The noise in Web 2.0 is mainly a Tech Elite’s problem

Erick Schonfeld has a funny article today on TechCrunch in which he predicts/hopes that web 3.0 is about removing the noise. We all recognize the problem he describes. He is in so many different networks with so many followers that he can’t keep up with the messages that pass by. It made Robert Scoble stop automatically follow other people on Twitter (he has 20.000 followers and 1 tweet per second by now).

The cry out of Erick made me laugh a bit. Let’s face it. It’s a Tech Elite’s problem. Yes, I consider myself part of that, and probably most of the readers of this blog post too ;-). If anything the current web 2.0 trend is fragmentation. There are thousands of social networking sites out there, each fighting a battle to get users. There are a whole lot of services that let you interact, publish, follow or be followed. There are aggregating sites that aggregate it all for you. There are aggregators that aggregate all the content from the sites that already aggregate content for you. And if that wasn’t enough we now need to take it away from the browser and move each of these services into tiny little desktop applications. I can already predict the next wave in desktop application development. Someone is bound to get the idea to integrate Twhirl and all those other desktop applications into one big aggregator on the desktop. A Netvibes or iGoogle, but right there on the desktop instead of on a portal. And after that, who knows ;-)

Tech people, including myself, seem to be running away with all these different capabilities. Every time TechCrunch “breaks the news” for yet another web 2.0 service or desktop application people jump on it. Within minutes I see Twitter conversations that talk about the new application. People run around providing the developers with suggestions on how to improve the service.  It’s called user feedback I believe. The problem with it is that the “user” in this case is a tech person. Which is fine if that is the target audience. But if you want to become big, if you want to be the next Google or Facebook, then you will have to remember that any non-tech consumer out there will not have the same desires as us techies do. How many people do you know outside your tech community that want to have 25 desktop applications live, running Firefox alongside with 10 tabs open, twittering 100 times a day, reading and commenting articles on Friendfeed, writing a blog post about it, starting riots to get traffic going, AND still have a normal day job and a life after that? I don’t know anyone that fancies that kind of life. It is the life of the tech hero. We need to be out there, be there first. We are all affraid of not being there when it happens.

The cure for it? Not web 3.0, I certainly hope not. The receipe is quite simple (isn’t it always), but the execution much harder. Let go. Let me repeat that. Just let it go. I see Twitter, Friendfeed, and all these other sites as rivers of information, anekdotes, posts, friends. I tap in whenever I feel like it, join the conversation. But I leave when I need to get back to real life. I know the river won’t dry out. There will always be a next scoop, another funy remark, a great blog post. Life doens’t stop simply because I choose not to be drwoning myself into this cyber river of information. I don’t need 20.000 followers, nor do I want to follow 20.000.

If anything, web 3.0 should be about the user, about user value, about letting the Internet evolve around you, instead of around some destination site or walled garden. Web 3.0 should set us free, letting the important things come to us, instead of us having to go to the important things. It’s about freedom of data. And yes, noise reduction or filtering will be nice. But that isn’t really what web 3.0 should be about. Until it is here I’ll be dreaming of a user centric web.

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68 Responses to The noise in Web 2.0 is mainly a Tech Elite’s problem

  1. Pingback: South Park and Why It’s Good to Let Go : The Last Podcast

  2. I’ve been doing the whole blogosphere thing since 1999. I soon learned you can’t read or absorb everything. It’s all about the proper dosage. Drink for the hose when you can, think about if you want to add anything (a weblog post, a tweet, a digg), and move on. We have to remember social media is a tool. We’re in charge. We control the vertical; we control the horizontal. Balance and perspective will keep us all more sane.

  3. turn.self.off says:

    maybe this is the start of said app?
    http://www.digsby.com/

  4. Scott O'Raw says:

    Hi Alexander.

    “Someone is bound to get the idea to integrate Twhirl and all those other desktop applications into one big aggregator on the desktop…”

    Have you seen this?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSen_Q3eMYw

  5. buckpost says:

    Alexander,

    You’re exactly right but letting go for many people is difficult because they want to be wired into what’s new, all the conversations, etc. Personally, I do what I can and live without the rest. For example, as much as FriendFeed is interesting and a good service, I don’t have the time for it. Simple.

