Reactions to Matter essay

The response to this rather long essay was quite surprising to me, I have to say. And this shows many people are ready for new ideas and platforms in order to change the status quo.

But personally, I think the central thing here is the hyperlink. If there is going to be any attempt to save the open web, it has to involve the hyperlink.

Here is one idea: The hyperlink should not be seen and dealt with as a thing. Rather it must be treated as a relation, as it was the case pre-Facebook era. I don’t know exactly how to revitalize the hyperlink technically. But in my view, it is the heart of the problem.

Many have pointed out the irony of criticizing the social networks, while publishing on Medium. While I don’t think Medium is as bad as Facebook for the open web (mainly because of its treatment of hyperlinks), I originally pitched it to a few print magazines with an active website. But eventually, it was Matter that stood by the pitch and showed more interest. And I’m very thankful to Boobie Johnson and the rest of Matter team for that.

Some have also asked why I didn’t post it on my own blog: First, I haven’t restarted my English blog yet, and second, I wouldn’t be paid to write in my own blog.

One more thing to add: I had originally written a few paragraphs explaining the theory of hypertext and how this relates to the Web. I had quoted from George Landow’s brilliant book, Hypertext 3.0 (2006), quite a lot and had tried to historicize the concept of hyperlink. But the editor decided it would make the essay too pretentious and I agreed.

Lastly I have to thank all of you who took time to read this essay and share it and comment on it.

4 thoughts on “Reactions to Matter essay”

  1. It’s not about the hyperlink, it’s about walled gardens not wanting you to leave.

    I don’t have a Facebook account but I know they used to pop up a warning message “you are about to leave Facebook [be careful it can be dangerous out there]” when clicking on an external link. I don’t think they do that anymore, but the walled eco-system has many ways to keep you within its walls, and non-members out.

    You could try to think of FB as a tool to get more people to visit your blog and read your articles. You don’t need to post exclusive content to FB.

    More people are using the internet today, and this includes the great unwashed masses. They aren’t as educated. They will click on ‘click here’ links all day. FB will say “that’s dangerous so we want to protect out users”. Read between the lines for the real explanation “it’s not good for business”.

    If you have open graph tags in your blog pages (looks like you do), then FB picks this up and gets the image and description and other data. At least that’s something. Links then become a currency within FB, objects with an image and description that appear in walls and pages.

    But in the end, you can use the web however you please. Nobody is forcing you to use Facebook, or any of the hundreds of social media services you can use to spread the word about your blog. If you’re smart, then use Facebook to get more eyeballs on your blog articles.

    I don’t use FB because I don’t believe in locking down personal content without any option for users to share openly on the web. I couldn’t for example offer an RSS feed of a FB page that I create. FB doesn’t allow that, and controls the sharing, which is not cool in my opinion.

    We’re still going through an “eco-system lock-in” frenzy as everyone from social media giants to smart TV manufactures think of ways to keep users from straying. That conflicts with any technology that promotes open sharing. Hyperlinks within these eco-systems are just one piece of collatoral damage. Privacy control is another piece.

  2. The amount of reactions that you are seeing, show that you are not alone on your line of thought. I love the free web. Been here since 1999 and don’t want to see it die.

    Your article is amazing! Keep them coming! I will be here to read!

  3. Hi

    I used to have a blog with 5 to 10k monthly readers a few years ago. I understand your view about the lost web, and hits the nail on the head on many aspects.

    It is progress though. I am sure many criticized “blogs” and wondering why these gifted writers write 800-words articles instead of working on a book.

    Myself, I have taken the medium path and plan to write more long-form articles about my city (Montreal, Canada) and also what I am working on. I believe in the sea of streams and likes, well-thought texts will stand out. I then re-distribute it on twitter, Instagram and Facebook in the best format. On Instagram, a nice picture with a meaningful text. On twitter with mentions to other users. And on Facebook with a more personal and entertaining message.

    I have no idea if it will work. I have learnt technology is progressing quickly. Maybe the new Apple watches will even make the web more fickle, more real-time. But I’ll keep on doing it!

  4. Thanks for keeping this conversation going, I’m not sure I know how to describe that relational aspect of the hyperlink either, but I feel it as well.

    I’ve always thought that hyperlinks on the open web sort of force you / allow you to be a publisher in the conversation, however small your ‘voice’ is. When you add a hyperlink in a blog or article or whatever, you need two things: a reason for posting it, and a description of what it is.

    For example, I think you’d enjoy this semi-comical thought experiment on ‘Is Facebook the New AOL’ give our discussion of the open vs. social web.

    Boom. Context, summary.

    But the social web just does that for you. Paste a link on Facebook, and it auto-populates a summary. And the context is sort of just existential: yeah, you can add a few lines yourself, but the ‘context’ is basically an announcement that “I consumed this!” or “You should consume this!”

    Okay, that’s WILDLY over-simplified.

    And to be honest, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I think social works best when it’s facilitates a conversation you might have at a coffee shop (“hey, did you read that article about a href whatever?”). The conversation that precedes or bridges the sitting down and formalizing your thoughts moments. But that sort of assumes people do (or legally can do) the sitting down and formalizing.

    Just some thoughts.

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