The awkwardly named, media-focused link sharing social network This. is defunct as of noon Pacific Time July 31. On that day, I exported my account as a CSV and gradually converted the spreadsheet into Markdown so I could archive the links to my blog. I also wrote down a few thoughts I had on social networks in general and This. specifically.
Along with defunct digital products like Readmill and Editorially, This. was ahead of its time, but its influence will surely be felt in the near future. Their Editorial Mission and Community Guidelines are worth studying, especially if you are builing some kind of editorial product or social network.
URLs have always been a powerful feature of the web. Twitter and Facebook eventually recognized the utility of the URL, and gave you a “card” to display an image, headline and meta description to give a link context. Facebook has encouraged native video and created Instant Articles as methods of keeping its users within the app. This. was designed to take away from the app, and to come back later for more good content. a network about sharing good content, not creating a data footprint for advertisers.
This. gave you 500 characters to explain “why this?”; A justification for someone to click on the headline and start reading, watching, listening, looking. Sometimes I wrote out a few things why I thought the article or content was important or meaningful. Sometimes the writing was so damn good I had to copy an excerpt and place it in quotations. Sometimes the content, image, or headline just spoke for itself.
Almost everyone on This. was a real person, or a real publication. At times it felt like it was journalists reading other journalists. There were no bots. There wasn’t a lot of crap content. Longform thrived on This. One day, I opened This. and everyone was reading (or at least sharing) the same thing, a piece by Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, written for both ProPublica and the Marshall Project.
It could not be ignored, and I read and shared it too. In April of this year, that piece was awarded a Pulitzer.
I did not secure an early invitation to This., but I did join on the day it was open to everyone. I did not post something everyday, but I did check the site at least a few times a week. I have a hard time with the word “community”, applied to the internet. Perhaps I should elaborate on that more in a future post. Regarding This., I will say I cared enough to submit feedback on the product, and an editor or programmer did reply promptly to each of my emails. I am not a venture capitalist, but I felt like I had a tiny stake in this startup. I did invest a small amount of my time each week into this thing. One of the myths that tech punditry perpetuates is that the digital economy is “attention-based”. I tend to think its much more complicated, but the labor of the editors and programmers of This. and the unpaid work of my fellow users is not insignificant, and should not be ignored.
(most recently shared items are at the top. The first items are at the bottom.) Some of these were also linked on my Best of 2015 list. A few may make it to my Best of 2016 list. Hopefully all these links still work :/
by Ashley Maynor
A moving web documentary about what happens to the mountains of stuff shipped from around the world to grieving families and communities in the aftermath of mass shootings and disasters.
by danah boyd
True impact will never be achieved by trying to keep within an ivory tower. Impact requires being deeply embedded within the social world that we seek to understand and recognizing that the key to success is to inform and empower through knowledge.
by Alexander Burns
Again, history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme…and echoes…
Perhaps thats why its so easy to project William Randolph Hearst, Richard Nixon, Charles Lindbergh, Pat Buchanan, Ross Perot, George Wallace, Adolf Hitler, Douglas MacArthur, Henry Ford, Andrew Jackson, and Mussolini onto the candidacy of Donald J. Trump.
We’ve seen some of this before.
by Goldie Taylor
Every new policer officer-involved shooting gets more and more intersectional. This time the victim was a professional mental health and human services worker, trying to protect a member of another vulnerable population.
As someone who has worked with developmentally disabled adults in the past, I’m deeply disturbed that the police officer was actually aiming at the 23 year old autistic man.
We all deserve to go about our day safely and return to our families and loved ones. We’re lucky both men survived.
by Ari Berman
In the parlance of Joe Biden, this is a big effin’ deal.
by Allison Arieff
Empathy, humility, compassion, conscience: These are the key ingredients missing in the pursuit of innovation… Ms. Helfand argues that innovation is now predicated less on creating and more on the undoing of the work of others.
