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We are all Umberto Eco now | Overland literary journal
"He felt, I think – or at least played at feeling – that he needed to justify being given such freedom in a medium that was perceived as being finite. For him to write on the last page of L’Espresso meant that somebody else could not. To devote that space to expound on idle musings was a self-indulgence that needed to be accounted for.

Now consider how similar this author-position is to online writing, and blogs in particular. I’m sure I’ve read dozens of debut blog posts setting out the author’s intentions to write about disparate topics, and that it might not last very long, but anyway, ‘we shall see’. It’s the same reader contract, which is another way of saying we’re all Umberto Eco now: everyone can start a column of idle musings, and publish it to a potentially wider audience than his – as large as everyone who speaks one’s language and has an internet connection. And sure, there is no money involved, but I can’t imagine money would have been too big a consideration for the author of The Name of the Rose. It was the opportunity to enter into that contract that would have appealed to him.

The other thing about blogs and personal pages or small, non-paying online magazines is that very few people might actually read them, but, on the other hand, you don’t have to feel you’re taking anyone’s space away. Which I think explains why – without my having researched the problem in any systematic way – online first posts are generally less apologetic than Eco’s first matchbook. There are, besides, entire social media platforms devoted to presenting and sharing one’s niche interests.

Eco’s column, as I’ve written in a book on his work published this year, was in many respects an early incarnation of the blog form, trading as it did in lists, word games, pastiche and curiosities. Yet, ironically, it lost its uniqueness and become a much more conventional print magazine column once the World Wide Web took off and actual blogs started to proliferate. In 2012, Eco wrote:
When I get tired once and for all of coming up every two weeks with topics that are somewhat current for this column, I would like to embark on a series of late reviews, in which I talked about books that were published a long time ago as if they were new and it were useful to reread them.

This is, in fact, a most common kind of exercise on the web, and the subject of many popular blogs. We review old books and old films as if new all the time, since not only space but also time has collapsed under the digital paradigm. But maybe Eco’s late misgivings suggest we should interrogate these practices.

This belief that online is ‘free’, that it doesn’t take anyone’s paid writing job away or stifle anyone’s voice – while unspoken and in most respects probably true – needs to be measured against the crisis of magazines and of formally edited selections of content more generally.

While the online edition of Overland is a magazine in a fairly traditional sense, The Huffington Post isn’t, just like Buzzfeed isn’t a newspaper. Looking at my own patterns of reading, I find that I consume individual posts and essays from a wide variety of sources, some of which I’m not even entirely conscious of, as I just happen to end there on somebody’s recommendation. On balance this has enriched my life immeasurably, exposing me to a far greater range of voices than was ever available to me before. These broader connections, in turn, greatly facilitate political articulation and organisation.

Yet the countervailing issues are not merely economic: my reading all of these disparate writings frays the contours of my social and cultural world, fracturing any sense of the topical and the local. Even as I engage on my own musings on obscure topics, reasoning that I am not limiting anyone’s time and space but in fact adding infinitesimally to the available store of knowledge, I must ask myself if this is entirely true, or if the shifts that occur under the surface entail the loss of something else, somewhere else.

I am not suggesting that people should write less, or justify why they write to anyone, let alone to me: but rather calling attention to material realities that are sometimes hidden by the sheen of the digital screen. Not just the mechanics of publishing but also the psychology of writing has changed. We should reflect not just on the economics of the profession, as we do often, but also on the economics of attention. It is, after all, always a valuable question to ask: why do I write?"
attention  blogging  writing  giovannitiso  readwriteweb  2015  twitter  socialmedia  buzzfeed  huffingtonpost  serendipity  web  online  howweread  howwewrite  reading  publishing  umbertoeco 
february 2016 by robertogreco
The Great Re-Anchoring
"When I joined BuzzFeed just over a year ago, I spent the first few months of my time there setting the Product Design team up so it could scale well. I wrote a roles and responsibilities document, instituted Basecamp as the place for design work and discussion and overhauled our recruiting process. Since then, the design managers and I have set up quarterly peer reviews for the team, written our Design Leadership Principles and initiated weekly small group critiques in addition to our weekly one with the entire team. Each of these changes were made in response to needs we identified and wanted to make sure were met. They started out as experiments, but quickly became an official part of our team and process as each addition proved its usefulness. Progress was made. We felt good.

But recently, we decided to blow it all up.

A couple of months ago, my manager (our publisher) Dao initiated an offsite with senior tech management. The purpose of the offsite, she explained, was to do a close, critical examination of our processes and beliefs as an organization. She described our current processes and beliefs as anchors - things that we do because we’ve always done them and beliefs we have because we’ve always believed them. She told us that in order to evolve and grow our tech team, it was imperative that we reevaluate our anchors, decide whether not they’re still valid, and then re-anchor ourselves somewhere else. We got together and discussed all sorts of topics: why do we tend to lean toward building our own tools rather than buying things off the shelf? Why do we believe so strongly in small, iterative changes over large projects? In a few cases, our thinking was totally validated and we decided to leave our anchor where it was. In many cases, though, the discussion revealed that our current anchors were holding us back, or even that we disagreed on whether or not an anchor was important. It was a super productive day and has already impacted the way we work and communicate as senior management on the team."
design  leadership  management  buzzfeed  anchors  change  howwechange  unschooling  deschooling  process  tools  capwatkins  beliefs  legacy  2016 
february 2016 by robertogreco
The amplification of audio storytelling » Nieman Journalism Lab
“What are the stories that are going to break through the noise? Which topics would inspire engagement and build community?”



"In 2016, we should expect to see — or perhaps it’s hear — more podcasts as more newsrooms find success with audio content.

The popularity of Serial has proven that, in the age of video, there is indeed an appetite for nonfiction audio storytelling.

This year, be on the lookout for more viral audio that focuses on interesting sound produced for social web, like NPR’s clips of an erupting volcano or inside a hurricane; investigative pieces, like the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s seven-part podcast about a 40-year murder mystery; and cultural conversations, like BuzzFeed’s Another Round.

Whether they’re short takes or longform, podcasts’ growth will be fueled by their capacity to create personal, intimate, enlightening, captivating experiences for listeners. Powerful podcasts amplify unique narratives and diverse voices. They also attract new followers — a boon to any media outlet.

As newsrooms seek to integrate podcasting into their editorial strategy in 2016, consider the following:

• What are the stories that are going to break through the noise?
• Which topics would inspire engagement and build community?
• What tools and training will you need to produce stellar audio?
• How can you fit into your audience’s on-the-go, on-demand lifestyles?"
miralowe  2015  journalism  audio  storytelling  podcasts  buzzfeed 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The year of the splinter site » Nieman Journalism Lab
“Journalism shouldn’t live or die by the number of eyeballs or the number of shares it attracts. Focusing myopically on scale and continuing to optimize for the largest possible audience compels us to the lowest common denominator of editorial quality.”



"2016 will be the year of the splinter site.

To continue pushing forward and shape their future, media companies need to be constantly looking for new opportunities, new approaches, and new platforms. It’s partly how we’ll crack new markets.

A splinter site is an editorially independent venture, a media product built to stand on its own and designed for a specific audience. They will start modest and many will fail. Some may take on a life of their own, becoming sustainable in their own right, while others may be folded back into its parent. The splinter site is a way of increasing journalistic surface area. And despite the name, the word “site” is being used rather loosely here — a splinter site doesn’t necessarily mean it has to live on a website or be an entirely sectioned-off space. Some of these “splinter sites” will be entirely distributed, exist only in apps or social products.

News organizations will shift their focus away from trying to adapt the same content for different platforms. Instead, they’ll put their minds to creating entirely new editorial experiences — content designed for specific audiences, delivered through specific channels.

We’ve already seen a handful of media companies pursue this strategy to varying extents. The New York Times revealed a glossy new Cooking site and app. BuzzFeed expanded from entertainment and lifestyle coverage into serious journalism, longform and investigative reporting, releasing their news app this past July. We saw Vice launch Broadly, their female-centric channel, covering the multiplicity of women’s experiences through original reporting and documentary film.

We also see this splinter site approach in the portfolio of sites owned by Vox Media — Eater for food and restaurants, Racked for shopping and retail, Curbed for real estate, Vox for general news, Polygon for gaming, SB Nation for sports (which is itself a collection of individual blogs), The Verge for tech, culture and science, and Recode for tech. The Awl network, too, is a collection of sister sites — eponymous The Awl, Splitsider, The Billfold, and The Hairpin — each with their own unique tone, audience and sensibility.

As readers and distribution mechanisms continue to get more and more fragmented, the less it makes sense to contort and reshape one editorial approach for different groups. We’ve seen the seeds of specificity in the launch of new verticals and channels spun off from existing media companies, but 2016 will be the year news organizations fully embrace this construct.
Splinter sites serve an underlying trend: Publishing is converging on specificity. So much of content online today has been roped into this rat race for growth, competition for mass media metrics like clicks, pageviews, and shares. This has led us to a sterile, centralized web. By focusing on a particular, specific lens for content, journalists can create and deliver more meaningful stories. Journalism shouldn’t live or die by the number of eyeballs or the number of shares it attracts. Focusing myopically on scale and continuing to optimize for the largest possible audience compels us to the lowest common denominator of editorial quality.

But a splinter site is an opportunity to start from scratch. It frees a news organization from the weight and legacy of an existing name, and gives you the opportunity to think outside your CMS.

When you’re working within an existing brand, there’s a set of associations and preconceived notions you sometimes have to work against when trying to develop new audiences. You can be set up to fail because you’re fighting a deep-rooted notion that your publication — say, my idea of what The Washington Post is as a thing — is not for me.

But what about about sites that are built from the ground up for a specific type of reader? This invites a different type of relationship, one that’s more emotionally resonant and compelling, laying the groundwork for developing depth and habit with an audience. Consider BuzzFeed’s Cocoa Butter, a distributed project that “focuses on making fun stuff for and about brown folks.” Cocoa Butter exists in Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts, and is a station within Facebook Notify.

Splinter sites are a means of identifying new opportunities and adjacent problems with the potential to impact journalism in a big way. They can help inform future efforts and give better clarity about entering new markets.

In 2015, we saw a continuation of testing, experimentation and iteration in developing novel approaches to journalism. But next year, we’ll see more bold moves — new, edgy, experimental splinter sites from news organizations that that break the mold of our expectations and the status quo. They’ll help to chart territory that’s not just down the block from where we are as an industry today, but rather, will survey the broader landscape and see what’s up in an entirely new city."
katiezhu  scale  journalism  2015  news  media  spintersites  fragmentation  small  socialmedia  twitter  facebook  buzzfeed  instagram  experimentation  skunkworks  statusquo  sbnation  polygon  theawl  splitsider  thebillfold  thehairpin  audience  multiplicity  nytimes  pop-ups 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Why I Believe in Text — Thoughts on Media — Medium
"The next step is to have publishing and blogging platforms introduce “medium form” structures. Formats like Medium’s responses help you get your point across in faster and more lightweight manner. There has yet to be a widely adopted writing format that is medium form, under 2500 characters, can be read under 5 minutes, and designed with constraints for brevity. I see great potential for fast, medium-length, text sharing on the web. The format can be written in an abstract form where the user is constrained by a character limit under 2500 (approximately three paragraphs). Constraints in writing structure can breed innovation and concision. It also solves the blank canvas problem where people are intimidated by a never ending blank text editor.

Gone are the days of 10 minute long reads like http://longform.org/. People are producing and consuming content in shorter, quippier, digestable ways (listicles, Buzzfeed, Twitter, theSkimm etc). As a writer, I find this paradigm shift towards short form text both fascinating and scary. The scroll can be your friend when you write long prose (Source: Michael Sippey). Now people just stop scrolling when your content doesn’t catch their attention in the first 30 seconds.

The market for text is larger than ever

People are still reading and producing text more than ever. Facebook, Messenger, Whatsapp, and iMessage indicate that the demand for text in messaging and commenting is exponentially increasing. People are just writing and consuming text in different ways.

For a social network to cater to as many people’s needs as possible it needs to provide a spectrum of sharing as diagramed above. No one sharing format can perfectly capture one person’s identity or needs. There is an amalgamation of personas within social networks. Snapchat is for fast, casual sharing in real time; Instagram is for beautiful images + text to capture your best moments; Notes and Medium are for deeper and richer storytelling when you want to get your points across. For a healthy sharing ecosystem you need a wide spectrum of sharing from lightweight to heavyweight richer storytelling.

Christiana and I broke down the sharing ecosystem by content types and depth of expression. Depth of expression is how much emotional content you can convey in one post. As you progress to the right of the spectrum the content format becomes more meaningful and deeper in expression due to a combination of text and multimedia stories. When I see a singular check-in or Snapchat, I get a glimmer of a person. When I read a note or Medium post, I feel connected to that person and know how they think.

The future of writing is going to be Text+

Text’s linguistic sentence structure adds unique organization to other media. When it comes down to telling a story in visual, video, or written form it is all about flow and organization. The ability to communicate with simple words to complex sentence structures to paragraphs offer an unique advantage for text to be a flexible and modular media that organizes photos and videos into a multimedia story.
Text is the most flexible communication technology. Pictures may be worth a thousand words, when there’s a picture to match what you’re trying to say.
— Always Bet on Text [https://graydon2.dreamwidth.org/193447.html ]

The future of text is going to be text+ (text + multimedia e.g. photos, videos, gifs, podcasts etc). In a mobile first world coupled with our shrinking attention span, readers and users want text+ for a faster, more immersive, gratifying consumption experience. Multimedia stories are the future of text. For rich storytelling to have the fast consumption of videos and it photos, it also needs to be interwoven with the depth and organization of text. It’s not going to be enough for Medium to be just text + photos. The Atatvist Mag does a great job embedding rich media into longform content. Now anyone can generate Pulitzer-winning content on par with “Snowfall”, which is powerful. The Atavist is democratizing high brow publishing to the masses. You don’t need programmers or photo editors anymore to produce high quality long form content. Publishing platforms like Facebook Notes, Medium, and the Atavist empower anyone to generate publisher-par content.

Text Conveys Emotional Depth

I question a world and system that overweighs “fast food consumption” over “slow food consumption”. Text is slow food because it takes longer to produce and consume. Like fast food, fast consumption fills you up fast but doesn’t do much for you. In a world where we measure user satisfaction and trust, we neglect the very basic metric for “connectedness” between users. NPS scores mean nothing if your users don’t feel connected to each other. I want to see companies adopt a metric for “connectedness” measuring how a reader feels towards the writer after reading a story. We should measure how you feel after reading a post. Did it make you feel more connected to the writer? Was the 1 minute you spent reading quality time? How does 1 minute of cat video trade off with 1 minute of reading?

Most importantly, text conveys a certain emotional depth that is not possible in photos and videos. People write during heightened states in their life like when Sheryl Sandberg wrote about losing her husband (I broke down reading her beautiful and poignant post) or when Mark Zuckerberg wrote about the miscarriages he and his wife Priscilla experienced before Max was born (very few people talked publicly about the pain of miscarriages until Mark’s text post). Writing helps us share our pain and heal together by connecting others to us through shared humanity. Through writing we find out that we are not as alone as we thought about our hardships. Writing is a conveyor of vulnerability and brings people together.

You can get to know someone through their writing. Writing makes me feel like I know someone like katie zhu before meeting her. From reading Katie’s Medium posts, I felt like I knew her and skipped the small talk when we met in person. We talked about everything from our shared love for writing to love-hate relationship with SF to internet ethics to cognitive diversity. We started on what would have been a fourth or fifth conversation level all thanks to me reading her writing. Writing connects people because it provides a deeper understanding of someone’s psyche, their beliefs, and their values. And that is a powerful thing in a world with so many disparate beliefs and divisiveness in political and religious factions. Writing has the ability to help you understand the other side’s opinion and dismount hidden biases.

Your product is only as good as the amalgamation of the people who use it. Content changes on the web but products that build deeper, meaningful connections between people will be lasting.

Let’s not get caught up in a “fast food consumption” world and forget that the internet can also be place for permanent, deep, and meaningful expressions. And this is why I believe in text. Text is not over yet, it’s just the beginning."
boren  writing  text  web  digital  via:tealtan  2015  slow  reading  slowreading  howweread  howwewrite  communication  socialmedia  atavist  longform  mediumform  snowfall  christinachae  twitter  theskimmm  buzzfeed  michaelsippy  slate  theawl  text+  theoffing  theatlantic  alwaysbetontext  sms  texting  snapchat  connectedness  emotions  storytelling  instagram  medium  facebook  internet  online  photography  video  toddvanderwerff  messaging  chat  multiliteracies 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Notes on the Surrender at Menlo Park - The Awl
"8. These stories, for now, only exist in the Facebook iOS app. If you share them on Twitter from within the app—which is an option—you will be sharing a link to web versions of these stories. As I understand it, publishers have basically been given an API for Instant, which they can use to more-or-less automatically export their stories to Facebook. Follow this through:

– Publishers want to publish directly to Facebook because it gives them greater access to Facebook’s users
– This belief in greater access is predicated on the idea that native Facebook stories will share better than linked ones
– If this is the case, and if all stories are co-published on Facebook, the result is that the near-entirety of a publisher’s Facebook mobile is hosted and monetized through Facebook (for some partners this is clearly the intention; for others, maybe not)

Facebook owns an enormous share of mobile traffic overall, meaning that any publication’s mobile web referrals were already composed largely of people coming from Facebook. With wider adoption, Instant would effectively remove Facebook from the mobile referrer pool, and mobile web traffic would plummet—for adopters, totally; for everyone else, more than they might expect. If enough partners use Instant, and if there is enough good Instant content to read, users will begin to regard linked-out stories as weird slow garbage that should Not Be Clicked.

9. Basically: Instant allows publishers to hand over nearly all of their mobile business to Facebook.

10. The Facebook app converts any link to a story with an Instant version to an Instant embed. I posted a link to the Times launch story—the web version—on Facebook. Viewed on mobile, this link was replaced with the Instant story. Makes sense! Remove the inferior version when possible. Death to links!"



"13. Some future controversies we can look forward to: differences spotted in web versions and Facebook versions of articles; publications exceeding vaguely defined standards for, say, violent content; image rights issues (the DMCA never imagined this scenario in its wildest nightmares). Haha, sex stuff. Have you SEEN Facebook’s “community standards?” Facebook is very prudish, historically! Many, many discussions about the ideological opacity of T H E A L G O R I T H M. Idk, some other stuff. It will be crazy-making for all kinds of people. Lots of tweets. Can’t wait!

14. Now that we can see Instant in action,**** we can more clearly see what constitutes a publication on a Facebook-centric internet. A Facebook publication is… a brand? A “vertical?” It doesn’t own its distribution, it doesn’t meaningfully control its sources of revenue. It has no “design” outside of its individual articles. It is composed entirely of its content, as represented to Facebook users by Facebook. A lot of institutional advantages sort of evaporate. What is the difference, from the outside, between a large publication and a small one? One with a hundred reporters and one with ten? One with bureaus all around the world and one with a single office? One with strong institutional politics and one without? These distinctions are to be expressed through Facebook, which means through the News Feed, which means… not very coherently at all. An internet intermediated by Facebook is one in which publications are constantly struggling to stay on the right side of a thin line: are they justifying their own existence on Facebook’s new terms, or are they just weird middlemen introducing inefficiency into a system in which they are very obviously guests? This is slightly worse than a channel relationship. Partners are not guaranteed any more space, or traffic, than they can earn within Facebook’s own structure. They are essentially Facebook users with special publishing tools, legacies, momentum, and an immediate need to make money. Or are publications…. celebrities? No. I mean yes, sorry! Definitely! Congratulations!"



"234875627839452. Or maybe this is all just a short detour for Facebook. The history of software and web platforms is instructive here: Platforms grow by incorporating the labor of users and partners; they tend, over time, to regard the presence of the partners as an inefficiency. Twitter asks developers to make a bunch of apps using its data, so people make a bunch of mobile apps, then Twitter notices that these apps are actually very important to Twitter, and so Twitter buys one of the apps and takes steps to expel all the other apps, rendering the job of “Twitter app developer” more or less obsolete. In this formulation, publishers are app developers: They are working not only for their own benefit but, in addition, to find ways to increase Facebook’s share of user attention and satisfaction. If they find ways to succeed, through the practice of journalism or some other sort of content production, Facebook will take note. Perhaps Facebook will then devise a way to compensate reporters, or content creators, directly, rather than through the publications they work for. Maybe they’ll just buy a publication! Or many publications. If Instant is a success then, like everything at a functioning technology company that wants to make money, it will be iterated.

