The Platform Is the Message

There’s no doubt about it: The blogging/writing platform founded by Blogger and Twitter entrepreneur Evan Williams, Medium, is beautiful. Lots of great writers like the late great David Carr used it and wrote about it:

Because it is such a pleasure to work with, Medium has become something of a fetish object for writers. In the last year, Medium has published the biographer Walter Isaacson, the author Emily Gould, the journalist Ben Smith, the entrepreneur Elon Musk and many, many others.

The focus on typography, on the reading experience, is unparalleled in the online publishing space.

Not that I’ve done much research to the alternatives: I prefer to go at it my own. I want to own the experience, and I’ve been doing that in some incarnation or the other since 2001, with my first blog that I cobbled together using Dreamweaver MX, back before it was Adobe Dreamweaver. (Now we’re using a self-hosted incarnation of WordPress, thank you very much.)

My reasons for doing so are equal parts stubbornness, curiosity, and mistrust of others. I think it’s fun to experiment with new storytelling media. And I’m really picky… so being in control of everything is the only thing I’ll accept.

What if I had invested my time and resources into a writing platform that went bankrupt? What if they decided to sell ads next to my work without compensating me?

And we’re back to Medium and this fantastic piece about the platform that was published on a non-publishing-platform website by Matthew Butterick.

[…] Medium pays for only a small frac­tion of its sto­ries. The rest are sub­mit­ted—for free—by writ­ers like you. Af­ter a long time be­ing elu­sive about its busi­ness model, Medium re­vealed that it plans to make money by—sur­prise!—sell­ing ad­ver­tis­ing. This means dis­play­ing ads, but also col­lect­ing and sell­ing data about read­ers and writ­ers. So Medium will ex­tract rev­enue from every story, whether it paid for that story or not. (By the way, will that rev­enue be shared with writ­ers? Um, no.)

So there you go. My stubbornness/curiosity/mistrust of others seems well-advised after all.

Especially when you put it this way:

In truth, Medium’s main prod­uct is not a pub­lish­ing plat­form, but the pro­mo­tion of a pub­lish­ing plat­form. This pro­mo­tion brings read­ers and writ­ers onto the site. This, in turn, gen­er­ates the us­age data that’s valuable to advertisers. Boiled down, Medium is sim­ply mar­ket­ing in the ser­vice of more mar­ket­ing. It is not a “place for ideas.” It is a place for advertisers. It is, there­fore, ut­terly superfluous.

Read the full piece here: The Billionaire’s Typewriter.

Full disclosure: I have a Medium account but haven’t found a use for it yet.

Via {daring fireball}.

Friday Link List: Design & Typography Edition

1. Jonathan Harris Interview {design matters}

Jonathan Harris is an artist and computer scientist whose work explores the relationship between humans and technology. His projects include We Feel Fine, a search engine for human emotions; I Want You To Want Me, an installation about online dating; Cowbird, a public library of human experience; 10 x 10, a system for encapsulating moments in time; The Whale Hunt, a series of photographs timed to match his heartbeat; and I Love Your Work, an interactive film about the daily lives of sex workers.

Jonathan has so many cool projects. Check out this manifesto about big data.

2. The Heartbleed Logo: How to Get People Talking About Internet Security {newsweek}

You’ve probably come across the bug’s logo: a crisp red heart that has five dripping bloody stalactites descending from it, suggesting that something important is bleeding out or crying. It’s on the Heartbleed Web site, put up by a security firm called Codenomicon, which co-discovered the bug. The logo is everywhere—and looks like a scary version of the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check symbol. It’s evocative and simple, and perhaps cheerful and sinister at the same time: Is this logo telling me my food is good for my heart, or is it telling me that my private data might have been made public?

3. Typekit Practice

Typekit Practice [is] a place where novices and experts alike can hone their typographic skills. We hope it will help students learn, help teachers teach, and help professionals stay sharp.

Via {daring fireball}

Monotype Factory {photo}

monotype-factory-philadelphia

More about this building at 24th & Locust {design traveler}:

In 1887 Tolbert Lanston designed the Monotype prototype which required two pieces of equipment, a keyboard and a metal typecaster. The process began with an operator typing the text using a keyboard of 276 keys, the amount required to cover all of a font variants such as italic, bold, etc.  Each key strike triggered a number of holes punched along the length of a 4-inch wide paper ribbon. The typecasting machine used the perforated ribbon to dictate the specific order in which individual metal letters were cast from a brass a matrix.

The World’s Most Credible Typeface

Do certain fonts convey truth more than others? Is Comic Sans less credible than Palantino?

Errol Morris over at The New York Times set up an interesting experiment to address that question. First, he asked readers to evaluate the truthiness of the following excerpt, and to tell how confident they were with the accuracy of their assessment. The quiz was sold as a way of testing how pessimistic or optimistic the quizee was.

If a one kilometer asteroid had approached the Earth on a collision course at any time in human history before the early twenty-first century, it would have killed at least a substantial proportion of all humans. In that respect, as in many others, we live in an era of unprecedented safety: the twenty-first century is the first ever moment when we have known how to defend ourselves from such impacts, which occur once every 250,000 years or so.

Here’s the catch: the excerpt was displayed to randomly selected users in either Georgia, Comic Sans, Baskerville, Trebuchet, Computer Modern, or Helvetica.

Read the article to find out which typeface to use the next time you refresh your résumé!

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Documenting texts

I’ve been thinking of a creative way to document my new life, as a way of processing the change and making sense of it. A lot of what I do every day involves the writing and editing of words, so what better way to document that than though the everyday words I read every day.

I’m going to start from the end, with what I see before I enter my apartment every night.

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