The Jolly Teapot

Freshly brewed links, served by Nicolas Magand

My name is Nicolas Magand and I live in Paris, France. I work as a social media and engagement editor at the Global Editors Network, a non-profit aimed at promoting innovation and sustainability in the news industry. Here I blog mostly about tech and media, but many other topics can face my enthusiasm.

Filtering by Tag: Social media

“Media execs are good at aping, not at innovating”

Om Malik, about the state of the media industry, and how media execs historically never anticipated any of the changes brought by technology, namely the web, social media, mobile, etc.

Who is to blame? When posed to people in the industry, especially those on the business side, such questions often elicit a list of usual suspects dominated by technology companies. They may even include consumers on the list. Basically, anyone might be on there except the media companies themselves. And I, for one, am sick of this blame game.

Brilliant piece.

Time, thoughts, tools: pick two

The last few days, I discovered a few new tools or platforms from which you can publish blog entries (hat tip to Dense Discovery for most of them). Small Victories, Listed, Blot… All three platforms aim to make blogging easier than ever: by pluging themselves on top of the tools you already use. Whether it is through Dropbox folders or the Simple Notes app, they all seem Template-based and hassle-free. If you are on the newsletter bandwagon, your Substack archive can also be used as a blog.

All of this is probably a good sign that blogging is thriving, or needs to thrive again in the age of platforms (looking at you, Medium.)

Along with the magnificent Squarespace (or Kirby, or even Svbtle which I used before), it probably has never been easier to publish on your own blog. The days of setting up a WordPress just for a personal blog seem over, and I have not seen anyone using MarsEdit for ages.

If this is a golden age for blogs, then why has this one not been updated since February ? As Carl Barenbrug says, well, on his own blog, Twitter may be the culprit :

Although we are starting to see a new wave of blogging, many people use Twitter as a means to express themselves. I still use Twitter, so I can see some value in this platform, particularly to make personal and professional connections through common interests, or to simply share something I like. However, Twitter is also a tool that encourages negative, impulsive, and ill-considered behaviour. It doesn’t really keep our minds healthy—much like all social media—in the sense that we are constantly looking to see who has responded or engaged with what we have published.

When I see something interesting, rather than saving it, digesting it, deciding whether it should appear on the blog or Twitter, I tend to just tweet or retweet right away. Maybe it is lazyness, maybe it is the need to be among the firsts, but time management has become the hardest part of blogging.

Social media is not all that bad if you listen to teenagers

Katie Notopoulos, writing on BuzzFeed News, on a new Pew Research Center report on social media and generation Z.

Much research has focused on social media being a huge waste of time at best, a facilitator of ideological bubbles, and a dangerous, hostile experience for young people at worst. But the 743 teens Pew surveyed say it’s actually, well, good. Millennials were the first to make social media mainstream, but might their Gen Z successors have figured out a better relationship with their smartphones? Growing up among devices and platforms could just make today’s teens better at incorporating technology into their lives than even the millennials before them, with greater awareness of the hazards. The internet clearly can be a dangerous place, but teens now have the self-awareness to know when it's time to unplug.

The study is a lot more nuanced than this, but Notopoulos explains it well. Anyway, this is, I think, a good reminder for us – older generations, including millenials like myself – to be more willing to learn from the youngests, and to be more careful on not ending up sounding like our own parents.

An attempt at defining content

On the Financial Times, Lou Stoppard searches for a meaning of the word content and talks with a number of content professionals, including one of them, Raven Smith:

Content is the stuff that fills the feeds we’ve created. It’s meant to make us feel content. The idea of contentedness is now in question. The key is arresting people, keeping them watching, and ensuring they take something away from the watch (the takeaway could be anything from ‘the world is going to be OK’ to ‘I want that dress’). Tone and aesthetics vary greatly, but the ‘arrest, engage, activate’ process is the same.

A fascinating read. I have never quite liked that word myself, especially in French — contenu — which sounds off. The word content is so vague — from a single tweet to a whole TV show — and yet so useful for those numerous times when you cannot really say anything else without over-simplifying it, or for those times when you really cannot list all the different formats featured in one project.

The vagueness of the word is what makes it so appealing, and so empty at the same time. Sounds a lot like the nature of the content itself we generally consume in our feeds.

What happens to web traffic patterns when Facebook goes down

Chartbeat's Josh Schwartz, on the Nieman Journalism Lab, sharing what the web analytics company found when Facebook went down for 45 minutes in August 2018:

What did people do? According to our data, they went directly to publishers’ mobile apps and sites (as well as to search engines) to get their information fix.

Publishers must be happy about this : it means most users did not — after all — forget about them. It simply means they prefer to wait for their Facebook feeds to show them some news rather than visiting websites individually.

The users' blind trust or naïveté in the news feed is what has been problematic in the last couple of years: How accountable must algorithms be when it comes to news and informing the public, especially when we know that is how most people get their news?

This is a whole other debate, but then :

Google Chrome Suggestions, a personalized news feed built into Chrome’s mobile browser, is up 20×.

Facebook is the biggest fish in this pond and it — understandably — gets most of the attention but Google is right there, and this Chrome "personalized news feed" should also be questioned, along with YouTube, Google search results, and Google News.

Another interesting part:

Mobile traffic has seen double-digit growth and surpassed desktop, which saw double-digit declines.