    Mark

  6. Ian Lamont says:

    Alexander, you bring up an excellent point about the habits of techies vs. the habits of everybody else. I think your readers will recognize this divide — mention “Twitter” or “Firefox” to many friends and family members, and you’ll get blank stares in return.

    However, this doesn’t mean Joe User isn’t tapped into the river … he may be using technology three or four hours per day, just in different ways. In other words, he’s tapped into a different tributary, participating in what we might consider mainstream online activities — watching online video, going to a favorite website, or using Webmail. For many or even most teenagers, the river dominates their lives, especially in the social sphere. Logging into their Facebook and MySpace accounts, having a half-dozen IM conversations going at once, and texting — these are the things they depend on. In this respect, I wouldn’t consider this a problem only of the ‘tech elite.’

  7. Pingback: Feedonomics » Blog Archive » Scoble is not the target user

  8. @Ian that is a good observation. But the thing that gets us techies most (I think) is the content aggregation part. Teenagers are definitely multitasking, its what they do best. But I doubt they feel the same need to see all interesting content. They switch off easier than we do (at least I’m noticing this with my own children and their friends).
    @Mark (buckpost) Agreed. Works best that way.
    @Scott I saw that and it’s funny to see more of this will happen. Useless of course, because it won’t cope with the amount of new services popping up daily ;-)
    @turn.self.off Who knows, there are so many of them out there already
    @Sean, you are right of course. Couldn’t agree more ;-)

  9. Pingback: Noise, What Noise? | Mark Evans

  10. Mark says:

    It’s a universal that we are being inundated with increasing amounts of content. Whether its new stations on TV, or new newspapers when you’re getting off the train, with cheaper distribution and new business models, there are fewer barriers to create new content.

    BUT.

    “Geek Group Think” continues to rear its ugly head with sites plugging me in to more and more content forgetting that it is an infinitesimally small fraction of us Techies that actually like sifting through mountains of data.

    The sites that are able to reduce noise (not tap me in to more of it) are the sites that will win.

  11. thunderror says:

    I relate to his problems and I completely agree to your solution..Filtering really would make more sense..
    There is something else which I would really like to add..Maybe a single signon to all these services would do as well..Interoperability is already budding now..I login to my mail account through a social networking site to access friends who are already on the network..I login to my blog through a video sharing site to post directly to my blog..
    True interoperability is the future of the web..Until then..I would continue to grapple with the many logins and websites that I use…

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  13. Rick calvert says:

    You nailed it Alexander. Normal people don’t have these problems.

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  15. Pretty much my feelings. I’ve said elsewhere that I got sick of seeing my aggregates of aggregates appearing – and stopped most of them feeding to each other.

    I think the “take a drink *from* the river, don’t try and drink the *whole* river” is the right line. It’s certainly what I advocate to colleagues new to Twitter etc.

  16. Humphrey Bogus says:

    The problem isn’t with the technology and we don’t need web 3.0 or whatever to solve it. There is no magic bullet to information overload. Scoble complaining about the traffic is like a guy who subscribes to every magazine on the planet complaining he has no time to read it all. If you act like an idiot, expect idiotic results. What was he thinking–that just one more person after 19,999 would improve his life?

    I agree, though, that apps should be built for real users, not for the Scobles of the world. The old adage about early adopters comes unglued when early adopters in no way resemble mainstream users.

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  19. scotchcart says:

    I have been following events in Zimbabwe closely. This is an interesting situation because there are not many citizen journalists and the papers still dominate. What has become very clear is that firstly the citizen journalists are still producing the primary information and the odd blogger produces analysis. There are also screeds of blogs around the world writing about things long superseded.

    So my point? There is still an opportunity for quality to feed into the sensation-mill and sift through the hearsay that follows for independent, original sources.

