even on mediocre runs, I relearn life-lessons: When in doubt, run. The first step is hardest. Try new trails. Look up. Everything passes. Pick a goal and, when it’s closer, pick another. Relax your shoulders. Grinds bring glides. Embrace the burn. Say hello. Enjoy breathing.
Before he became a novelist, Haruki Murakami ran a jazz bar in Tokyo.
In his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Murakami says that running the bar taught him important lessons about writing. In short, “you can’t please everybody.” But Murakami takes that lesson to its logical extreme: you CAN do well pleasing just a few people, as long as you do it extremely well. In Murakami’s words:
A lot of customers came to the bar. If one out of ten enjoyed the place and said he’d come again, that was enough. If one out of ten was a repeat customer, then the business would survive. To put it the other way, it didn’t matter if nine out of ten didn’t like my bar. This realization lifted a weight off my shoulders. Still, I had to make sure that the one person who did like the place really liked it. In order to make sure he did, I had to make my philosophy and stance clear-cut, and patiently maintain that stance no matter what.
Successful writers, according to Murakami, require a nearly monastic isolation from nearby people, so the writer can focus on the reader:
I placed the highest priority on the sort of life that lets me focus on writing, not association with all the people around me. I felt that the indispensable relationship I should build in my life was not with a specific person, but with an unspecified number of readers. As long as I got my day-to-day life set so that each work was an improvement over the last, then many of my readers would welcome whatever life I chose for myself. Shouldn’t this be my duty as a novelist, and my top priority? … I can’t see my reader’s faces, so in a sense it’s a conceptual type of human relationship, but I’ve consistently considered this invisible, conceptual relationship to be the most important thing in my life.
Fighting clutter and distraction, a Dutch website called De Correspondent now bans links inside articles.
Our publications don’t contain any traditional in-text links. This prevents a lot of the possible clutter and reasons to leave, usually found in many articles. When we want to tell a story, we’d like you to take it in from start to end. There is a flow we would like you to follow. We introduce you into a topic, investigate our findings and come to some kind of conclusion. If we gave our readers too many options to leave the article before finishing it, we wouldn’t get to convey whatever it is we want to convey.
The editors offer writers three tools in lieu of links within articles, an info card, a side note and a featured link.
The info card:
This piece of additional content is only presented when you have a need for it by clicking on the indicator behind the name or term mentioned in the story. Because, by default, it is in a closed state, you are able to easily skip over it when you do have the required background knowledge. Opening it however adds the additional information inline in the text so you don’t have to wander your eyes to another part of the page. Your eyes will never have to leave the main story and you can keep continue reading the story as if this addition was part of it in the first place.
The side note:
It functions as a regular link, but is placed next to the related paragraph and has a label that describes the content that was linked to. Next to this, every side note has an icon indicating the type of content you are about to see, like a video, audio fragment or report. The added benefit, of presenting our links in the bar next to the article, besides clearing the text of links, is that it functions as sort of a checklist. No need to remember the exact location of an interesting link for later consumption. Just quickly scroll past the article to get an overview of all the relevant additional information that might interest you.
And the featured link:
On our platform such important links, which we refer to as ‘featured links’, are placed underneath the article. Placing them down there ensures enough attention and focus on the reader’s side for the story covering it and as an added bonus, it consistently places important links in a manner everybody knows where to find them.
All are noble experiments. Personally I don’t find links to be distracting: when I’m enjoying an article and see a link, I right click and open it in a new tab to read later… or shove it over into Pocket to read much later. But De Correspondent has 30,000 paying subscribers, so they may be on to something.
There was a lot of recent buzz (at least here, here and here) when the NYTimes experimented by prompting readers to tweet links to specific sentences in an article about Lorne Michael’s interview process for Saturday Night Live.
If you skim down the NYT’s article, you’ll see some lines that are highlighted, an invitation to share with the world, each generating a pre-baked tweet. Here’s the editor’s selection from the first half of the article:
“I was a funny guy. I was taller than everybody, and very handsome.” – Chevy Chase
“They were guys who might make you laugh, but they could beat you up if they wanted to.” – @DanaCarvey on SNL
“I was married, I had three sons, and I was on welfare. I didn’t want that no more.” – @RealTracyMorgan
“You’ll never, ever get hired if you do that for your audition.” – Molly Shannon on “Mary Katherine Gallagher”
“Everybody else’s stuff sounds better than yours.” – @SethMeyers on auditioning for SNL
“The makeup person said oh my God what happened to you? I looked like I was in a car accident.” – Cheri Oteri
“I always played older women with short hair.” Kristen Wiig on impersonating Jane Pauley at her SNL audition
“I did Sally Field and Temple Grandin. It’s too bad she’s not in the news more.” Kate McKinnon on her SNL audition
No doubt those are some fun lines. (Or no doubt some of those are fun lines?) But there’s also no doubt that those are only some of the best lines in the story. Lots of fun and valuable ideas got totally ignored by the NYT editor’s highlighter, in many cases because each was slightly too long to cram into a tweet.