Smartphones have definitely replaced PCs as the main — and sometimes only — computing device.

"What if viral content is not the best content?"

Interesting take from The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal, published a few months ago:

But what if viral content isn’t the best content? Two Wharton professors have found that anger tops the list of shareable emotions in the social-media world, and a study of the Chinese internet service Weibo found that rage spreads faster than joy, sadness, and disgust. In general, emotional appeals work well, as everyone in media has come to discover.

Of course popular, viral content is rarely the best content. Just like the most popular show on TV is rarely the best show.

I like Madrigal's take on retweets: turning them off to avoid these viral, spontaneous shares of content not worthy of your precious time. But it seems a bit too much: Not all retweets can be simply reduced to low-quality content.

I prefer my way of turning the noise down: Follow a limited number of people (100 in my case), and turn off retweets for about half of them, from time to time. I find it to be a good compromise.

One of the best Instagram accounts

Stefania Rousselle, a French-American journalist, came up with a brilliant idea: on an Instagram account, AMOUR, she collects stories from regular people, asking only one question : What is Love ?

Some of these stories will bring you to tears, some of them will make you smile and brighten your day. One of my favourites so far, from a man named Lucien, 81:

There are moments where I really get depressed, when I am really low. Oh la la, you can’t even imagine. I miss her. She was a good cook because she was from the Landes, where there are a lot of good cooks.

In the winter, we would watch television, then sit near the fire and fall asleep in our respective chairs. We were happy. I always hoped it would last forever. It didn’t.

Please forgive me if I cry.

Do yourself a favour and click on the follow button, you will not regret it.

The cost of free platforms

Owen Williams, writing in the Charged newsletter about Medium's latest pivot, one that is actually pivoting away from publishers, after opening its arms to them at first:

All of this is to say: Medium is great, but be wary! Owning your own platform is important, and valuable, even at this point in the internet's maturity cycle.

This part really comforts me into my choice of platform for this very blog. Sure, I do not 'own' the whole thing (it's Squarespace), but one thing we forget too often when mentioning platforms is the – very tricky – word 'free'.

If you don't pay for something with money, you usually pay by giving away some of your data. Most people are OK with this idea, and that is fine. Such data can be used to improve products, and that is why Google Photos and Gmail – to name a few – are so good at what they do while also being free to use. But if you're not paying with actual money, platform companies will never consider you as the true customer, they may never adjust their products to better suit you, they might never help you get your content out once they disappear.

Medium is not alone is this neglect of its users, Twitter is acting up like this with developpers and power users too.


1. The short notice those publishers were initially given is telling you how much people at Medium think. ↩︎

2. After seeing the failed experiment of – now defunct – The Awl, and now this, which publisher would trust Medium now? Medium burned a bridge on that one, but without publishers on its side, how can it charms users enough to pay? ↩︎

3. This blog used to be hosted on the great and minimalist Svbtle platform. Their Svbtle Promise is a fantastic commitment to the paying users of the service. (I switched to Squarespace to merge About.me, a couple of Tumblr blogs, and the main blog into one platform. If it has been just for Hypertexter, you'd probably read those lines on Svbtle. ↩︎

A depressing picture of the Instagram situation

Katie Notopoulos, at BuzzFeed:

Our feeds have grown stale and are littered with ads and celebrities and influencers: people who are still posting actively, professionally, obligatorily. And Stories has made the stakes for posting photos to the feed way higher.

Sometimes you stumble upon an article and you instantly wish you had written it. Everything Notopoulos says is true: Stories ruined the Instagram experience – not that this new experience is bad, but this is not the Instagram we grew to like.

When I ask some of my friends why they are not on Twitter, most of them say something like: "I would not know what to say, what to share. And if I knew what to share, it probably would not be good enough for me to bother anyway." I feel the main Instagram feed is the same now, thanks to Stories leaving the feed to perfectly crafted posts. When you publish something on the main feed, you can't help but wonder if this is good enough, if this pretty picture you just shared is worth the attention of your followers.

Instagram used to be fun and casual, where everybody seemed able to share something cool once in a while, where pictures of food where the only thing to avoid if you wanted to be a cool kid. But that was before. Instagram newsfeed has slowly morphed into an intimidating effort, and the app itself into a pile of never-ending Stories threatening to blow out your phone's speaker in public.

The surprising part of this observation on Instagram, like Gruber pointed at, is that the disappearance of the chronological timeline is not even mentioned by Notopoulos (nor is the map feature which I loved). Surprising in the sense that you would expect, after seeing the title of the article, that this would be one of the main gripes she has with Instagram.

A word on the persistant, repetitive display of ads every five posts, I have a question: How many new brands of hipster wallets can there be out there anyway?

Focus, avoid social clutter, get your time back

In Hagakure, there is a saying: “The more the water, the higher the boat.” I love it because it makes sense for a lot of things in life. Except for one: information overload.

Unfollowing is the new black. It has been a few weeks now that I’ve decided to clean my news feeds. RSS feeds, Twitter followings, Facebook likes, etc. Everything had to go through some heavy cleaning for me to breathe a little.

Don’t have time to watch the Instagram Stories that matter most to you? Unfollow the accounts you always skip.

Your Twitter feed is a mess of links, pictures and retweets? Unfollow those who tweet too much, mute them, disable retweets. Keep only those you cherish, only those you want to read every time.

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