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Getting to know unknowns

28/02/2010

The major social media platforms help you keep up with people you already know. But Twitter is particularly effective at helping you come across people you wouldn’t normally have encountered.

It also makes it easy to get to know them without undergoing any friendship rituals. I have been astonished at how well following Twitter exchanges allows you to discover the personalities behind the avatars and handles. This allows for a fuller appreciation of individuals and their attitudes than is generally afforded by the comment streams on blogs where polarised mindsets can dominate.

People are multi-facetted and as you peruse the progress reports from their lives both on- and off-line, another facet often comes into focus, rounding out your perception of the person and adding to the value of their observations. I have seen real friendships flourish on Twitter and be replicated offline. This can occur in more formal online fora, but it seems less predictable and therefore more exciting on Twitter.

Every Twitter consultation is rewarded with precious pointers to sources of enlightenment or laughter, but you could get that on other platforms if you’re lucky to have interesting enough contacts. However, though issues can be intelligently debated in ad-hoc online gatherings on other platforms, only on Twitter can otherwise unconnected people come together to discuss a topic with no greater formality needed than a #tag.

This has got to be good for individuals and society. I hope a significant a proportion of those 600 tweets per second are leveraging Twitter’s capacity to help people in getting to know unknowns.

People power

28/02/2010
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So much has happened since, it’s strange to look back at how I considered the netscape just over a year ago. Though already convinced of the long-term potential in the emergence of netizens, I was unsure whether Web 2.0 would be a power of 2 or just a fat 0.

My concerns about the economics seem justified. Online media outlets have been forced to put up paywalls. Journalists fret about their future and how the lack of resources and extra pressure are undermining the effectiveness and reliability of reporters. Advertising revenue is spread ever thinner over a growing array of platforms.

However I had overlooked the people factor. I was just a spectator. As I became a participant, I discovered that this matrix was also powered by the energy of individuals. Though occasionally entirely selfless, contributions are more often driven by the desire to be appreciated. However, in moderation, this motivation in no way undermines the value of what is being contributed.

Monetary rewards, if any, are mostly indirect. Contributors are paid primarily in the currency of attention, from the responses by interlocutors to the time accorded by their readers. Some leverage the attention they receive into professional, social or political capital. Others, though, seek no outcomes other than the pleasure of sharing.

Exponentially greater numbers of people are supplanting passive surrender to the exploitative dominance of TV with the interaction and volunteer culture of social media. There are downsides, notably the cost incurred by those who are tempted to trade the depth of analogue relationships for the breadth of digital interaction. But I’m increasingly convinced the overall balance is positive: people power!

Posts fallen by the wayside

27/02/2010
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Not one to take myself that seriously, there was always something more important to do than spend time sharing my ideas via WordPress, like commenting on other people’s more thoughtful or better researched articulations. So a number of draft posts were abandoned over the past year. However, while clearing the decks before starting a new post, I thought some of the titles were worth sharing:

Put your moniker where your mouth is!
The importance of individuals, not faceless organisations, interacting in social media. And it needs to be authentic, not delegated.

Head in the Cloud
Links to real life are a necessary adjunct to virtual interaction. Web 2.0 wins out over Second Life as better anchored in actual existence.

The messages are the medium
Suddenly it’s no longer broadcasting to the masses, but people going peer-to-peer.

This blog is not dead, just slightly comatose

03/06/2009
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Do not despair: lots of posts in the pipeline.

Meanwhile check out the slightly less critical lack of action on Web2EU Posterous.

Communications bubble?

18/02/2009
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Has it crossed anyone’s mind that the communications economy might be in danger of heading for a depression?

Think about how the myriads of bloggers are occupying Internet real estate of overestimated worth (IMHO – this blog included), borrowing time from themselves and their readers that perhaps they can ill afford.

While the costs of expanding the infrastructure only exert a slight real economy tax pressure, how jaded can an eyeball become before being rendered unresponsive? Virtual foreclosures are rare, but whole Internet neighbourhoods may soon be as empty as an abandoned mining town. How much is the house that geek built worth then?

The blog aggregators may repackage the content into AAA-rated feeds in which people feel obliged to invest the attention necessary to stay up to date. But bears prowl growling around those markets.

Perhaps twitterers and their followers are indulging in a form of CDS: swapping doubtful assets roughly woven from the minutiae of distant lives and online discoveries akin to a child picking up a leaf and showing it to their friend as something special. All leaves are special, but how many are really interesting? And how many do you want to hold on to?

The original banks of the communications economy, the newspapers, libraries and other established off-and online media outlets, no longer reap sufficient rewards from traditional content delivery. While the consumer risks becoming obese with so much fast, free information.

As we witness ever greater replication and repurposing, an exponential increase in redundancy between channels in the communications economy, are there not whole islands under threat of drowning in bankruptcy? Is there not a chance that many of the various currencies will lose their value?

What could possibly be a safe haven? Just a thought.