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The retro-futuristic future of blogging

The retro-futuristic future of blogging

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As part of Verge Hack Week, we've invited great minds from around Vox Media to contribute their thoughts on the future of everything — from food to fashion to the written word. In this installment, we welcome Lockhart Steele, founder of the Curbed Media network and Vox Media's editorial director.

I've been thinking about ecosystems lately. As we're digging deeper into YouTube at Vox Media, I'm coming to appreciate the ways YouTube personalities interact with each other, recommending each other's work with in-video shout-outs. It feels a lot like the early days of blogging. Back then, linking to and recommending each others' posts was the whole fun of it; Technorati existed mostly just to validate this behavior.

Today everyone in the media world is launching email newsletters. Jason Hirschorn, Ian Schafer, Ann Friedman, Lauren Sherman — as I'm typing these words I see that Dan Shanoff is soliciting signups for his forthcoming dailyish email (I signed up) — my inbox fills anew each day with emails. So many emails. Great. But what I miss from emails is the sense of community, the shared experience of shared linking in real time. Obviously Twitter replaced parts of that; Facebook others. Still, it's a far noisier conversation these days, and perhaps there's something to be said for good old blogging itself.

What I miss from newsletters is the sense of community, the shared experience of shared linking in real time

I ran into Rex Sorgatz, an old-school blogger of the Fimoculous school, last week. We got to talking about the old days and blogging. He remarked that all the individual bloggers he still reads are the folks that have been blogging since forever. Me too: Kottke, Waxy, Anil, to name a few.

I once defined myself by blogging. In the first year of Curbed, in 2004, I wrote every post on the blog, roughly six to eight a day; in the first year of Eater, in 2005-06, I shared the blogging responsibilities with Ben Leventhal, writing at least a couple posts every day. (The data tells me that over the years, I've written a total of 7,152 posts for the Curbed network of sites, which feels respectable, if low.) I loved those days: writing post after post after post, day after day, forces a different mindset as a writer. You loosen up; you get conversational.

These days, the other blogs — websites, fine — I read every day are professional outgrowths of that old blogging school. I'm now the Editorial Director of Vox Media, having sold our company, Curbed Media, to Vox last fall. Here at Vox, we put a premium on product and design, and that comes through in the gorgeous layouts that have graced so many Verge features over the last few years. That's not going to change. Nor is the deep reportage that underlies so much of the best work across Vox's sites. But there's also something great and internetty about moving fast and breaking things. It's been a lot of fun over the last month to watch Nilay, in his new role as editor-in-chief of The Verge, encourage his team to re-embrace an ethos that I can only describe as bloggy.

Perhaps it's time for #blogging to reclaim its seat at the table

It's not just The Verge thinking this way at our company. At SB Nation, the site that spawned Vox Media, sports blogging covering 300-plus teams across North America is alive and well. At Vox.com, the newest site in the Vox stable, OG bloggers like Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias are developing an entirely new framework for explaining the news of the world and have built an audience of 10 million uniques in just four months — but they've launched blogs on the Vox platform, with names that gloriously echo the past.

SB Nation, The Verge, Polygon, Vox, Eater, Racked, and Curbed all do far more than just bloggy work, obviously; the longform undertakings of each of these have changed conversations, unseated the powerful, and won awards. But at a time where #longform is a hashtag known to all, perhaps it's time for #blogging to reclaim its seat at the table, too.

Today, I'm raising my personal blog from the dead

Thinking about all this has stoked my desire to get back in the game myself. So, today, I'm raising my personal blog, lockhartsteele.com, from the dead. Over there, on a daily basis, I'll be blogging about Vox Media editorial, as well as things that have nothing to do with our company, such as restaurants and — indulge me here — the Red Sox. Part of my goal is to offer a clearer window into what's going on in the Vox Media world; the other, simply, is to regain the practice of daily blogging.

For some, Medium has worked for this purpose; Tumblr fits the bill for others. At Vox Media, our platform for content creation is called Chorus. It's the technology behind The Verge and the other websites in the Vox Media family; the company lovingly refers to it as a "modern media stack." You've probably heard about it; we like to talk about it. I suppose I could be restarting a blog on our platform, with a URL like editorial.voxmedia.com. As much as I'd like to be using Chorus, that falls flat for me: who, outside those that must, reads company blogs, beset by the weight of prose that must meet the approval of many before it's published? (Still, I urge you to read this truly excellent blog.) More pertinently, though, it's just not possible for me to be blogging at my personal domain while using Chorus. Ain't wired that way.

Here now, the buried lede

At least right now. These days at Vox, we're doing a lot of thinking about where Chorus itself is heading. Built as a platform for the best digital talent, it's grown to become the best thing going for the creation of digital brands. Here now, the buried lede: perhaps Chorus should become a tool for more than just those of us employed at Vox Media, and a platform that transcends words in the ways that Vox Media has long since transcended just being a collection of websites? The team behind Editorially — Mandy, Jason, and David, each oldschool internetters of the highest order — recently joined Trei's insane Vox Product team to help us address that question. Without giving too much away: watch this space.

Meantime, Vox Media's editors-in-chief will keep hiring and cultivating the best talent in the world. Our communities, also powered by Chorus, will continue to encourage the best conversations. And Vox's reputation for beautiful product design should only grow.

