V is for Viral
March 25th, 2012 by ravi


This week’s Internet bruhaha finds designer Dustin Curtis at its center. Just yesterday, sensing that the field suffers from a supply deficit, Curtis announced a new blogging platform called Svbtle that addresses the “uninspiring” nature of today’s blogging platforms. Forget the plugins, the markup, all those distractions, cries Curtis. What you need is a minimal interface that helps you get on with the main task at hand: writing something interesting and edifying.


… or is it Vanity?

Curtis tells us that the idea soon progressed from a personal solution for his own blogging needs to a “network” of independent bloggers. Turns out you are not one of them. You see, this network is for “creative, intelligent, and witty people”. And before you get affronted, if you are really honest, you will admit that you and I don’t posses even one of those virtues, let alone all three.


Why the announcement? I am guessing Curtis, unlike Jonathan Franzen, is a lot less selective when it comes to the readership. Understandably so. The Svbtle network might “vet” its contributors, but unless these contributors happen to be named Deepak Chopra or Ayn Rand (masters of the art of squeezing cash money from respective ends of the social spectrum), it’s still all about the eyeballs.

All good, so far.


Then, within hours of Curtis’s post announcing Svbtle, an enterprising gent by name Nate Wienert had implemented an Open Source equivalent of Svbtle which he has wittily named Obtvse. Hacker News erupted with indignation and defence. Some took umbrage to Curtis’s choice of words (“arrogant” as he described it) while others found fault with the appropriation of his idea by Wienert.


Curtis doesn’t see the problem with Wienert’s reimplementation. Quoting Picasso, he writes: “Great artists steal”. All works borrow from previous works and what matters is putting something out there that “will defy authorship and turn into a shared experience for everyone” (Curtis quoting Frank Chimero). It’s all about “value” to put it in used cars salesman pitch.


A good time has been had by all and this time the affair closes with all parties in good humour. I do wonder though what Curtis might mean when he writes about bringing the strengths of newspapers to blogging. A blog network of self-similar and successful individuals (in the case of Svbtle this seems to be a group of male designers and developers) might reliably produce interesting technical content but does not necessarily satisfy general interest nor guarantee accuracy. This may not be what Curtis means in drawing an analogy to newspapers, but nevertheless, what would be timely is the emergence of a blog or blog network that brings technology analysis by talented writers (among them sociologists and legal scholars) to the general public.

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