    During this time, I have discovered Zemanata – semantic search engine that supports blog posting. It is pretty good at finding you material in the long tail.

  20. Thats a good article….
    i think technology is making life complicatied instead of making life simple…

  21. Eric Rice says:

    I’m spamming my own link: http://www.ericrice.com/blog/2008/04/10/are-there-psychological-disorders-with-us-early-adopters/

    I think it’s not too far off that we have attention issues or some sort of crazy ‘fear of missing out’ thing going on. The obsession of ‘first’. etc

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  23. pinastro says:

    Hmmm ..Good article..I too share the same view though I am also have the syndrome fearing of being left out in the noise of web 2.0 and at the same time keeping the best ideas within myself in order to become the next google or facebook.You probably have to wait for some time :D

    Just want to share my view about the Web 2.0 revolution which hugely resembles the Hippie ideals though I strongly feel it is just a coincidence as we have had various ideological/sociological revolutions in the past , many of them successful and of course many of them failure (inspite of having made huge impact on the future generations).

    Some examples : Communism , Hippie , Imperialism , Fascism , Capitalism, Democracy ,Paris Commune, Discovery of Agriculture,Industrial Revolution,Gold Rush and there are many.

    Like all these revolutions Web 2.0 will also come to an end and at the end we will see the world and people completely changed.
    Bottom line is Life of human beings will never be the same on the Internet.

    Another comparison of Web 2.0 is with the Biological Evolution .i.e with the Precambian era where there was an explosion of new life forms.At the end of the PreCambian era the speed at which new species evolved slowed down but it completly changed the way of life on Earth.Similarly there are many verticals of web 2.0 (or rather species) getting shaped everyday each targetting a particular audience.One such sub species of Web 2.0 is the Enterprise 2.0 which will have the basic characteristics of Web 2.0 like Sharing,Profiling,Tagging, but all within the strict firewalls (just like the High Walled Gardens of the Mandarins during the Ming Dynasty)

    Read my blog on Enterprise 2.0 / Hippie:
    http://pinastro.wordpress.com/2008/04/01/enterprise-20-return-of-hippies/

    On Web 3.0 : Just want to add that Web 3.0 is also about Semantics on Web which is already here . The Social aggregations , Google’s Ad-Sense and all are the Semantics coming into play on the Web(though based on profiling etc)

  24. Louis, by some of your arguments, why do we have so many local publications all covering the same story? Like real world ones, for different regions or audiences. Really, just leave it to the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times.

    The answer is that all the publications you point at as not distinguishing themselves actually do so. Search Engine Land readers are not the same as TechCrunch readers. So just because TechCrunch covers a story, that doesn’t mean they’ll do it in the same way that we will or that the same people will read both. We serve different audiences.

    It’s easy to put up a list and say look, all these stories are duplicated. But you have to think that the audiences are not. And if you could see local real-world coverage, believe me, that list would be even bigger.

  25. Pingback: Blogosphere roundup 4.18.08 | Blog World Expo Blog

  26. gregory says:

    we already have a filter, it is our awareness when directed within… always, the right thing comes at the right time, nothing is missed that is germane.

    if we don’t know that, if our attention is always outside of our self, then technology is just enabling the monkey mind to continue its useless dance.

    asking for technology to create a(nother) filter is asking for a crutch that we don’t need, because we can run quite well, just have some faith and trust

  27. @Danny did you just put a comment on the wrong blog? ;-)

  28. Alexander — wow, I so did! Sorry!

  29. @Danny I thought so. I just asked the question on Friendfeed if anyone else has ever been Louis Gray’d (I assume you meant that Louis) ;-)

  30. H&R Block has a Twitter account that connects to its customer service people. RWW got incredibly excited about it. They have millions of customers. 93 Twitter followers – go figure.

  31. Peter says:

    Stop using Twitter??

    But what will I do without knowing when Johnny, Scotty, and Jonah are taking dumps?? Or when Sarah is taking a nap? Or…

  32. > “A Netvibes or iGoogle, but right there on the desktop instead of on a portal.”