“In this humility-poor environment, the idea of disruption appeals as a kind of subversive provocation,” she writes. “Too many designers think they are innovating when they are merely breaking and entering.”
Jessica Helfand’s new book sounds on point.
by Kate Stringer
Some places to start.
Sarah Brown’s reporting on the UT Knoxville for the Chronicle of Higher Education has continued to be the most thorough and accurate for this developing story.
You can donate to the Pride Center here.
Its all too easy to say “I don’t have all the answers for how to fix this”. But that doesn’t let us off the the hook. I don’t expect any of us will have the answers for how to fix this overnight because there are many broken parts in the whole system. I would be wary of anyone who claims otherwise.
Diamond Reynolds’ video witness, streamed to Facebook is one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen.
Her video demonstrates a truth black Americans have been trying to tell us white Americans in more shocking detail than most of us have ever seen before.
There is strength on display in this moment, but it is strength that we should not demand of anyone, adult or child. Shame on you and this country for repeatedly doing this to black Americans.
Shame on us if we continue to ignore it.
An incredible moment captured in a still image.
Charles M. Blow
We must see all unwarranted violence for what it is: A corrosion of culture…
Anger and vengeance and violence are exceedingly easy to access and almost effortlessly unleashed…
The higher calling, the harder trial, is the belief in the ultimate moral justice and the inevitable victory of righteousness over wrong.
Probably as difficult to write those words as it is to channel this belief after events like this week’s.
A friend on Facebook asked us to think about moving beyond white guilt and consider what white responsibility entails.
Mandy Brown’s essay after Charleston last year seems timely again today, in the wake of all the violence this week.
It’s about to be tested. The Louisiana law goes in effect August 1, three weeks after the murder of Alton Sterling. Legislators in other states are looking at passing similar bills next year.
Note: I originally shared this link after Philandro Castile’s death, but before the Dallas police shootings
I get sick of seeing the “web design all looks the same” fallacy all the time. Dig deeper. Every dot represents an event in history, with a Wiki entry. Very cool interaction design and re-imagining of the Wikipedia interface.
The gamification of this is pretty ingenious, and addictive. I reported several gun sales related posts while waiting on my car earlier today. About 12 posts were removed. Many of the ones removed were advertising AR-15s or similar assault-style weapons. Try it for yourself.
Everything is a metaphor for late capitalism, especially resource management themed games in the App Store.
Strong debut this week from Real Life Magazine. Looking forward to see where this publication goes next.
Like Muhammad Ali in his long fight with Parkinson’s disease Summitt faced a progressive malady for which there is no known cure: a disease that works to steal a person’s dignity and tempts those with it to retreat from the public eye.
At this moment clinical trials are being conducted at the University of Tennessee Medical Center to slow down or stop the progression of the disease in the earliest stages. Donate here: patsummitt.org
An unbelievable record in sports: 8 national titles. 1,098-208 in 38 seasons. Coaching the first gold medal winning US Olympic team in women’s basketball. And every player coached by Pat Summitt in her 38 years at the University of Tennessee graduated.
After being approached by Tennessee officials about coaching the men‰Ûªs team, she quipped “Why is that considered a step up?”
Pat was a real legendary figure in our own lifetime. Hers is a legacy that can never be erased.
Certainly worth reading. Not sure if I fully buy into Williams’ diagnosis/analysis. This open web thing sounds pretty amazing. Let’s try to keep it around.
Thoughtful words from a suicide hotline volunteer’s experience. How pain isolates us from each other. Most importantly, how to listen. Very touching.
Steve Inskeep, NPR Morning Edition
Big deal. After the Senate Democrats’ fillibuster, lifting the ban on research into gun violence would be a huge step forward for public safety.
Ken Burns squarely addresses the national anxieties to the Class of 2016 on the historical day of the tragic mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.
