one bad decision after another...
April 23, 2001 9:43 AM   Subscribe

one bad decision after another... "Three months ago, our new sibling, Plastic, took its first breath and then took off. Being the opportunists that we are, we decided to do some genetic engineering, grafting some Plastic DNA into the FEED site. Today you are seeing the results of this experiment. There are two major changes, and for any long-time FEED readers these will feel more like revivals than outright novelties. The first is the new Filter section, our very own web log..."
posted by palegirl (27 comments total)
so... what's so bad about it?

i don't mind the posting, but if Plastic on FEED is bad you should at least present some reason why you think so.

doesn't bother me. if anything, it's reclaimed the Feed presence that was lost before whenever you followed commentary off
posted by teradome at 9:54 AM on April 23, 2001

because why does everything have to be a weblog? why does everything need to have threaded comments attached? feed was so good at what they did, but ever since the big redesign they seem to be making, well, one bad decision after another, losing what made feed special and good in the first place.
posted by palegirl at 10:13 AM on April 23, 2001

I agree with both of you. The plasticized interface isn't necessarily a bad thing, in and of itself. However, to my mind, the greatest thing FEED has going for it is its original content, not its incorporation with In other words, FEED is one of the things that makes Plastic good, not the other way around.

When it feels like the emphasis is shifting to content that can be found elsewhere (metafilter, other weblogs, the plastic homepage), longtime FEEDers like myself get a tiny bit nervous. But as long as this doesn't look increasingly like this, I'll be pacified.
posted by sj at 10:35 AM on April 23, 2001

Feed was good at soliciting well-written essays, but their site's design stank, and the "Loop" was terrible - they were actually losing the usability race with Salon and Slate! The changes all look good to me.
posted by nicwolff at 10:36 AM on April 23, 2001

You might want to look again, because what I'm seeing ranks up there with some of the worst UI design I've seen.

First impression: words, words, words. Where's the hierarchy? Where are my eyes supposed to go? Why aren't they using color to accomplish these things? I can't find anything on this page - it's all equally visually weighted, nothing stands out, it's all in muted tones of grey and orange, and worst of all: one single font for headlines and copy. No texture, no contrast and very little white space.

Boo and hiss.

The ad banner is the most visually outstanding element on the page.
posted by gsh at 10:51 AM on April 23, 2001

I agree with palegirl and sj and gsh... the new interface looks terrible, it is hard to find things on it, and since I have always valued feed more for its original content, it is a bummer to see that de-emphasized (you can hardly find it). And I have not found Plastic to be anywhere near as interesting as a weblog/source of links/discussion forum as MeFi is.
posted by Rebis at 10:58 AM on April 23, 2001

sj: somehow I doubt that FEED can really afford to invest in original content right now.
posted by holgate at 11:00 AM on April 23, 2001

I vote: BOO! I have found Feed "Dailies" to be usually worth reading, and their longer pieces and special articles are usually very good. The occasional Feed piece has been truly outstanding.

The design is horrible, horrible, and the discourse on Plastic is not so good as to be worth the tradeoff.

Original, generalist-but-thoughtful web content, has been on a noteable decline in the past year and a half. On an average day two years ago, Salon was worth at least twenty or thirty minutes, and Slate and Feed between them worth another twenty.

Now, Salon is lucky if it gets 5 minutes, and there are plenty of days when not one Salon article gets a read. Slate has stayed more consistent, but is still fundamentally weak.

Suck, the progenitor of, is about the only original-content site I read that has kept up the quality bar.
posted by MattD at 11:31 AM on April 23, 2001

So let me get this straight.. community weblogs (besides this one) are bad. Threaded discussions are bad. And most original content is bad?

Why do you people even get on the web anymore if it makes you so miserable?

There are other things to do you know. Also, why link to something you don't like? Isn't there a lot of that on the web? Or did you just want to start a feeding frenzy to rip apart someone else's hard work?
posted by jbeaumont at 11:58 AM on April 23, 2001

Well said jbeaumont!

For me, a much more interesting question is this: what is the difference now between FEED and Plastic? If I think of a great pop culture story idea and decide to submit it, should I go to FEED or Plastic? What's the difference? Doesn't this make them into competitors in a way?

And on another note, MF-ites going into FEED and acting like idiots isn't going to help anyone. That's a real shame, and it makes all of us look bad.
posted by fraying at 12:03 PM on April 23, 2001

I'll bite, jbeaumont. Community weblogs are good things, as are threaded discussions. is perfectly fine for what it is (postings filtered through staff, moderated discussions, advertising, etc.) and I hope it sticks around, although the outlook seems not so good. It's just that I and many of my friends haven't found it very interesting or compelling.

I think most of the people who have contributed to this thread would agree that original content is good, which is why the plasticization of FEED bothers us a little. If it indicates the direction they are headed and the way they're compensating for dwindling resources, then the change is, for me, bad.

