slow web

Showing 2 posts tagged slow web

Where’s my daily condensed/editorialized digital news?

There’s an interesting discussion happening on Fred Wilson’s blog about the choice between physical and digital news (including comments from Seth Godin and Jeff Jarvis).

(pic by Jack Cheng)

It rekindled my thoughts around news and the race between digital and physical. I’m probably one of the few people of the ‘new, connected’ generation that actually still enjoy reading newspapers. My parents still buy “Die Burger” (daily Afrikaans newspapers) and “Die Rapport” + “Sunday Times” on Sundays (weekly newspapers).

I enjoy reading it either in the morning or night (usually when there’s no company around the table). Would I buy ‘Die Burger’? Nope. But I still enjoy it for what it is. Catering news to a specific market. However, what I like most about newspapers is that the content is ‘done’, when it is ‘done’. That’s what physical newspapers still provide. There’s no expectation or the possibility of extra content. When we are subjected to a constant fire-hose of information, where there will ALWAYS be more information, it makes people anxious.

That’s why I don’t frequent newspaper’s digital sites. It’s “always-on” news, and you don’t always want ‘always-on’ news. There are news that can wait a day, or 2, or 3. Important “emergency” news will find it’s way through Twitter, Facebook, G+, etc. But most news just aren’t ‘emergency’ news.

Here’s a correlation to this published by Fastcolabs. They coined it: “slow live blogging”.

Here’s what we learned about long form stories—and why quality, not velocity, is the future of online news.

Physical newspapers to my mind have 3 features that make it different than other forms of news consumption:

1) Finite.

Like I mentioned previously. It’s done when it is done. Jack Cheng sums it up well in his blog post about the "Slow Web Movement". Timely vs Real-time.

Real-time interactions happen as they happen. Timely ones, on the other hand, happen as you need them to happen. Some real-time interactions, like breaking news about an earthquake, can be timely. But not all timely interactions are real-time. I’d argue that most are not. And where the Fast Web is built around real-timedness, the Slow Web is built around timeliness.

A great example of a Slow Web product is Instapaper. Instapaper takes the process of discovering a long article and reading it on the spot (real-time) and breaks it apart, deferring the act of reading until later, when we have an extended moment to read (timely). I may be stretching my analogy a bit here, but it’s kind of like boxing up a meal and putting it away in the fridge for when you’re hungry, except in this case, it doesn’t lose as much of its taste.

2) Niche market.

I say this in terms of news. There’s layers of news, and it filters down and down and down, to eventual hyperlocal news. For any type of product, knowing the market means much better content, instead of going for a “shotgun” approach. It feels like newspaper companies, in fear of digital, tries to do a shotgun approach, trying to ‘connect’ news to events that are only vaguely related to their market. 

Sean Parker, in his post lambasting the media for his wedding coverage, says:

A kind of mob mentality reigns supreme in the unrestricted, uncivilized world of social media: whether it is found on Facebook, on Twitter, in blogs, or even in the remnants of traditional journalism, where the old guard is now forced to compete with the instantaneous news cycle of the “real-time web” and the blogosphere. The economics of this new media have, in so many ways, rendered obsolete the economics of the old journalism and the value system that went along with it. The ethics of journalism, a commitment to objectivity, accuracy, and civility, formed a kind of loose social contract between the creators and consumers of news.

Read the whole last section. Poignant stuff. The result is poor news. It’s like news “inflation”. Everyone’s losing, but everyone has to play this game. To compare, it’s like the classic case of competitors racing themselves to zero margins, because they think they can only compete on price. Niche news is valuable because 1) larger news players don’t provide it, 2) it doesn’t have to be “always-on” and 3) it benefits from shared culture.

3) Shared culture.

To continue with the idea of a niche market. Newspapers were cornerstones of shared culture. That’s how information propagated. If you read the local daily news, you’d know that most people would’ve read it, and thus that becomes part of the zeitgeist. With ultra-recommendations, we start to live in bubbles of information. That is going missing.

I say there’s a need for carefully curated, finite news that caters to niche markets. Be like “The Magazine”.

The Magazine publishes five medium-length articles every two weeks on a wide variety of subjects of interest to curious people.

Keen to hear your thoughts. If you have stopped buying local newspapers, why? Would you pay for finite, digitally delivered news? Keen to hear your thoughts!

Slow Web Movement: My 2 cents.

A few weeks ago I found this post by Jack Cheng. It really struck a chord with me. The idea of replacing the “fast web” to an equivalent of “slow food” is exactly what we need at this point. As Jack Cheng puts it so eloquently:

What is the Fast Web? It’s the out of control web. The oh my god there’s so much stuff and I can’t possibly keep up web. It’s the spend two dozen times a day checking web. The in one end out the other web. The web designed to appeal to the basest of our intellectual palettes, the salt, sugar and fat of online content web. It’s the scale hard and fast web. The create a destination for billions of people web. The you have two hundred twenty six new updates web. Keep up or be lost. Click me. Like me. Tweet me. Share me. The Fast Web demands that you do things and do them now. The Fast Web is a cruel wonderland of shiny shiny things.

Another great quote from the slow web manifesto page:

Habits form by virtue of feedback loops. Upon forming habits that hooks one to an intravenous drip of constant feedback from the internet, one would eventually be incapacitated by the sheer amount of information flowing through. As such we feel that the fast web is creating unhealthy feedback loops which will lower one’s efficiency and productivity in the long run.

I battle with this problem as well. That’s exactly why I am doing a masters degree in studying how users cope with information overload.

Cheng’s definitions include:

Timely not real-time. Rhythm not random. Moderation not excess. Knowledge not information. These are a few of the many characteristics of the Slow Web. It’s not so much a checklist as a feeling, one of being at greater ease with the web-enabled products and services in our lives.

Example services that I’d add to the slow web movement: Timehop, Instapaper and Summify (now part of Twitter) and Buffer (to a degree). To a certain extent, I’d like to include my own service Tweekly.fm to it. Instead of having to actively post about music to social-networks, the user has to do nothing, automatically posting an update each week.

Some pieces I’d like to add to the Slow Web Movement:

- Information comes to the user, curated, when they expect it.

Like Cheng mentioned: rhythm vs random.

- Set limits on consumption.

No infinite scrolling. No refreshing. If the content is done, it is done. (Like a newspaper for news; or timehop as opposed to memolane). No constant stream of more.

- Very little control of amount of content.

This might be contentious (if you disagree put it in the comments), but I feel there must never be a perception that there is more content available. It ties in with setting limits on consumption.

We need to stop using the web, and the let the web serve us.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree? Does anyone have more examples of sites doing it like this?