Is Reddit a big step toward the Now Edition?

My oh my, too long since I’ve blogged! I keep trying to spread seeds of my passion, my grand vision.

Crickets.

Anyway, I do love Reddit for all it is and can become.

The big difference between it and what I dream of is… it links out. Which is fine, but my idea is of a centralized info source – curated, deep and updated – and a social spot to talk about it, line by line or in general themes.

Catch what I mean? Could it be a next-generation Reddit? The platform is very simple, which is a must. It just needs to have a place to gather info.

Oh that reminds me! The new, redesigned Reddit is missing so far the element that could be that missing piece – wikis with every subreddit.

I don’t go to the old Reddit. I’ve embraced the new. They’ve added chat, for better or worse. Could they do more than just Wikis when they add them?

I’m sure hopeful. Starting from scratch would be a pain. Evolving to be something greater – a place for the latest (journalism), the deepest (literature), crowd sourced or singular, WITH a place to talk about the elements… it’s what I imagine.

Here’s hoping!

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Welcome to new friends from new places

OK, way too long between posts here. Three items down is the Babblin’ Barn too-long-for-elevator-pitch version of what I mean to say here. Please do give it a read.

I’ve often bemoaned that if such a platform existed, it’s where I’d be sharing my thoughts at that magical place, about how the Now Edition philosophy/platform is a way to engage like never before, if we break the shackles of the old ways (electronic books that are anything but, just replicated dead-trees books, for example.)

So I need to be a better Johnny Appleseed. Today, I’ve been busy getting more comfortable with – and ponying up $ to show my dedication to – two platforms that, unlike Wikipedia, ARE easy to contribute thoughts and ideas to, even if they aren’t quite as dynamic as what I dream of.

Namely, Reddit and Medium. The more I use both, the more I see that for all their flaws, they are attractive ways to share information and interact with others. Like forums used to be, before they became so hopelessly stuck in the past, in many eyes.

So at the risk of over-talking about it (hah!) I’m weighing in at both places, especially Medium’s articles on journalism and technology, with what I’d love to see happen (and be a part of making happen) – in my spare time of course;-)

I wrote a Medium piece, didn’t even attach a photo and I’m sure it’s sunk to the bottom of the ocean floor. I’ll learn the ropes better before I try again. I want to put my best foot forward (and not in my mouth;-)

Time wants me back. It never lost me.

A great example of the silo-ization that still exists in our electronic media world – the ghostly world of subscriber databases.

I switched to the Nook version of Time back when it had some actual interactive features (no longer). And yet, the Keeper of the Dead-Trees Lists still nags me incessantly about “wanting me back.”

Time marches on. But Time has a problem doing so.

If anyone pulls off the dazzling Grand Unification I envision, at least that headache will disappear.

You never lost me, Time! Stop asking me to return when I never left!

Here’s to a greater future

I mean, WordPress.com isn’t perfect, but it’s here and it’s easy to use and… why the heck not? So click on ‘The e-book’ in the menu and you’ll see the … chapters? (Not going to number them, but in a row pretty much) of what I’ve written.

I have had a fascinating journey through the world of what’s out there, especially lots of visual HTML editors, but … nothing really offers the kind of easy platform for long-form content and collaboration I envision. So I’ll lay out what I mean here and see if I can make WordPress.com work as a starting point.

What we have and where we are: So close, and yet…

Growing up in the TV generation turned the online/smartphone generation, I’ve never had a long attention span. The books I’ve started and not finished would form a much larger library than the ones I made it through.

That works well for being in the news business, from wire services (UPI) to the Web, where multi-tasking was the way to survive long before it became a buzzword.

And being a news junkie since 2nd grade (edited the Room 210 Tooter), I still find myself speed-reading the old issue of a magazine or newspaper as soon as the new one is out – its value feels somewhat diminished, as if it’s now not news — it’s history.

I always loved the gift of magazines in the mailbox – even when they showed up late or with covers shredded in the rough-and-tumble physical world of mail delivery.

I especially liked how magazines were always dated for the next week, or month. Even though the magazine’s articles were written days or weeks ago, that helped me to fool myself a bit (hey, born on April Fool’s Day, you do that) that I was reading … news of the future. Or at least of the immediate present.

But a radio or TV, or even a newspaper, put the lie to that. The “first rough draft of history” was at hand, even then. So even then, the “newest” magazines didn’t feel … all that new, or now.

But now … now! Everything can be instantaneous! I should be able to pick up today’s magazine. This hour’s. Electronically of course. It should have the absolutely newest stuff out front, and then, I’m more than willing to dive deeper and find a bit older stuff toward the “back of the book.” But even there, it should be updated for anything from the tiniest typo to a bombshell about the topic at hand.

But it’s not.

