The New Version of Long Pauses Got Me a-Thinking

Darren Hughes recently launched version 11 of his blog, Long Pauses — which, in and of itself, is reason enough to celebrate (put simply, it’s a great blog, especially if you’re the slightest bit a cinephile). But what I find particularly interesting is how Hughes has blended together disparate resources for this new version, including Blogger (here, I thought he was using Movable Type all this time), Tumblr, and Twitter.

I’ve always been a fairly simple fellow, and that has translated to the systems I use for web-publishing, whether for myself or for clients. Specifically, I’ve always liked to keep the number of systems used to a bare minimum — which is one of the reasons why I ultimately went with ExpressionEngine and its fairly open-ended, chameleon-like architecture (it can become almost anything I want it to be).

However, the past few years have seen a rise in the number of systems available for people to publish content and personal info onto the Web. These include hosted blogging apps (Blogger, Wordpress), tumblelog apps (Tumblr), micro-blogging apps (Twitter, the soon-to-be-dead Pownce), media-sharing apps (Flickr, YouTube), and of course, social networking sites (Facebook, Virb, MySpace). And, being the web geek that I am, I want to try them all out and see what cool things I can make out of them.

But so far, I’ve been somewhat hesitant to really use these other systems, due in equal parts to lack of need, lack of time and energy, and perception. Put simply, I don’t have a real need to use any of them, due in large part to my current preferred platform (and of course, necessity is the mother of invention… and implementation). Also, I have a hard enough time updating Opus and keeping tabs on the forums I frequent, much less updating my Flickr and Facebook pages (and I’ve yet to publish anything to my YouTube account, despite having hours of concert footage lying around).

And finally, so many of these systems have struck me, perhaps wrongly, as fairly superfluous, and not conducive to real, substantial conversation, whatever that might be (Twitter being the prime example). But as I’ve been exposed to these non-Opus systems more and more, and slowly found myself using them (specifically Facebook), I have found myself trying to figure out ways to integrate them into some type of unified workflow for publishing online.

With that in mind, I found this portion of Hughes’ announcement particularly interesting:

The variety of communications tools would be overwhelming but for the fact that my friends and I are engaged in what is essentially a single, extended conversation. It’s all come to feel perfectly natural. I suppose some tools (forums, long-form blogs) are more suitable for, say, serious debate than others, while Twitter is obviously more immediate and superficial. And Facebook — wonderful, addictive Facebook — is so damn good at social networking that it’s changed the way I use the Internet (despite my long-held resistance to it). Perhaps we could draw an analogy between these tools and the various types of conversations we have with local friends when we go out together for a long dinner, sit side-by-side at a book club meeting, or run into each other at the grocery store.

And therein, perhaps, lies the rub: this confluence of tools has been created and shaped by an already existing use. Hughes and his friends are simply using the tools at hand to facilitate what is already happening between them organically, as opposed to picking the tools and then trying to build the interactions (which sounds absurd, but believe me, it happens — and fails — all the time).

All of which reminds me of this 37signals-esque mantra: “it’s not about the tools”. This is something that I continually need to remind myself of, that I’m much better served trying to figure out the interactions that are already taking place and then picking and shaping the technology I use to fit them, which is a much more organic and enjoyable process than building something and hoping someone joins in.

Tinkering with new technology is fine — which is why I have (relatively unused) accounts on Virb, MySpace, Tumblr, WordPress, etc. — but going beyond that becomes a waste of time and energy, and distracts from the principle goal: publishing honest, thoughtful, and solid content.