them and ideas forked out. Something like git, but only with ideas this time. What a great time to live in, having seen the transition from static web to _this_.
Wondering why no one is asking for Facebook to break out the wall/streams into categories. Why not create apps on/via FB that do this, and make content discovery even easier that way? Nothing is easier to post to than FB, its got more people, and it has many APIs (and as many cautionary tales).
Please, $50 for ad-free streams at app.net? Nice idea for us early adopters but this is the kind of thing that will get sold to HP in a few years after the novelty wears off.
@arin great article thanks. I do think we are moving into topical content pools created among people with a mutual interest in the topic. It feels to me like we are awash with publishing options but still struggling with ways to remix that content that match how we as people come together. I experimented around using 'puropse' as a way to do that a couple of years ago with a service called epic.io and just put up a simpler concept of 'clogging' as an alternative to a group/organization site. lewwwk.com
TWITTER, FACEBOOK, LINKEDIN, ETC. JUST CLUMSY WAY OF USE URL FOR CATEGORY.
NOW THERE NEW PILE OF URLS TO DIVIDE ATTENTION INTO.
ME, GRIMLOCK, SAY RIGHT ANSWER IS FIX PROBLEM, NOT PUT MORE DUCT TAPE ON IT.
NEED ONE OPEN STREAM, WITH BUILT IN CATEGORIZATION. IN BOTH DIRECTIONS, FOR CREATOR AND CONSUMER.
OTHERWISE EVERYONE JUST BUILDING TWITTER AGAIN, WITH DIFFERENT UI.
Thanks for your feedback! Team Branch