Blogging is set to have a new golden age

The welcome screen of Medium.com (created by Biz Stone & Ev Williams of Blogger + Twitter fame)

Today Quora announced a new blog functionality.  It's not surprisingly getting a lot of attention because, on the surface, it appears to be a pivot for the company.  But in reality it feels like a natural extension of Quora's platform, in support of Quora's core mission
Quora's mission is to share and grow the world's knowledge
And while interesting, smart question asking has unearthed some even more amazing knowledge, without the right question a lot of great knowledge won't be published. So Quora's blogging product enables everyone with something great to say about a topic to contribute to it through a blog post.  That's Quora's innovation on blogging, by the way -- adding the ability to post original insight to a topic, without having to worry about building a following.

But Quora's new blog product is just another developing in an even more exciting trend: a new golden age of blogging.

After years of stagnation in the blogging space, the last few months have seen a flurry of blogging innovation.  Svbtle, Medium, Branch, and Quora have all created new publishing platforms that embrace smart, intelligent writing in unique ways.  They all embrace design as a way of enhancing the writing and reading experience.  And all of these platforms are helping to fight back against the trend of character counts, meme machines and animated gifs.

Branch, in particular, has me really excited because of how it's making social dialogue interesting again (more on this from me soon).

So if you've forgotten what it's like to write longer than 140 characters, or you're tired of just seeing auto-animated images, and you want to dive into some really interesting, thought-provoking content, start exploring one or two of these new platforms that are helping reignite a new golden age of blogging.  And share with me what you've found.


My Social Media Footprint, January 2013

At the beginning of the year, I like to take stock of the websites, apps and technologies that I'm using on a regular basis.  This time I returned to an exercise I performed four and a half years ago when I drafted a map (see below) of my social media presence.  The social web has grown exponentially since 2008, so obviously there are more properties than ever on my map.  But what's more interesting is some of the trends that are illustrated.  

For starters, websites, apps and tech have all merged so much so that doing different lists seems a bit silly.  For this exercise, I used a loose definition of listing websites & apps that revolve around social interaction, be it creation, communication, management or sharing.

Also, many sites have changed classifications since 2008.  For example, my old graph has Tumblr listed as an aggregator, but since then Tumblr has switched from a pull-type service to a creation platform.  In fact, aggregators as a whole have basically gone away.

And social productivity was certainly a thing in 2008, but it was an outlier, not a tentpole category as it is now.  That feels like a reflection of the evolution of corporate IT, which has largely embraced things like Google Apps, DropBox and Evernote.

It's crazy to think how many social properties I've enjoyed that weren't even around four years ago, and amazingly are already obsolete (things like Posterous).  And certain categories are starting to be disrupted again, though they were relatively stagnant all this time.  Blogging is one of them.

I look forward to doing this exercise many times over in the years to come.  It's always interesting to sit back and take stock of how the web is evolving.  For the sake of comparison, here is my map from 2008.


7 Discoveries and Observations from the CES 2013 Conference Floor

1. No matter how good you think your TV is now, it can always get better.
This year television manufacturers showed off new Ultra High Def (UHD) televisions that have 4K resolution, or about four times the resolution of today's high definition screens.  These big and beautiful TV's show virtually no pixelation when displaying UHD content (though upscaling non-UHD content may be less compelling).  Also present were new curved televisions that enable viewers to have a more balanced viewing experience (each inch of the screen is equidistant from the viewer), and an impressive dual-view 3D TV by Samsung that enables two people to watch different high definition 3D broadcasts in full screen at the same time from the same television.

2. It's more fun to use human interfaces and have physical interaction.
While TV's, phones, computers and cameras steal the headlines at CES, smaller companies tucked away in the corners innovating in ways you can't imagine are much more fun.  And many of these companies are helping us to interact with the world a bit more by building physical interaction into technology.  One particular cool gadget is Sphero, a hackable robot ball that you can control via your iPhone, around a physical track.  Sphero can also trigger augmented reality experiences, and be used itself to control computer programs through physical manipulation.  Also peek at Sifteo cubes, small computer cubes that pass information between each other, enabling all sorts of interactive puzzles and games.

3. Health technology and the quantified self are at a tipping point.
All sorts of companies are making health-tracking devices, from health start-up fitbit, to Nike Fuel to Jawbone Up, that track anything from how many steps we've taken to how well we're sleeping.  But wearable bracelets won't be the only way we measure, share and analyze our health data.  Withings has a connected scale that measures your weight, BMI, heart rate and even the air quality around you.  As more companies enter the health tracking fray product innovation will collide (Withings has a wearable monitor now, and Fit Bit has a connected scale).  The bigger question will be how well these companies can guide our real life health improvements based on all of the data we're collecting.  

4. Every device will be connected soon (so plan for bigger data plans).
Just about everyone seemed to enjoy playing with Samsung's new Galaxy Camera, an internet connected digital camera with an Android operating system built in.  Now you can install your favorite mobile apps like Instagram right to your camera to filter and share photos as soon as you take them.  Samsung also showed off a connected refrigerator that includes popular applications like Evernote, so people can collect recipes from anywhere and browse or view them directly on the screen in their kitchen.  With the internet of things growing so quickly, ubiquitous connectivity and shared internet plans will need to improve along with it.

5. Kickstarter is one of the most exciting names in consumer technology.
One of the most anticipated announcements at CES was from Pebble, the ambitious smart watch that was funded on Kickstarter.  The Pebble raised a record-setting $10 million dollars to build their product back in April, but didn't announce their shipping date until CES.  If Pebble lives up to its promise once in the hands of consumers, the next CES might be much more focused on the independent technology innovators that are arising in part to innovative funding models like Kickstarter, rather than the big behemoth technology companies that lead the market today.  In fact, many of those big market leading companies seem to be pulling out of CES all together.

6. The big four internet companies are confusingly second fiddle at CES.
Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook, known as the big four internet companies, have become successful through their merging of content, services and technology in a user-friendly way.  Each, to different degrees, are defining what it means to be a connected product today, from user experience to content to ecosystem compatibility.  And while CES is full of other companies making devices for those platforms, the names defining the space need to stand up and illustrate their vision for the future.  There may have been hundreds of devices from different companies on the CES floor that included Android, but Google needs to lead the discussion of how all these devices will work together with Android at its core.

7.  Welcome to the new CES, it's not just a trade show.
The biggest story going into the week was actually how few product announcements would be taking place, with many technologies likes cameras and phones now saving their biggest own popular trade shows later int he year and big names like Microsoft having left altogether.  But a reported 150,000 people from all walks of life attended the convention this year, the largest audience in CES history.  More significant may have been the tens of thousands of brands, sales and marketing companies who spent the week in Las Vegas talking about the implications of the consumer electronics revolution and its implications on media and marketing, without ever stepping on the conference floor.  CES may be changing, but for new reasons its just as interesting and important none-the-less.