11.09.13

Tech Minister of the Culture of Lickspittle

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 12:47 pm by George Smith


One in the endangered species of billionaire internet iconoclasts.

Multi-billionaire and founder of Twitter, Evan Williams, thinks he can help to reverse the Culture of Lickspittle, one of the foundations of his tech business success, with a revival of “long form” writing.

At the New York Times, unintentional hilarity, as Williams passes off the obvious as gnomic:

Mr. Williams is a contemplative 41-year-old Nebraskan turned billionaire, at least on paper, as of Thursday when Twitter went public. If Twitter redefined the frontier of communications, Medium is trying to reclaim some of the lost territory.

Broadly speaking, Medium is a blogging platform, meaning it’s a place for people to write and read posts. And Mr. Williams, as its C.E.O., hopes that it will allow thoughtful, longer-form writing to flourish …


“In the early days, I bought into the idea that the Internet would lead to a better world, that the truth was out there and that we didn’t need gatekeepers,” he said. The idea that he and many others embraced was that an unfiltered Internet would create a democratic information utopia. “Now,” he continued, “I think it’s more complicated than that.”


[He realized] that the Internet wasn’t changing the world as he had once idealized, but that, far less romantically, it had come to be little more than a “convenience.”


“I want to give rationality a fighting chance.”

His solution? A new blogging platform called Medium, one that’s the same as the old new stuff, the model that believes you don’t have to pay writers anything for good writing and that software algorithms can be used to choose and amplify the best of it.

Along with Jeff Bezos, Williams and the Twitter-ization of the web and eyeball chasing, welcome to the new world’s digital giant hogweed. The drawback is that, in the real world, it’s possible to control hogweed so everything is not ruined.

The Times’ Matt Richtel describes the scintillating brilliance of Medium: It allows writers to collaborate with each by “sharing posts privately” before they appear in absolutely spellbinding categories like “Adventures in Consumer Technology,” or “Best Thing I Found Online Today.”

“[Medium’s] algorithms … are designed to cut through the noise to the music worth hearing [through measuring] things like the items people read and recommend the most,” reads the Times.

Boy howdy! That’s worked out well so many times.

Google made the winner take all society in which no one exists outside the first page of search returns. Twitter made the sub-society in which the digital news world stops for famous people with no sense of self-restraint in 140-character blurts. Also, Williams helped cement the gold standard where the judgment of worth is made simply by comparing the numbers of accumulated bootlicks and rewarding those with the most.

Medium provides digital tools so that “posts” can be added/mentioned on Reddit! Such innovation leaves one breathless.

If it weren’t for the space conferred by coverage in the NYT, Williams’ new hobby (a repackaging of everything many good people are still trying to do) wouldn’t mean anything at all.

For the ever-growing Tech Museum of Great Ideas: Don’t pay people for good writing and work hard to publicize why that is so, just give them digital widgets to “share” it to places where it will be ignored, just like everything else without celebrity, or hundreds of thousands of “likes” or “followers.”


Obligatory biographical information: Williams is from Nebraska, where it was tough to be a nerd, but he embraced it anyway, passed on football and became a vegan, also an iconoclastic thing to do because everyone ate beef.

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