Internet radio station playing the top tracks from the /r/vintageobscura sub-reddit.
“What are the tools and systems that you can put into place to find information that you wouldn’t have found? The ideas, perspectives, people, etc., that you wouldn’t have found if you had just been left to your own curiosity ruts?” — Sean McMullin
Create information systems of serendipity — follow sources that are likely to introduce you to the unexpected.
Computers don’t have, can’t have, taste. That’s why there will always be a place for curators like Jason Kottke and tastemakers who create playlists of new musicians. An algorithm can be pretty good at recommending more stuff like we already like, but to make a sizable jump in what we’re listening to or reading, we turn to people we trust to have good taste (similar to our own 😉). Interesting people probably read and watch interesting things.
I’ve always treated social media this way, following people who boost others and share interesting things they’ve encountered. I don’t know how the algorithm worked on top of that, but one of the things I appreciated about Twitter was finding someone new to follow or hearing about a new project or learning something random about history or science or a field totally outside my realm of knowledge, every time I logged on. I saw someone talking about Twitter / this aspect of social media as a delivery system of delight: for me, this is the dopamine hit. As much as it sometimes annoyed me to see posts that “people you follow liked” it was probably a decent way to inject some freshness into people’s feeds in addition to RTs and QTs (they just overdid it IMO).
Over the past ~ six+ weeks since Twitter went to shit, I started following a handful of folks who migrated to Mastodon using the Activity Pub connection from Micro.blog — and through them have found some other interesting people to follow. For my interests, authors, artists and academics are my key to discovery.
People are making lists of albums on Album Whale and you can too!
Visual lists of albums curated by individual people — might be a good place to search for recommendations though if you haven’t heard of the band it’s hard to know if it’s a genre you like 🤷♀️
A repository to celebrate the work of talented Brazilian designers and showcase it to the world.
Over the years, I’ve followed hundreds of artists and interesting people on Instagram and Twitter. Social media platforms don’t make it very easy to see everyone you follow, even as they constantly change the way they show you information so you don’t know what updates you’re missing. They also reward frequency and recency. The idea of an algorithm is nice — ‘it’ll show me posts I missed from people I care about!’ — but in practice it’s more like ‘ok thanks for showing me that five people I follow liked a political meme’.
As I move away from regularly using Twitter and Instagram, I don’t want to lose track of everyone who I followed there. So, I made my own lists of people who I follow — their own websites, not their social media accounts or profiles on other platforms:
Cool Artists – artists and craftspeople of all varieties
Interesting People – people with interesting and helpful things to say, from a range of backgrounds (science, art, advocacy, interior design)
Some of these people may also have newsletters and blogs that I don’t know about or am not following, or may have no way to follow their activity at all outside of social media — but at least I’ll always be able to find them. (Presumably anyone who’s bothered to set up a personal website will keep it?)
And maybe a list is a way other people can find new folks to follow too. The main bummer is not having images to represent everyone’s art, but that sounded like a helluva lot of additional work 😉
How I collated these lists
I went through my Twitter and Instagram following lists — which were much longer than I had realized 😨 — and opened bio links to personal websites for everyone who had one. There was probably an easier way to do it, but I manually opened everyone’s profile to remind myself who they were. Instagram’s interface to see who you’re following is Terrible if you’re following any large number of users.
Because I’m into the IndieWeb and everyone having their own website, I decided to be a stickler and only include personal websites, not BigCartel shops or platform profiles or linktrees. That meant a number of artists did get excluded — but honestly the lists are plenty long anyway 🤷♀️
I also didn’t duplicate my blogroll, so the websites of people whose blogs and newsletters I’m following aren’t currently on this list… I may go back and add personal websites of people who write newsletters instead of blogs.
When we in the IndieWeb talk about owning our content, the focus is often on the things we have posted ourselves, or saving our likes and bookmarks — but keeping track of who we follow is also useful.
