The future is Sublime: all AI, no tags

The future is Sublime: all AI, no tags

I've been kicking the tyres of Sublime, a new personal and social curation app, and pondering its approach to integrating AI.

(5/5/2024: reposted with extensive updates following a Sublime workshop on AI on Medium)

I started curating content when I discovered back in 2003. With it's minimalist design and pioneering approach - it invented user-tagging of content and had all sorts of social sharing tricks from Day One - delicious was the Web's cutting edge and had a huge influence on me.

I moved to Diigo when Yahoo! bought delicious 8 years later, and by 2013 was using IFTTT to autopublish my Diigo bookmarks onto my first Hub on Tumblr. Seven years later I replaced Diigo and Tumblr with But still, over 20 years later, one of the first things I did as I started writing this post was to add tags.

Which now places me at the very opposite of the cutting edge.

Delicious - tags + AI = Sublime

Because now there's, which is what you get when you replace delicious' tags with AI.

Like delicious, you can select some text that strikes you as worth keeping and click a button to store it to your Sublime account, where others following you can see it unless you set it to private (as in delicious and Diigo, but not yet myhub). You can also add it to one or more Collections, also public or private (cf delicious' Stacks, Diigo's Outliners, MyHub's Overviews).

Unlike these older tools, however, Sublime's popup allows you to store just one selection from the article you're curating:

Sublime is all about capturing a "passage [which] stopped me in my tracks"
- from my notes on Sublime founder Sari Azout's Substack: "What does Sublime actually do?"

I get it, but this is (for now) a non-starter for me: when I make notes as I'm reading a good article, I want to be able to switch between curation app and article freely, adding my own thoughts between multiple copy/pastes:

Above: Hubbing Sari Azout's article (which I highly recommend)

That annotation process - selecting some text from an article I like and integrating it into my own notes, effectively blogging from the MyHub bookmarklet - is the best way I know of integrating the ideas I'm reading with my own thoughts. This process helps me both remember and learn from what I'm reading, and is the first step in the process of combining it with my own ideas to make something new. Like this blog post, for example.

But that's simply my approach. Sari's basic "Consumption -> Curation -> Creation" paradigm is essentially the same as the one underpinning my personal content strategy, for which I developed my first hub in 2013, but boy does she explain things with beautiful simplicity:

(overthinking, me?)

That, however, is where the similarities end. Where myhub reflects 20 years of tagging, Sublime is the first real innovation in the curation space I've seen in a while, and it's all down to their use of AI. There are no tags because AI-powered search will simply find you what you need from your library. And every time you view a card, Sublime's AI will present related cards created by anyone on the Sublime server.

"I could write a book about why we have collections instead of tags (TL;DR: tags are robot stuff)... Sublime is less PKM and more CKM  – communal knowledge management... when you add a card to Sublime, you can instantly see related cards from other people’s libraries... clicking through related cards.... feels to me like a very wholesome “choose your own adventure” game... [without] the mindless scrolling of social media".
- "What does Sublime actually do?", Sari Azout

Although the original myhub roadmap had AI-powered autotagging and recommended reading, however, I had never thought of simply getting rid of the tags altogether.

Should I?

Simplicity vs Control

While erasing tags from would render its interface about 1000x less complex, it also feels like yet another abandonment of human agency to AI.

This started when impenetrable algorithms started deciding what you see on social media to ensure you engage (ie, get addicted) to their feed. Sublime will certainly not take that path (it's a paying app, even for early adopters), but its reliance on AI means that it's Sublime which decides which choices appear in your "own adventure”.

it's Sublime which decides which choices appear in your "own adventure”.

With my hub, on the other hand, I can be absolutely sure what people will see when I drop a link to a Hub Collection into a social media conversation (eg "... btw there's a few more resources tagged #curation and #AI on my hub"). Because even if myhub does offer AI-powered autotagging in the future, each Hub Editor will still be in control of what tags are applied to each resource. Those tags, in other words, are "human-validated", which might mean a lot in the years to come.

It also means that my Hub has an effectively infinite number of Collections, each a different combination of tags (and each with its own RSS feed), to which I can add value by creating an Overview and adding a synthesis.

However, I could imagine hiding the tags in a secondary "power user" interface, and presenting casual visitors to a hub with a simple "ask me something" AI-powered chat interface.

After all, why not have both?

Sublimely delicious

But that's my personal preference - if a Hub appears like too much work, I strongly suggest you give sublime a look. After a recent workshop and meeting with Sari, the impression I have is of a team dedicated to building something pretty special, and which is just getting started. Above all, they are informed by Sari's extremely well-developed sense of what the internet needs right now, a vision which I wholeheartedly agree with:

"our modern internet increasingly drowns ... us with a firehose of noise... brings out the worst in us... incentivize the shallow and new... amplify outrage and despair"
- A year in review (2022) (my notes)
"Our favorite analogy for startupy is that it’s like a pair of noise canceling headphones for the Internet"
- Startupy (now offline, my notes from March 2023)

Funnily enough, the above 2022 year in review mentioned that their work that year had made them realise that what they needed was to build ... delicious+AI. Two more quotes:

"startupy is first and foremost for ... building your own personal library... plugged into a global network of other smart, curious librarians ... the focus and utility of a productivity tool, with the aliveness and connectivity of a social product".
“For a system to be successful, the users of the system have to perceive that it’s directly valuable to them,” [delicious founder] Schachter says. “If you need scale in order to create value, it’s hard to get scale, because there’s little incentive for the first people to use the product. Ideally, the system should be useful for user number one" ... He remains more focused on the site’s value to the individual ... [as] helping individuals store and recall information is far more important than classifying the Web. And it may well be individual value that’s most likely to keep growing.”
- Joshua Schachter, MIT Technology Review (2006)

What Joshua didn't have, of course, was AI-powered reading recommendations, which make the benefits of network effects much more powerful, much earlier. Sublime is therefore doing exactly the right thing by building a great personal tool with network effects built in from the start.

Related reading

More Stuff I Think

More Stuff tagged tool , ai , curation , myhub , sublime , sari azout

See also: Content Strategy , Digital Transformation , Innovation Strategy , Media , Communications Strategy , Science&Technology

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