Sunday, May 17, 2009

Deep Into The Stream

Stream in North Bay, Ontario, CanadaImage via Wikipedia

Just been reading learning about the stream from a great article from John Borthwick titled "Distribution... now". The article on the real-time stream was brought to my attention after reading an analysis of the post on TechCrunch. The subject of the stream is becoming a popular topic on the Internet and I agree with Erick Schonfeld that it has been building for a while.
Start with this constant, real time, flowing stream of data getting published, republished, annotated and co-opt’d across a myriad of sites and tools. The social component is complex — consider where its happening. The facile view is to say its Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or FriendFeed — pick your favorite service.
I consume data on a multitude of sites and distribute the content across the different services. I'm still relatively new to the realm of digital media, data consumption and redistribution but using the tools and services available I have been able to establish my online presence. I'm certainly no expert but I have been able to identify the shift towards real-time and the stream.
In the initial design of the web reading and writing (editing) were given equal consideration - yet for fifteen years the primary metaphor of the web has been pages and reading. The metaphors we used to circumscribe this possibility set were mostly drawn from books and architecture (pages, browser, sites etc.). Most of these metaphors were static and one way. The steam metaphor is fundamentally different. Its dynamic, it doesnt live very well within a page and still very much evolving.
This evolution is going to transform how we consume, syndicate and redistribute information, what will emerge, be relevent and provide the most value to me as a participant -
A stream. A real time, flowing, dynamic stream of information — that we as users and participants can dip in and out of and whether we participate in them or simply observe we are are a part of this flow.

This isnt an inbox we have to empty, or a page we have to get to the bottom of — its a flow of data that we can dip into at will but we cant attempt to gain an all encompassing view of it.
Comments on the TechCrunch post compare the social networks today to IRC, message boards, forums and bulletin boards of the past with exception being user features and formats. Responding to the comparisons Robert Scoble provides a great analysis of the differences -

Image representing Robert Scoble as depicted i...Image via CrunchBase

1. Google can index these.
2. Moderation is decentralized (I can delete any item underneath my node on friendfeed).
3. Each node has a URL and is permalinkable.
4. Everything is searchable (Twitter and friendfeed have search).
5. Assholes and spammers get left out of the system because you can choose both who you follow and if you block them you reduce the attack surface area.
6. Topics are totally decentralized. In the IRC world you’d go to a specific place to talk about a specific topic. On friendfeed, for instance, the topic changes with each post.
7. You can hide topics you aren’t interested in. You can also hide people you aren’t interested in. You can also hide data types (like YouTube videos) you aren’t interested in.
Robert identifies what the original post also acknowledes that real time gives this ambient stream a degree of connectedness that other online media types haven’t. The original post also identifies the differences between the two dominant, semi-public, activity streams today being Facebook and Twitter. The difference being; symmetrical — asymmetrical, private - public, defined use case - open use case. Facebook is evolving to embrace openness as it realises the potential of the stream, it still remains relatively closed but the walls are slowly coming down! With the flow of the open stream it will be the context that is vital -

What will emerge and how will we filter the information to
be relevent? Will we drown in this stream or will tools allow us to drain away excess?

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