The web can make the world a better place. But its potential to thrive is under threat from technocracy and the algorithm, from myopic corporate and municipal worldviews, from the idea that it’s only there to allow people to complete tasks, from the attention economy and the misapprehension that anything with value is ultimately a transaction of one sort or another.
In the world of books, the 10 pillars of slow content would mostly seem like accepted wisdom. In the world of online content they need some brave tortoises to stand up for them.
More is not better. Something is not always preferable to nothing. Websites everywhere are drowning in a sea of disposable content that does nobody any favours. Elegant, sustainable quality is a wonderful thing.
Despite the possibilities of longform, online content is too often a race to the soundbite and the quick sell. Slow content rewards deep dives as well as shallow paddles.
The long tail of the web ought to be a playground for invention and new perspectives. Too often a lowest-price, me-too, fast-fashion culture swamps creativity. Slow content is carefully crafted.
Slow content decries obfuscation and officialese. It admires the ability to explain complexity without resorting to verbosity. But it also loves the richness of language and takes a stand against the impoverishment that over-simplification can bring. Slow content values nuance, precision and poetry.
In some people's minds, all online content is instructional, transactional or promotional. Slow content shows that the web is also a natural home for art and literature, for the beautiful and the surprising, for content that can make you laugh and cry.
Slow content changes people's minds and their habits in vital ways that fast content cannot. The planet and the people who live on it need purpose-driven organisations producing purposeful content.
Nothing should be longer than it needs to be, but that doesn't mean that everything needs to be short. The myths that nobody reads online and that nobody has an attention span of longer than 30 seconds are pernicious. Slow content takes as long as it needs to take.
Fast content is well suited to a world of consumption: of stuff and of information. Slow content respects people as citizens rather than as subjects or consumers. Slow content enables and it empowers, building long-term alliances rather than short-term sales. It values connections over transactions.
There is a place for speed. There's also a place for slowing down and soaking up. Slow content appreciates thoughtfulness over click-through. Slow content rewards absorption.
The web has much to learn from centuries of traditions, and from the wisdom of authors and artists, publishers and printers. This respect for the past doesn't mean being constrained by it. Slow content is inventive and innovative, taking the best from the world of print and transforming it with the exciting potential of digital.
Together we can slow things down.