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Filtering by Category: "flow"

Flow on News Sites

Added on by Chris Saad.

NineMSN Program Manager Paul Keen has written about a new NineMSN site feature that has the potential to dramatically improve the news reading user experience on their site.

They call it the "What's Happening Now" module. Think Facebook News Feed for a news site. It logs and lists events such as new stories, first comments and other changes to the site in 'real time' in a reverse chronological order.

This is another example of how flow based presentation can improve visibility and usability when it comes to consuming large quantities of content/interactions.

Well done to Paul and the NineMSN team for this innovative approach.

News Flows, Consciousness Streams

Added on by Chris Saad.
The New York Times doesn't know it yet, but an article published in the arts section is a prophesy for where their news business is heading. Ironically it's burried in the arts section.

"News Flows, Consciousness Streams: The Headwaters of a River of Words"

It's a post about the new art installation at the Time's headquarters. From the article:

Since The Times moved in June from its longtime home on West 43rd Street in Manhattan to its new, almost completed tower designed by Renzo Piano on Eighth Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets, two men - an artist, Ben Rubin, and a statistician, Mark Hansen - have all but taken up residence in the building's cavernous lobby, huddled most days around laptops and coffee cups on a folding table. Flanking them on two high walls are 560 small screens, 280 a wall, suspended in a grid pattern that looks at first glance like some kind of minimalist sculpture.

But then the screens, simple vacuum fluorescent displays of the kind used in alarm clocks and cash registers, come to life, spewing out along the walls streams of orphaned sentences and phrases that have appeared in The Times or, in many cases, that are appearing on the paper's Web site at that instant.

As stated on this blog many times - the future of information consumption is not stocks, but flows.

As information workers and members of the social web, we need to change our pre-conceptions that information must be collected, sorted and marked as read.

Instead we need to realize that there is so much beauty in the world, we just need to let it flow through us, making us feel warm inside (to paraphrase the movie American Beauty).

The Attention Economy Vs. Flow - Continued

Added on by Chris Saad.
Steve Rubel posts about his information saturation.

He writes:

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 eye scan handle the sun - but sunglasses are nice too.

A Flow of Particls through your life - Stowe talks at Reboot

Added on by Chris Saad.
I just finished watching Stowe's talk at Reboot about something he calls 'Flow'.

You can watch it on CoRrElate.

Eric Norlin on the Defrag blog summarized the talk pretty well:

Stowe's basic argument (simplistically paraphrased) is that the tools we're using (social networking, etc) are actually changing the way our neurons are dealing with things - and that has led to 2 central propositions:

1. Time is a shared resource.
2. Connectivity is more important that productivity

As I have written before about Stowe's thoughts on Flow, I think that, for the most part, Stowe is on to something very interesting.

In fact I have been touching on the subject for a while now by arguing that news and alerts should not be treated like email with folders and items to be marked as read. They should flow by you in a news ticker, river of news and/or popup alerts.

As I wrote in my last post on the subject, the only concern I have with Stowe's thesis is that he seems to quickly dismiss the concept of the 'Attention Economy' without quite understanding the implications.

He claims that Information Overload and the economic metaphor for Attention does not fit. He means that we can not assign units of measurement to our Attention and allocate it as a finite resource because Attention can actually be tuned and improved with a physical changing and training of our neurons to perceive the world as a flow - letting the information flow over us. Just like a juggler learns to juggle many balls as a matter of instinct.

That may be true - and he is right that part of the Attention Economy is about assigning value to attention and trying to allocate it most effectively.

However, he is missing the fact that there are 2 aspects to the emerging Attention space that invoke economic theory:

  1. Attention is a finite resource and can be dealt with in terms of economic units that can be consumed - therefore an abundance of Information creates a scarcity of Attention.
  2. Attention data can be used to better target goods and services. The trading of this attention data, and the resulting efficient selection and presentation of advertising to drive sales is becoming an important economic driver.

Stowe seems to disagree only with the first point (I could be wrong - care to clarify Stowe?).

Firstly, I don't think it is as black and white as he states when it comes to point 1 - efficient allocation of our Attention.

Sure we can change our neurons and practice living a life of flow - in fact I advocate that we do - that's why Particls' primary interface right now is a news ticker and not a set of folders and items.

However, I think that tools that use Attention to better focus our stream can only help the process. A tool to funnel and tune the incoming information and present it in a method that is conducive to flow thinking can only be helpful.

On point 2. People are making money off your Attention. They are observing it, recording it and fine tuning advertising and content around it. They are also selling the data to each other. This gives it economic value. The question then is who owns this value and what are our rights as generators of the information and recipients of targeted information.

There is a real economy developing around this practice and standards like APML are about giving us participants some control back.

Continuous Partial Attention Revisited

Added on by Chris Saad.
Stowe has recently written about his ideas of 'Flow' and Continuous Partial Attention (CPA).

His premise is that we are not necessarily information saturated - that our brains are evolving to a point where we can let the information flow over us and stay continuously partially attentive to many things at the same time. He claaims that this is a perfectly natural change in our concentration and mental abilities.

He writes about Linda Stone - the guru in CPA.

"Linda and many others will tell us it will rot our teeth, disrupt family life, and lead to hair on our palms. I for one am not eager to turn off my devices and pay all my attention to one thing at a time, one moment at a time. There are too many targets on the horizon, too many members of the tribe, and too many jaguars lurking in the shadows for that. In my tribe, we don't do things that way."
I'm young - my brain can handle it for now - so I agree with Stowe (to a point) - however he also writes about Linda Stone's concerns about Continuous, Continuous partial attention having deleterious affects on the body and lumps us Attention people into it.

"[Linda's CPA concerns], along with Toffler's Information Overload (it's driving us crazy, he asserted) and the Attention Economy mavens (free information leads to attention scarcity). I don't buy any of it."
I disagree with Stowe on this point. We "Attention Economy mavens" and our focus on Attention are not antithetical to his ideas about information flow.

Actually I think, particularly we here at Faraday Media and Particls, we are exactly in tune with his message.

Information (particularly news) should typically flow - not pool.

Reading news in a folder/item email style metaphor is not as effective for the mainstream as having it flow by.

Note that I say the mainstream. Many of us early adopter control freaks like to read every item and have plenty of time to bury our heads in news readers. But that is not always the case - not all the time. An information flow (river of news, news ticker, popup alerts) is typically more effective.

Our work in the field of Attention is not about fighting off flow, it is about regulating the flow so that the stream is full of good content.