Stock and Flow

In “The Year ‘The Stream’ Crested“, Alexis Madrigal references a piece from Robin Sloan, writing for Snarkmarket (oh, how I love that name):

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

This piece may have been written in 2010, but it’s a perfect example of Stock — it hasn’t lost its relevance or interest in that time.

I love the analogy, too. I like to think of a post like this, in the context of Pixel Envy, as Flow, whereas the long form piece I’m working on is more like “Stock”. It isn’t length that defines Stock, but rather a lack of transience. It’s more permanent, and retains its value with time.

These are not necessarily mutually exclusive, mind you. Something like Twitter is ostensibly the epitome of Flow, but individual tweets may have lasting value. It’s the message, not necessarily the medium, that defines Stock and Flow.