I’ve been reading a lot of stuff lately on trends in Social media from such heavyweights as Louis Grey and Robert Scoble, so I can’t claim these ideas are totally mine, but I’ve struggled with some of the things they’ve been discussing and I’d like to hear your take on it.
In particular, Louis Grey wrote this great article called What Is This Real-Time Thing, And Where Is It Going? I highly recommend reading this as it gives some prescient insight into the direction that some of the big players, like Google and Microsoft, are heading with social media.
Before RSS, you essentially went to a webpage to check out content. You checked it the next day to see if there were any updates and this went on daily. If there were multiple updates on a highly active site, you tended to miss things. Services like PointCast and Smart bookmarks attempted to help you keep up with this content, but only when RSS started to become commonplace did this issue really get nailed down.
With RSS, new content is fed into my reader/aggregator and it waits there until I get to it. I was assured not to miss anything for the first time. Yes, if I’m being honest, there are times when my reader is overloaded with older content I haven’t gotten to and sometimes I end up just clearing it and starting over, but it was a conscious decision and I knew (sort of) what I was giving up.
Now the tables are turning again. This ‘streaming’ model is one in which a large volume of information is flowing past the eyeballs and, if we’re to extend the metaphor, one would dip in for a serving and then pull out and go back in a bit later. This can be seen in such services as Twitter, Facebook, friendfeed, and any of a number of new services.
Here’s my problem. I’m paranoid about missing something, so I don’t like to see things flowing offscreen if I’m not there to see them. For example, I like that Facebook has the “12 new posts” link at the top of the news feed. I can copy the top post to clipboard, click the link to load new content, then do a ‘find’ on that string to pick up where i left off. I don’t miss anything that way, but it can get overwhelming to keep up with.
Is the new expectation that the user simply doesn’t catch everything and that it’s sufficient to catch ‘enough?’ or am I missing some crucial step in the proces that makes this make sense to everyone but me? How is such a stream managed by others like me who have a day job? How do you avoid ‘missing something’ when your browser loses focus to another app as content continues to flow past your visible page?