“As a student of history, I recognize this type. He emerges everywhere and in all eras. We see nurtured in his campaign an incipient proto-fascism, a nativist anti-immigrant Know Nothing-ism, a disrespect for the judiciary, the prospect of women losing authority over their own bodies, African Americans again asked to go to the back of the line, voter suppression gleefully promoted, jingoistic saber rattling, a total lack of historical awareness, a political paranoia that, predictably, points fingers,always making the other wrong. These are all virulent strains that have at times infected us in the past. But they now loom in front of us again – all happening at once. We know from our history books that these are the diseases of ancient and now fallen empires.”
“Edward R. Murrow would have exposed this naked emperor months ago. He is an insult to our history. Do not be deceived by his momentary ‘good behavior.’ It is only a spoiled, misbehaving child hoping somehow to still have dessert.”
“And do not think that the tragedy in Orlando underscores his points. It does not. We must ‘disenthrall ourselves,’ as Abraham Lincoln said, from the culture of violence and guns. And then ‘we shall save our country.’ ”
“Look. I am the father of four daughters. If someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, take it effing seriously. And listen to them! Maybe, some day, we will make the survivor’s eloquent statement as important as Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
“I could not have foreseen in my wildest dreams that we would have to fight for classrooms for young kids that are developmentally appropriate.”
Garfield and Gladstone do a killer job at these “theme shows”—this time using the theme of collective memory to thread together the following stories:
- Hiroshima and modern memory in both US and Japan;
- Mining nostalgia, cynicism and irony to promote austerity (Keep Calm and Carry On);
- Revisiting the notorious murder behind "the bystander effect";
- Whitewashing history in Ukraine;
- How remembering too well can be a goad to war.
A worthwhile hour of audio for history buffs and anti-propagandists.
Local interest: a new biography of the ‘Roots’ and ‘Autobiography of Malcolm X’ author reexamine his books and controversy.
Quoctrung Bui, Matt A.v. Chaban and Jeremy White
I didn’t realize that both Jane Jacobs and New York City’s building code shared a 100th birthday this year. Also been reading Robert Caro’s ‘The Power Broker’ for the first time this year, and have been fascinated by this subject lately.
Carrie Brownstein Funny because its true.
Smart argument about Trending Topics that cuts much deeper than conservative/liberal censorship or suppression.
Sole & DJ Pain feat. Decomposure
Have had this stuck in my head for days
“I wanted to be a hero” is a piss-poor excuse for chasing a UHaul van in traffic and firing a weapon out of your window at a busy intersection before fleeing the scene.
Luckily this guy was also dumb enough to brag about it on Facebook so he could lead the cops straight to him with a warrant for his arrest.
“Yeah, he got burned….twice.”
“Mark Twain is supposed to have said, ‘History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.’ If he actually did say it—we’re not sure that he did—one of our greatest writers definitely got it right. I have been trying to hear those rhymes and verses, trying to sing our song, for almost forty years.”
Ken Burns defends the humanities and describes how issues of race have informed almost every project he’s worked on. There’s a whole lot more here (Jefferson, intersectionality) but that quote above really stuck out.”
Amanda Haggard and John Partipilo
13 percent of Tennessee’s families live in deep poverty, and 1 in 10 struggle to make $9 a day or less. This is happening in my own backyard, and yours too, I’m sure.
Jack Healy, Julie Bosman, Alan Blinder and Julie Turkewitz
One week in April, four toddlers shot and killed themselves. Infuriating. The worst part of this story is that this kind of accidental death is entirely preventable, and yet it is trending upward.
I support gun control not because I want to limit anyone’s freedom. I’m sick of watching parents bury their children.
Celebrating Jane Jacobs’ 100th birthday.
An excerpt from Ric Burns’ New York: A Documentary Film.
Larry Wilmore at White House Correspondents’ Dinner 2016
The gold standard for this tradition will always be Stephen Colbert in 2006 in the throes of the Bush II Administration.