Oh the material is out there, often from the same source. There’s this … bifurcation. Go to a magazine’s Website, especially the weeklies, and you have fresh stuff out front, and a link to articles in the current issue.

OK, that’s good enough for some. But … again, a split that doesn’t need to exist any more. A rocky ledge in the free flow of today’s information. Or a barrier one needs to portage around — between the Old Stuff and the New Stuff. Between Now and Then.

That’s just me, but … maybe not just me?

Noawadays, tablets (like my Nook) have made it so wonderfully possible to be reading an endless array of magazines, newspapers and books, all without filling endless shelves and boxes and stacks all over the house.

And yet, something’s always seemed missing, in our move to electronic reading – and no, I don’t mean the romanticized joy and feel of a newspaper or book in one’s hands. I do understand the tactile sensation of paper pages feels so … right, to so many. I still hope color e-ink of some kind will bridge the gap and give us the best of both worlds — “electronic paper” promised for as long as the videophone was, it would seem – readable in any light, but … electronic.

But gee, on a related topic, I’ve been musing: Are e-books really e-books? No, not yet. But will they ever be?

Go to the electronic bookstore and it feels much like the bricks-and-mortar bookstores we’ve all come to know and love — though you can search instantly and sort by genre, the most recent publication, the best in reviews, the cheapest, the most expensive.

That’s a step along the path – but I’m here to tell you that in my mind’s eye, we’ve barely begun down that path. There is so much more to do!

I think one reason I haven’t finished writing or reading many of my books – and many others probably haven’t as well – has as much to do with the one-way and by very definition, it seems, dated – old – nature of book (or article) writing or reading as the short attention span I happen to possess.

Then there’s the split between writing/reading and our increasingly social (media) world.

Some folks crave that solitary nature, with all they read or certain things — to be alone in their thoughts being offered or received. As the comic-strip character Shoe said recently, “Writing is the loneliest job in the world.” It’s a common phrase.

But today, it sure doesn’t have to be any more, right? Everything is social now – why is our media still somewhat wedded, even welded to the forms and processes of the past? Are we such creatures of habit that we can only embrace the potential of the new in the forms of the old? (An Edsel front bumper welded to a 21st-Century hybrid or electric car.)

Or are we just not yet far enough along in the way we think about these things that we have not ventured out of our comfortable media and content boxes of the past? Then again, maybe we’re just not quite there in the tech end, from too-short battery lives to wifi almost everywhere but not quite as reliable or easy to use as a light switch.)

I’ve said for some time that, in many cases, on things I feel strongest about or most interested in – one’s passion, from archaeology to, um zebras? — I’d love to read a “book” (for lack of a better term) that is as fresh as the technology makes possible – with the deep thought, care and history of a book – but the updated nature of the very things I can find elsewhere on my little portable tablet – the blogs, the Web, the forums (remember those?) to discuss them, even an ability to interact with others who just read the same thing I did and can’t wait to talk to someone about it.

We can do all these things, today. But not in one place — where the discussion advances the book (if the author decides to partake) and the book advances based on new developments and the ideas and information shared by others. A new form of media “social solar system,” allowing writers to use the various pieces of today’s media landscape to create something bigger.

And yes, the Internet is one step away from anywhere, thanks to the amazing Web of links. But mentally, once we “go there,” what are the odds we’ll go back where we started to resume reading? Is that really the best architecture for all purposes?

If a book or long-form content actually becomes truly social, it also could be a means of readers or would-be readers sharing ideas of books or articles they’d like to read about — perhaps investing money, not just an up-vote or down-vote. Many details to work out, but again, a part of the Grand Vision worth exploring.

I truly, passionately believe that we have, to this point, barely ventured down the road toward that vision, of the potential for truly interactive, “living” books (and, quite possibly, other traditional media forms) — one that truly liberates and underscores the “e” in e-book.

Otherwise, we are using silicon, pixels, wi-fi and all the rest to replicate the books of the past, rather than taking advantage of the inherent potential in today’s technologies and social media to create something far, far grander.

This is about the next generation of not just reading, but writing and interactivity. Not coming from the perspective of a computer programmer, but a wordsmith (I daresay) and a veteran end user (hey, I was a beta tester for America Online! If I had been a “beta shareholder,” I could hire a team of great coders to weld together an example of just what I’m talking about!)

I have found most people with whom I’ve shared my enthusiastic, condensed “elevator pitch” of this grand vision tell me that they find it, at the least, an intriguing idea worth further exploration, if not something they’d partake in – if it existed.

I know that in the vast reaches of the Net, someone may be doing or trying to do just what I’m talking about here — taking the disparate pieces of today’s media and social media products and platforms and unifying them in a simple way that makes the whole far greater than the sum of its parts. I send this electronic message in a bottle out there, actually to feel somewhat relieved if someone or more than one are working to take us down that path. (And hoping I can kick its digital tires!)

