The two defining talks of Webstock

Now a few days later, I’ve realized there were two talks at Webstock that made it for me.

The first was Clay Johnson’s “Industrialized Ignorance,” a look at the current state of the media. Clay argues that, much like how industrial food production gives us food that tastes good, but isn’t necessarily good for us, industrial media focuses on producing content with entertainment value, instead of informational value. To combat this, we need to launch an equivalent “whole food movement” for information.

I like the metaphor, and maybe the solution can be reapplied too. For all that the government has done to improve diet (e.g. not much), I believe the greatest successes come at the individual, family, and community level. Food is very much tied to physicality.

On the web, geography matters less. We’re equally as influenced by the people around us, but we have choice in who we follow, friend and subscribe to. In this way we can, figuratively, pick out the fruits and vegetables we’ll be choosing from for our meals later in the week. The first step to take, though, is to start cooking for yourself.

Not checking email before writing 500 words is a simple hack I’d like to take to heart. Instinctively, I reached for my phone this morning as soon as I opened my eyes. The phone went into low battery mode before I made it to the mail app. I took that as a sign today was the day to start.

“Oh, I’m too busy to spend write 500 words every day,” one might think. Or, “I have nothing to write about.” As WordPress’ distraction-free writing says, just write. The words will come to you.

The second talk that really hit home was Karen McGrane’s “Adapting Ourselves to Adaptive Content.” Yes, it does sound like it’s about responsive design. Instead, she promoted producing content independent of platform. If your content is well structured, Karen argues, you’re in a much better position to reflow it into a variety of platforms.

This sounds familiar. In fact, it sounds like what many of us have been promoting as the future of journalism. Stijn wrote about it in 2010. Adrian wrote about it in 2006. In the last year, the conversation has all but died.

Personally, I’ve found enjoyment in more mundane projects, generally falling under the “improving administrative tasks in content management systems” category. Reinventing the entire content creation process is an unknown, nebulous challenge.

It was nice to be inspired to think big again. We need to bring some of that discussion back. And, while we’re at it, open standards too. Remember those?

434 words. I’ll take it.

One Comment

John Saddington (@saddington) February 18, 2013 Reply

i have really enjoyed your reviews and collection of the talks. appreciate the value that you’ve created for people who can’t attend. !

Leave a Reply