Twitter and the NYT report that the tweet ratio was up 11X, which is great news for the NYT and its amply edited peers. Personally, I’d like to make my own choices about what to link to. The following are some tweets I’d have written pointing to lines the NYTimes editor ignored:
Advice on SNL auditions: 'Don't kill too hard. It throws up a red flag. You don’t want to be a polished road act.' http://t.co/YrDF1EWnwa
— henry copeland (@hc) August 28, 2013
Click on the link and you’ll see the full quote I’m excited about. And if you’ve got the Pullquote app or add-on installed, you’ll see the quote in its exact context on the page.
Hader: That guy brought lots of props. I didn’t bring any. Samberg: That guy didn’t have to bring any props. http://t.co/QDddLEPuWr
— henry copeland (@hc) August 28, 2013
Or this one:
Jimmy Fallon: 'I’m like, what is Lorne Michael's problem? He’s doing a comedy show. Why does he not like to laugh? http://t.co/lp60PPK5Rv
— henry copeland (@hc) August 28, 2013
So, kudos to the Times for pre-baking tweets for its readers. I passionately hope that readers take the read/write revolution one step further and control their own choices about what content to highlight and Tweet by installing a tool like Pullquote.
Why let the editors have all the fun?
I’ve been thinking a lot about whether Pullquote is a tool for the super-quick sharing of specific text on Twitter (and maybe soon on other social platforms) or a tool for filleting long pieces of text into discrete ideas and facts which can then be filed away for future reference and/or easily discovered by others who are interested in the same specific topic.
Watching #Sharknado erupt last night on Twitter convinced me that we desperately need the latter tool. We’ve always known that Twitter is a firehose. Now we’ve reached the point that each Twitter user is a firehose.
While I drown in this ocean of #Sharknado, I wonder what it would be like to just see the individual pieces of each friend’s output that actually pertain to topics I care about?
Though focused browsing of friends’s feeds would mean I’d miss some serendipitous collisions with random ideas, I’d save hours and countless brain cells by not trying to imbibe barrels of drivel. (Hours that could be channeled to more efficiently serendipitous behavior like drinking coffee or beer with friends.)
So I think that topic-focused sharing is what Pullquote will focus on. I’m not sure the exact word that describes this — are we creating a social library? A social topics index? Or is this what Stowe Boyd likes to call “co-curation?” Or maybe just topic-focused sharing?
Why am I thinking this? Oh, right, #Sharknado. Early this AM I built a Storify to try to make sense (or at least some buckets) out of the #Sharknado experience. (BTW, if you don’t already know what #Sharknado was, I’m not going to explain. Here’s what #Sharknado will be: in a few weeks, the underlying event will be forgotten and #Sharknado will become the word we all use to refer to a vaporous swirl of meaningless, mass-produced meme-riffing that itself becomes so vast it collapses in on itself into a diamond-hard object of actual meaning, the perfect linguistic symbol for a socially manufactured 5k-tweet-a-minute perfect-storm of meaninglessness.)
Don’t miss this awesome article in the HBR by mobile strategist Karen McGrane. (Found via a @stoweboyd tweet.) McGrane argues that the “page,” as a physical and conceptual vehicle for ideas, is a fossilized appendage without much meaningful function beyond print media. In short, having inhibited how media companies understood the desktop web, the page is destined to be skeuomorphic road kill on the smart phone and tablet. Looking at mobile devices, McGrane writes:
You don’t have to spend too much time thinking about all these new form factors and device types to realize that the very notion of a page doesn’t hold up. Content will “live” on many different screens and presentations. The amount and type of content that’s appropriate for a PC screen isn’t the same as what would work best on a smartphone or a smart TV. The way content gets laid out, styled, and presented must be different for different platforms.
