Why the Web Needs the Little Miracle of 3QuarksDaily

Thomas Manuel in The Wire:

Note: Dear 3qd followers, As a community of sophisticated readers, you keep raising the bar higher for us through your timely comments. Thank you. Please read the article below which finally gives due credit to my brother Abbas who has dedicated himself to this public service: “So then how does something like this ‘stay the course’ and last more than a decade? I asked Meis what the secret was, completely unsure what to expect as a reply. “It is the people and the relationships,” he said “That’s the core of it. It is, to be terribly corny, love that has always held the thing together.” Thanks to my co-editors. And to Abbas…BRAVO!

ImagesOn July 31st 2004, Abbas Raza began to curate the internet. On his first day, he posted links to the Cavafy poem, ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’, a New Scientist article on the possibilities of extra-terrestrial contact, ‘Is it Art, Or is it Arab Art?’, two obituaries of Francis Crick, a primer on how to avoid copyright litigation and a curious piece in the Independent on Mike Tyson’s short-lived comeback. An undoubtedly dizzying range of subjects.

Almost twelve years later, on June 23, 2016, 3QuarksDaily, or 3QD for short, is still going strong. The latest contents include an analysis of the immigration concerns around Brexit, a book review of American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper, the ever entertaining Slavoj Žižek, an article titled ‘Should ethics professors observe higher standards of behaviour?’, and a Caravan feature on the Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. While a majority of people might see this as a vertigo-inducing list of esoterica, to thousands of intellectual omnivores (including Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, David Byrne and Mohsin Hamid) who subscribe to the site, it’s a vantage point. They, like me, have become overawed by the vastness of the internet’s moving feast. One that is increasingly so filled with food that there’s no place to manoeuvre around the table. So we find ourselves malnourished while choking on delicacies. As Raza put it, the “overload is something of a cliché by now but that doesn’t make it any less real”.

The need for filters, aggregators and curators to navigate the web isn’t new. Arts and Letters Daily, the inspiration for 3QD, was founded by the late Denis Dutton way back in 1998. It in turn was inspired by the news aggregator, Drudge Report, which started in 1995. But each of these had their own niche (literary humanities and conservative politics respectively) while Raza envisioned something more all-embracing – which ironically turned out to be a niche of its own. His plan was to “collect only serious articles of intellectual interest from all over the web but never include merely amusing pieces, clickbait, or even the news of the day… to find and post deeper analysis… and explore the world of ideas… [to] cover all intellectual fields that might be of interest to a well-educated academic all-rounder without being afraid of difficult material… [and to] have an inclusive attitude about what is interesting and important and an international outlook, avoiding America-centrism in particular.”

In practice, this elaborate vision looks deceptively simple. According to Morgan Meis, one of the editors of 3QD, all you had to do was “get a few reasonably smart people together, have them create links to the sorts of things they would want to read across the web, on any given day. Voila! You’ve got an interesting website. Then, don’t fuck that simple formula up. Don’t get cute. Stay the course.”

More here.