June 19, 2010

Stock and Flow

A theory of web viability:

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

(via kottke)


  1. Michael Smith on June 19th, 2010 at 10:03 am

    We’ve got a lot of flow ’round here, it’s true, but I’m in love with our stock. And, it feels like we’ve really stepped it up in the last several weeks.

  2. Deron Bauman on June 19th, 2010 at 10:06 am


  3. Lucy on June 19th, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Can you elaborate on that, Michael?

  4. Michael Smith on June 19th, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Lucy, I just mean that while I enjoy all things flockers point to, my favorite things are the things flockers make and the conversations we have.

  5. Lucy on June 19th, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Yes, I would consider things that flockers make to be stock. But the conversations we have are flow. That’s the nature of a blog, isn’t it, to be flow? It’s a big topic, and this is a really great way of putting it.

  6. Deron Bauman on June 19th, 2010 at 11:13 am

    I think in some way the conversations become stock.

  7. Lucy on June 19th, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Well in the sense that we value relationships of course, and relationships are always stock in that sense. But I think this topic will resonate with many people who are trying to find a balance with this stuff, one way or another. It depends on what you do with your life. So if you make things, this might be more of an issue in this specific sense than if you don’t make things. Of course if your business is delivering a service, the quality of that service is your stock, how your customers feel about your service is your stock also, which brings us back to relationships.

    So one way of looking at this is that if you are an artist, your work is your stock. The leaks in your process of making stock, the times you turn your process out toward the world and put something on twitter or a blog or facebook are those times you let people know you exist, and what it is that you have to say, that’s your flow. Your flow can be a constant stream of links or observations or ideas or conversations, or it can be just the releasing of small amounts of your stock incrementally, to let people know what it is you are doing.

  8. Lucy on June 19th, 2010 at 11:29 am

    I don’t know how the fuck it all works but the thing I care about more than anything else is making good work.

  9. Deron Bauman on June 19th, 2010 at 11:44 am

    this becomes a very interesting conversation then, and partly because of how quickly it can become convoluted. depending how you think about it, we can talk about the stock and flow of clusterflock. the stock and flow of people who participate here. the stock and flow of the things people who participate here post. the stock and flow the people who participate here allow us to see of their personal creative work. how we talk about it. what we do with it. the conversations that become part of the process. the way links to other posts, over time, and given enough thought, can become a kind of stock. the way conversations can be both.

  10. Lucy on June 19th, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Yes, it is interesting to talk about clusterflock as an entity in itself that has stock and flow. But I think this particular parsing of these concepts is in relation to people’s work and their online social lives, at least that’s how it engaged me. How each can feed the other in some Xanadu of the mind, but it is not always thus.

  11. Deron Bauman on June 19th, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    I hear you. I think the post we are talking about though uses the terms to talk about what a blog creates for itself and readers over time, the stock and flow of a particular blog. using those terms to talk about the output of a web site; how it’s readers engage with it and, hopefully, why they return.

  12. Lucy on June 19th, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I’m going back to re-read the article. I did not read it that way at all.

  13. Sheila Ryan on June 19th, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I’ve not jumped in thus far because I’m still thinking.

  14. Sheila Ryan on June 19th, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    And I’m still struggling with the metaphor, which feels somewhat forced to me.

  15. Sheila Ryan on June 19th, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    The notion of stock and flow does not quite seem applicable to what you have in mind, Deron, nor to what Lucy has in mind. For one thing, stock is not a “static value”. It increases or decreases in relation to flow — to a rate of change. I’m sorry I’m having such a hard time expressing myself today, as it’s irritating, I know, to bring something up and not explain fully.

  16. Deron Bauman on June 19th, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    no worries. I brought it up as a way to think about what a blog does, how it goes about its business. I hadn’t thought of it in the way Lucy has applied. I think it’s an interesting way to think about it.

  17. Lucy on June 19th, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Sheila: yes, I get what you’re saying, and the whole thing breaks down really easily once you touch it, but I suppose its value is in provoking thought, a way of looking at these topics.

    Deron: yes, it still reads the same way I read it earlier, about the balance of your daily release of ideas and the window of your mind, as things flow through you and into the internet; and the projects you are working on offline, larger collections of ideas and products that you make for release into the flow, your work. The shit you do. Usually the stuff you count on to make a living in the world, or you’re working on getting it that way. It can be avocation, it can be purely for the love of, you may be in a situation where money does not even come into it, or not very much. Probably most people don’t have this process in their lives at all, or it weaves in and out of their lives inconsistently. I think family and children occupy that space in a lot of people’s lives.

    I can see how clusterflock is your Big Project, more than anyone else on this site. It is an organic coming-into-being of a dream you once had. And it is alive. So in that sense, clusterflock is your stock, or a part of it. But really, clusterflock is something else entirely, I think of it more like a bar. And the relationships that form the core of the dynamic at clusterflock are of course a large part of what keeps it alive, and people coming back. I suppose I just don’t see where the flow/stock thing comes into that idea. I think it’s a different paradigm.

