A website by Jeffrey Veen   more →

People writing on the web

19 Jun 2006

There has been a lot made of the value of user generated content (or, as I like to call it, “people writing”) lately. The author of this Wall St. Journal article, for example, laments the overshadowing of talented creative people by the YouTube-enabled masses. And only recently, the mob mentality of the blogosphere turned it’s wrath on Tim O'Reilly for taking a vacation while an over-protective partner tried to cease-and-desist the good guys. But I’ve been playing with Vox, and while not perfect, it’s given me some optimism that there is room for all of us to contribute.

When I first started this blog a few years ago, it was was a fair amount of trepidation. Before that, everything I’d written for others to read had been professional. I studied journalism in school, paid tuition as a stringer, and moved into editing a weekly newspaper for a few years. Later, at Wired, I took on a column at Webmonkey that – while relatively informal in tone – still went through an editorial process.

So blogging was a departure. It was the first time I published under my own masthead, without an organization supporting me, and without payment (at least directly). I approached it with the same editorial integrity and effort, but relaxed a bit and got into a grove. I even allowed myself to post personal experiences and indulge the occasional obsession. Still, I’ve always considered blogging an adjunct to my career. Spread your ideas far and wide and they’ll pay dividends for a long, long time.

A lot of my recent work has been focused on this democratization of publishing. I’ve always felt that making powerful tools accessible to anyone is the most effective way to empower any voice – not just those fortunate to own a press or broadcasting tower. Intuitive social media applications running on a universally accessible network really are making a difference.

The irony is that I never really let myself fully exploit those lower barriers to entry. My posting here is considered and deliberate; I really only want to add to a conversation if I have something worthwhile to contribute. So as I started playing around with Vox, I realized the constraint of my “professional” blog may have weighed to heavily in the past.

I described this new tool recently to a friend as “a social networking app without all the poisonous popularity contest stuff.” SixApart has done a really good job at keeping the connections meaningful, and I’m finding myself increasingly checking in on what my little network is up to. And I’m writing for them – a little – and kinda liking it.

It took my friend Mike over at Mule Design to point out the obvious: blogging is punk rock. Anyone can do it. And should. Regardless of AdSense clicks, reputation management, or audience size. It’s about participation, not scale. If your audience is 20 people, but you connect with 100 percent of them … well, I’d say that’s pretty successful.

I don’t know if Vox is the thing that will turn the next 10 million people into bloggers, but I certainly like the direction. ​