The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13
Greg Linch § Matching cuts / 2014-09-16 18:18:15
Inque § Matching cuts / 2014-09-05 13:27:23
Gavin Craig § Matching cuts / 2014-08-31 16:33:56
Adam § Matching cuts / 2014-08-28 07:44:59
Tim Maly § Sooo / 2014-08-27 01:35:19

ALLOW US TO REINTRODUCE OURSELVES
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This is the new Snarkmarket. I want to welcome you inside, and tell you how we got here.

Five years ago today, I joined Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson at Snarkmarket.com, a two-person site they’d built to write about media, the future, and everything else. It was the site’s fifth anniversary. (It was also the day Barack Obama was first elected President of the United States.) For five years, I’d haunted the comments at Snarkmarket, writing responses longer than the posts themselves; now I was being asked to join the show.

It may be a strange thing to wrap our minds around now, but being a member of a popular but noncommercial blog in 2008 was a very big deal. Nobody was getting paid, and nobody was doing what was recognized as “work,” but it was a platform that brought two things with it:

  1. Writing for the best, smartest, most playful community of commenters on the internet;
  2. Access to the wider Snarkmatrix, the readers who’d followed the blog from the start, back before there had been so very many of us, and many of whom had fallen upwards to positions of influence and responsibility.

Snarkmarket gave me a fighting chance of writing about something besides university books for a university audience. I felt like I’d won a lottery ticket. And for the next two years, that kicked off my favorite period in the history of the site: when we made New Liberal Arts, when Robin improbably became a bestselling novelist, when Matt returned from the midwest to help reinvent blogging for NPR, when I even more improbably became a technology journalist at Wired and then The Verge.

But as the three of us were pulled into our thirties, and that decade’s corresponding commitments, and as much of the discussion around news and ideas began to shift away from user-owned blogs to new media properties and superheating social networks, Snarkmarket entered a new phase. During this time, Robin called Snarkmarket “a hardy desert ecosystem.” The site proved infinitely adaptable, but its visible flourishing diminished.

As we approached our tenth anniversary, Matt and Robin and I had an idea. We would make the Snarkmatrix — our community of readers, commenters, friends, well-wishers, lurkers, and musers — manifest. We would assemble at the Poynter Institute, where it all began, as Matt and Robin decided to start a blog. We would celebrate Snarkmarket’s tenth birthday with the people who’d made it possible.

But — and this is where the hardy desert ecosystem metaphor becomes especially useful — we also took the Snarkmatrix underground. We started doing weekly meetings — a Snarkseminar — where different members would bring to the group ideas, problems, texts, videos, questions for the group to discuss and respond to. The whole thing was Powered By Google; we’d doodle on a Google Doc each week with marginal notes, conduct a live hangout. Whoever could come was welcome; if you couldn’t make it, no harm, no foul. And it was exciting to see what we could do with those tools, in that smaller space, with two or three dozen people actively collaborating on an idea rather than two or three guys (however skilled we three might be).

And for a while, we thought that would be where it would end. A victory lap for the community we brought together, a reward to people who’d found us, whenever or however they found us. And a reward for the three of us, a big party in Florida with our best friends and biggest fans.

We thought we’d get a little Kindle single out of it — here are the products of our labors, a set of final projects for the Snarkseminar, created by the community online, hammered out face-to-face. And that was exciting.

But then we thought: what if we go bigger?

It turned out the Snarkmatrix was actually the Justice League all along.

What if the point of the tenth anniversary of Snarkmarket wasn’t to present its tombstone, but to bring it back to life, bigger and stronger and bolder than ever? And what if the mechanism for its resurrection was right in front of us — the core community of Snarkmarket readers and commenters, to many of whom the site (and the ideas animating the site) meant as much as it did to us?

What if the tools we needed to create a fun, participatory, community-driven blog were available to us, and what if this time, right now — the age of social media, the age of the new, big-business online media company, driven by ads and scale and Hadoop nodes and dataviz and all that marvelous crap — was to double the fuck down on the enthusiast, curated, small-n multiuser blog? What if it was time to go full MetaFilter?

So that’s what we’re doing. Five years ago, Snarkmarket went from two editors to three. Now our community is growing by dozens. You’re going to see a lot of new writers here — but if you’ve been a long-time reader, they won’t be strangers. You’ve been seeing them in the comments for years.

