Online media: Finding balance between stock & flow

I’m grateful to Lloyd Shepherd for the point to a post by Robin Sloan called Stock & Flow. Recalling studying for his degree in economics, Robin recalls:

There are two kinds of quantities in the world. Stock is a sta­tic value: money in the bank, or trees in the for est. Flow is a rate of change: fifteen dollars an hour, or three-thousand tooth picks a day. Easy. Too easy.
But I actually think stock and flow is the master metaphor for media today. Here’s what I mean:

  • Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind peo ple that you exist.
  • Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interest­ing in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people dis cover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.

Over the past few years I’ve thought of hurly-burly of daily online interactions as being very different to the bigger content artefacts I’ve created. In the case of the e-books I wrote for iCrossing, at times they felt a bit like avatars, going off into the world doing their own thing under creative commons…

I’d meet a client and the e-book was already there engaging with various people. It was an eery feeling for someone who’d never been published much before anywhere, your thoughts-as-content travelling the world causing things to happen, people re-using them in all sorts of ways (translating into Chinese, incorporating in textbooks in India, using it as an appendix to a business plan, to name just three).

One challenge is trying to balance out investment of your energy and effort in flow/stock. Interesting especially if you are fitting these things around a day job.

Blog posts are a bit of both really aren’t they. Sometimes they simply let people know you’re still there – hello! – and other times (and you’re not always sure when) they become stock, a focus for a conversation, a defining statement about what you believe, a new turn of phrase that captures an important wisp of the the zeitgeist.

Generally, I walk an erratic personal media path, subject to wild swings into stock or flow. When I was writing my book on personal reputation online last year, I was all stock creation. It took me over to the point of madness. Other times, perhaps toward the end of last year I was living too much in the Twitter stream without much time for reflection, time for creativity to take shape.

As Robin puts it:

And the real magic trick in 2010 is to put them both together. To keep the ball bounc ing with your flow—to main tain that open chan nel of communication—while you work on some kick-ass stock in the back ground. Sac ri fice nei ther. It’s the hybrid strategy.

Balance. Equilibrium. Great idea, so hard to get it right…


One comment

  1. Jim Byford

    I like this. Pirsig’s Lila, An Inquiry Into Morals follows a similar trajectory in regards to the study of and experience of static and dynamic quality.

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