Curating for yourself, curating with others

Replied to The Memex Method – Cory Doctorow – Medium by Cory Doctorow (Medium)

Clay Shirky has described the process of reading blogs as the inverse of reading traditional sources of news and opinion. In the traditional world, an editor selects (from among pitches from writers for things that might interest a readership), and then publishes (the selected pieces).

But for blog readers, the process is inverted: bloggers publish (everything that seems significant to them) and then readers select (which of those publications are worthy of their interests)

I much prefer following people to publications, and curating for myself what’s interesting out of what those people have curated for themselves. There’s a good bit of noise, but there’s also a lot of serendipity — neat things I would never have encountered on my own, that I wouldn’t have thought to investigate.

While news publications focus on appearing neutral, people (bloggers and newsletterers) have opinions and share context often missing from news articles. I *want* others’ opinions, especially from people who are better informed than I am. I’m interested in news and information as it relates to people, not as discrete incidents. I care more about the trends and the roots of an event, which are all too often left out of the news. Individuals are publishing from a rich, deep, broad perspective in a way publications cannot have, the same way corporations and brands are not people (no matter how they exploit their social media managers).

See also:

Article pairing: stop reading the news

Overlapping Communities, “Curated” Discovery between Real People

Finding Personal Websites

Algorithmic recommendations create “curiosity ruts”



(More from the same Doctorow piece.)

Getting Shit Done Learning Writing

A note-gathering and idea-making process

Anna Havron gives tips on managing your note-taking and calls out:

The magic is in the fact that writing is a transit system, which transports little electrical sparks in your synapses into things that affect shared reality.

Keeping a focus on what purpose a note serves — logistical, inspirational — can help you discard less useful information:

Be picky about what goes into your systems.

I have several paper notebooks I just scribble down ideas in. Each day I look them over for actionable notes, and scoop those out. Otherwise, when they are full, I scan them over, and only a few more notes get entered into my systems.

(My poor digital gathering practices means this article’s been open in my tabs for six+ weeks 🤦‍♀️ The actionable bit is the sticking point for me: I leave tabs open as a reminder because I don’t trust my systems or backlog.)


Cory Doctorow enumerates his blogging process and how he uses his blog as a digital garden:

Far from competing with my “serious” writing time, blogging has enabled me to write an objectively large quantity of well-regarded, commercially and critically successful prose…

The genius of the blog was not in the note-taking, it was in the publishing. The act of making your log-file public requires a rigor that keeping personal notes does not. Writing for a notional audience — particularly an audience of strangers — demands a comprehensive account that I rarely muster when I’m taking notes for myself.

Every now and again, a few of these fragments will stick to each other and nucleate, crystallizing a substantial, synthetic analysis out of all of those bits and pieces I’ve salted into that solution of potential sources of inspiration.

I love thinking of information as a nucleation site.

In the (my) blogging method, the writer blogs about everything that seems interesting, until a subject gels out of all of those disparate, short pieces.


Matthias Ott elaborating on Doctorow’s piece:

[Rick Rubin’s] approach is to not limit his input at all, meaning that he curiously allows to enter his mind whatever draws his attention, regardless of whether it might seem relevant or “useless” in his current situation. There is no such thing as useless information, because you never know which new ideas will emerge as a synthesis of all the individual fragments of creative input you were exposed to in the past.

(I bailed on The Creative Act because I didn’t like the way he framed his ideas around “Source” but I keep encountering interesting thoughts gathered by others who persevered 😂)

The thing is: This process isn’t a science. The only thing we can do is to be curious, keep a record of the things we deem to be significant, and constantly look for clues pointing to new ideas, for fragments of thought suddenly turning into something bigger.

See also: Foraging for insights

Discerning the value of note-taking

Society The Internet

Listened to Cory Doctorow interview

Listened Cory Doctorow on The Wondrous World of the Early Internet & How To Destroy Surveillance Capitalism from


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Cory Doctorow on The Wondrous World of the Early Internet & How To Destroy Surveillance Capitalism
JULY 31ST, 2022 | 44:11 | E161

Pioneering blogger and science fiction writer Cory Doctorow has been an activist for online freedom since the early days of the history of the internet. He has long been one of the major voices opposing restrictive copyright and corporate domination, and a visionary defending a pluralistic online world where eccentricity and individuality are allowed to flourish. In books like Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright and the Future of the Future (which, like all of his books, is available in full for free), Doctorow has shown what an internet created by the people, unconstrained by intellectual property law, Digital Rights Management, and monopolistic corporate gatekeeping, could be like.

In this conversation, Doctorow joins to discuss the importance of a democratic internet, and his recent book How To Destroy Surveillance Capitalism, which argues that many people misidentify the main problem with what is called “surveillance capitalism,” assuming that the problem is that corporations are amassing to manipulate us the power through intrusive collection of Big Data. In fact, Doctorow argues, the problem is less about a particular thing these corporations can do to us and more about the fact that monopolistic tech companies are in control in the first place. This has important implications, because it means that we cannot just regulate what companies do with our data, we have to fundamentally redistribute power over the internet. In this conversation, we talk about how Wikipedia provides an alternative vision for a participatory internet where the rules are set by users and there is oversight over governance. We do not need better and more benevolent Zuckerbergs. We need what Doctorow calls the pluralistic internet.

“Hegemonic internet” today versus pluralistic internet

Internet start aligned with cessation of antitrust enforcement – 1982 AT&T

(Cough, current news: Penguin – Simon & Schuster merger court case)

Today we keep talking about how to make “the lord of the manor” better rather than how to get rid of them

What is the failure mode? <– way to evaluate platforms and systems

Cultural flattening? (versus quirkiness of early internet)

Formalism of internet e.g. TikTok duet format = imposed by platform

Expansive opportunity of ebook format — can be 3 or 1000 pages — Wikipedia has built-in

Formal adventurism / playfulness e.g. “slow TV”

Used to have consentual formalism — community defined rather than platform/ corporate

–> more editorial freedom, less creative freedom

Can you give meaningful consent if you can’t leave a platform (because there’s nowhere else to be with other people)?

Control of platforms is more important issue than collecting our data because they can control our discourse, the information we receive (e.g. Google Answers) and what we can use (e.g. iOS app store)

Band together against monopoly across industries — tech not the only area, though a place to start