As for the rationale behind the link, I assume that Palegirl linked to FEED because she saw something popular that she liked becoming something she didn't like so much. In what sense is a discussion of that transition a "feeding frenzy to rip apart someone else's hard work"?
posted by sj at 12:16 PM on April 23, 2001

no, the point is that the original content on feed has always been very good, so it's too bad that they're moving away from that.
posted by palegirl at 12:21 PM on April 23, 2001

Thanks for pointing that out, Derek. How emabrassing.
posted by rodii at 12:22 PM on April 23, 2001

Ack. embarrassing indeed.

I always thought metafilter could create discussion by a membership that was better than childish name calling and trolling on other sites.

posted by mathowie at 12:34 PM on April 23, 2001

Actually, it's not all that interesting a question.

Feed and Plastic are not becoming competitors at all; they are, rather becoming more and more like one another - and, as we learned from the Age of the Portal, this makes for increased blanding, not branding.

It's bandwagonism, and blame the weblogs if you must (I'm too tired to care anymore), but their rise and rise in the media's eye (and thus, in ours) has so clearly caused people in charge of these sites to think, "Ah - the next Big Thing! The answer to the Content Problem! There's gold in them thar weblogs!"

We're going to see more of this weblogization and not less. Strap in, kids.
posted by gsh at 12:42 PM on April 23, 2001

I'm confused. So weblogs are bad now too? A writing form that has been championed to death here is now a bad thing because (shock!) once other people learn about it they want to do it too?

I can understand your criticism, gsh, if these publications stopped producing content and just did weblogs. But, as far as I can tell (please prove me wrong) Feed and Suck are still providing just as much original content as before. They just cross link to each other and let you comment on things. I LIKE the Salon weblog, I LIKE the Boing Boing weblog - just because they're not 100% weblog or 100% publication makes them a bad thing?

There's all this talk about how weblogs scoop the media (MeFi and the Seattle earthquake, etc.) but then we're angry when the media adopts the technique?

I know we don't like it when people adopt things we like, it makes them feel a little cheaper, but it's going to be OK... really.. it is.

PS - I apologize to palegirl for the "feeding frenzy" line, it was a bit mean and out of line.
posted by jbeaumont at 12:56 PM on April 23, 2001

None of the above was my point. I don't care about weblogs in way or another.

What I do see is that sites like Feed and Salon, et. al. who have well publicized financial problems because content paid for solely by ad banners is not working, are looking to weblogs as the Content Solution. I don't know how to explain this more plainly.

You will soon see all that expensive original content give way to weblogs, more and more. Until, of course, the realization strikes that since there is next to no original content left on the web because everyone else has adopted the link and comment approach.
posted by gsh at 1:40 PM on April 23, 2001

I like the idea of Feed integrating more closely with Plastic. I see Plastic as more of a platform, in a way, and close integration back and forth - forming a true web - is a really interesting idea. To leverage the Plastic infrastructure on something that looks more like Feed - while still acknowledging and working with the crossover between them - that's a dreamy idea of the web to me. If done well, I can envision a really nice organic feeling, with people who ebb and flow between and among the automatic sites.

I'm not sure about the execution of the idea, however. I've worked with structures like this before, and it's exceedingly difficult to do it right. At the moment, I'm not sure they've struck the right balance between original content, interviews, and weblog/Plastic style stuff.

As I see it, that's done first through strong content definition followed up by a sound design process to support the message that the "containers" designed by the content definition should communicate. Right now, the distinctions between different kinds of content are way too blurry, and the similarity of the design elements used to distinguish between the kinds of content only confirms this.

But in principle, it's an excellent idea, in my opinion.
posted by mikel at 1:54 PM on April 23, 2001

Err, I think I did cover your point. I said that I'd understand your criticism if these content sites had less original content because they have weblogs. You haven't proven that that's true yet. They may be looking to weblogs as A content solution but not THE solution.

You just say that I will "soon see" - but there's no real evidence that this trend is happening. Can you provide an example of a content site that, upon adding a weblog to its content, started producing less original work?

It's like saying that because the New Yorker put's a "What's Hot" section in the magazine telling you about other things to read and look at and listen to, coupled with some snarky comments, that the whole magazine will go in that direction because it's cheaper to produce.
posted by jbeaumont at 2:04 PM on April 23, 2001

Regardless of your opinion of Web logs or the value of Plastic in general, I'm personally terrified for Feed's future. I love the longer pieces. That's why I go to Feed. And when I loaded it today, the emphasis had been taken AWAY from those and put on a Web log.

Why did they do that?

I imagine they're counting on the check-back-frequently impulse that Web logs generate to increase banner impressions. This isn't about using the technology in new, neat ways. This isn't about providing compelling content. They started Plastic to collect interesting links from around the Web. The started Feed Filter (in this huge, screen dominating form) to get hits hits hits.

