The durable stuff

I stumbled upon the “stock and flow” conversation again today. Quite timely really as I’ve been reevaluating where and on what I spend my time on when I’m on the Net (actually as I wrote that last bit, I thought, hold on, the Net is always on…am I ever really off of the Net (as my watch just dinged me to let me know I have a new notification, but that is a discussion for another, I think).

Robin Sloan, the guy who wrote the original post, defines stock and flow as:

Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people 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 discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.

*stock and flow btw is an economic concept that Robin adopted as a metaphor for writing in the connected world.

As Robin writes:

Flow is ascendant these days, for obvious reasons—but I think we neglect stock at our peril. I mean that both in terms of the health of an audience and, like, the health of a soul. Flow is a treadmill, and you can’t spend all of your time running on the treadmill. Well, you can. But then one day you’ll get off and look around and go: oh man. I’ve got nothing here.

That’s the situation I’m trying to avoid – having no stock – because I spend way too much time creating flow. And there’s a good reason for that. Flow is quick, as quick as a retweet or a share. Creating stock, on the other hand, takes time. Time to sit and think. Time to digest and make sense. Time to craft the sense-making into something readable to others. And, finally, time to share.

That’s a lot of time.

And who has time?

Of course, if I cut out the time I spend on flow, I’d have more time to spend on stock. But you ignore flow at your peril too:

This is no time to hole up and work in isolation, emerging after years with your work in hand. Everybody will go: huh? Who are you? And even if they don’t—even if your exquisite opus is the talk of the tumblrs for two whole days—if you don’t have flow to plug your new fans into, you’re suffering a huge (get ready for it!) opportunity cost. You’ll have to find those fans all over again next time you emerge from your cave.

Somewhere in all of this, there has to be some balance.

And that’s the trick isn’t it, balancing the two – stock and flow.


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