Please note: I'm going to be re-posting some of my posts from the old Particls blog here. These posts were far ahead of their time and were written at a time before streams, flow and filtering were popular concepts. I am re-publishing them here so that they might find a new audience. After each post I may write an update based on the latest developments and my latest thoughts.
June 13th, 2007
Steve Rubel posts about his information saturation.
We are reaching a point where the number of inputs we have as individuals is beginning to exceed what we are capable as humans of managing. The demands for our attention are becoming so great, and the problem so widespread, that it will cause people to crash and curtail these drains. Human attention does not obey Moore’s Law.
My attention has reached a limit so I have re-calibrated it to make it more effective. I think this issue is an epidemic. We have too many demands on our attention and the rapid success of Tim’s book indicates that people will start to cut back on the information they are gorging. If this happens en masse, will it cause a financial pullback? Possibly if ad revenues sag as a result.
Stowe Boyd writes in response:
No, I think we need to develop new behaviors and new ethics to operate in the new context.
Most people operate on the assumption that the response to increased flow is to intensify what was working formerly: read more email, read more blogs, write more IMs, and so on. And at the same time motor on with the established notions of what a job is, how to accomplish work and meet deadlines, and so on.
In a time of increased flow, yes, if you want to hold everything else as is — your definition of success, of social relationships, of what it means to be polite or rude — Steve is right: you will have to cut back.
Who is right? Who is wrong? Maybe Steve is just old and Stowe is divining the new social consciousness.
Maybe Stowe is just being an extreme purist (Stowe? Never!) and just needs to recognize that there is middle ground.
Maybe the middle ground - Flow based tools that help to refine the stream.
Our eyes can handle the sun - but sunglasses are nice too.
Steve and Stowe's posts were written pre Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook Newsfeed days. These observations were mainly based on blogs posts, Digg, Flickr, del.icio.us etc.
At the time these services were consumed using a traditional feed reader using an email Inbox metaphor - items in channels, marking items as read.
At the time of the post, we were building a product that would essentially stream items much the same way Twhirl or FriendFeed do today. One after the other in reverse chronological order. No folders, no marking as read.
Two years later, in a Twitter world, the notion of the stream has now become omnipresent. It is beginning to even replace the Inbox metaphor for email itself (refer to Google Wave). Allowing information to flow over you, as Stowe described, is now more important than ever.
So too, however, is the notion of filtering - sunglasses for staring at the sun.
So far the only filtering that has really made it into commercial products is filtering by friends. These days I don't get raw feeds from new sources (at least not as many), instead I subscribe to friends and they help filter and surface content for me.
The filter I was describing in this old post, however, and the filter that has yet to be built and commercialized, is a personal and algorithmic one. One based on my interests. Based on APML. This is true because as your friends (think of them as level 1 filtering) begin to publish and re-publish more and more content, a personal filter will again become necessary (level 2 filtering).
In any case, streams are finally here to stay. Mining that stream for value is now the next great frontier.