Pluralistic is four

Reflections on four years of Memex Method, Phase II.

Cory Doctorow
5 min readFeb 20, 2024


Christian Speyer’s 1914 painting ‘Die Apokalyptischen Reiter,’ picturing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding out, trampling people beneath their hooves as a doomed soul runs from them, looking over his shoulder with an expression of terror. In the distance, we see his horse, riding away.

I’m on tour with my new novel The Bezzle! Catch me TOMORROW in SALT LAKE CITY (Feb 21, Weller Book Works) and then SAN DIEGO (Feb 22, Mysterious Galaxy). After that, it’s LA, Seattle, Portland, Phoenix and more!

A yellow rectangle. On the left, in blue, are the words ‘Cory Doctorow.’ On the right, in black, is ‘The Bezzle.’ Between them is the motif from the cover of *The Bezzle*: an escheresque impossible triangle. The center of the triangle is a barred, smaller triangle that imprisons a silhouetted male figure in a suit. Two other male silhouettes in suits run alongside the top edges of the triangle.

Four years ago, I started, my post-Boing Boing, solo blog project: an ad-free, tracker-free site that anyone can republish, commercially or noncommercially. It’s been a wild four years, featuring over 1,150 editions, many consisting of multiple articles:

As a project, Pluralistic has been a roaring success. I’ve published multiple, significant “breakout” articles that popularized obscure, important, highly technical ideas, most notably “adversarial interoperability”:

“End-to-end” as a remedy for multiple internet ripoffs, including as a superior alternative to link-taxes as a means of saving the news industry from Big Tech predation:

and, of course, “enshittification”:

These are emblematic of the sorts of ideas that I’ve spent the past 20+ years trying to popularize in tech-policy debates dominated by technologically illiterate policy ideas (“abolish Section 230!”) and politically illiterate technical ideas (so many to choose from, but let’s just say “cryptocurrency”). They require that the reader come along for a lot of cross-disciplinary analysis that often gets deep into the weeds. These are some of the hardest ideas to convey, but nuanced proposals and critiques that work on both political and technical axes are the best hope we have of successfully weathering the polycrisis.

Blogging has always been a part of this project. For nearly 20 years, I posted nearly every day on Boing Boing — 53,906 posts in all! — taking note of everything that seemed important. Keeping a “writer’s notebook” in public imposes an unbeatable rigor, since you can’t slack off and leave notes so brief and cryptic that they neither lodge in your subconscious nor form a record clear enough to refer to in future. By contrast, keeping public notes produces both a subconscious, supersaturated solution of fragmentary ideas that rattle around, periodically cohering into nucleii that crystallize into full-blown ideas for stories, novels, essays, speeches and nonfiction books. What’s more, those ripened ideas are supported by a searchable database of everything I’ve thought about the subject, often annotated by readers and other writers who’ve commented on the posts. I call this “The Memex Method”:

Pluralistic marks a new phase in my deployment of the Memex Method. With 50K+ notes in a database, I’ve gradually turned Pluralistic into a forum for far more synthetic, longer-form work that pulls on threads from decades of research into nothing in particular and everything that seemed important.

Pluralistic is also an experiment in retaining control over my destiny — but not my work. Rather than hitching my ability to reach an audience through a platform that can be enshittified at the whim of a mercurial, infantile billionaire or their venal, callous shareholders, Pluralistic is published web-first, on a site I control, and then syndicated to every platform that matters to me. It’s a process called POSSE (Post Own Site, Syndicate Everywhere):

I want to spread the ideas I fight for, so I post them everywhere, and license them Creative Commons Attribution-Only, encouraging others to repost them. Lots of small sites do this, but so do large ones. Notably, Wired picked up my first breakout piece on enshittification and republished it under the CC terms:

This was a really interesting process. On the one hand, I didn’t get paid for this feature, which did really well for Wired. On the other hand, nearly 30 years of writing for Wired makes me doubtful that I could have gotten this piece out in the form it emerged, without substantially toning down (or, if you prefer, neutering) the rhetoric that made that piece more persuasive. A commissioning editor from one of the largest newspapers in the world got in touch with me after it came out and said they wished they’d published it — but also that they knew they couldn’t possibly have done so. By publishing the story first on my blog, proving its audience, and establishing its canonical form, I was able to get it amplified by a service with a much bigger platform than me, without having to compromise on the form.

That republication gave me the much-maligned “exposure” — but it also carried the message to places it wouldn’t have reached on its own. I don’t write — have never written — solely as an income source. As both an artist and an activist, connecting with audiences has always been co-equal in my mind with earning my living. That’s why I don’t do a lot of film-writing: it pays well, but most of it never sees the light of day. It’s also why I stopped writing for ad agencies: it paid well, but it didn’t matter to me or my audience. To mangle Dr Johnson: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote solely for money.”

The open nature of this blog, with its many open syndication channels, creates multidirectional pathways for evaluating and refining my attempts at making my ideas understood and my art land. My posts often circle back to points I made earlier, incorporating useful feedback from readers and colleagues, sure, but also anticipating and rebutting those areas where critics have convinced others in various forums. Vanity searching is unjustly maligned: I learn a ton about how to make by work better by lurking in Reddit comments, Hacker News, Twitter, Slashdot, Metafilter and other forums. I also take a sneaky pleasure in knowing that the persistent trolls who reliably pop up to grind their weird axes about me (sometimes referencing blog posts I made decades ago) have taught me how to neutralize them in advance, and it’s delightful to see them try their same old lines, only to have other commentators point out that my latest piece makes it absolutely undeniable how wrong they are. Living well is the best revenge, indeed.

Four years. I’ve been writing Pluralistic for four years. During that time, I’ve published eight books — and beyond any doubt, Pluralistic helped me get those books into readers’ hands. But far more importantly, during that time, I’ve written nine books — and contracted for a tenth — as the Memex Method paid off again and again.

I don’t know how long I’ll do Pluralistic for, but I don’t foresee stopping any time soon. What’s more, no matter what happens to Pluralistic, I can’t ever see giving up on the Memex Method, keeping notes in public and making them work for me.

If you’d like an essay-formatted version of this postto read or share, here’s a link to it on, my surveillance-free, ad-free, tracker-free blog: