I'll Be Brief
Data Doesn’t Tell Stories, People Do

Bespoke Ubering and Old-School Blogging

We were having a snack with our friends Penny and Dan before they went to a show in downtown Oakland. Our car was around the corner, and we offered them a ride to the concert. “It’s okay,” Penny said. “We don’t want to be a bother. We’ll just take an Uber.” Mary insisted on giving them a ride, so we walked back to our apartment to get our car. When Penny got in, she said: “Thanks so much for the bespoke Ubering.”

I feel this way about the economizing of blogs. I said a while back on The Twitters that blogging had become like the community farmer’s market, while the Mediums and Pulses of the world were the supermarkets. Most people/authors gain huge benefits from their participation in platforms versus old school blogging or (god forbid) writing an article for a print publication. The tradeoff, however, is hidden in the fine print: The content can be leveraged in relationship to syndication, advertising, and other forms of monetization that are outside the author’s means of control. Few of those things matter until you want to do something with your content other than retweet it. Perhaps we will only have our organic free-range blogs distributed at Walmart.com.

That may not matter to you. The Internet exists to copy information, yours and mine included. But we are still limited to those shapes and forms by which our copies transition from physical to digital mediums. Some are classical in form, some are just down the street.

When I look at Tumblr, I see a new incarnation of the florilegium. When I look at Nextdoor, I see the coffee shop bulletin board with its passive-aggressive notes back and forth about who left the king-sized mattress on the street corner. When I look at old-school blogs, I see the brightly colored community newspapers you pick up at the grocery store when you’re heading for the exit. (Just without the eye-piercing ads for local plumbers and medical marijuana distributors.) They sit in the bright green rack next to those large candy machines that dispense gobstoppers for 25 cents. You leaf through them, and something catches your eye that you wouldn’t have learned any other way. If it’s relevant, you pass it along to someone else. If it’s not, there’s a convenient recycling bin in the corner, which you can hit up before you catch a Lyft to your next appointment.



David, so many thoughts arise as I consider your post. Community. Place. Resilient Communication. Reach. Connection. I've never found much of use in those flyers by the door, and have never dialed a number on the grocery store bulletin board. They're not trustworthy. The platform creates a level of trust that simplifies the search, and there's still plenty to choose from, right? Maybe there's opportunity in designing better pennysaver fliers.

David Sherwin

I was thinking more of the city papers—like The Stranger in Seattle, where you are—a mix of local voices with just enough craft to elevate it above the hyperlocal hometown newspaper that just reprints press releases. There just isn't a lot of space in between, separate of people creating their own zines and magazines, but then would those qualify as "blogs" anymore? There's something else. I think Medium is driving towards this but the local community angle I haven't seen robustly addressed.

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