Monday, March 24, 2008

The Feed Kludge

I'm not a huge fan of blog comments. Sure, I appreciate the friendly "Amen, brother", but if you've really got something to say then start your own blog and start saying it. And, of course, link it to my blog. Comments are inherently a speaker-audience metaphor: the blogger is up on the stage talking and the peanut gallery chimes in now and again. I don't like that; I don't want an audience, I want an invisible college.

A network of citations is the best way to organize and discover relevant information, better even than the oft-yearned-for semantic web. From a systems point of view, writing a blog post and linking to mine creates a useful connection. It says that your set of ideas and my set of ideas are related. It means that highly connected subsets of the web could be mechanically discovered; that someday I could ask to read opinions on, say, the Future of Advertising, and some system could reliably set me up with feeds of sites that talk about that. And it could do it in a way that more closely emulates the editorial function than the search function. And the editorial function is what is sorely missing in today's web. That's why I often spend half an hour weeding out the direct marketing pitches from the useful content after a Google search: what are my other options? Go to Not likely.

Sarah Perez writes that the Conversation Has Left the Blogosphere over at ReadWriteWeb. The article is a list of kludgey ways to track ideas and comments popping up in unlinked settings: Twitter posts, Digg comments, Facebook feeds. The bigger issue for me is that these new sources of ideas aren't integrated. One strength of the web, linking, is being superseded by another, ease of communication.

Maybe I'm just an optimist, but there has to be a way to create more communication while maintaining some way to keep the information organized. I'm not saying we should roll back progress, I would never say that. The internet community has always been great at synthesizing great features into true progress. That is definitely what's needed here.

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