• Dan CortesDan Cortes, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    Full text ahead:


    I want to talk about the difference between

    loving something

    on the internet and

    liking something

    on the internet.

    I have become very troubled by the way I am


    because there’s so much to read and watch


    I mean, just think of the links that flow

    through Facebook and Twitter:

    The Atlantic has ten great things every day.

    The New York Review of Books, holy shit.

    Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings.


    The New Inquiry. Have you guys seen this?

    It's almost cruel. More smart, cool stuff.

    Smart writing. Cool video.

    An endless flood.

    So what do we do to stay afloat?

    We like.

    We fave.

    And it’s this gesture that is at


    The like.

    The fave.

    You’re saying to a writer or website:


    You’re saying to your friend or followers:


    This is worth your time.

    (But me, I’m on to the next thing.)

    This is actually a very strange gesture.

    We rarely return to the things we like and fave...

    ...even when we also click read later.

    We like everything

    but I am growing suspicious that

    our likes don’t mean much at all


    and so I find myself wondering:

    What does it mean to


    on the internet today?


    forget the internet for a minute:

    The books and movies that I have loved, I return to.

    The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.

    I read it as a kid and I’ve read it four times since.

    Watchmen by Alan Moore.

    Super great. I’ve read it three times at least.

    Kiki’s Delivery Service by Hayao Miyazaki.

    Seen it...five times? Makes my heart sing.

    Maybe that’s a reasonable


    on the internet or anywhere else:


    I don't know about you... but I don't return to much at all on the internet I believe our attention is well-directed these days

    thanks to good algorithms

    and great curators

    but it's like a flashlight beam


    Never resting.

    Never returning.

    What's the alternative?

    In David McCullough's book

    Brave Companions

    (which I love, and have read three times)

    there's a chapter devoted to a legendary

    natural historian named Louis Agassiz

    who taught at Harvard in the 1800s.

    Agassiz had a routine with new students.

    He'd sit them down in an empty room with a dead fish in a metal tray, and he would say simply: Look.

    Dead fish.

    Metal tray.


    Then Agassiz would leave.

    One of his students recalled the experience:

    In ten minutes I had seen all that could be seen in that fish... Half an hour passed—an hour—another hour; the fish began to look loathsome. I turned it over and around; looked it in the face—ghastly; from behind, beneath, above, sideways, at three-quarters view—just as ghastly. I was in despair.

    Eventually Agassiz would wander back

    and he would ask: What have you seen?

    The student would report, and Agassiz

    would reply: Look again.

    I was piqued; I was mortified. Still more of that wretched fish! But now I set myself to my task with a will, and discovered one new thing after another...

    The afternoon passed quickly, and when, toward its close, the professor inquired: “Do you see it yet?” ”No,” I replied, ”I am certain I do not, but I see how little I saw before.”

    The routine would continue like this for three days.

    Agassiz would return.

    The student would describe what he'd discovered.

    Agassiz would nod and smile.

    The student would ask: What now?

    And every time, Agassiz would say:



    We don't do this.

    We don't look at our fishes.

    We catch and release.




    Maybe I want a website that just shows

    me the same thing over and over again.

    There are exceptions—

    media that is not swept away.

    Music, of course.

    In iTunes or Rdio or whatever you use, your

    favorites are always on display, waiting for you.

    If anything, it can be difficult to escape them.

    The danger there is not flood but stagnation.

    What else?

    I see iPhone apps making the leap from

    like to love. Why? Again, because they're

    on display, always waiting. Because they

    are present and patient.

    There's a game called Carcassonne that I love.

    That's it right there. It was originally a board game but now it's available for the iPhone and iPad.

    I've spent many hours with Carcassone,

    and over time I've come to appreciate

    more and more of the app's thoughtful

    touches. Just like Agassiz's student, I've

    discovered one new thing after another.

    Books, movies, albums, apps:

    When we like these things, we pluck

    them out of the flood and put them on

    shelves and playlists and home screens.

    We get a chance (just a chance) to love them.

    The cynical voice says: The problem is the

    media itself. You know what I'm talking about:

    The 23 Best Videos of Cats Eating Spaghetti!

    The internet is full of foul fish like this.