Kottke is re-publishing “timeless posts” from his archives during his sabbatical. I brought up a related challenge at yesterday’s Homebrew Website Club: what to do when you find a cool site that’s no longer updating.
My challenge is stumbling upon static indie websites or dead blogs that nevertheless have interesting articles. I can’t usually take the time to dig back through a site’s entire archives when I stumble upon their website — I’ll read three, four, five articles, but there’s only so much I can read at a stretch, especially if I’m trying to process the information too. With a new site that’s still updating, I’d add it to my RSS feed, but I don’t have a solution for retired websites.
There is value in older content, but we read what is put in front of us. A feed — whether email newsletters you subscribe to, RSS feeds, or a social media timeline — is not inherently a bad way to help decide what to read given the vast amount of content out there, but isn’t good or reliable at resurfacing older information, even if it might be higher quality or more valuable than “fresh” information. The feed rewards the opposite of SEO, where you (used to anyway, dunno about now) benefit from your content being older; on the silos, content is washed away downstream, irrelevant as soon as it’s off the feed.
So how can we get these older articles in front of us?
I recently saw a website that manually curates good old articles — useful for finding “classic” content to read. A podcast I was listening to re-aired a popular episode from a previous season. These are manual processes, and not easy for readers to replicate without doing the digging themselves.
What I would love is a way to subscribe to old, dead RSS feeds and have old content sent to my feed reader at a reasonable (weekly?) interval — similar to email courses that send you the subsequent emails at a predetermined span of time after your start point.
Another service I’d love is sending me my starred Pocket articles to read, because I never think to look back at what I’ve saved 😉
There may be more hurdles to committing to cultural discovery but people don’t become fundamentally less curious because they get older. Most people don’t stop discovering new books, films, podcasts or TV. Yet music seems to be something that more commonly slips away – or is even perceived as something you’re supposed to grow out of. Music is a key part of youthful identity formation: once your idea of yourself becomes fixed, perhaps by distinct markers like marriage and kids, the need for it slips away.
This author might be onto something about music being harder to discover and stay in the loop on as you get older — but is also conflating live music with new music. How much is staying in tune with new music dependant on going to shows? Because I will freely admit I have very little interest in ever being in a mosh pit again 🙄 or sitting out in the hot sun for 12 hours a day at a Festival 😑 sounds like hell. I am still interested in listening to new music, just via other avenues.
I have been finding that a fair bit of new-to-me music that streaming services recommend to me isn’t new, but 5-10 years old, more in line with a lot of my favorites, or new music by artists I already know. Am I hoovering up more of the same style that I already like? How much does new music really resonate? Am I having a harder time with finding new music because Tidal’s algorithm doesn’t grok me yet, or am I growing weary of the unfamiliar? (Is this all in my head given my current year new music playlist has 150 new tracks?)
And, does it really matter what I listen to if I’m just listening for enjoyment? What is the intrinsic value of listening to different music beyond finding more that I’ll enjoy? I describe myself as a neophile, liking new things and trying things just because they’re new, and wonder sometimes how much of that is desire for more music versus my philosophy of pushing myself to explore new things and “collector’s mindset” of adding more songs to my new music playlist. I think I like to challenge myself with new music, but also have very particular tastes (a singing voice I dislike can kill a song for me).
How much is my taste expanding and changing over time? I recently tried listening to some college era playlists and, er, my tastes have definitely evolved since 2007 😉 (Either that or hearing music on different speakers is enough to make it sound different enough from my memory to lose the nostalgia, an audio uncanny valley of memory. I tried to put on Black Sabbath’s Paranoid yesterday, which I was into in 2005, and I dunno if it was fifteen more years of listening taste, a bad remaster, or different speakers, but I ejected out of that without making it through a whole song 😂) I suspect taste shifts and grows a bit at a time but when you look at a span of years it becomes more apparent.
I feel like this article forgets about Medium, which at one time seemed like it would become the central repository for writing on the internet — but Substack offers a better compensation model for writers, and an easier way to follow writing with the newsletter subscription approach. I agree that Substack feels like it’s about at this network effect point.
