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Story, Contrast & The Art of Continuum

Posted on Dec 2, 2012 by in ThiNK First | 1 comment


Got a communication challenge? Stuck trying to tell a story? Struggling to explain an idea?

Let me introduce you to two of my best friends contrast and continuums.

When I need to find the story, these are my tools. Opposites are never black and white. There’s always shades of grey – murky waters. There’s always a struggle between good and evil.

I go and curate. I immerse myself. I seek out continuums. I seek out friction and opposition. I seek out diversity. I seek out emotion and relevance.

I ask myself

  • Where am I now?
  • Where do I want to be?
  • Where is the customer now?
  • Where do they want to be?

I try and imagine you are me. And I am you. Who are you? What will you feel? Which contrast and continuums will you care about? How can I connect with you? Which path do I take to get you to care and contextualize my arguments so they become yours. You’ll listen to your thoughts and not to mine.

Accepting that reality is progress. It all comes down to perception. An ounce of perception goes a long way.

How can I creatively/curatively express polar opposites? How can I create drama, intrigue and story?

How do I create belief. Storytelling only works if you start and your story is believable. Storytelling isn’t selling.

How do I create the good guy? Who is the hero? Where is the villain? Where is the truth?

I’m seeking opposition, an opponent. I’m looking for the place to differentiate from.  An immovable object. An entrenched incumbent.

Who is the legacy system? Who’s lunch are we eating? I just need a simple believable and desirable story.

Continuums paint pictures. People naturally place themselves on a continuum. We’re quick at that. I sit just about here. You go there. We self-size and self-sort.  Humans are constantly sizing themselves up. Who’s bigger, faster, taller, prettier, richer, more famous.

It’s the truth. We’re highly skilled in the art of comparison. And we totally get continuums. We get progression. We sort and rank our options.

Continuums are scaling. Continuums are preference graphs. There’s an implied “good” and “bad” end to every continuum. Continuums are curation. Harry Potter vs Voldomort. It’s a perfect continuum. Well perhaps not perfect as Harry is, after all, part Voldomort.

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Why is it movies complexify the simple?

OK, lets say Snow White and the wicked Queen. That’s a nice, simple story of good vs evil.

We all love a good story. And stories need heroes and evil empires and cunning plans. Stories need hope.

So let’s take Listly and explore some of the possible contrasts and continuums.

For example Creation vs Curation. It’s not a simple choice. It’s a continuum. There are shades of gray. Degrees of curation.

And here’s a few more examples. This could be taxing. Skim ahead if curation isn’t your thing. There’s something funny about telling people to skim, when you know they already have.

  • Disorganized vs Organized /  Chaos vs Order
  • Losing things vs Finding things
  • Likes vs Dislikes /  Like vs Loving
  • Thoughts vs Feelings
  • Order vs Unordered / Ranked vs Sorted
  • Text vs Images / Reading vs Looking
  • Single Layout vs Multiple / Fixed vs Flexible.
  • Lost in Content vs Standalone platform
  • Copied vs Reused / Copied vs Credited
  • Hand Crafted vs Content Farm
  • Human / Manual vs Algorithmic / Automatic.
  • Impersonal vs Community
  • Concluded vs UnConcluded / Complete vs Incomplete
  • Fixed vs Evolving
  • Old Media vs No Media / New Media.
  • Selfish vs Generous  / Collecting vs Hoarding
  • Sharing vs Nurturing
  • Curations vs Search / Find vs Be Found
  • Search vs Sift vs Assemble
  • Search vs Collect / Collection vs Curation
  • Conversation vs Curation
  • Individuals vs Tribes vs Community
  • Social Curation / Collaborating  vs Solo Curation / Survival Sharing
  • Social Media vs Solo Media

Don’t filter. Don’t judge. You want ideas, not validation.  Sometimes I can’t think of an opposing end to the continuum. Sometimes its just work in progress. Often it’s best to let these ideas rest. Share them in a blog post. You never know where feedback is going to come from, so don’t fight it. Let it in.

Play word games with people. See what they say. Start at both ends of the continuum.  Try replacing the world at each end. How does that sit.

Perhaps I might evolve my listly thinking to include

  • Shareable vs Transportable vs Nomadic vs Embeddable vs Reusable vs Bloggable vs Living Content
  • As a consequence of constantly changing content, Listly lists are timeless, another word could be “evergreen”.
  • Timeless vs aging, decaying, diminsihing, devaluing
  • Evergreen vs one-time, one-off
  • Compare the control of old media vs the people’s voice (and the sourcing of input from the community)
  • I can compare the notion that people can rip content (evil) vs the fact that list can easily be reembedded and credited (good)

Every new thought can set you off in a new direction, a new journey, a new discovery – new perspective.

So by seeking out words to describe the status quo, you can seek out opposites. You can find a way to express tomorrow’s reality.

Don’t forget the customer in the process. The words need to matter to them, not necessarily today, but tomorrow they need to really care.

You get the idea, bad guy (status quo) vs good guy (the future, the new way, the emerging force)

It’s not a problem that’s unique to Listly by any means. Contrast and continuums exist in every new markets.

  • CDs vs Cassettes vs Albums
  • Tracks vs Albums
  • SQL vs NoSQL
  • SQL vs OLAP
  • Proprietary vs OpenSource
  • Apps Store vs …
  • Apple/IOS vs Android
  • VHS vs BetaMax
  • Gas vs Diesel vs Electric
  • DVD Rental vs Online Rental
  • Own vs Rent

You can extend this list with your own examples. Create contrast, intrigue and friction. Create story. Create expectation and frustration.

If you an aspiring story teller, I think you’ll appreciate this list.

Once I have built my list of continuums I begin to think about metaphors. Metaphors put continuums into context.

That’s enough for now. Continuums and contrast was more than enough of a topic for one post.

Image Credit: jdhancock

Nick Kellet (164 Posts)

Nick is co-founder the social curation platform Listly, that combines crowdsourcing, content curation and embedable lists to drive high-level community engagement, live inside your blog posts. Connect with Nick on Twitter · Linkedin, Facebook and G+ and follow his writing via his other guest posts and on his blogs at and

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