I'm many kinds of writer - novelist, journalist, activist, editorialist, screenwriter - but at core, I'm a #blogger. Every bit of interesting stuff that crosses my path gets turned into a blog post, which gets lodged in both a #WordPress database and my mind. Jean-Leon Gerome's painting...
If you'd like an essay-formatted version of this thread to read or share, here's a link to it on pluralistic.net, my surveillance-free, ad-free, tracker-free blog:


There, the ideas rub up against other interesting stuff and crystallizes into longer, more considered pieces:


It's an iterative process, and it follows a predictable and often very exciting life-cycle. First, I encounter an idea in the wild that niggles at my attention and I try to capture what it is that's making it so interesting.

The act of writing about some little fragment for strangers makes me think about it harder. That means that I end up making connections to other ideas that I've thought about, and things I continue to encounter in the wild.

As I write about the subject over and over again, over days, then weeks, then years, it gets sharper and more focused. I get better at talking about it, sure, but I also get better at *thinking* about it.

This is an activity @bruces once called "advancing and demolishing potential political arguments that have never been made by anybody but me":


At a certain point, the idea "tips." The act of repeatedly writing about it, relating it to new stuff happening in the world, makes it clear enough to me that it becomes clear enough to explain it to other people, too.

Then I'm no longer "advancing and demolishing arguments" for myself - everyone gets in on the act.

That's what happened with #enshittification. I coined the term while on vacation last summer:

Though I was just tossing the idea off idly, it stuck with me. I dusted it off in November to talk about Amazon and ad-tech:


Then in December to write about an aspect of online speech that is wildly important but rarely considered:


A week later, the rapid-onset enshittification of Twitter got me thinking about the subject again:


And again, just before Christmas, thanks to a magisterial essay by @catvalente:


The idea percolated over the holidays, and I revisited it in January:


And then, in late January, I had a conceptual breakthrough, thanks to some excellent reporting on #TikTok by @ebakerwhite:


That was the essay that broke the idea out of my own endless argument with myself into the wider world. @WIRED reprinted it, using the @creativecommons license on the piece:


(All the essays on my Pluralistic blog are licensed Creative Commons Attribution-only - you can republish them, too, including in commercial forums, provided you follow the license terms!)

After that essay went viral, I started to hear from lots of people about the subject and it kicked into overdrive - you can see how it went after that by looking at the "enshittification" tag on my blog:


The best part of this phaseis the move from arguing with myself to having serious discussions with others. I just got to spend a week doing just that, with some of the smartest, most challenging discussants I could ask for: the producers of @onthemedia, and host, @OTMBrooke.

I'm a *giant* On The Media fan. I don't think I've missed an episode in *decades*. And I *loved* Gladstone's graphic novel about media theory:


So I went into this discussion with high hopes, but those hopes were met and exceeded in every way. My conversations with @Rebecca_CC_ and #KatyaRogers brought these ideas into a new focus for me.

Then, over the course of many hours, Gladstone and I put them into an orderly progression that was transformative.

On The Media turned those discussions into an hour-long, three-act series. They've just aired part one, "Why Every Platform Goes Bad":


It's a superb piece of radio (the FCC_mandated bleeps on the "shit" in "enshittification" are hilarious). Though I'm mostly a sole practitioner, it's a forceful example of the power of collaboration, from Gladstone's challenging questions to the superb editing.

The rest of the series will air in the coming weeks, and I'm told they're going to air it as a complete hour this summer. I hope you'll give it a listen!


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