Nir Eyal: Where is the Web Going?

Content Creation by Nir Eyal

Prescient, from 2012, by Nir Eyal.

The Curated Web is characterized by a fundamentally different value to users than the social web. Whereas Web 1.0 was characterized by content published from one-to-many and social media was about easily creating and sharing content, from many-to-many, the curated web is about capturing and collecting only the content that matters, from many-to-one. Like all successive phases, the curated web is a response to the weaknesses of the previous phase. Users inundated with too much content are looking for solutions to help them make sense of it all. Curated Web companies solve this problem by turning content curation into content creation and, following the predicted trend line, they see unprecedented percentages of user participation. Each re-pin, re-blog, re-tweet, creates a curated, easy-to-use stream for future information to flow.

By designing new interfaces, and suddenly making information accessible, innovative companies have just begun creating the Curated Web. By extrapolating the trend line, we can expect new startups to engage even higher numbers of users in creating content by making creation even easier. As our ability to create content increases, perhaps one day becoming nearly effortless, we are likely to see new interfaces to help us make sense of all the data, and hearkening the next phase of the web.

Charles Bukowski Wrote on a Mac

And he loved it.

Charles Bukowski and the Computer

Charles Bukowski on the Mac II.
Note the beer, foreground.

On Christmas Day, 1990, Charles Bukowski received a Macintosh IIsi computer and a laser printer from his wife, Linda. The computer utilized the 6.0.7 operating system and was installed with the MacWrite II word processing program. By January 18 of the next year, the computer was up and running and so, after a brief period of fumbling and stumbling, was Bukowski. His output of poems doubled in 1991. In letters he remarked that he had more poems than outlets to send them to. The fact that several books of new poems appeared in the years following Bukowski’s death in 1994 can partially be attributed to this amazing burst of creative energy late in life. The Macintosh IIsi helped to enable this creative explosion.

Flying in the face of the adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” Bukowski kept an open mind about new technologies. Although he wondered if Dostoevsky would have ever used a computer or if he would lose his soul as a writer, Bukowski quickly realized the substantial benefits of the Macintosh and wondered how he ever wrote without one, considering the typewriter archaic. In correspondence, Bukowski championed his computer to friends, stating that they would never regret getting one for themselves. Linda signed Bukowski up for a computer class, and he went willingly, demonstrating his eagerness to master the new technology. A short time later, Bukowski characteristically claimed that he had a secret, foolproof system for dealing with his computer’s many shutdowns and malfunctions, much like he had a system at the racetrack.

The Gardener’s Rules of Life

Profoundly moved by this essay. I think I’ve re-read it a dozen times now since last week. Go check it out.

Go create something. But choose carefully. Build something that increases our chances to survive, even by a tiny margin. We desperately need to think not just about a zillionth social sharing gizmo. Maybe you will start building something like that, useful, but a bit futile. That’s ok. You may even get rich. The majority of people are working hard to fulfill other needs, without getting fame or great rewards. If you are reading this, you must already be part of the most privileged people in the world. And so you have a special responsibility. Money will just give you the means to build something bigger, to make a bigger difference for those who don’t have your chance. Keep your eyes on the target.

Look at your life. When you have children, you understand the brevity of life. You can remember vividly your infancy, yet you are not anymore a child, you are a father or a mother. Don’t you want your children to live in a better world ? Not just for the sake of comfort, but because otherwise, what would be the meaning of your life ? Just to reproduce what existed ? What’s the point ?

Finally, look beyond this small planet: life is rare, intelligence is rare. You have a responsibility to preserve it and make sure it will expand through the inert and indifferent universe. Not to conquer it, but to make it flourish. We all should be the gardeners of this universe, because we don’t know if we are the only ones to be able to. And obviously we have to respect our own planet, it’s the bare minimum we can do. Would you start by burning a garden when you’re supposed to grow other ones ?

Hunter S. Thompson on Halloween


Amazing writing (voice, pace, narrative) as usual from the dear departed Gonzo.

