Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people that you exist. Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.
I wish more people were making tools for a specific creative purpose rather than for general consumer adoption. I wish more people were making tools that very intentionally do not scale—tools with users by the dozen. Tools you experience not through a web signup form, but through pathbreaking creative work.
In concluding, I’m going to drop a real secret on you. Used to be that if you wanted to be subversive and radical, you’d publish on the web, bypassing all those arcane publishing structures at no cost. Everyone would know about your work at lightening speed; you’d be established and garner credibility in a flash, with an adoring worldwide readership.
I like positioning the generative-web-event as being somewhere between a seminar, a TV show, and a magazine. Like a seminar, or workshop: it’s brainy, and collaborative, aimed at creating knowledge, not just reciting it; Like a TV show: it’s live! It’s happening now! Or, rather — it was happening then. We’re going to show you something that’s going to gain and capture your attention; Like a... magazine: you’re not capturing a random viewer, who is just trying to tune in to whatever catches their attention at that moment. You’re connecting with subscribers, and trying to gain and hold their attention. Too much of the web, of social media, is like flicking through the channels, with too much of the bad aspects of that and not enough of the good. This is a really cool idea. I want to see these things too! Make me a member! Let me subscribe!
Making things is a circle. You start the arc with an idea about the world: an observation or hunch. Then you sprint around the track, getting to a prototype—a breadboard, a rough draft, a run-through—as fast as you can. Your goal isn’t to finish the thing. It’s to expose it, no matter how rough or ragged, to the real world. You do that, and you learn: Which of your ideas were right? Which were wrong? What surprised you? What did other people think? Then you plow those findings back into an improved prototype. Around the circle again. Run!
It will dip and diminish, but will RSS ever go away? Nah. One of RSS’s weaknesses in its early days—its chaotic decentralized weirdness—has become, in its dotage, a surprising strength. RSS doesn’t route through a single leviathan’s servers. It lacks a kill switch. I’ve got 72 feeds now in my Reader (my… Feedly?), down from a peak of three hundred, and many seem pretty derelict. But who knows? As... long as the URL resolves, a feed can still surprise you. RSS is the true web: a loose net of dark filaments. These faint tendrils of connection are almost invisible when quiescent, but then out of nowhere—hello!—they light up again. I am happy to have them.
I think in its most basic form, your identity is the product of how you manage your attention and others’ access to that attention. Those areas where your attention is focused assemble to form a set of experiences that shape and influence where you’ll direct future attention. But that attention is interrupted all the time by people, events, things, desires, boredom, weather, etc. and that process of interruption is, largely, contained to physical space because that is a natural gate on access.