The Social Web: End Of The First Cycle


Twitter alters its terms of access to its information, thereby harming the services that built themselves on that information. Which was stupid, because Twitter gets fewer and fewer material benefits from allowing people to use its water. And why would you build a service that relies on a private company’s assets anyway? Facebook changes its terms of access regularly. It’s broken its own Pages system and steadily grows more invasive and desperate. Instagram, now owned by Facebook, just went through its first major change in terms of service. Which went as badly as anyone who’s interacted with Facebook would expect. As Twitter disconnected itself from sharing services like IFTTT, so Instagram disconnected itself from Twitter. Flickr’s experiencing what will probably be a brief renaissance due to having finally built a decent iOS app, but its owners, Yahoo!, are expert in stealing defeat from the jaws of victory. Tumblr seems to me to be spiking in popularity, which coincides neatly with their hiring an advertising sales director away from Groupon, a company described by Techcrunch last year as basically loansharking by any other name.

This may be the end of the cycle that began with Friendster and Livejournal. Not the end of social media, by any means, obviously. But it feels like this is the point at where the current systems seize up for a bit. Perhaps not even in ways that most people will notice. But social media seems now to be clearly calcifying into Big Media, with Big Media problems like cable-style carriage disputes. Frame the Twitter-Instagram spat in terms of Virginmedia not being able to carry Sky Atlantic in the UK, say (I know there are many more US examples).

Google+, of course, is not, strictly speaking, a social network. Most people can’t see what other people are doing there. Google, of course, sees it all. But everyone knows that going in.

It feels like the social web is going to get somewhat less interesting for a while. Less connected, less engaged.

Twitter’s going to be used for tv ratings in the States now. The clever thing about that it that it serves the same purpose as Facebook Likes: it documents media preferences. These are the things that keep a free service free, of course. But, god, there have to be less banal and creepy ways to do it.

I wonder if anyone’s been thinking twice about giving up their personal websites.

[Instagram: I said on that service earlier that I’ll wait and see. Some hours later, they released an update to their TOS that I haven’t had a good look at yet. But all my Instagram photos were backed up when Facebook bought them, and that backup auto-updates every time I post.]

FAQ 18dec12: An Angle Of Attack On Writer’s Block

Sir, let me start by saying you are awesome. Thank you very much for giving Transmetropolitan to the masses. My question to you is this: How best do you deal with writer’s/artistic block and what tips would you give anyone going through such annoyances?



I don’t believe there is such a thing.  There is only being unable or unwilling to write the thing that’s in front of you, and, consciously or unconsciously, looking for ways to not write it.  Some people on the internet argue with me about this sometimes, or denounce me from the cheap seats.  All the fucks I give: see if you can detect them.

The trick — and it’s imperfect and can take a while, but — is simply to write something else.  Don’t let your hands go cold.  Don’t let yourself stop thinking.  Shift to something different.  I think it was Robert Silverberg who used to do his (type)written correspondence on bad days, and then “trick” himself into writing by slipping manuscript paper into the machine once his fingers were flying.

It’s about letting your backbrain chew on the problems while your frontbrain is amused by the new and shiny things.  Find an essay to write.  Do some flash fiction, or a short story, or a novelette about dancing gravediggers written in the style of Cormac McCarthy.  An audiobook about dirigible vampires who shit sexy babies down chimneys.  Whatever.  I’ve read of several writers from eras past who would type out passages from their favourite writers, to get a feeling of what it’s like to make sentences like that.

Write something else.  Anything else.  Either you’ll solve the problem in the background, or get the taste back for what you’re stuck on — or, guess what, maybe that whole thing was dead and you were just shoving electrodes up it to make it twitch in an awful semblance of life the whole time.  I mean, that happens.  It doesn’t mean you were blocked, it means that you were zapping a big stinky corpse with all your electricity and wondering why it wasn’t sitting up and calling you Mummy.  It was dead.  Bury it and never speak of what you did to it again.

You’re a writer — or an artist — or you’re not.  It sounds harsh, but, seriously, not everyone’s wired for this stupid life.  If you think you are, then you have to write around the block.  Anything that takes your fancy.  Just get words happening.  The rest will follow.  Best of luck.