45862170348957103946872039568270. This is unspooling into a more general complaint, but whatever. There is toxic mindset that permeates discussions not just about Facebook but about most accelerating, inevitable-seeming tech companies. It conflates criticism with denial and nostalgia. Why do people complain about Uber so much? Is it loyalty to yellow cabs and their corrupt nonsense industry? Or is it a recognition that, as soon as a company reaches its level of importance and future inevitability, it should be treated as important. A word of caution about Facebook is not a wish to return to some non-existent ideal time. Print media was broken, TV was broken, commercial and public radio were broken, local media was broken, web media was very broken. Understanding this—or even just assuming it to be true!—is understanding that it is imperative to seek out the manner in which your media is broken, and the pressures that keep it that way. Worrying about the details of the coming future is merely taking that future seriously. People who insist otherwise? They have their reasons.

19. Oh, right: So what happens when Facebook goes away? Are today’s publishers, by then, just portable content generators ready to be passed to the next platform? Or have they been replaced by something else entirely? There is apparently only one way to find out!"
johnherrman  publishing  facebook  facebookinstant  journalism  2015  unspooling  twitter  walledgardens  archives  data  advertising  analytics  theatlantic  nytimes  buzzfeed  nationalgeographic  nbcnews  snapchat  snapchatdiscover  web  internet  online 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The Next Internet Is TV - The Awl
"Websites are unnecessary vestiges of a time before there were better ways to find things to look at on your computer or your phone."



"In this future, what publications will have done individually is adapt to survive; what they will have helped do together is take the grand weird promises of writing and reporting and film and art on the internet and consolidated them into a set of business interests that most closely resemble the TV industry. Which sounds extremely lucrative! TV makes a lot of money, and there’s a lot of excellent TV. But TV is also a byzantine nightmare of conflict and compromise and trash and waste and legacy. The prospect of Facebook, for example, as a primary host for news organizations, not just an outsized source of traffic, is depressing even if you like Facebook. A new generation of artists and creative people ceding the still-fresh dream of direct compensation and independence to mediated advertising arrangements with accidentally enormous middlemen apps that have no special interest in publishing beyond value extraction through advertising is the early internet utopian’s worst-case scenario."
future  internet  media  television  tv  2015  johnherrman  hosting  journalism  content  snapchat  facebook  channels  buzzfeed  vox  youtube  video  delivery  syndication  advertising  ads  fusion  espn  cnn 
march 2015 by robertogreco
A mile wide, an inch deep — Medium
"If what you care about — or are trying to report on — is impact on the world, it all gets very slippery. You’re not measuring a rectangle, you’re measuring an multi-dimensional space. You have to accept that things are very imperfectly measured and just try to learn as much as you can from multiple metrics and anecdotes.

If you’re trying to measure the value of a company, it’s in theory a lot simpler. The value of a company, from a financial perspective, is its ability to make money over time. This is not easy, and growth trajectory matters a lot for new companies. But what’s amazing — despite the contrary examples of Google and Apple — is that Wall Street has seemed to buy into the users = value equation. That, of course, trickles down to the valuations of private companies and the obsessions of VCs and the tech press.

If you’re an entrepreneur (or public company employee), don’t get caught up in this.

Numbers are important. Number of users is important. So are lots of other things. Different services create value in different ways. Trust your gut as much (or more) than the numbers. Figure out what matters and build something good."
measurement  metrics  quantification  2015  evanwilliams  twitter  instagram  upworthy  facebook  apple  nytimes  google  time  attention  buzzfeed 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Two ways to work for nothing – GEOFF SHULLENBERGER
"In an interview about The People’s Platform, Astra Taylor notes that of late “more and more of us are encouraged to think of ourselves as artists no matter what our line of work. It’s a way of framing some of the unappealing things about our current economic condition — the lack of stability or of a social safety net—as something desirable and empowering. The ethos of the artist — someone who is willing to work with no guarantee of reward, who will sacrifice and self-exploit around the clock — is demanded of people across the board.” This tendency manifests itself in many realms: Taylor gives the example of Apple Store employees being told they should be grateful just to have the experience of working for Apple, but the rhetoric used to draw freelancers into digital sweatshops matches what she describes even more perfectly. Then we have the phenomenon I have been examining lately on this blog: the replacement of skilled workers with volunteers.