There’s a lot more than the excerpt below from the early 2000s over at ESPN, where HST had a columnist gig for a while:

Getting weird for Devil’s Day
By Hunter S. Thompson
Page 2 columnist

Hot damn, it is Halloween again, and I am ready to get weird in public. Nevermind anthrax for today. The Yankees won, but so what? That’s what I said to that fruitbag who claimed to be Sean Penn when he called earlier. “Screw you,” I said. He was drunk, so I knew right away that it wasn’t Sean Penn. “Get out of my face!” I screamed at him. “You are the same squalid freak who called here a few days ago and said he was Muhammad Ali. What’s wrong with you?”

“I need advice,” said the voice. “Should I jump into the Honolulu Marathon this year? I desperately need a Personal Challenge to conquer. My blood is filling up with some kind of poison.”

“Nonsense,” I said. “You are just another jackass looking for attention. I’ll give your lame ass a beating if I ever catch you sneaking around My house, you sleazy little Freak!”

I didn’t care who he was, by then. He was just another geek in a Halloween parade, to my way of thinking. And for all I knew he was dangerous — maybe some kind of murderous off-duty cop with two guns and a bottle of whiskey in his pocket. I wanted no part of him, especially not on a day like Halloween.

But why not humor him? I thought. Nobody needs this kind of Foul Ball drunk coming into his yard at night. So I lowered my voice and gave him a break. “OK,” I said. “I will help you, just don’t come anywhere near me.”

“I am Sean Penn,” the voice said calmly. “Should I or should I not enter the Honolulu Marathon in December? That’s all I need to know.”

“Yes,” I said. “You should definitely enter it. I will go with you, if necessary. But don’t call them today. Do it tomorrow, not today. Nobody will believe a thing you say on a horrible day like Halloween. … And don’t use the damn telephone anymore! They’ll hunt you down and dice you up like a squid — just go to bed and stay out of sight until noon. That is when the bogeyman sleeps, and so do I. So get out of my face and never call me again!” Then I howled in a low animal voice and hung up the phone.

“These freaks should all be put to sleep,” I said to Anita. “Let’s go out on the town and get weird.”

If you liked this excerpt, get a visual and quote snapshot of HST at The Selvedge Yard. Leaving you with this koan from the master:

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

– Hunter S. Thompson

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in San Francisco


My friend Ben lives in North Beach and told me the other day that Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived on Francisco Street near the wharf for a few years, in the 1930’s.

I loved learning this slice of history.

Our conversation triggered some waking deja vu. I spent the summer of 1996 on Francisco Street with Erin Potts, Andrew Bryson and Adam Yauch of Milarepa when we and many others worked on the first Tibetan Freedom Concert at Golden Gate Park that June.

Francisco Street is part of a pocket of San Francisco that mixes together cable cars and the water, North Beach vibes, and the old days of the city as a fishing port. Salt in the air; seagulls; espressos and Marlboros on the streets and roofs. Milarepa was in the upstairs of a two story building owned by architects. I remember so many lunch runs to Taqueria San Jose for amazing, still memorable burritos all summer long.

I loved finding out this week, seventeen years on, that Frida and Diego were there first.

How Do You Harness Your Klout?

There was a torrential downpour in Austin that March evening as we hustled from our hotel to a friend’s party. In line for wristbands, we amused ourselves by sending our first tweets together, only appreciating in retrospect, thousands of miles away and weeks later, the beginnings of something vibrant and new.

Five years later, the torrent’s a flood. The proclamations of the move to a web of people, not pages, have come to pass. Everyone’s got a profile, a camera, and a filter, and I’m sharing this because I just started working for a company that has a vision for helping people ride this flow in a new way.

I joined Klout because of the mission: to empower everyone by unlocking their influence. When Joe Fernandez first shared the vision for Klout with me, what stood out for me was that what most people love about Klout — being able to up your visibility on the social web, connecting with like-minded people, and all the awesome free stuff — were just the most obvious benefits. And at the core, Klout is about the power every individual now has to impact the world just by sharing their knowledge, passion and inspiration. How great is that?