The future of connected devices is content in “chunks,” not pages. Smaller, discrete content objects can be dynamically targeted to specific platforms and assembled into new containers on the fly. Which content and how much content appears on a given screen or interface will be defined by a set of rules, informed by metadata. Content will break free of the page and “live” in lots of different places.
We’re increasingly realizing that Pullquote, beyond being an efficient way to link directly to ideas rather than webpages, is a super-efficient format for consuming ideas on mobile. When you’re next on a smart phone or tablet, check out my personal feed of pullquotes to see how swiftly it filters and displays mobile-friendly thought-nuggets.
For another angle on McGrane’s chunk-centricity, this time from the perspective of the information consumer rather than the publisher, read my post Micro bookmarking: linking to ideas, not web pages written some months back.
Stowe Boyd, researcher-at-large for GigaOM, has been an active Pullquoter in recent weeks. Yesterday, Stowe published a long look at Pullquote and other genre-busting publishing tools. He reached this conclusion:
Companies alike Tumblr, Medium and Pullquote are redefining the ideas about commenting that we have almost taken for granted since the start of the century. Once again, the web is breaking what seemed solid and foundational, taking the concept of comments and going sideways with it.
My bet is that this set of innovations will mean that the canonical series of comments at the bottom of a post will seem totally out of date in a few years, just like grunge fonts, left margin navigation, and embedded flash shouts ‘old school’ today.
Stowe focused on Pullquote’s new quote-commenting feature, introduced last week, and was the first to notice the member stream of Pullquote texts and comments. (Here’s Stowe’s stream, for example.)
Stowe and I’ve known each other since long before “social media” was a common phrase. In his generous GigaOM post and a second post on his own blog, Stowe made a number of good suggestions for improving Pullquote. In short:
* Pullquote should tally and highlight comments for a Pullquote’s creator. [Coming in a day or two.]
* Pullquote should alert readers to when there are comments on a page’s content, creating a kind of “virtual graffiti.” [Definitely! We’re waiting for a critical mass of users to make such encounters likely.]
* Pullquote should show the inciting tweet on an individual Pullquote’s page. [Great point, will do.]
* “The only way to see the comments (if any) are by following the Pullquote URL.” In fact, people can burrow and find comments via clicking on quotes in the “member” page (again, here is Stowe’s) but clearly we need to improve the UX to make these more easily accessible.
* “And it appears that only those with the plugin can see or add to the comments. Bummer.” [In theory, anyone with Twitter can leave a comment — we’ll figure out what gave this appearance.]
Like Stowe, we sense that Pullquote and peers represent the tip of a giant iceberg of new web behavior that’s just waiting to surface. Some of our previous thoughts on that potential future are here.
Wikipedia defines a traditional pull quote as “a quotation or excerpt from an article that is typically placed in a larger or distinctive typeface on the same page, serving to entice readers into an article or to highlight a key topic.”
In this sense, the term is commonly used by journalists, editors and publication designers. By surfacing the pithiest sentence, a telling detail, an essential data nugget, the smartest line of an interview, a pull quote entices readers to wade into an article or blog post.
Of course our tool Pullquotes takes a slightly different tact, allowing readers to easily Continue reading
What’s a small new web tool without a portentous manifesto? We don’t have a big manifesto, but we do have some biggish questions.
Summary: It’s been two decades since people started weaving myriad links among web pages. Isn’t it strange that sentences and paragraphs, the foundational units of complex thought, still remain unlinkable, effectively online orphans?
What would change if anyone could link directly to an idea embodied in a specific sentence or paragraph on any webpage? While idea-linking seems minor, a mere technical twitch, history has shown that the small, seemingly happenstance attributes of various techniques and technologies we use to manage words — columns on library buildings, smaller books, swiftly printed newspapers, and a boundless Internet — can play a big role in shaping our thoughts.
Towards the end of a very productive brainstorming session yesterday, Kelly tossed out the phrase “micro bookmarking” to describe what Pullquotes does.
Update on 1/15. The per-site functionality described in this post is on hold. We’re currently focused on browser-side functionality (Chrome and Firefox extensions plus bookmarklets for everyone else) that works on any site.
Ever wish your site’s readers could link directly to a specific sentence or paragraph?
Pullquotes solves that problem. To see how this works, copy-paste any text on this page and you’ll see how a link gets generated.
Click on qote.me/pq/cgxnEf to sample what happens when a link created by the pullquote tool gets clicked.