We’re also building new tools and interfaces to try to take advantage of this newfound swarm of talent. We’re going to have collaborative stories, inline glosses, conversational forks. We’re going to try to reimagine (with the robust tools we already have, tweaked by some of our design geniuses) what a group blog looks like, and what it can do for the reader.

And that’s just the beginning. If we do this right, is a collective that will be continually throwing off new objects like sparks from a hammer on hot steel. Some of those will be objects you can participate in making. But for now we’re settling in, seeing what this new Snarkmarket can do.

There’s been a lot of discussion in the last few months as new sites have launched, also trying to do new experiments in online writing and reading in 2013. “Is ______ a platform or a media company?” is the new “Are bloggers journalists?”

Snarkmarket is proudly neither a platform nor a media company. It is a community of friends and colleagues, allies and advocates, learners and thinkers, who have gathered together for mutual aid, support, and encouragement, and experimentation. The visible expression of that community is now, as it has been, what you see at Snarkmarket.com. We want you to join us as a commenter. We want you to cheer us on. We want to cheer you on. We want to know what you think. We’re ready to try anything. We’re ready to see what’s possible.

Let’s light this candle.

21 comments

w00t, excited for new beginnings!

Easter Egg hunt: Find where Robin hid the paisley.

Found it! And hooray!

5-4-3-2-1

Ignition.

As a new reader of Snarkmarket (I only started reading the site a couple months ago), I am still very excited to see what you guys come up with. The site definitely has a unique voice, hopefully that is not lost.

Such a pleasure running in to you out here, at a drinking hole in the hardiest desert ecosystem on the internet.

So does this mean you re going to set up something like http://www.discourse.org/ or built some new kind of platform? It sounds exciting and is a wonder direction, but I guess I’m having a difficult time imagining what this is going to look like from a technical perspective…

Some of it we’re still figuring out. It’s not really going to be a new platform — still good old WordPress. There’s just going to be more of us. Do you know how when the Fantastic Four would team up with She-Hulk and Ant-Man and Medusa and Doctor Strange and Namor and Spider-Man and a half-dozen other people would all kinda be part of the extended Fantastic Four? That’s what this’ll be.

But we are going to try to make it look super-awesome and try more experimental-looking things. And since our expanded team includes a design judo master or two, that’s going to be easier.

I missed you guys. Thrilled that you’re back.

Love it.

I still have my (rather weary looking) copy of the New Liberal Arts sitting on my shelf. If the Snarkmatrix is able to bring together that many folks, putting word to thought about our information culture, then I’ll be here.

As an organism gets more complex, it grows to the point where no single part can rebuild the whole. Instead, it requires self-interested individuals, contributing towards something bigger than themselves.

“The number of individuals who know how to make a can of Coke is zero. The number of individual nations that could produce a can of Coke is zero. This famously American product is not American at all. Invention and creation is something we are all in together. Modern tool chains are so long and complex that they bind us into one people and one planet.”

— What Coke Contains – https://medium.com/editors-picks/221d449929ef

I love this comment. Also: first Medium link in Snarkmarket’s history!

Matt says…

Tim, couldn’t have said it better. Incredibly excited for this.

Hooray! Welcome to the foreground, Snarkmatrix!

Congratulations. I have missed the posts here and can’t wait to see what’s to come.

Scott Rosenberg says…

Exciting stuff, guys! Look forward to reading it all. Or as much of it as I can…

Sharat Buddhavarapu says…

So happy that Snarkmarket refuses to be designated either a platform or a media outlet. Sometimes the taxonomy is a hindrance, not a help. Looking forward to seeing what’s to come. Love the new design!

Really looking forward to this! I’m rather glad you’re defying definition and making it about the community. I assume it will be a bit more Boing Boing-style in terms of a community of writers?

Boing Boing isn’t a bad way to think about it.

Casey says…

Xeni dislikes “comments” intensely. She tweeted disparagingly about them, I called her on it, and she BLOCKED me. So I trust the resemblance is not that great.

Hooray! Can’t wait to see what the ‘Market/Matrix cooks up.

As long as nobody confuses Snarkmarket with the Snarkist, we’ll be fine. Although that’s not meant to disparage the valuable work that they do: http://thesnarkist.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/new-study-confirms-leggings-are-not-pants/

Casey says…

You mean no DISQUS wanting my firstborn before I can comment? Only TWO relatively innocuous trackers? I’ll only be followed by decent and intelligent humans? And you love comments.

This is really too much.

I’m in.

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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