Alongside the imperative to embrace your exploitation as an artist embraces her vocation, though, proliferates the contrasting logic of what David Graeber called ”bullshit jobs” in a memorable article from last year. In a recent interview on the subject, Graeber explains that he is mainly referring to “meaningless office jobs [where workers] are basically paid to act busy all day. A lot of them may really work one or two hours, and the rest of the time they’re downloading stuff from the Internet, or playing around on Facebook or something. But, their job is to sit in an office, and basically valorize the idea that everybody should look busy all the time, that work is valuable in itself.” As Graeber notes, the expansion of this area of employment seems to be an economic paradox: “According to economic theory, at least, the last thing a profit-seeking firm is going to do is shell out money to workers they don’t really need to employ. Still, somehow, it happens.” Graeber’s solution: “The answer clearly isn’t economic: it’s moral and political. The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger… And, on the other hand, the feeling that work is a moral value in itself, and that anyone not willing to submit themselves to some kind of intense work discipline for most of their waking hours deserves nothing, is extraordinarily convenient for them.”

Compare this to BuzzFeed’s and Coursera’s translation strategies: they really need the translation to be done, but they have invented elaborate schemes to avoid paying translators. The value and necessity of the work of translation to their companies could not be clearer, yet in this area a logic of ruthless efficiency applies, but not when it comes to the kind of jobs Graeber is describing: much of that work does not seem to be fundamentally needed by anyone, yet paradoxically organizations are willing to pay workers for it. As long as it is something that you would do even if it were unpaid, it is increasingly becoming something you have to do for free or for very little. On the other hand, you can be paid to do the kind of jobs that no one would do if managers did not invent them.

For Graeber, bullshit jobs carry with them a moral imperative: “If you’re not busy all the time doing something, anything — doesn’t really matter what it is — you’re a bad person.” But the flipside of that logic seems to be: if you actually like doing x activity, if it is valuable, meaningful, and carries intrinsic rewards for you, it is wrong for you to expect to be paid (well) for it; you should give it freely, even (especially) if by doing so you are allowing others to profit. In other words, we’ll make a living from you doing what you love (for free), but we’ll keep you in check by making sure you have to make a living doing what you hate."
bullshitjobs  geoffshullenberger  astrataylor  labor  work  economics  art  2014  davidgraeber  busyness  inefficiency  waste  politics  morality  productivity  happiness  translation  taskrabbit  buzzfeed  coursera  employment  coercion  discipline  society  capitalism  universalbasicincome  socialsafetynet  class  ubi 
may 2014 by robertogreco
On Smarm
"It is also no accident that David Eggers is full of shit."

"Smarm should be understood as a type of bullshit, then. It is a kind of moral and ethical misdirection."

"The old systems of prestige are rickety and insecure. Everyone has a publishing platform and no one has a career."

"What carries contemporary American political campaigns along is a thick flow of opaque smarm."

"Romney clambered up to a new higher ground, deploring the divisiveness of dwelling on his divisiveness."

"Through smarm, the "centrists" have cut themselves off from the language of actual dispute. In smarm is power."

"A civilization that speaks in smarm is a civilization that has lost its ability to talk about purposes at all."

"Joe Lieberman! If you would know smarm, look to Joe Lieberman."

"The plutocrats are haunted, as all smarmers are haunted, by a lack of respect. On Twitter, the only answer to "Do you know who I am?" is "One more person with 140 characters to use.""

"To actually say a plain and direct word like "corrupt" is more outlandish, in smarm's outlook, than even swearing."

"Anger is upsetting to smarm. But so is humor and confidence."