    Darn. That’s one of my ideas since a few months ago… sadly I don’t have time to do it. :D :P

  33. tish grier says:

    Hi Alexander–great thoughts! Being someone fairly removed from the epicenter of geekdom (I’m in Easthampton MA) yet working geeky social media jobs, I often find myself parsing the hype–and then looking at the folks around me.

    Believe it or not, I know young people who *don’t* have Facebook accounts, college kids who gave up Twitter once they got their first real jobs, and a whole host of other human behaviors that would boggle the minds of many a hard-core geek….you know, fun stuff–like going to bookstores rather than ordering from Amazon, or renting dvds from the local guy rather than Netflix (yes, we’ve got an old fashioned privately owned dvd rental place in town…)

    They even *call* people. on the telephone. go figure.

    When I have to talk to local business folks about social media, I have to parse the hype again. I take a step back and figure out what will be useful to them. By useful, I mean what’s cheap as well as relevant to their businesses. I listen to what they want to know about–and sometimes all they really want to know is about blogs.

    Which makes me wonder if there’s any credence to this whole Web 3.0 thing anyway…and I don’t think it’s about filters. Maybe Web 3.0 is about self-control.

  34. Louis Gray says:

    Seeing this thread is like an out of body experience. :-)

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  36. @tish And they get real people on the phone, wow ;-) Web 3.0 is just a tech’s way of saying that we need new technology. Well, besides tech people I can tell you right now that people aren’t really aware that they NEED something new.

  37. @Louis, ah it’s you, I thought it was me, or is it …. confusing ;-)

  38. Pingback: Law Bites » The noise of Web 2.0

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  43. markdykeman says:

    Some people (myself included on occasion) are consumed by these compulsions to be present for the latest and greatest tool, but also the latest and greatest person to follow. Fad following.

    Finding the juiciest piece of gossip, the newest secret, the coolest lifehack, the upcoming novice with the potential to defeat the Emperor (i.e. Luke Skywalker revealed by destroying the Death Star).

    Following driven, not by the desire for wisdom and growth, but by the fear of being left behind and not belonging. Fear of missing the opportunity to accumulate prestige or make money. Fear of looking ignorant or stupid. Not just fear of missing the party or the experience, in my opinion.

    It’s the gold rush and we’re all panning for gold. However, in this particular region of reality, the biggest gold has been found (?) and we’re panning for dust which might not be worth all that much to that many people.

    Maybe it’s time to look for diamonds? Or silver? Or platinum?

    also…

    Excellent point, Alexander, about what it would take to be the next Google or Facebook: simple, functional, and ubiquitous (in my interpretation.)

  44. Interesting dialog. I for one am really enjoying the ‘hodgepodge web’ (write that one down). As far as confusion or noise … ugh … Think we should all Sphinn this for @danny :)

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  56. Daniel says:

    I hate the term Tech Elite, but I think this article is right on.

  57. Torley says:

    I’m unsure why “elite” need have such negative overtones when it often equates to being an overachiever — something which definitely isn’t common.

    Part of the widespread problem is how we choose to define ourselves and the technologies we use. I ran into a similar problem in coming across the 100s of splintered styles of electronic music: in doing so, labels became self-limiters instead of being used more holistically and positively for accessibility purposes.

    We each have choices to make about what’s valuable to us. If someone feels socially pressured to waste a lot of time on networks they wouldn’t otherwise care about, this is tragic. But if someone keeps coming back for more because they believe it holds continuing benefits and allows them to feel more connected thousands of of miles away from their best friends (who they’ve never met in person), then this is good.

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  62. Paamayim Nekudotayim says:

    FTA: “How many people do you know outside your tech community that want to have 25 desktop applications live, running Firefox alongside with 10 tabs open, twittering 100 times a day, reading and commenting articles on Friendfeed, writing a blog post about it, starting riots to get traffic going, AND still have a normal day job and a life after that?”

    Hey! What you’re describing *is* my normal day job.

  63. @Paamayim then you MUST be a geek ;-)

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