Here at The Verge, it'll be thrilling to watch Nilay and The Verge team move faster and break more things — while, of course, slowing down and lingering over the more deeply reported stories that matter, too. The two are not mutually exclusive; think chocolate and peanut butter. And foie gras. Though maybe not all in the same bite. Or maybe all in the same bite.

But for me, the web ecosystem will always be bloggy at its core. I'm looking forward to being a part of it again myself.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed An hour ago Dimorphos didn’t even see it coming

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Twitter
Richard LawlerAn hour ago
A direct strike at 14,000 mph.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) scored a hit on the asteroid Dimorphos, but as Mary Beth Griggs explains, the real science work is just beginning.

Now planetary scientists will wait to see how the impact changed the asteroid’s orbit, and to download pictures from DART’s LICIACube satellite which had a front-row seat to the crash.


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The Verge
Mary Beth GriggsTwo hours ago
We’re about an hour away from a space crash.

At 7:14PM ET, a NASA spacecraft is going to smash into an asteroid! Coverage of the collision — called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test — is now live.


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Twitter
Emma RothSep 26
There’s a surprise in the sky tonight.

Jupiter will be about 367 million miles away from Earth this evening. While that may seem like a long way, it’s the closest it’s been to our home planet since 1963.

During this time, Jupiter will be visible to the naked eye (but binoculars can help). You can check where and when you can get a glimpse of the gas giant from this website.


Asian America learns how to hit back

The desperate, confused, righteous campaign to stop Asian hate

Esther WangSep 26
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Twitter
Emma RothSep 26
Missing classic Mario?

One fan, who goes by the name Metroid Mike 64 on Twitter, just built a full-on 2D Mario game inside Super Mario Maker 2 complete with 40 levels and eight worlds.

Looking at the gameplay shared on Twitter is enough to make me want to break out my SNES, or at least buy Super Mario Maker 2 so I can play this epic retro revamp.


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External Link
Russell BrandomSep 26
The US might still force TikTok into a data security deal with Oracle.

The New York Times says the White House is still working on TikTok’s Trump-era data security deal, which has been in a weird limbo for nearly two years now. The terms are basically the same: Oracle plays babysitter but the app doesn’t get banned. Maybe it will happen now, though?


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Youtube
Richard LawlerSep 26
Don’t miss this dive into Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio flick.

Andrew Webster and Charles Pulliam-Moore covered Netflix’s Tudum reveals (yes, it’s going to keep using that brand name) over the weekend as the streamer showed off things that haven’t been canceled yet.

Beyond The Way of the Househusband season two news and timing information about two The Witcher projects, you should make time for this incredible behind-the-scenes video showing the process of making Pinocchio.


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External Link
Russell BrandomSep 26
Edward Snowden has been granted Russian citizenship.

The NSA whistleblower has been living in Russia for the 9 years — first as a refugee, then on a series of temporary residency permits. He applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020, but has said he won’t renounce his status as a U.S. citizen.


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External Link
Emma RothSep 26
Netflix’s gaming bet gets even bigger.

Even though fewer than one percent of Netflix subscribers have tried its mobile games, Netflix just opened up another studio in Finland after acquiring the Helsinki-based Next Games earlier this year.

The former vice president of Zynga Games, Marko Lastikka, will serve as the studio director. His track record includes working on SimCity BuildIt for EA and FarmVille 3.


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External Link
Vietnam’s EV aspirant is giving big Potemkin village vibes

Idle equipment, absent workers, deserted villages, an empty swimming pool. VinFast is Vietnam’s answer to Tesla, with the goal of making 1 million EVs in the next 5-6 years to sell to customers US, Canada and Europe. With these lofty goals, the company invited a bunch of social media influencers, as well as some auto journalists, on a “a four-day, multicity extravaganza” that seemed more weird than convincing, according to Bloomberg.


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James VincentSep 26
Today, 39 years ago, the world didn’t end.

And it’s thanks to one man: Stanislav Petrov, a USSR military officer who, on September 26th, 1983, took the decision not to launch a retaliatory nuclear attack against the US. Petrov correctly guessed that satellite readings showing inbound nukes were faulty, and so likely saved the world from nuclear war. As journalist Tom Chivers put it on Twitter, “Happy Stanislav Petrov Day to those who celebrate!” Read more about Petrov’s life here.


Soviet Colonel who prevented 1983 nuclear response
Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images
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The Verge
James VincentSep 26
Deepfakes were made for Disney.

You might have seen the news this weekend that the voice of James Earl Jones is being cloned using AI so his performance as Darth Vader in Star Wars can live on forever.

Reading the story, it struck me how perfect deepfakes are for Disney — a company that profits from original characters, fans' nostalgia, and an uncanny ability to twist copyright law to its liking. And now, with deepfakes, Disney’s most iconic performances will live on forever, ensuring the magic never dies.


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External Link
Hurricane Fiona ratcheted up tensions about crypto bros in Puerto Rico.

“An official emergency has been declared, which means in the tax program, your physical presence time is suspended,” a crypto investor posted on TikTok. “So I am headed out of the island.” Perhaps predictably, locals are furious.


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The Verge
Richard LawlerSep 26
Teen hacking suspect linked to GTA 6 leak and Uber security breach charged in London.

City of London police tweeted Saturday that the teenager arrested on suspicion of hacking has been charged with “two counts of breach of bail conditions and two counts of computer misuse.”

They haven’t confirmed any connection with the GTA 6 leak or Uber hack, but the details line up with those incidents, as well as a suspect arrested this spring for the Lapsus$ breaches.