The anxieties of this election year, normally turned up to 11 on 24 hour cable news are just a backdrop against Wilmore’s casual delivery: a high volume of punchlines, a handful of which truly land, and some brutally honest shots.
This is worth watching for Obama’s reactions (he’s always seemed to enjoy himself at these) and the chilly reception in the (mostly white) audience.
Campaign regulations prohibit candidates from coordinating directly with their political action committees. That makes it difficult if a PAC wants to for example produce a television ad featuring footage of the candidate. The campaign can’t supply it.
In order to provide PACs with footage candidates will sometimes upload b-roll to public sites like YouTube allowing the PACs (and the rest of us) to obtain footage for their own use.
Certainly not the last chapter of this saga.
This earlier Chronicle story is also very accurate.
Lee Vinsel and Andrew Russell
“Cornell in 1969 was about the conflict between pursuing truth with academic freedom and the pursuit of social justice on campus.”
I missed this last year before ‘The Force Awakens’ came out, but its really good…
Part 1: Pop culture before 1977 and after.
Part 2: Empire Vs. Rebels as a metaphor in sports and politics
Part 3: A feminist reading of the ‘Slave Leia’ outfit, from several perspectives.
Part 4: An ethical debate about Han shooting first, and a debate over Lucas’ right to tamper with his own creation.
Part 5: Expanded Universe, mythologies, and Torah.
Violence, trauma, healing, illness, loss, gun politics, parenthood, anniversaries, randomness.
This is some powerful stuff, and its all here in this moving true story.”
Laura Hazard Owen, for Nieman Journalism Lab
Paying close attention to how the language of real estate is used here.
“I intentionally keep my blog precisely so that I do not have to pitch to a publication every time I want to produce something. I have been extremely fortunate with mass publication. I have had wonderful invitations, relationships and access afforded me by incredible publications. I do not take that for granted. But as my mother always told me ‘If the lease isn’t in your name you’re homeless.’ You have to have a place of your own to take the kind of risks necessary for intellectual development.”
“This primary season would seem implausible if it were fiction. But as reality TV it’s spot-on.”
John Jeremiah Sullivan
A throwback to 2004 and the brief moment Christian-ish rock music was experiencing in mainstream youth culture. Not the snarky GQ magazine story about outdoor festival subculture I was expecting.
A group of suburban men from Minnesota and Canada went on an incredible adventure in the late 1960s and may have been the first expedition to actually reach the North Pole.
Never trying the actual product, I kind of liked the idea of Casper mattresses before I learned about VanWinkles.com, their vanity publication about sleep. For a lot of online startups disrupting the retail marketplace, hard goods aren’t their only product. If you are online, Content is your product.
Jacob Silverman takes a revealing detour into the world of sponsored content and content marketing. Here he asks some questions about the future of journalism and the ability of journalists to put bread on the table.
“Consider the consequences of building a ramp instead of a staircase. Anyone can get up a ramp. But not everyone can get up a set of stairs. As a design community I think we should be building more ramps.”
Adam Morse has written a beautiful post about web accessibility.
Jacobin gets the Vox treatment. NYC Media inside baseball at its finest.
A “printed” website. Cute and clever, and turns web recent web design conventions on its head by turning to the conventions of another form of interactive media.
Not super-performant or optimized for most web designer’s taste, but I don’t think that’s the point in this kind of design.
Facebook: Are we engaging in acts of expression, or acts of labor? Or are we reduced to lab rats?
“Reconceiving life as a series of chances for strategic self-presentation in social media radically undermines the old idea of authenticity. ‘Authenticity’ used to be spontaneous” disinterested feeling, not efforts to get attention. Authenticity was opposed to ‘selling out.’ Now social media situate the self as always already ‘sold out ‘ in that self-promotion and attention-seeking have been normalized.”
I’m more interested in reading about Facebook the company, than Facebook the product. And more drawn to these stories than whats waiting for me in my own Facebook feed these days.
