Linearity is killing the Living Web: Blogs don’t work anymore, Google search is useless.

In this age of the Fragmented Web, action streams, multiple personas, and a huge increase in the amount of data out there, how will we Find, Navigate, Recombine, and Contribute?

I’ve come to the conclusion that the linearity of the most popular Web tools is killing us.

Blogs are linear

Stowe hints to the inadequacy of blogs as a site or as a linear output. I think a blog is a really bad tool to follow a conversation – you can only follow it one piece at a time, and the longer it is, the less you can follow. RSS readers were an attempt to make this easier, but you really end up missing most of the action. And it is still linear.

True, blogs arose out of tight nit groups of friends sharing links online, evolving into the conversations pieces we see today. And services like Vox and Twitter show the value of close groups writing and sharing info, owing their heritage to blogging habits. But, the way we live and do on the Web has become more dynamic. And I think what we want out of the internet, as plumbing, has changed too.

DNA blog, anyone?

What set me off in this direction was a comment from the publishers at Public Library of Science. They were extolling the wonders of bringing blogs to science, wondering how great it would have been if Watson and Crick (and Franklin) made a post on their discovery of the structure of DNA and that every new grad student would be asked to go and read the post. Also, the comments over the past 50 years would serve as a valuable record of the discussions since then.

Uh, 50 years of comments? I have a hard time on posts with more than 10 comments. How the heck will any value come out of reviewing thousands of comments? Who can get a view of something so linear?

Google search is so 2005

But, in a broader sense, there is more stuff out there, more posts, more videos, more comments – and it is all being thrown into the Living Web in a linear fashion. This needs to change.

And Google? Well, Google’s results are quite linear and is built on the notion of sites. Technorati is a good step towards adding more meaning to what we FInd, meaning derived from real people, not robots.

I think it’s time to build a new way to Find things on the Web, a way that reveals the interconnectedness of all these activity streams, a way that has different levels of resolution to Navigate by, to allow us to get a summary, but also dive as deep as we wish.

And of course, once we FInd things and Navigate the found space, we’re going to need to be able to easily Recombine those actions streams and feed it back, Contributing to the Living Web of actions streams.

Gosh, my head is bursting with ideas around all this and I’ll be randomly rambling about this for some time to come.


  1. I’m really excited by the ideas in your final couple of paragraphs where you say “we’re going to need to be able to easily Recombine those actions streams and feed it back, Contributing to the Living Web of actions streams.”
    I’d love to hear more about your ideas in that area. If you get a chance, check out We’ve recently launched it and it is a visual way to represent what people are browsing and publishing on the web – what they find intersting and how they find it.

  2. Charlie, you are onto something. I tried to post a comment yesterday, but apparently something happened…
    Unless you find the message from spam filter, my main message was that I’m struggling with the same questions in Beta Labs context. Currently, we use a blog + app-specific comment threads, feedback forms + email, surveys, incoming links via Technorati, and Google Alerts. This kind of system doesn’t scale too well, and the double-digit monthly growth rate is going to make things challenging very soon…
    If you come up with elegant solutions – or even ugly ones – please give me a call!

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