The other day I posted on knowledge diffusion and how effective knowledge management is more based on conversation rather than content. Now that we have the tools to effortlessly publish thoughts and discussion and be able to connect and subscribe to each other (people you trust as well as others) in a social network, we have a knowledge flow, where information comes to you, instead of you looking for it all the time…and it’s information you understand.
Blogs give us a way to participate and generate content, the message to the masses is no longer in a few hands (so to speak), in fact this is a social revolution of the media and perhaps the enterprise to follow…I consider video sites, podcasts, ideas and presence blogging in the same way.
Then we have sites we collect like social bookmarks, podcasts, video’s, documents, how-to’s, ideas, etc…
A way to consolidate the experience is to subscribe to the RSS feeds of all these sites in your RSS Reader.
You subscribe to your favourite blogger, favourite bookmarker, or perhaps you subscribe to a person’s lifestream (which includes all their blog posts, bookmarks, etc…)
Now the web comes to us, but this brings up a new issue of information overload
…I like that I no longer have to surf the web for this purpose, but now there’s too much stuff to keep up.
There are approaches like subscribing to category feeds, search feeds, only seeing content from your feeds based on past click behaviour (this kind of kills the serendipity factor, but at the same time these services usually recommend stuff outside of your feeds)…in saying this you can still choose to read all content, only ranked (based on your past clicks).
These are good methods (for more see my RSS Reader productivity post), but no matter how much you do this, there are always more feeds to subscribe to, you may feel you are missing out on stuff because your filters are too narrow, etc…
The answer is social filtering, and it’s what you are doing anyway when you subscribe to blogs.
If we think about it, the author of every blog we subscribe to subscribes to lots of feeds, and in turn, those people subscribe to lots of feeds.
Then you move on to the next person in your RSS reader…..see my post, Blog network as your social filter.
When I choose to subscribe to a blog, I’m getting their view of the world based on their own insights and the blogs they subscribe to, so I’m trusting not only someone’s interpretation/understanding of what they read, but I’m also trusting their sources…who in turn have their own source filter, etc…
In my post, The many aspects of attention, the aim is to drop lots of feeds as other blogs will pick up stuff from these feeds, stuff that matters will surface.
But how can the RSS reader experience be more a social filtering flow experience.
Blogs are a way to share what’s on our mind, they also act as discussion and a social filter.
Blog communities or networks are distributed in nature and very blurry, they are based blogs I read, comment and link to…it’s my individual centric view of the blogosphere. Other blogs I read, comment, link to also have their own view, we may find overlap in these circles where a number of blogs read, comment and link to the same core blogs, some sort of ethereal blog community.
The way we read blogs is via an RSS Reader, and trackbacks/comments are tracked and saved via other tools, this is very disjointed, what is even more isolated is that we are only connected to content, not people.
This is where an RSS Reader social network would come in to play, the experience is more enhanced as I could subscribe to the blog, and also add the author as a friend.
Now I’m not only getting a view of the authors world via their blog, but now I can connect to them, I can share links, we can talk, I can see what they read, who they are connected to, what they talk about with their friends, what their friends read, what their status is, ask them questions, etc…
As we can see this is much easy to keep tabs on if our RSS Readers were public and joined in a social network…it totally augments the social filter scenario.
The extra beauty of an RSS Reader social network, like FeedEachOther, is that you can be recommended feeds, see another person’s feed collection, and explicitly send people links in to their reading stream. So not only are you relying on what people you trust blog and collect, but they can also send you stuff they think you will like.
Not long ago Jack Vinson and Luis Suarez shared some of their Reading List, blogrolls are a good source as well.
All 3 of us read a lot of the same blogs, some of these have consistently quality posts and have great authors, these are my essential subscriptions.
But I have chosen to drop feeds that only have the occassional quality post (according to me), in the confidence that Jack and Luis are still subscribed to them, and that the occassional quality post from these feeds will surface in one of Jack’s or Luis’s blog posts or bookmark links.
So I’m relying and trust my social filter for quality content, firstly I like what they blog, and I have a high abstraction relationship where I am confident stuff that I don’t read that I like will “come to me”.
What else I found is that these guys are also my social filter for sources, just when trusting my social filter helps me relieve information overload, it also may occassionaly turn the tables, I may find and subscribe to new blogs my filter are posting about. Then these blogs have their own Reading List/blogrolls and their archive of content, may point to other quality blogs…
Anyway, this is usually a good thing, it’s recommendation to sources via your social filter, how much more relevant can you get!
What about for topics that are not your focus of interest.
I have a mild interest in the mobile web, I have chosen 3 or 4 blogs to subscribe to, a few of these are group blogs and do a great job of covering the blogosphere.
I find it so easy that even if I have a mild interest in something it doesn’t take me much to get updated on the latest, I don’t need to get too involved to find content and sources, all I do is find a few quality blogs, and the “web comes to me”, people are our filter to the web.
Putting this all together, let’s see how much smoother the experience would be if my blog subscriptions were also my friends in a social network.
I subscribe to and read my favourite blogs…here’s where a network does more…
If the authors of these blogs used the same RSS Reader I could add them as friends.
This means I could visit their profile and connect to their profile:
- see their friends (mutual friends)…recommendation
- see their feeds (mutual feeds)…recommendation
- I can private/public message them
- I can share links with them directly
- I can see their status or presence
- I can comment on the posts in the network and on the original post
- I can see their bookmarks
- activity or newsfeed will update me on what my friends are doing
I can also add friends that may not author blogs but enjoy reading, now I have a way to show off my reading list, exchange links, and communicate…they can see my history of interactions and content.
Coming full-circle this starts to become an expert network, each person/blog could have expert tags.
Most people use Google Reader these days, imagine if this was a social network, I could add friends (especially blog authors), we could read each others content, share links, see saved link stream (not quite social bookmarks), send messages, be recommended to feeds and people (make lots of weak ties).
This moves from a social filter to a social network or circle.
RSS Readers and bookmarks are not the only type of content, other places we can network and share are; presentations like Slideshare, presence blogging like Twitter, Lifestreams like Mugshot, the list goes on for videos, podcasts, documents, idea’s, link sharing, etc…
The next question, is that it’s great that we can have knowledge flow based on different networks that deal with different content types, but what about a central place to manage it all?
This is where startpages come into the equation, from one dashboard like Facebook or Netvibes you can see all your content, plus this startpage is within a social network itself.
But, although you can interact with people in your startpage network, this model lacks interaction with people in all your other networks, the idea is not just a place to manage your content, but also one place to interact with content and people from all your networks.
eg. from this central dashboard how do I share a link with my friend in my RSS Reader social network, or share a bookmark with my del.icio.us friends (linkforyou).
An alternative to a startpage is a Lifestream service like Ziki (also a social network itself), these services consolidate content from your various profiles into a stream rather than widgets. The difference is that Startpages allow the user more control to add lots of other types of widgets like email, games, IM, etc…so a startpage is a productivity space as well. In saying this we do see lifestream services like Plaxo Pulse, that are also an address book, notes, tasks, etc…
The one thing a Lifestream service usually has incorporated is a friendstream, so now you have all your friends content in one stream. The difference here compared to an RSS Reader network is that when you add a friend to your lifestream you are adding them as well as their content at the same time, and it’s not usually just their blog content, you are updated on all sorts of profile activity (their bookmarks, video’s, documents, etc…).
What I see lacking in a lifestream network is the ability to mark/unmark items in your friendstream, ie. RSS Reader type features. Most allow you to sort the stream content by person, or content type, or even inhouse groups to organise people…kind of like tag folders, I haven’t really seen a way to organise people in topic tags.
A service called Spokeo enables you to subscribe to just content type by friends eg. only your friends Flickr photo’s and nothing else, if your friends also have a Spokeo account, you can subscribe to their actual account as a subscription in your Spokeo reader.
Both lifestream and RSS Reader networks enable group creation as a communal place to share a set of subscriptions (usually the lifestreams of the members and some external feeds), and to be able to explictly add internal/external items into the stream…see Onaswarm and Mugshot groups.
The next step is the read/write lifestream where you can interact with all your friends from your various networks, and where you can upload and post content, all from the one spot…a digital dashboard for your personal and social life.
Our social network environment is key for knowledge flow; social filtering, activity updates, sharing, communicating, requests, etc…our new issue is interoperability so we can unify all our social network activities.
[ADDED 13/12/07: Knowledge network filter and sources]