Saturday, August 11, 2007

Weekend Bits: Web 3.0, Social Networking, Declining Attention Spans

Some odds and ends from the "blog me" list...

1. Google's Eric Schmidt answers a relatively silly question well in this video. The question: "What's Web 3.0?" (My smart-ass answer - "a bug-fix release!") My favorite part about the question is the comment that came with it: "I'm sure Google has lots of sound bites about this." Ooh, sound bites - much more digestible than thoughtful answers! Schmidt gives a thoughtful answer anyway, albeit one that happens to point to Google as the king of Web 3.0.

2. At ZDNet Mitch Ratcliffe talks about social networks as dead ends:

The whole approach to friending, which typically grants carte blanche access to a person’s information or to a Facebook application provider, treats personal data as though it was the least valuable feature of the social environment. Instead, it is the most precious thing, something that we struggle to share selectively throughout our lives. Simple categories of access to personal information, suggested by social network providers, such as “friend,” “family” and “colleague,” will not suffice, either, because we don’t have uniform relationships with our friends, family members or coworkers.

Here’s the rule of social success: Our personal data shouldn’t become someone else’s asset. Instead, we need to be able to turn it into value for ourselves. Yes, a network provider can claim some of that value for facilitating the interaction, but not all of it.

Social networks as they are conceived today are cul-de-sacs where our personal data goes to die, returning minimal value before it becomes the property of a company or part of the public record.

Most social networking involves a lot of effort to maintain relationships with low-grade "friends" that don't really do much for you. The best social networks are those with some defined, useful purpose - for example, using LinkedIn for business networking. Whenever I'm on a site like Facebook I find myself thinking, "I hardly have time to keep up with my real-life in-the-flesh friends... what is the point of this?" And I'm just waiting for the day that one of these networks gets bought by somebody with a less privacy-oriented approach to personal data and they become major sources of technically-not-spam advertising for users.

3. In a piece in Advertising Age, Steve Rubel talks about the supposed decline of blogging, as it is replaced by "micro-blogging" media like Twitter. One of the reasons for this that he identifies is the "Attention Crash" -- we just don't have enough time to take in so much information.

Of course, things like Twitter simply use up some more of that attention and it's worth asking if we're not just substituting frequency for depth. So instead of reading a blog post from somebody like Steve telling us, "I read this article, here's what it said, and here are my thoughts on it," we get brain farts on Twitter that say "reading this now!"

Perhaps a better response to the "attention crash" is not ever-shorter bursts of information with decreasing levels of depth and thought, but tools that help us choose where to put attention to get more thoughtful information.

Or, I suppose, we could just become a society where nobody can focus on anything for more than 20 seconds.

Enjoy your weekend!

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