The Pull of the Push

What was really the lack of creativity, was well converted to an experiment.

For a few days, I did not update my status on Facebook. Part of it was also sheer laziness. I was expecting that a few friends, who seem to be tracking all the status updates, good bad and some downright useless, would take note and prod me into updating. In fact, I did not do anything on Facebook during this period, save a couple of comments on a some other status messages. I had a feed that used to update some photos on Flickr and my posts from my personal blog.

No one asked me about the update for about 20 days.

Made me wonder (I started calling this an experiment after I had cleared my status after five days) if anyone really takes notice of what they want to read. The ubiquitous “River of Streams” from Facebook to Twitter to Friendfeed throws up interesting questions.

Push technology has been the mainstay of how we live our lives today; how we consume information and how it comes to us is changing. I read with great interest, a tweet from PersonaNonData. In the linked article, Chris Anderson, the editor in chief of US technology and culture magazine Wired discusses the Internet’s challenge to the traditional press, new business models on the Web and why he would rather read Twitter than a daily newspaper.

Here’s a small bit from the article:

SPIEGEL: So how do you stay informed?

Anderson: It comes to me in many ways: via Twitter, it shows up in my inbox, it shows up in my RSS feed, through conversations. I don’t go out looking for it.

SPIEGEL: You just don’t care.

Anderson: No, I do care. You know, I pick my sources, and I trust my sources.

I know of quite a few friends in various social networks, who accumulate many a feed in their readers, which interestingly also becomes a bit stressful as time goes by and the unread count increases.

Back to the the “Facebook Experiment”, it seems to me that once you have accumulated a large number of friends on Facebook, the updates become pretty useless. For one, Facebook has evolved into much more than a simple social network. It is an appstore of sorts. (Frankly, sometimes it makes you wish you didn’t have so many friends exploring what colour they are or what villain they were in past life). In reviewing the river of friends’ activities, how does one look for something that they really want to read about? (Tweetdeck did something useful, by allowing you to categorise Twitterers based on your own method.)

The one problem that access to Internet solves is that of breaking the limits of geography. And with this solution, it has brought a problem of its own. Unlimited access to everybody who is wired, into this world. Which means that our social network becomes broader (grows horizontally) by the day. You make friends online and connect to them (which is not necessarily a bad thing). Effectively you have access to a whole host of information that is being sent to you. How you make sense of that information, however, is left entirely to you.

The reason I quote Spiegel and Chris Anderson above, is what I feel I have learnt from this little Facebook experiment of mine. It is not just enough to pick trustworthy news sources. It is important to have a way and means of moving relevant information to the top of the stack.

I had written about RSSing Comment Conversations a while ago. And it seems now, that RSS will have to evolve much more than just riding on the one advantage of pushing and aggregating. Relevance, prioritisation, and contextualisation has to be built into RSS (readers). Else, we are spending a considerable time in deciding what we would like to consume.

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