I’m a proponent of the own-your-content IndieWeb approach so a new silo frustrates me, while acknowledging that it’s ideal from a user standpoint to have a consistent experience and provides a discovery platform. My compromise when I ran a Substack was to cross-post on my own domain. (What would be lovely from an IndieWeb standpoint would be for Substack to accept Webmentions as comments so this post would appear under the original article, but that’s not going to happen — there’s no incentive for Substack or creators to support decentralized users in their siloed ecosystem.)
I am encouraged by the number of people committing to longform writing online, especially in a world where hot takes and microblogging are top. (I agree that blogger isn’t an appropriate name for newsletter writers — they are different formats — and would propose ‘essayist’ for writers of article-centric newsletters, unless that sounds too pretentious 😂)
There’s something about newsletters that feels different to write than a blog, and it seems to be more welcoming and inviting to new writers (whether inherently or via zeitgeist) as well as traditionally published authors drawn by easy monetization and the plug-and-play interface.
The same thing that makes it easy for readers to join — consistency — makes it harder for writers to create their own brand beyond Substack: every Substack newsletter looks the same. They offer some personalization but the emails that land in inboxes look nearly identical. I frankly have no idea which writer is which. Last year I subscribed to a bunch of Substacks from women in their 20s through 40s, and it was disorienting to have no idea who wrote the current email I was reading, and which previous emails were by them. I wound up unsubscribing from pretty much all of them because I couldn’t figure out consistently which ones I liked 🤷♀️ While blog posts may look the same in my feed reader, I can click through to open the article in its original website to remind myself who the author is. The unique look of the website is enough visual cue for me, while apparently a logo in an email header isn’t.
This makes me think of Etsy, which could be a glimpse forward of the risks of a silo for writers who lock themselves into the Substack model, like lower payments or mandatory advertising to get traffic to your newsletter. I try to be conscientious about it now I’ve noticed it, but the usual answer about where something came from is “a seller on Etsy” rather than the actual shop’s name. Likewise, I’ll find myself prefacing comments with “some Substack I follow” — which I might also say about a blog, but I’m more likely to actually remember the author’s name of a blog because it’s a distinct entity in my mind versus part of the Substack collective. Earlier today, I was reading a new email newsletter, and didn’t realize the same author also wrote another newsletter I already follow, but they happened to link to an article in it 🤷♀️
I haven’t done anything to promote this website or my blog or other websites…and maybe I should 🤔
One part laziness, one part ‘who wants to read my weird junk,’ one part shyness / aversion to attention 🤷♀️ It’s a form of (unconscious) self sabotage, doing nothing to get eyes on my work, while also a (not necessarily healthy) means of self protection from fear of criticism and failure. I have a deep-seated fear of looking like an idiot, which isn’t helpful for actually learning 😉 Making this digital garden public has been one step in pushing myself through imposter syndrome, but actually sharing it so people might see it is another 😂
As I’ve been paying more attention to alternative search engines and directory sites, participating in those sites to provide additional content is one way to support those efforts. If I’d appreciate someone else’s website like this, then my site could also be useful to others.
I have been adding my sites as examples on the IndieWeb wiki with this same mindset: I’ve learned from others’ examples, I can pay it forward by adding my small piece. I still feel self-conscious, but remind myself that each exercise of self confidence and visible pride in what I’m doing bolsters my confidence.
Ever seen anyone host a scavenger hunt inside their own website? 🤔
It could also be fun to create a scavenger hunt that encouraged people to visit and read indie websites. You could make a post with your “game card” with links to each of the websites. It’d be challenging to figure out the right kind of quest, though – might need to be design based, like finding a website with an orange theme. Need to strike the balance between fun and difficulty – finding new people’s websites alone is a challenge, never mind sorting through a bunch of them to find things.
Could also be a casual group event where everyone is hunting through different webrings or something and chatting about and sharing the neat stuff they like / that fits a prompt.