It’s an optimistic perspective that recognizes each one of us has an important voice that can bring positive changes into the world. And it’s profoundly democratic because it embodies the belief that everyone can meaningfully participate. (Our Klout for Good program puts this belief into action for projects like UNICEF and (RED).)

Don’t misunderstand. I still love the great perks Klout provides, and I’d love to tap my Klout to share some lovely backstage passes with you or, at the minimum, a free pizza. But I believe what’s even more awesome will be working with everyone here to help you realize and share your own personal influence, and to connect with others to amplify that positive impact in the world.

What you see with Klout now is just the beginning of what Klout will become, as we build more tools to help everyone experience the web of people.

Feel free to check Klout out here.

“Like a Ship”

Shazamed while driving to SF and listening to KALX (tangentially: Shazam’s consistently stayed on the first screen of my phone since first install years ago — so handy, so many times if you listen to music on the radio for any length of time). T.L. Barrett recorded this album in 1971.

Long revered by record collectors, this album remains one of the holy grails of gospel soul. Self-released in 1971, Like A Ship was the result of Barrett channeling his passion for music, a determination to keep children off the streets, and his charismatic preaching (which attracted the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire and Donny Hathaway to his sermons at Mount Zion Baptist Church) into the production of the album, a project bolstered by the saxophonist and arranger Gene Barge of the famed Chess Records, and backed by a cast of players that included Richard Evans, Phil Upchurch and the rapturous vocals of the Youth For Christ Choir.
Light in the Attic Records

T.L. Barrett, Bill Russell, Isaac Hayes, and Jesse Jackson

Kvelertak Reviewed

Definitely the best blog review of a Norwegian metal band I’ve ever read.

I have a confession to make. I work for a church. I do. Music blogging is not exactly a cash cow so in order to buy food and stuff I work for a church (I am being a touch flippant, I love my job).

[Kvelertak] came on and they sang in Norwegian. This gave me the opportunity to interpret the lyrics in what ever way I wanted. I am pretty convinced that they singing about their desire to settle down, have a family, open a pet store and become upstanding members of there local community. Yeah. Absolutely.
–Tim Simmonds, Accidental Black Metal

H/T: Ian Rogers

Valve’s No Management Culture

Loved this essay.

Valve is one of the most successful independent game developers, and they’ve consistently pushed the form out to the edges, right to the point where you can feel a new art emerging. (See 1998’s release Half-Life for the origins of this approach.)

If most of the value is now in the initial creative act, there’s little benefit to traditional hierarchical organization that’s designed to deliver the same thing over and over, making only incremental changes over time. What matters is being first and bootstrapping your product into a positive feedback spiral with a constant stream of creative innovation. Hierarchical management doesn’t help with that, because it bottlenecks innovation through the people at the top of the hierarchy, and there’s no reason to expect that those people would be particularly creative about coming up with new products that are dramatically different from existing ones – quite the opposite, in fact. So Valve was designed as a company that would attract the sort of people capable of taking the initial creative step, leave them free to do creative work, and make them want to stay. Consequently, Valve has no formal management or hierarchy at all.
— Michael Abrash, Valve: How I Got Here, What It’s Like, and What I’m Doing

In my own experience, the best work outcomes have happened in just these kinds of environments, ones where teams of creative people (across disciplines) are entrusted to do what they do best, and where management mainly works to support the playing field for the team. These situations are only possible when there’s massive trust in the capabilities and judgment of every person on the team, which Abrash also writes about.

Hardest of all to believe is the level of trust. Trust is pervasive. All of Valve’s source code is available to anyone in Perforce, and anyone at Valve can sync up and modify anything. Anyone can just up and work on whatever they think is worth doing; Steam Workshop is a recent instance of someone doing exactly that. Any employee can know almost anything about how the company works and what it’s doing; the company is transparent to its employees. Unlike many organizations, Valve doesn’t build organizational barriers to its employees by default; it just trusts them and gets out of their way so they can create value.

I think this perspective only works in practice if the leadership of a company operates from a view that every employee in their organization merits this kind of trust and respect — and this perspective itself presumes a baseline positive orientation towards human possibility that I see emerging in many new companies.

That’s huge, and exciting.