kottke.org posts about marchedlund

Impressionism, Realism, and bloggingSep 13 2007

I'm intrigued by Marc Hedlund's differentiation of Impressionist bloggers from Realist bloggers. My interpretation of this difference (which might not be what Marc meant by it) is that Realist blog posts are self-contained, -explanatory, and -evident entities while a post on an Impressionist blog serves to complement the whole, much like the dots making up a Seurat painting aren't that interesting until you stand back to see the whole thing.

The downside for Impressionist blogs is that their individual posts don't work that well outside of their intended context. If you run across a single post from an Impressionist blog in your River of News, a remixed Yahoo Pipes RSS feed, in del.icio.us, or an item in a Google search results set, it might not make a whole lot of sense. Impressionist blog posts are less likely to get Dugg or bookmarked in del.icio.us or linked around much at all. Fewer incoming links, big or small, to individual pages means fewer pageviews, which makes it more difficult to run an Impressionist blog as a business that relies on advertising revenue. If you look at most of the big blog sites, they're all non-Impressionist blogs. All the sites whose posts are featured on the front page of Digg are non-Impressionist...those posts/articles are designed to float self-contained around the web. The blogosphere is dominated by non-Impressionist blogs and the sort of content they produce...which is sad for me because, like Marc, I value Impressionism in a weblog.

Public and permanentMar 21 2007

Marc Hedlund, founder of the intriguing Wesabe, recently made this interesting observation:

One of my favorite business model suggestions for entrepreneurs is, find an old UNIX command that hasn't yet been implemented on the web, and fix that. talk and finger became ICQ, LISTSERV became Yahoo! Groups, ls became (the original) Yahoo!, find and grep became Google, rn became Bloglines, pine became Gmail, mount is becoming S3, and bash is becoming Yahoo! Pipes. I didn't get until tonight that Twitter is wall for the web. I love that.

A slightly related way of thinking about how to choose web projects is to take something that everyone does with their friends and make it public and permanent. (Permanent as in permalinked.) Examples:

  • Blogger, 1999. Blog posts = public email messages. Instead of "Dear Bob, Check out this movie." it's "Dear People I May or May Not Know Who Are Interested in Film Noir, Check out this movie and if you like it, maybe we can be friends."
  • Twitter, 2006. Twitter = public IM. I don't think it's any coincidence that one of the people responsible for Blogger is also responsible for Twitter.
  • Flickr, 2004. Flickr = public photo sharing. Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake said in a recent interview: "When we started the company, there were dozens of other photosharing companies such as Shutterfly, but on those sites there was no such thing as a public photograph -- it didn't even exist as a concept -- so the idea of something 'public' changed the whole idea of Flickr."
  • YouTube, 2005. YouTube = public home videos. Bob Saget was onto something.

Not that this approach leads naturally to success. Several companies are exploring music sharing (and musical opinion sharing), but no one's gotten it just right yet, due in no small measure to the rights issues around much recorded music.


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