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.

How Marco Arment’s leaving Tumblr made me quit Posterous
November 2nd, 2010 by ravi

Right at the outset I must admit that the title of this post is a fair bit exaggerated. Marco leaving Tumblr isn’t the sole cause of my reduced usage of Posterous. As is always the case, these things are complicated. So I shall explain.

Most important to note is that Posterous is a splendid service. It is well designed, managed, supported and its use of email as a significant interface is downright retro brilliant. To linger a bit on support, to make the point on how good Posterous is: head honcho Sachin Agarwal once spent multiple hours over many days trying to hunt down an import problem that blocked transferring my posts from a [by now] obscure CMS/blog system called Nucleus. These guys are dedicated. And I still use Posterous heavily for my family blog, where the email based interface beats anything else, to transmit the mundane activities of grandchildren to doting grandparents.

For their part, Tumblr is quick to respond to questions and offer help (though not necessarily as dedicated to fixing them). If you are shopping for a mini-blogging platform, the two platforms do offer an embarrassment of riches. But with all that, I find myself using my personal Tumblr site a lot more than my Posterous one (despite Posterous’s autopost feature which can make the content appear in both places). And I am yet to explain why.

People like lists. So here is one with three reasons why Tumblr won out for my personal mini-blogging.

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Posterous: a critical look
November 13th, 2009 by ravi

It is difficult not to fall in love (insofar as such emotions have been called love) with Posterous, the fast-growing mini-blogging service, especially in comparison to its bigger competitor Tumblr. In contrast to the insider ethos that Tumblr (ironically, currently the larger service) actively embraces, Posterous eschews the superficially hip for the genuinely productive, when it comes to features.
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