    I say: No—

    (and I cite the Atlantic, the New Inquiry,

    Kottke, all of it—all the craft and care

    that comes flooding through my browser

    tabs every day)

    (and I cite the Atlantic, the New Inquiry,

    Kottke, all of it—all the craft and care

    that comes flooding through my browser

    tabs every day hour)

    (and I cite the Atlantic, the New Inquiry,

    Kottke, all of it—all the craft and care

    that comes flooding through my browser

    tabs every dayhour minute)

    (and I cite the Atlantic, the New Inquiry,

    Kottke, all of it—all the craft and care

    that comes flooding through my browser

    tabs every dayhourminute OMG)

    I say: No—

    There are absolutely


    on the internet, but the internet has


    All hope is not lost.

    You see tweets like this, from my friend Jess Verrilli:

    That is no mere fave.

    I ask myself: What is it like to watch a

    video a dozen times and glean something

    new with each viewing?

    Jess has looked at that fish.

    Another friend, David Cole, maintains a

    page on Quora that presents something

    he calls his personal canon:

    ...the pieces that I find myself referencing

    regularly in my work life, the pieces I wish

    everyone would read. Big, small, philosophical,

    practical, and between.

    He's collected and posted links to all of

    these pieces, with captions explaining

    why they've been so important to him.

    You get the sense

    the very strong sense

    that David has read these pieces

    more than once.

    This—a tweet like Jess's, a canon like David's—

    This is a place to start.



    and I'm trying to follow it myself

    because liking and faving are not enough.

    On the internet today

    watching something twice is


    On the internet today

    reading something twice is






    Find links to everything mentioned here

    at ROBINSLOAN.COM/FISH where the

    secret password is COMPANIONS.

    9 points
  • Brendan GramerBrendan Gramer, over 7 years ago

    Unlike some here, I clicked through to the end and I'm glad I did.

    I do understand the complaints here about the clicks being repetitive and annoying, but I also see how it allowed the author to emphasize key messages. Not perfect, but I did get the point.

    I found the message itself to be compelling enough to put up with its delivery. Please give it another try.

    7 points
  • Luke ChesserLuke Chesser, over 7 years ago

    I liked the way it was split up. It felt more like a speech than a piece of writing.

    5 points
  • Alex WaZaAlex WaZa, over 7 years ago

    What is love? Internet don't hurt.. don't hurt me.. no more!

    5 points
  • James Caruso, over 7 years ago

    This summarizes everything about how I feel about reading, consuming content on the internet. For me, it often feels like everything I read and consume is somehow transformed into ephemera just by reading. The content we share and like is deposited into layers of sediment, and we are just flat-fish moving through the sediment. This article really captures that for me. I really appreciated reading this and will certainly return back to it, and begin to build my own personal cannon.

    4 points
  • Sherry TaylorSherry Taylor, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    I share your pain! This is the reason why we built Plural App.

    Plural assembles your favorite web sources (The Atlantic, NYT, Kottke plus Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Reddit, etc.) into a single browsing experience that delivers fast & beautifully displayed content across all of your devices.

    And if you really like, or LOVE something, simply 'favorite' it and it's there to revisit again and again.

    We're working hard on deeper integrations and extending the current feature set, but I do believe Plural is the answer to your woes. Signing up is easy, and free!



    1 point
  • Brian ZelipBrian Zelip, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    On the internet today

    watching something twice is


    you could read that here devoid of context and laugh. But I see the author's point. And am glad I took the time to discover where the slide show went. Thanks for sharing this Bryan Clark.

    1 point
  • David DarnesDavid Darnes, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    When does it end?

    Great way to present an idea or article. The subject matter was interesting, but not enough to warrant such a vast amount of slides. Really sorry but I gave up before the end.

    1 point
  • Samuel ZellerSamuel Zeller, over 7 years ago

    Like :)

    1 point
  • Stephen GraceStephen Grace, over 7 years ago

    What's that TED talk? I wanna see it.

    0 points
  • Shawn BorskyShawn Borsky, over 7 years ago

    I actually thought the format was good. The usage of slides and clicking was appropriate to punctuate the words and pace that was clearly intended.

    I am a little surprised that many people seem to not have finished the slideshow. Does everyone here really have such short attention for reading that they couldn't just click until it was done delivering the message.

    I think this is worth the time to read.

    0 points
  • Pasquale D'SilvaPasquale D'Silva, over 7 years ago

    Tapestry has to be the worst way to read anything.

    0 points
  • Ben KocaBen Koca, over 7 years ago

    I could really relate with this post. There are so many distractions online and trying to focus on just one you love seems a feat in itself.

    0 points
  • KQ DregerKQ Dreger, over 7 years ago

    Also available on the iOS App Store.

    Created by Robin Sloan.

    0 points