Of course, I'm torn because I don't want Feed to die. But I also don't want Feed to overcome by reader submitted crap for the sake of a few extra page views a day. Sigh.
posted by benbrown at 3:43 PM on April 23, 2001

In talking to Joey Anuff at SXSW, he mentioned what mikel just hit upon--that the point is to have be a platform for publishing content, and to have sites built upon that platform. (In the long run, I think they want to productize the engine to other publishers.)

And while that idea is well and good, I think the current implementation WAY suffers. It might just be how I'm habituated, but when I go to FEED, I want one thing--the daily. I don't know where to look for that now. As someone else mentioned in this thread, the visual hierarchy of the home page is terrible. There are a lot of words, and nothing to guide your eye. No obvious *lead* story to start with, no sensical layout to help you keep going.

The current structure puts Filter as the core, which seems odd. Feed, at least in my mind, is a place for original content. Such that the stuff in the right hand column should be the core, and placed with prominence in the center, and the Filter stuff is more "if there's nothing you want here on FEED, why not check out some other places of interest?"

And I think they've gotta ditch "Who's Better?" It's silly fun, but it's way distracting in trying to deal with an already overcrowded page.

This is One Man's Opinion.
posted by peterme at 3:44 PM on April 23, 2001

It's just gotten even more confusing. Within the last 10 minutes, they've shuffled the order of the postings so now the top link in the Filter is to the Nicholson Baker dialogue. However, right next to that, the Nicholson Baker dialogue is linked as the featured article.

So are they the same? Very odd. I agree with Peter -- Filter needs to be on the right and the main content needs to be put back dead center.
posted by benbrown at 3:56 PM on April 23, 2001

So, assuming the worst (that this move is something of a death rattle for Feed's longer pieces), where do we go for our early morning, dose of healthy, smart content. I mean, there's Uber, but really, who reads that? LOW BROW!
posted by benbrown at 4:08 PM on April 23, 2001

Sorry for the multi, multi, multi posts, but here's an example of this new bit already biting Feed in the ass. For those who don't want to click through, some Plastic user is complaining about post duplication because he came through Plastic instead of Feed and doesn't know what the hell is going on.

This is in the thread where Nicholson Baker is also posting. So we've got Nicholson Baker, esteemed novelist competing for eyeballs with random perturbed Plastic user. AWESOME!
posted by benbrown at 4:32 PM on April 23, 2001

Hey folks, Steven from FEED here. Thanks as always for all the comments, positive and negative. A couple of quick responses: first, I didn't have that much to do with the design of the front door, so I'll let others speak to that. I can see the point of swapping the center and right columns -- I'll ask Stefanie about that tomorrow. Maybe it would make more sense that way. I'm sure there's a reason we did it the other way, but perhaps we should switch it anyway...

As far as the future of FEED's original content goes, we are totally committed to the level and format of content you've seen on the site over the past month or so. We scaled back the long-format budget slightly earlier this year, but we've got a good mix now and we're *definitely* not going to an all weblog format. We'll have a new brain science-related extended feature to announce shortly, plus lots of other traditional FEED essays and conversations.

For those of you who are griping about the addition of a weblog at FEED, keep in mind that the original "Filter" section -- which we launched more than six years ago -- was very similar in tone to what the new Filter section does, just without the fancy discussion tools. And we've been running "elsewhere links" to interesting content from around the web for as long as the Daily column has been around. We simply wanted to have those links generate discussion on their own, and let readers participate more in suggesting them.

Finally, we're doing much more than just weblogging with the Plastic tools -- check out our Fast Forward feature from a few weeks ago, or the Dialogs like the one with Baker currently on the site. More to come, of course...

posted by Sberlin at 4:54 PM on April 23, 2001

::: gsh said: ... Until, of course, the realization strikes that since there is next to no original content left on the web because everyone else has adopted the link and comment approach. :::

there is plenty of original content on the web, on non-commercial independent sites that are well-written, well-designed, and refreshed regularly. it's understandable that mainstream media largely ignores these sites. it's slightly puzzling that many here ignore them as well. old thinking for a new medium?
posted by Zeldman at 6:04 AM on April 24, 2001

According to One Man's Opinion regarding the FEED front page: "There are a lot of words, and nothing to guide your eye. No obvious *lead* story to start with, no sensical layout to help you keep going."

I beg to differ. There's is a graphic up at the top of the page that points you directly to the "lead" story. The rest of the stories after that fall in a chronological order. Since when is chronology a non-sensical organizational device? Granted the whole Filter area is a little rough right now, but it IS new and it also sounds like they are flexible and willing to smooth out the logistics.
posted by bighouseplant at 11:57 AM on April 25, 2001

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