If something’s been pre-filtered by Cory Doctorow and Jason Kottke then you know it’s going to be good. Sure enough, the open memo, to all marginally-smart people/consumers of internet “content” by Foster Kamer, is right on the money:
Literally, all you need to do: Type in web addresses. Use autofill! Or even: Google the website you want to go to, and go to it. Then bookmark it. Then go back every now and again.
Instead of reading stories that get to you because they’re popular, or just happen to be in your feed at that moment, you’ll read stories that get to you because you chose to go to them. Sounds simple, and insignificant, and almost too easy, right?
On our flight yesterday, my son asked how I was still reading articles on my phone, despite it being in aeroplane mode. I took the opportunity to explain to him how RSS powers feed readers (I use and pay for Feedly) as well as podcasts.
This stuff sounds obvious and easy when you’ve grown up with the open web. But given that the big five tech companies seem to be trying to progressively de-skill consumers, we shouldn’t be complacent.
By going to websites as a deliberate reader, you’re making a conscious choice about what you want a media outlet to be—as opposed to letting an algorithm choose the thing you’re most likely to click on. Or! As opposed to encouraging a world in which everyone is suckered into reading something with a headline optimized by a social media strategist armed with nothing more than “best practices” for conning you into a click.
Kamer blames Facebook, and given its impact on the news ecosystem, he’s correct in doing so:
Their goal, as a company, is to keep you on Facebook—and away from everything else—as long as they possibly can. They do that by making Facebook as addictive to you as possible. And they make it addictive by feeding you only the exact stripe of content you want to read, which they know to a precise, camel-eye-needle degree. It’s the kind of content, say, that you won’t just click on, but will “Like,” comment on, and share (not just for others to read, but so you can say something about yourself by sharing it, too). And that’s often before you’ve even read it!