The Slow Web

Three years ago on the occasion of Ramadan, I started an info-fast. I unplugged from Twitter, disabled most of my Facebook account’s functionality, unsubscribed from all my Google Reader RSS feeds, stopped commenting on blogs and closed off comments on my blogs (that last one may have happened before or after, but let’s pretend it all happened at the same time).

There is too much to keep track of, and I simply gave up. In the end, the things you do have to add value to your life. This generation is struggling with the Web the same our parents may have struggled with watching too much TV. We are glued to this stuff. I know most of my day is spent at the computer. I wanted and still want to rethink my relationship to all this web-based activity. I suppose it’s about bringing mindfulness to the act. Slow Blogging was something I mentioned around that info-fast. Jack Cheng’s Slow Web is an idea that fits perfectly into this as well.

Timely not real-time. Rhythm not random. Moderation not excess. Knowledge not information. These are a few of the many characteristics of the Slow Web. It’s not so much a checklist as a feeling, one of being at greater ease with the web-enabled products and services in our lives.

Like Slow Food, Slow Web is concerned as much with production as it is with consumption. We as individuals can always set our own guidelines and curb the effect of the Fast Web, but as I hope I’ve illustrated, there are a number of considerations the creators of web-connected products can make to help us along. And maybe the Slow Web isn’t quite a movement yet. Maybe it’s still simmering. But I do think there is something distinctly different about the feeling that some of these products impart on their users, and that feeling manifests from the intent of their makers.

A great example of the Slow Web is the recently launched Evening Edition news site. It’s ironic that we broke away from the strictures of the broadcast, mass-communication era and are now trying to break away from (or find a different relationship to) the on-demand era.