To me, the ‘breakup’ user flow is a much more fascinating product decision than ‘reactions’.
“If designers are in charge of surprise and delight, what does it mean to design for aspects of life that are painful?”
- Emily Albert, designer at Facebook.
Dammit, stories about humans and their relationship to their dogs get to me every time.
The kids are all right.
Alexis Hiniker a graduate student in human-centered design and engineering at the University of Washington along with researchers at the University of Michigan found that while children ages 10 to 17 ‘were really concerned’ about the ways parents shared their children’s lives online their parents were far less worried. About three times more children than parents thought there should be rules about what parents shared on social media.
There are a ton of arguments out there about web performance and progressive enhancement.
Eevee hits the nail on the head with this most recent blog post.
Jon Lovett, adapted for the radio by On the Media
Leadership as a narrative device. As a problem or affliction unique to modernity. As “Trojan horse for a version of moral philosophy”.
This could be a disturbing preview of what’s to come in the general election, when 16 states have had newer voting restrictions in place since 2012 and Republicans are more likely to target Democratic-leaning constituencies.
Alan Taylor (photos by Scott Kelly)
I simply can’t get over these incredible images of our fragile, mysterious, abstract planet.
Yes, this is an inaccessible animated gif.
OK, it may give someone a seizure.
I opened it in Photoshop, broke it up frame by frame, and its indeed incredible.
Long live mashup culture.
This. the Platform has an excellent, robust editorial policy. I hadn’t really paid attention to it in the on-boarding, or in the footer (those links are very low-contrast y’know).
I read the whole thing and it’s very instructive for other social platforms seeking to become an intentionally friendly, inclusive space. And its written for the everyday user, not the legal department. Well done, editorial team.
More than an essay on higher education. More than an essay on economics and late capitalism. Marilynne Robinson sums up the anxieties of our age in gorgeous prose.
The White House A 106 year old woman greets the President and First Lady. Joyfully. Dancing. This made my day, too.
Umberto Eco (translated by William Weaver)
Paul Ford has been killing it this year.
Naomi Wolf and Sacha Kopp
Both the mainstream and the academic realms have distortions when not in communication with each other.
That sentence sums up so much what its like to work as a communication worker in higher education. Wolf and Kopp write about pioneering a series of workshops to train seasoned scholars into “public intellectuals”.
My grandfather was a lineman for the Bell System from the 1950s - 1980s. Telecom technology evolved significantly during this time and the company paid to have him trained on the company time.
I think about him a lot as I consider the effect the digital transformation has on the consumers it seeks to connect, the information about them the telecom industry extracts, how companies invest in their existing infrastructure and workforce, and how digital workers like myself invest in their own training.
I agree completely with @pieratt’s sentiment here.
My THIS. today is an email. Postlight is a brand new digital agency with a very valuable newsletter. Take a look at today’s…
Sam Lavigne & Amelia Winger-Bearskin
So many internet-enabled companies confuse themselves for technology companies when they provide services.
The rebrand feels like a story the in-house marketing team is telling to themselves.
And that ‘bits and atoms’ video is cribbed straight from the Nucleus from Hooli commercial on HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’.
Judge Hodgman rules, that is all.
The Web Ahead
Jeremy Keith is the Web’s infectious optimist. I particularly enjoyed how he described CD-ROMs, Flash, and now mobile apps as the R&D of the world wide web. Also enjoyed his description of the writing workshop designed to silence the inner critic.
Never, ever, ever trust the person who says “we know what sells”.
‘The Open Mind’ was a public television program before there was a PBS. In 1957, Richard D. Heffner sat down with Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Judge J. Waties Waring to discuss the subject of “The New Negro.”
Dir. David Byrne
David Byrne’s movie starring John Goodman isn’t perfect, but it is delightfully offbeat
The accessible, translatable, cacheable internet is mainly words, and this has been its powerful feature for decades now. But access to powerful images and video may have more potential for the internet as a force for social justice and positive change.
Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Danielle Levitt
Ironic how much focus in marketing and PR ended up tarnishing this historic brand.
As you consider your end of year giving, it’s worth asking tough questions of your favorite charities. Hopefully you get the truth.
Never downloading the Uber app.
Wonderful process images and charming stop motion animation. I love seeing designers who still put a ton of handicraft and soul into creative projects like this.
A fun holiday web-based image processor
I’m totally buying Kevin Wong’s theory of two ‘Peanuts’. Snoopy was at his best when he was forced to going back to living as a dog. Wong supports his arguments about the true meaning of Peanuts through a series of of some of the most memorable strips and a few of the forgettable or regrettable Snoopy moments.
Herman Melville, annotated by Andrew Kahn
I hadn’t read the full text of Batleby until now. I really enjoyed the research that went into presenting this, and the simple interactive treatment the footnotes received.
What happens when elite business school classrooms try to teach the Humanities? An investigation.
Sheen S. Levine and David Stark
Levine and Stark’s research makes a great argument for upholding affimative action in colleges and universities, as well as initiatives for making our workplaces, governments and all facets of community life more diverse.
THESE CHILDREN DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE PHRASE ‘SELLING OUT’.
Douglas Rushkoff profiled my generation for Frontline 15 years ago, when I was a high schooler (the era of MTV and Limp Bizkit). This is a great follow-up to exploring how digital marketing to minors is entangled with identity and the lines blurring between online and off. With danah boyd, Alissa Quart, and others.”
Alissa J. Rubin
If you think Trump’s rhetoric is dangerous, its time to start paying attention to France as well.
A welcome new take on an industry that is always ripe for parody
A delightful interview with Tommy Womack and a couple of his best songs.
“Anyone hostile to research is probably benefitting from ignorance.” - Erika Hall
Jay Dickey’s name has been popping up a lot lately as Congressional Democrats have been trying to lift the ban on gun violence research by the Center for Disease Control. Here is the best background story I could find of what led to that ban in 1996.
I am afraid that I cannot “tidy up” the history that Americans themselves have made.
—John Hope Franklin
Black Friday as reverse potlatch. I missed this essay when originally published last year. I’m a sucker for any holiday-themed late capitalism critique that manages to invoke both Norman Rockwell’s ‘Four Freedoms’ illustrations and deadmalls.com.
Charles M. Blow
Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield
A modern day “Conversion of St. Paul” story about overcoming hatred. Also, a social media story that gave me some hope about the power of networked publics.
America’s long tradition of fearing refugees: The United States has always been conflicted about immigrants.
Jill Lepore and Adrianna Alty
I’ve long admired the writing of Jill Lepore–both her books and New Yorker essays. This is a fascinating audio story about inter-racial adoption in the 1960s, a Greenwich Village progenitor of rap music, a tie to Bob Dylan, and a lifelong friendship between an artist and a researcher.
Ben Terris and Stephanie Kirchner
Bringing in new perspectives – that oft-trumpeted goal of workplace diversity – will make disagreements inevitable; hell, a lot of people might argue that’s the whole point. Diversity can’t be productive unless there’s real thought about how to invite and productively metabolize pushback against accepted norms, because that pushback is going to come.
Lack of perspectives and sensitivity, (and maybe the lack of diversity in the industry itself) is fueling distrust in media. I think I understand those protestors trying to block journalists earlier this week in Missouri a little better after reading this.
Michael Corkery and Jessica Silver-Greenberg
The hottest digital platform today arguably isn’t Periscope, Snapchat, or Yik Yak. In fact, it was invented in 1972. Yes friends—I am talking about email.
Not really news, but very well explained. Inequality matters.
Reminds me of Barbara Ehrenreich’s ‘Bait and Switch’ about networking among the white-collared unemployed (pre social media)
Great Scott! An essay about Back to the Future Two, the Chicago Cubs, and reasons for obsessing about time travel.