"Immense fortunes have bloomed in Silicon Valley on the most ephemeral and stupid windborne seeds of concepts. What's wrong with you, that you didn't get a piece of it?"
criticism  culture  smarm  snark  daveeggers  malcolmgladwell  2013  tomscocca  buzzfeed  heidijulavits  isaacfitzgerald  daviddenby  bambi  arifleischer  lannydavis  leesiegel  cynicism  negativity  tone  politics  writing  critique  mittromney  barackobama  michaelbloomberg  ianfrazier  centrists  power  redistribution  rebeccablank  civilization  dialog  conversation  purpose  jedediahpurdy  irony  joelieberman  marshallsella  billclinton  mainstream  georgewbush  maureendowd  rudeness  meanness  plutocrats  wealth  publishing  media  respect  niallferguson  alexpareene  mariabartiromo  gawker  choiresicha  anger  confidence  humor  spikelee  upworthy  adammordecai  juliachild  success  successfulness  niceness  tompeters  bullshit  morality  ethics  misdirection  insecurity  prestige  audience  dialogue  jedediahbritton-purdy 
december 2013 by robertogreco
BuzzFeed’s strategy - Chris Dixon
"Why BuzzFeed Is Succeeding Right Now?

1) Long Term Focus

When you compare web publishing today with what Hearst and Conde Nast built in the last century, it is clear that online publishing has a long long way to go. …

2) Respecting our Readers

We care about the experience of people who read BuzzFeed and we don’t try to trick them for short term gain. This approach is surprisingly rare.

How does this matter in practice? First of all, we don’t publish slideshows. Instead we publish scrollable lists so readers don’t have to click a million times and can easily scroll through a post. …

3) We Build The Whole Enchilada…

4) We Are Doing Something Hard…

5) We Got Lucky!

A big part of our recent success has also been luck.  People don’t like to admit it but skill is 63% luck.

6) We Don’t Treat Half Our Team Like Losers…

7) Our Awesome Team…

But Success Is Fragile…"
readers  entrepreneurship  luck  chrisdixon  strategy  business  media  journalism  buzzfeed  publishing  scrolling  pagination  longterm 
august 2012 by robertogreco
13 ways of looking at Medium, the new blogging/sharing/discovery platform from @ev and Obvious » Nieman Journalism Lab
"Degrading authorship is something the web already does spectacularly well. Work gets chopped and sliced and repurposed. That last animated GIF you saw — do you know who made it? Probably not. That infonugget you saw on Gawker or The Atlantic — did it start there? Probably not. Sites like Buzzfeed are built largely on reshuffling the Internet, rearranging work into streams and slideshows.

It’s been a while since auteur theory made sense as an explanation of the web. And you know what? We’re better for it. In a world of functionally infinite content, relying on authorship doesn’t scale. We need people to mash things up, to point things out, to sample, to remix."

[Via and commentary: http://snarkmarket.com/2012/7956 ]
danahboyd  ownership  contents  design  fftisa  jeffreyzeldman  svbtle  app.net  branch  digg  pyra  petermerholz  davewiner  audience  collections  scalability  gawker  buzzfeed  auteurtheory  auteurs  rearrangement  jasonkottke  johngruber  deanallen  joshmarshall  ezraklein  anildash  jackdorsey  evanwilliams  louisck  huffingtonpost  theblaze  talkingpointsmemo  tpm  politico  internet  publishing  web  online  pinterest  tumblr  twitter  odeo  blogger  joshuabenton  obviouscorp  2012  authorship  medium  scale 
august 2012 by robertogreco
David Skok: Aggregation is deep in journalism’s DNA » Nieman Journalism Lab
"Henry Luce’s Time started as a full-fledged aggregator almost 89 years ago.

A quick visit to the library confirmed his statements. Sure enough, all 29 pages of the black and white weekly — its signature red-border cover not yet developed — were packed with advertisements and aggregation. This wasn’t just rewrites of the week’s news; it was rip-and-read copy from the day’s major publications — The Atlantic Monthly, The Christian Science Monitor, and the New York World, to name a few."

"Because new-market disruptions initially attract those that aren’t traditional consumers of The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, these incumbent organizations feel little pain or threat. So they stay the course on content, competing on “quality” against these new-market disruptors."

"We’ve been here before. The question is not, how aggregation is ruining journalism, but how traditional journalism will respond to the aggregation."
via:allentan  nothingnewunderthesun  newmedia  magazines  news  huffingtonpost  buzzfeed  1923  davidskok  disruption  history  timemagazine  2012  florilegium  curation  journalism  aggregation 
january 2012 by robertogreco

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