February 20, 2007

feeling all information superhighwayish

I've been perseverating about Stowe's traffic and flow post for a couple of days. Not every waking moment. But pretty persistently.

I'm in a frame of mind where I'm taking a look at how 'social' all of this new social technology really is, especially as technology seems to be backfiring all over me this week:

1.) what with my wireless router working well for everything but wireless all of a sudden, and

2.) what with this annoying feed-reading dyslexia I've developed where I keep thinking I'm reading SOMEONE except that halfway through I start getting that weird "doc's excited about new underwear?" or "j. brotherlove went to the circus?" feeling only to figure out I've once again clicked on a different name in bloglines than I thought, jolting me out of my happy reading experience with someone I thought I knew. It's like going home to the wrong house, or walking in on your parents having sex. I'm just saying.

So Stowe's report of Emily Chang's new data stream left me feeling jittery. I don't want to feel jittery about a data stream. But no matter how much I admire these ideas and their generators, and no matter how much I admire the professional stamina and gitundoulous amounts of information and knowledge these folks juggle, the focus on data and streams and all of the recent nattering around "how DO we keep up?" leaves me feeling a little jittery and a little pissy.

Part pissy, part jittery.

Maybe the jittery part is about me not being able to explain why I'm so pissy about it.

Certainly Emily's goal and journey in figuring out how to keep up with her online social activity is an important personal activity. People who live inside of this stuff and make a living there really ARE drowning in data and dying for information (oh wait! that was 1996 and data warehousing...). Drowning in websites and dying for gigs (no wait, that was 2002). Drowning in feeds and dying for .....what?


What exactly is it that's being died for?

To know me? To see me? To read me? To understand me? To get me? To get as many mes as you can?

Or to FOLLOW. To follow the traffic, the noise, the action?

The collision of RSSing and aggregating and twittering--it's people following. It's people following information. Not following not you or I, but following themselves.

Emily writes:
Recently had to revisit the plan to aggregate all my activity into one data stream. As the calendar rolled to 2007, I kept wishing I could look at all my social activity from 2006 in context: time, date, type of activity, location, memory, information interest, and so on. What was I bookmarking, blogging about, listening to, going to, and thinking about? I still had the urge to have an information and online activity mash-up that would allow me to discover my own patterns and to share my activity across the web in one chronological stream of data (to start with anyway).

On the 'cool solution!" front I'm all, 'how cool is that?' On the 'what does this mean to the web?' front, I'm all about being creeped out.

What I'm trying to say -- I think, at least, as I limp along -- is that I don't get how we're trending toward social here. What I see is more and more niche experts going more and more micro, inner and inner and inner, and calling it social.

How does this help us act as intermediaries for new voices? How does any of this help connect the man or woman who isn't "followable" in terms of scale with readers and friends who don't know they exist?

At our SoCon session last week, I made a call to bring back the blogroll. Because in all of the devices that have come along since the day when we only had blogrolls to show who we were reading -- RSS and aggregators and technorati and conference agendas and on and on -- nothing has done THAT job effectively.

There is no tool to raise us up. Only to follow those who have been raised.

And I think THAT job -- the job of connecting and circulating voices, especially new ones -- is the most important part of what we're doing here. Reading and writing one another whole.

I'm not here to FOLLOW you. I'm here to meet you. To like you, to love you, to read you, to hear you, to know you, to call you family or kick you in the ass and tell you to get lost.

Stowe is one of the smartest guys I know in this space. I'm sure that when he says there are tools in the works to make meaning out of things like traffic and flow, he's telling us straight. But I'm not getting how this technology is -- at its core -- social-making:

A pal of yours is having a party? He will create the event using some social application site, and the event will be cast into his traffic. Your flow-aware calendar app might snag the event from the traffic, and ask you if you'd like to confirm. You agree, and the agreement is thrown into your traffic, for your buddy and others to make sense of, downstream.

This world of traffic will change things like blogging: instead of commenting at someone's post -- a static, page-centric system -- I might simply create a commentary with a link to the original (which I may have discovered in my inbound traffic, not necessarily by browsing his/her blog), and I drop a comment into my traffic, where it flows out to all those who want to see my natterings. Yes, sure, I might archive that comment (as well as the inbound post), or maybe push the comment into a conventional blog post: but the basic perception of what is going on shifts away from pages and static URLs toward flow and the elements that make up my traffic.

While I got the initial buzz off twitter -- the unending chatter of followees about this dinner and that, about this meeting and that, about this profound thought and that -- twitter's after taste is what was so important to me. Twitter made me realize how unworthy we are as human beings of being followed.


We are not, each and every one of us, a walking techmeme or fashionmeme or dinnermeme or godmeme, streaming continuous brainfood for the masses. Thank you Jesus.

Those who could change you in some fundamental way if you followed them -- you won't see them sticking a stream out of their butt and asking you to jump on.

I don't know. Am I making sense?

I was feeling pretty alone thinking through all of the the last couple of days when I happened on Doc's post, We Are All Authors of Each Other.

And Doc brought me home.

Let Doc bring you home too:
I don't think of my what I do here as production of "information" that others "consume". Nor do I think of it as "one-to-many" or "many-to-many". I think of it as writing that will hopefully inform readers.

Informing is not the same as delivering information. Inform is derived from the verb to form. When you inform me, you form me. You enlarge that which makes me most human: what I know. I am, to some degree, authored by you.

What we call "authority" is the right we give others to author us, to enlarge us.

The human need to increase what we know, and to help each other do the same, is what the Net at its best is all about. Yeah, it's about other things. But it needs to be respected as an accessory to our humanity. And terms like "social media", forgive me, don't do that. (At least not for me.)

What he said.