Monday, October 28, 2013

Grokking the visual web

BuzzFeed I've put a fair amount of effort into getting under the skin of the visual web over the past few years. I've played with Pinterest, without success, and put this failure down to the largely non-visual nature if much of what I work on. But now that the visual web is a billion dollar trend driven by mobile devices, giving up is simply not an option.

So I'm trying again, and this time it's BuzzFeed. If you haven't encountered BuzzFeed, that's because you're old. BuzzFeed is like reddit for .... even younger people. And BuzzFeed is the hottest property online right now by some distance. When ze Frank went to BuzzFeed I didn't get it. But now I do. Yet BuzzFeed vexes me. So much trivia. And yet, when you dig a little deeper, so much potential. Strip away the froth and BuzzFeed is the place to be. Why? Because visuals drive the mobile web (typing on phone keyboards is so last year), and BuzzFeed is about visual if it's about anything. But dig a little deeper. Longform has real substance, fact checking and debunking the media, or the subtle political. Still think it's all froth? Well there's science there too. But not just science, BuzzFeed is pioneering new formats, such as reporting on scientific papers in the style of a teen romance magazine photo story. Everybody wants in. Since BuzzFeed declared "The Internet loves a list", even the Times Higher is getting in on the act.

For Open Access Week, Alun wrote 6 Discoveries You Can Read In Open Access Journals. (Yes, please up vote it!) And now it's my turn, so I've been trying to grok BuzzFeed the only way I know, by immersion:
The Wisdom of The Wire
Why The Wire (2002-2008) is the greatest TV series ever made.

You Spent Money On What? 11 Improbable Scientific Papers [NSFW]
Science is a laff. No, really, it is. Millions of pounds get spent on research into… improbable events. Here are some of my favourites.

Even such trivial immersion as this has given me the vital insight into BuzzFeed that I needed. And I like it. Why? It feels exactly like Twitter did when I first started using it, i.e. entirely trivial at first sight, but when you scratch the surface, you realize the power of the interface and what it is capable of. And the main thing is it capable of is exploiting the mobile device driven visual web. I recommend it to you.

So will I be using BuzzFeed on a regular basis. No. Here's why: I find it difficult to compose in the visual medium. I am happy to consume visual media but in terms of output I'm a words person. Something like suits my style much better, for example, Medium's take on the visual web, or indeed, this post. Which is a shame, because Medium is rather backward looking in terms of current technologies. Or possibly, like Ev William's previous offerings, Medium is so far ahead of its time in the vanguard of the backlash against social media that we just can't see it yet.

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