  18. Sheila Ryan on June 19th, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    I get hung up sometimes through being overly attentive to precision, I think, as when I wrestled over Kelsey’s question about ‘equivalents’ to Caddyshack.

    Consider it my own little contribution to pedantry!

    I said ‘pedantry’.

  19. Lucy on June 19th, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Somebody commenting on the original post pointed out that ‘stream’ would be a better word to use than flow, but I think the economic terms are ‘stock and flow’ so it’s just a bit of a blunt tool to keep a set of ideas together, but, you know, it works.

  20. Sheila Ryan on June 19th, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    It does work well enough, Lucy. You’re right. And so long as we make sense to one other, that is the main thing.

  21. Sheila Ryan on June 19th, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Here is something I contemplate now and again with respect to clusterflock: It does feel more like a party or a bar than a project to me — which is not to say that things of ongoing value do not emerge from parties and bars! I lean toward this view of clusterflock and its value in large measure because we flockers never quite seem to get off the ground or to sustain the various collaborative, site-specific endeavors we’ve undertaken, be that a series of clusterflock interviews or clusterflock book discussions or what-have-you. I don’t make this observation by way of pointing out a failing especially, as such things take so much energy and commitment to organize and present.

    And I’m not sure how relevant it is save in its relevance to a discussion of what a blog can be and where its value resides.

  22. Lucy on June 19th, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Oh, well to be honest when I say ‘clusterflock is like a bar’ I am thinking of my beloved Freddy’s, which is to say, a community centre, a fucking church, a place for people to meet honestly and speak plainly and madly and every kind of -ly. I don’t see the clusterflock bookclub as having been a failure at all, it’s really amazing that it got two outings at all, given the nature of it, and it’s totally open to another coming at some point. If I were to hold another, I would just post the whole glorious thing unedited. That was the difficult part for me, the time required to edit it was vast, in addition to scheduling the thing, etc. Really, the editing was the most time and labour consuming aspect. I don’t see why there couldn’t be another bookclub, and it can also be hosted by any of us, really.

  23. Lucy on June 19th, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Oh, and I’d put it up on Soundcloud or something similar, to keep the bandwidth free.

  24. Sheila Ryan on June 19th, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    I’m with you, Lucy. Clusterflock feels like a very special bar or party to me. I don’t think either of us is saying that it is no more than a pleasant distraction.

    And there is no reason there could not be another book discussion — or film discussion — or discussion of a photographs or group of photographs or . . . . I’m just observing that it is only sporadically that any of us leaps in once another has taken the initiative and gotten a kind of group project underway.

  25. Lucy on June 19th, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Yes, certainly. But I think clusterflock is pretty unique as far as blogs on t’internet go, that this kind of thing happens at all in the ways that it does.

  26. Lucy on June 19th, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    But wait a minute! We talk about books and ideas and photographs all day long! That’s what we do around here!

  27. Sheila Ryan on June 19th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Absolutely! You’ve got a group of striking people doing just that. The distinction I’m drawing is merely between (1) sustained, predictable and somewhat structured conversations and (2) less predictable, serendipitous and more informal conversations.

  28. Cindy Scroggins on June 19th, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Sheila, I think one reason the collaborative, site-specific endeavors such as book reviews and interviews have never quite taken off is because they are labor-, thought-, and/or time-consuming ventures that don’t hold the interest of many flockers. I think one of the greatest pulls of clusterflock is its spontaneity. Serendipity is certainly possible within a planned construct, but it never quite feels the same as the spontaneous explosions of activity that take place sometimes on an otherwise lazy Tuesday afternoon.

    Interestingly, there has been one collaborative endeavor that has taken off, and that is clusterflockstock.

  29. Lucy on June 19th, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    This feels like a good time to mention that I saw John Hodgman on the radio last night. It’s the perfect segueway.

  30. Sheila Ryan on June 19th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    It seems that way to me, too, Cindy. Goodness knows I’ve not invested the hours it takes to pull people together for a conference call and then make the recorded conversation available.

    And I would hate for any level of participation in clusterflock to feel obligatory or in any (onerous) way like work.

    I do like the ways in which clusterflock transforms itself into a series of face-to-face encounters, be that through clusterflockstock or smaller gatherings of people.

  31. Sheila Ryan on June 19th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks, Lucy!

  32. Lucy on June 19th, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    It looks like they’ve left in all the pre-show meanderings but it’s great fun once it gets going. I saw it live last night, via the wonder of the twitters, somewhere in the middle of it.

  33. Deron Bauman on June 19th, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    long live clusterflock book club!

  34. Sheila Ryan on June 19th, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    It’s just resting.

  35. Deron Bauman on June 19th, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    where’s Michael Grant Smith when we need him?