Then again, maybe there are some good reasons this whole Grand Media Unification/Socialization Theory can’t and won’t happen that I’m missing, beyond the obvious issues of – well, first of all, of course, how can it make money? What about the negatives of today’s social media battlefield – the trolls, etc.? (Then there’s that four-letter word – porn – or crime, which makes me shudder to think of how such a platform might be abused. Every tool is a weapon, and vice versa.)

There are no doubt as many UX (user experience) challenges to this social future of the media – making it simple, smooth and inviting – as there are fiscal, legal (the rights to crowdsourced books?) etc.

I will address some of the counter-arguments here, as best I can – having first tried one writing platform – FastPencil – that is a wonderful writing interface — and also allows editors, reviewers and collaborators with whom to interact, though not as easily and widely as I envision. Thus the move to a more traditional WordPress blog. Still, perhaps it’s a step along the way, or a glimpse of the vision. Time will tell.

But what I know in my head and my heart is that I am voicing this Grand Vision because it’s something I don’t necessarily want to invent — hey, I still love my day job, riding the tide of the daily news — but something I wish existed or was coming to fruition so I could help, and dive in! And since it doesn’t exist, as far as I know, I’d love to help make it happen.

When I read an online article these days, I often move down to the end before I even decide whether to read the whole thing. Not that I want to “know how it turns out” — traditional “pyramid form” journalism isn’t arranged that way – but to read the wise, dumb or insightful comment thread that follows — and I often find that as, if not more enlightening than the article itself. And yet, they are together, but separate – the comments rarely if ever resulting in changes to the content itself!

An article online without comments, especially if on a hot topic in a popular spot, makes me wonder what went wrong. One without a comment system seems old-fashioned in a cold, sterile and one-way way. With all the headaches of moderating Website comments and babysitting the Facebook yahoos, it still feels more of a logical, natural interactive affair — occasionally enlightening, and yes, sometimes exasperating – than what the past allowed.

In fact, I know this e-book-turned-blog would been a better, richer experience for the writer and readers if these tools already existed and this was an interactive, social conversation that involved you, dear reader – if you wanted — and then, on the author(s)’ end, taking in like a big trawler boat your thoughts and questions and illuminations you share as you read it. Picking the best to share with all, to update the book, to ignore — whatever. A living, evolving “book” as community, a social network — merging content and conversation if we want, to make it a content-grounded dialogue..

Not to mention your discussions with others about the topic(s) at hand – and the thoughts and directions that evolve as you read the book. Maybe it even would inspire you to branch off and start your own …. C6. (OK, that’s one acronym thought, standing for Content Creation, Collaboration, Curation and Conversation Community) – on this or any other topic you see fitting such a system/platform/tool.

If such a system existed, I would have used it to write this. Because it doesn’t, from anywhere I can see – at least not as easy to use and powerful as I envision – I’ve been to the WeBooks and the Widbooks, etc., and I see the promise, but on a too-small, mostly fiction-driven scale — I instead am using this blog – not one-way, but not as interactive or easily customizable as I envision — to describe in some detail the various potential elements and how I see them fitting together.

Sure, anything is possible these days if you pay more – customizable CSS inside-out upside-down flexibility. But I am talking about the notion of something as easy to use as a word processor but with the content publicly available and discussable. I’m also talking, as you’ll see, about a desire to bring the static world of “content” into the always-updatable world we now inhabit.

I hope one day to be able to choose whether to write in private, old-school fashion — or whether, from the first chapter, even the first sentence, I want to write “on the street corner,” with folks looking over my digital shoulder – to laugh, to quibble, to agree or what have you. That crowd may build you up or shout you down, or lead you in directions you’d never have considered. Such is the value of human interaction. Rules/processes could be easily set up to limit the potential downside.

There are an infinite number of free or low cost Website creation tools out there – but most seem very much focused on the visual and not so much on one of the first loves of my life – the text, the “printed” word. White space, big bold photos, elegant design – great. But the text seems almost to intrude, relegated to narrow columns or a minority of templates that seem to say “oh, you want to actually write or read something? OK, I suppose.”

But marrying content creation — the words that paint a picture, collaboration (to whatever degree you wish) and conversation about that content seems so natural in my mind, yet so foreign to much of what I see.

So I am laying out that vision, to see if others agree.

Doesn’t that sound, not just fun, but … potentially amazing, in terms of what it might make possible?

Sure does to me!

Welcome! Let’s talk about you, me and the future

Editor’s note: I began working on this as a FastPencil e-book because I wanted it to be compiled in a book form, not a reverse-chronology blog format that can be harder to read sequentially. But let’s face it – I’m a reporter, and the idea of writing things that aren’t seen by anyone else for weeks or months is just not … me. I miss the immediate gratification and interactivity. So instead, I’m “blogging my book” –  for reasons that I hope the following posts make obvious. If the platform I wanted existed already, I’d already be using it to share this publicly, in the preferred form. But you use the tools you have to outline the tools you dream of – at least, that’s what I’m going to do. Hope you find it interesting, thought-provoking – and perhaps even action-provoking, to help make my ‘Grand Vision’ or pieces of it yours as well, and help bring it to reality!

