After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive

“You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away – a man is not a piece of fruit.”
– Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman, Act 2

Ion_Andreescu_-_O_portocala_desfacutaThere’s a big hubbub around, because Gawker went and put in a new interface it seems most people hate. I think it’s terrible, and I’m really going to miss having Richard Lawson in my life. I didn’t leave them when they fired a good editor (Gabriel Snyder) for doing a good job. I didn’t leave them over the whole password debacle. I will leave them over an ugly, unusable site. Well, I think it’s ugly. Some people think it’s slick. (I’m sure they also liked Hypercolors shirts, if they were alive back then and of shirt-wearing age. Remember those? How they made your armpits glow like nuclear waste? And you’d see assholes wearing them at Great America, riding the rollercoaster, or paying someone six bucks to “guess their age” so they’d win a fifty-cent prize? Yeah. Who’s winning now, assholes? Oh. It isn’t me? Oh dear. Sorry, assholes. Carry on! In your Hummers, with your Crocs, listening to Creed, cutting me off.) I am not exactly sure what their specifications were to the UI designer, but it seems they wanted to:

  • get rid of comment threads (all collapsed now)
  • remove tags
  • remove thumbnails
  • remove the context of headlines (apparently this is called the “dek.” I’m learning all sorts of things in this journey!)
  • not allow for easy searching (which is key if there are no tags). It’s a scroll box that I can’t scroll if I’m logged in, which is awful because their engine has always sucked and the hit I want is at least number fifteen
  • make the “enter comment” box the most important part of the site, because it takes up the most real estate, so now it’s all about me and what I have to say–to myself! I’m in the building and I’m feeling myself
  • fuck up comment links. An admin responded to a comment I made, and it routed me to Deadspin, not GawkerTV. Adventure!
  • make the community roar, like tiny lions.
    RAWR!

I was initially excited when I saw the change. I like new interfaces. I like to test them and see what things I can do that I couldn’t do before. But it seems that they’ve done at Gawker what they always do: make changes and expect that everyone who uses their site will just accept it. They never ask for input. That would be weakness. I’m not going to get used to this horrible UI. I don’t have to. I’m not that codependent.

No, I’m not staging a one-lady protest or anything. I don’t care enough. They can do their thing, and I’ll do mine. Whether this works for them or not, whatever. I will not be praying for a fail. I don’t think they really give a fuck about my not being there, either. Although if you care and want to see what the falling stats look like, you can see them here, because Gawker has dropped site stats from the redesign. Hey, they might start rising again; you always expect some burps after a redesign. Humans don’t like change, unless it involves more orgasms or calories or money or fewer pounds on our bodies. No, I wasn’t looking for this information. I was looking for something else. Interestingly, all the Gawker stories are dropped from Google News, so all I find is Gawker redesign stories on other sites. Why? Because they broke the URLs. (OOH! NERDFIGHT. You think you don’t want to read it? But it’s about JavaScriptPOW! BAM! KABLOOIE!) But I thought you might find it handy. And I live to serve you, and only you, baby.

So I’m spending more time with sites that I love. No, they may not be as varied in content, but that doesn’t matter. I’m remembering that I love them because they’re really, really good at what they deliver. What are you doing instead? Oh.

But this, this is the most interesting piece of commentary I’ve read on the whole issue so far. It’s a response to a comment on an article on the redesign, and how the redesign will stay. The original comment is from a commenter (BBQCornnuts) who is a vibrant part of the Gawker community and who has defected to Crasstalk.com, and is very vocal there. The commenter says that news can be consumed anywhere, but that it was the comments that made Gawker a unique brand. That’s the Gawker community refrain, and they’re all emigrating to Crasstalk, or Wordsmoker (my favorite, because I have a crush on Virus with Shoes and his sexy Scottish voice–put in a good word for me, will you? Tell him I put out, and that it’s not raining in California, and that I’m stacked–and the writing is good), or the Awl, or some other places I don’t know about. (I think I found the place where the Gizmodo people do it. It is mentioned as existing in comments, but no one cites it. I think it’s this wiki. I went to the “magical entrances” page–really, how can you resist a name like that–and the snippets of conversation there made me snicker.)

Sorry, here’s the “this, this” of above, the most insightful thing that I’ve read so far on any of this mess, which I’m pretty sure was written by the author of the article Christopher Mims, but his name is abbreviated on his icon and I can’t see it unless I sign up on the site for a username and password (really, “C. Mims” would have been a better choice, dude, than “Christopher M…,” for display purposes, but I’m sure you hate it when people call you “Chris,” don’t you. Sorry, I won’t do it again. It was just that I thought a threesome was a casual affair. My bad):

I’m pretty sure Denton is OK with that. The commenters served their purpose – now he doesn’t need them anymore. Gawker is a great lesson in how a media property has different needs — and derives different kinds of traffic — as it scales. The key to getting to the next level is shedding anything that’s not meaningful at that level. The web is infinite but attention is scarce… (found here)

Excellent point. The commenters helped him build his brand, but are they really helping him keep it anymore? Do the majority of the hits come from people looking at fresh content once, or people rereading the pages over and over again, reading threads and snarking with their friends? Denton is banking on the first. And he’s seen the people already build their little Pintas and Santa Marias and he doesn’t care. He doesn’t think they’ll find land. Sailing away into the void, never to be heard from again.

I don’t blame him in principle, if this is the case. You shed your milk teeth when you grow up. He feels that Gawker needs a metamorphosis to reach its next level of success, so he’s done it. I just think this was a really clumsy, ham-fisted way to do it. Why not invite community participation? Why alienate your base? Do you really lose any traffic, if you don’t need to? Sure, they may not be the biggest audience you’re courting, but I think you misinterpret your stats–unless I’m not seeing something he’s seeing, like average length people stay on a page. I think that would be very telling. If people don’t linger, then they aren’t up in the comments.

But I really will miss Richard Lawson. A lot. I hope he’s working on a novel. He really ought to be.

Oh, and if there’s any confusion: Seer is the pimp here. Seer is Mr. Furley. Not Denton or anyone at Gawker. I’m in the building, and I’m feelin’ myself. Everyone else can suck eggs! The size of the comment box told me so!

Quit interrupting, I’m talking to your girlie,

Smicks

Advertisements

2 comments

  1. Christa Palmer

    Hi! This is bbqcornnuts. Very interesting column (and very well-written by the way). I think a lot of people are missing Richard Lawson, myself included. One of my prime concerns at Gawker is the move away from text and into more visual pieces. I don’t have anything against visual media but I would also like to read some great writing (like Richard’s and Brian’s).

    • Seer McRicketts-McGee

      Yo! Happy to see you! I’m never on Crasstalk because I can’t comment in quips. I’m not clever that way. Don’t have the muscles for it.

      I do miss Richard something wicked.

      I think Denton feels he is on the bleeding edge. This is not necessarily a great place to be when you’ve got hella users. Cutting edge, sure. Crest of the wave, fine. But trying to define and create a medium with your *only* product in the live environment, no beta version, no choices, while sacrificing so much of what’s created your brand: that’s one way to run a business. I’ve never done it, so I can’t tell him what to do. I’m just an armchair technology quarterback. I’ve just seen so many rollouts and patches and pullbacks and crashes and apologies and lawsuits and failings and a few successes–usually of tiny nimble companies without much to lose, or little appendages.

      Yes, you need to change or you will die. But you need to evolve.

      Goddamn, when did I start having opinions about these sorts of things? Is there something wrong with me? Eh, probably.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s