Distributed Conversations
Saul Carlin

This Story Is a Comment, This Comment Is a Story

This “moving drawing” was made by David Michael Chandler.

For a long time, as much as we mostly, basically, kinda enjoy people in general, we at The Awl (we’re even here on Medium!) and at its sibling publications have devalued interaction and conversation between humans. Most ways to do stuff with readers were pretty rotten. Plus, even just the idea of “readers”—Hey you, audience member, stay over there! Get back in your corner and whitelist us on your adblocker! — has always made us uncomfortable. Like can we please just chill here people?

Instead, over the years we’ve devoted our energy to giving a leg up to readers and writers together, for they too are one, whether it’s a first byline, a chance to try something strange, or that last little shove out into the weird writing ecosystem. Out of the comments and into the streets! We believe that writers make themselves, but still they have to make themselves somewhere. Mary H.K. Choi used to blog about candy for us when she was bored. Now she’s doing Rihanna for the cover of The Fader. Cord Jefferson, our former Weird Animal Story and Arizona News correspondent, blew right on out of the Internet entirely. Not our ol’ pal Julie Klausner, though; she’ll never leave the Internet behind, we pray. Five years ago, Josh Duboff wrote a hilarious story for us about the horrors of night-blogging; we noticed he’s busier now too. (Speaking of Taylor Swift, our former videogame columnist is also doing okay these days.)

So with that as our mission and joy in life, we were happy to cede most of the other kinds of reader-writer interactions to outside purveyors of Internet space. It was easier technologically, yes, for an indie network of publications like us with no sugar daddy. And sometimes, as many publications have staked their entire existence on, displacing interaction had beneficial side effects. The labor that takes place when people “share” does at least throw off a little heat in the cold waste of Internet vacuum.

Sometimes people like to say that platforms as the primary home of all the various and diverse reading audiences of the world is a transitional phase in publishing. But transitional to… where! On that, no one has had a good answer. And for how long will it be transitional? What if it were… permanently transiting? What if it were actually orbital? What if we’ll all just cycle around and around about the content ecliptic, alone and hungry and cold?

We don’t really want to be alone! We never did want to be. Here at Medium we will try some new ways of being with people.

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