Medium is testing themes, and Andy Baio quips that “they’re slowly turning into Blogspot”. It does seem to look like a sort of Blogspot/Tumblr hybrid without the reblogs. What caught my attention, though, was the bit about “fictionless reading”.

Most digital media experiences are full of friction: you are presented with an array of headlines and have to constantly decide, “Do I care enough to click?”

As a result, we spend much of our time online skimming, evaluating, and browsing, often ending up more overwhelmed than enlightened. In comparison, experiences like magazines, blogs, or feed-based social apps draw you into content immediately.

This gets the friction problem almost entirely wrong.

Reading and writing on the web is in need of more friction, not less. Experiences should encourage you to linger, or re-read, or ponder; or, perhaps, comment. Experiences should not encourage you just to speed right on ahead to the next thing.

I’ve debated back and forth on whether or not to include the next and previous links on my blog posts because I genuinely can’t decide if even they are too little friction.

Sam Bloch’s ode to shade, for Places Journal, is a sort of quasi-expose of the inequities of its distribution. It’s funny how the places without shade trees just happen to be the unwealthy places with narrow sidewalks and shallow-buried utilities which preclude being able to plant any. It’s galling, too, to see non-tree tactical urbanist DIY solutions being shut down.

When I heard on Twitter this morning that new barricades were being constructed around the Federal courthouse downtown, I’d wondered about the permitting issues. Bike Portland reports on just how much of an incursion is the finished product; the only potential correction I’d offer is that the City of Portland doesn’t appear to own the sidewalk around the courthouse, at least if you go by Portland Maps. It seems to be considered part of the lot itself, which is owned by the United States of America.

Three pieces on urban planning, public spaces, and architecture; as they relate to the moment and the movement of Black Lives Matter. Deirdre Mask for The Atlantic proffers that street renaming is not merely performative in an empty sense; Matt Hickman for The Architect’s Newspaper profiles the Foley Square street mural in New York City (via Civic Signals); and Craig Wilkins for Curbed proposes that architecture as a profession needs an analogue to the Hippocratic oath (via Civic Signals).

Mask:

I’ve spent the past four years researching street names and what they reflect about communities. I understand that merely changing a street’s name might be seen as “performative,” another show without substance. But performative can also refer to words that, as the philosopher J. L. Austin theorized, don’t just speak but act. (Try arguing that the words I do, said before your beloved and a judge, don’t actually do anything.) Here, the naming is the doing. And although changing street names alone cannot alter societal norms, it captures the momentum of the BLM movement in a concrete way.

Hickman:

“For a long time, in both urban planning and in architecture, there has been a refusal to acknowledge how political our work really is,” said Hassen. “For me, personally, it feels very important at this point in time to acknowledge that as creators who are in positions to help shape the public realm that we come to it with our values and our political standings—because the places that we are involved in creating are not neutral spaces.”

Wilkins:

As a profession, we don’t all talk about our role in redlining. We don’t talk about equitable resource allocation, or argue for or against it. We don’t talk enough about the increased privatization of public space. We have been complicit in the design of public housing, which was nothing but warehousing people, when we knew better. And if we didn’t know better, we should have. And what’s the result of that? Whole generations of people have been lost because they were confined to spaces that we designed, and we keep refusing to acknowledge and own up to that.

Hey, makers of feed readers: do any of you make use of comments-related (sub)elements in RSS feeds? For example, I notice that my WordPress post feeds, within each item element, have both a comments sub-element linking the comments area of the post, and a namespace-declared wfw:commentRss sub-element linking the RSS feed for that post’s comments. Are there any readers that make use of these in any fashion, or are they ignored? If ignored, why does WordPress bother with them? It seems like there’s some opportunity here to help engagement with blogs, either by simply linking these things inline, or in some part of the reader UI, or even by bringing a post back into the reader as “new” if comments have been added and displaying the comments themselves inline.

Simon Woods’ warranted drive-by of “button-based metric operator[s]” sent me off on an entire conversation with myself, partly aloud and partly internal. Not just the vigorous mental nodding, because I agree, and not just a lamenting that I don’t know how to get sites and services which use likes and dislikes, up-voting and down-voting, and the like to roll back such usage. I also got to thinking about one of the differences between the original social networking platforms versus the current social media platforms: the former’s central use of the individual profile page. Imagine if rather than letting you like tweets, Twitter let you add, say, five tweets from other people to a special pane on your profile page. Something like MySpace’s “top 8 friends” widget, but for tweets you’ve found especially useful, insightful, or funny. What if Twitter looked backward instead of forward and turned profile pages into destinations unto themselves where a person could offer a fuller bio, share more than just one of their own tweets, highlight five tweets from other people, and who knows what else. Remove some Twitter activity from the endless, scrolling Feed and put more Twitter activity into the personalized, semi-static Profile. This rattling idea isn’t about saving Twitter; it wouldn’t. I’m just drawn to ways in which, if we wanted to, we could turn back the clock a bit on social media and recapture some of the slower and more personal charms of social networking, even on existing social media sites.

This thing that Robin Rendle says product designers need to do is a thing I’ve always thought anyone and everyone should do, pretty much.

In the early stages, solving the problem isn’t important. In fact, the first round of design that you show anyone should be focused on setting the stage for a discussion. It’s about gathering all the ideas and giving enough space for weirder, better ideas. Early designs should not try so damn hard to solve the problem, instead they should define and push the scope of the project into a frightening new territory.

Admittedly, I’ve mostly thought about it sometimes when listening to writers talk about how this or that show or movie happened, and I cringe whenever I get the sense that for the original pitch they tried preemptively to imagine feedback and notes and incorporate them in from the get-go.

Thing is, in any creative process, the client is going to want to feel they have control and input. If you have an idea you consider a 10 but you pitch it as a 7 because you think that’s where the notes will push it anyway, you could end up with a 4, and then everybody loses.

Before I even was quite awake this morning I ran into something that confused me greatly, but I sat on it for awhile in order to figure out exactly why it nagged.

I think the link is as important as the text itself on a blog, but now, we also have quotes, and hence can reduce the need for the link. But with minimum viable readability with links achieved, blogs can offer a rich and immersive experience.

Two things here struck me. First, nothing reduces the need for the link. The entire thing that made blogs what they are is that you could write about something you’d read and no matter what you had to say about it you could provide the reader with easy access to it so they could judge for themselves.

Quoting doesn’t obviate links.

The second thing, though: that took the morning to sink in. What can it possibly mean to say that “now, we also have quotes”?

We have always had quotes. I used one above. I use them all the time. I only can assume that this is a reference to Quotebacks, which is just a bunch of custom styling for blockquotes with the citation built-in, I guess so that Twitter doesn’t have all the fun with fancy embeds. I’ve been confused about the Quotebacks thing since they launched, and the above remark kind of illustrates a bit of why.

Quoting isn’t new.

Whatever value people might find in Quotebacks, for the love of god can we not discuss them like they are some sort of revelatory experience heretofore unknown to blogging. Yes, you can (block)quote me on that.

(I should say that I guess I hope it was a reference to Quotebacks, otherwise the comment really doesn’t make any sense.)

Bonus observation: I’m glad to see that Colin Walker is reading Rebecca Blood’s The Weblog Handbook, which I’ve been mildly pushing people to pick up. It both relayed and informed much of how we thought about blogging in the early days.

I’ve just rolled back around half the custom styles I applied to my Twenty Sixteen child theme, because some of what I did became so convoluted in my head that the site felt heavier even though the design changes literally made it lighter. More tinkering might come, but I needed a slight reset.