–Barney Lerten, Bend, Oregon, Jan. 2015

Before anything else, let me thank you for finding and reading this little attempt at provoking some thought-provoking debate, discussion and dialogue about some ideas near and dear to my heart and head..

It was going to be an e-book — but like “regular books,” that’s a one-way thought process — I talk, ponder, vent and explain — and you take it all in. Or not. Or some of it. Why that is “the way it’s done” is the reason I’m writing about … another way..

Allow me to explain.

One-way? One-on-one? How old-fashioned in today’s always-social, selfie-obsessed, Insta-now, share-everything-now world we’re only recently become!

And that’s the entire point of this compilation of the thoughts roiling in my head these last few months. If I don’t get them out there in the world, my head is going to explode! (Well, not literally, but it sure feels crowded in here!)

So let me explain what this blog/book is, and is not. It’s all from the brain of one Barney Lerten, a life-long inveterate media geek, who has worked at some point in just about every form of media — TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, wire service (what’s that? Think AP, but different – it was UPI.) A word guy, who knows how to shoot a decent photo and do some rudimentary Website stuff but is not a programmer (too much math and patience needed for that!)

I was also blessed to be, for five years in the early 2000s, one of the first Internet-only reporters out there, but my journalism background goes way way back to second grade, editor of our homeroom’s little newspaper, the “Room 210 Tooter.” (Heh.). Managing editor of a daily TV news show — at a flawed but innovative high school (John Adams in Portland). So words are my life – working and playing with them. I have no kids, but you could say the words I’ve sent out in the world are.

This is not a technical volume, full of AJAX and HTML and things like that. Because in those respects, I am not a geek – but an end-user. I’ve done my share of beta testing, and wishing things worked more simply, logically and consistently.

That said, these thoughts are not a carefully arranged assembly of fully formed, interlocking plans to assemble the next great step forward in media, social and otherwise. So no screen shots, dialog boxes and cute Dummies-style cartoons, tips and lists. And I will repeat myself, no doubt – hopefully from different angles, as I seek to explain what I would love to see.

The word “intriguing” has come from friends and others with whom I’ve shared these thoughts, in short “elevator pitch” summary or more detail. And if all I do is get this Grand Vision as I call it – a series of visions, actually, more of a mission, a set of principles to embrace, all or in part, – out on screen and in others’ brains, then this Barney Appleseed will have accomplished much of what I seek.

But the bottom line is, I believe that I am evangelizing for a new path, a new Grand Unification of our disparate information and content systems. Not because I feel I’m unique — it’s because I bet many others will share that vision, just have never “thought about it” — when they do, say it’s only logical, obvious and inevitable that some form of the things I wish existed today will come to pass.

And I sure don’t expect most readers to embrace it all, hook, line and sinker – any vision this all-encompassing is bound to have its share of holes and unfinished elements. If just one or two points get you nodding your head in the affirmative — or better yet, interested in making parts of this happen — with or without my help, hopefully with — I will be tickled beyond measure.

I just want these things – whatever they may come to be called — to exist, to happen in my lifetime, or before I’m too feeble to partake in them.

So right here and now, I’m trying to hurry it along — and perhaps to convince others that we’re missing some golden opportunities to create something that marries the rich history of media and content creation and consumption with the amazing future that today’s technology and the only-recent arrival of “always-connected” devices make possible.

I have no doubt I’ll refer a few times in here to my wonderful wife of 33 years, Debbie, who is tired of hearing me passionately enthuse at her and others about these ideas and just wants this time management-challenged ink-stained wretch to get it done, for crying out loud!

I owe her everything – she’s the best, take my word for it. And so, of course, this … well, it was going to be an e-book, but now is a Website — is dedicated to my Debbie, as well as to my late, great fellow “gadget geek” brother Pete, and to all those who have urged and encouraged me to get some of those “books within me” out there. It was in examining my frustration with the tools to do so that these ideas took root in my head, pleading to be set free.

If this platform (or Website or whatever it is I describe here) had existed now, or better yet, 5-10 years ago, I might have several of these “social book communities” out there already, and be taking part in countless others — and perhaps my life would have taken a different path. Or not.

But there’s no time like the present to use today’s imperfect tools — perfection is a goal, never a reality – to try to help shape, encourage and make real the much-better, more fun tools of tomorrow. To give you my own lil’ ‘TED Talk,’ one on one (or one to many).

So off we go! do hope you find it to be, at the very least, a fun mental exercise – I know I have!