Read this great post by Stowe Boyd: The End Of An Age, Or The End Of The Beginning?
Sparked by the “end of the tech blogosphere” flap started by Jeremiah Owyang, Boyd’s post details how he thinks that whole conversation (which you can ignore, if you didn’t already hear about it) is missing the point. Which is, that the social web is maturing. Specifically, Boyd identifies three major trends:
The rise of the web of flow, and the fall of the web of pages —
“The user experience has shifted from wandering around, searching for information, moving via URLs from page to page.”
“We are no longer experiencing the web as exploring a library, but more like a drinking from a fire hose.”
The social revolution and social tools —
“While a lot of the discussion about the rise of blogging talked about social media, the technology involved wasn’t particularly social. However, the emergence of network-based social tools — notably Facebook, Twitter, and thousands of other niche offerings — have led to a dramatic and unprecedented change in information transmission: increasingly, people are getting their news and insight via social networks, channeled through other, known individuals. The simplest proof of this state change is that Twitter is now the emergency broadcast system, the canary in the coal mine, the first place that the most important information appears. These tools form the bloodstream and the nervous system for the connected world we now inhabit. And the blogs and other media tools that were principally about publishing pages in the previous era, are now primarily oriented toward pushing links and summaries into the social nervous system.”
Social learning, innovation, and curation —
“…our level of social connection has grown to the point where new ideas can travel much more quickly and economically: this includes all ideas, not just those involved in tech blogging, but tech blogging too. The best ideas — and their originators — will rise to the top more quickly, and as a result, [Mark] Pagel maintains that we have a lessened need for innovators, and at the same time we are learning more quickly than before. I believe that this is the complementary trend allied to the increased perceived need for good curators: the value of discernment — which ideas are more useful — has gone up, while the value of creating new ideas has gone down. “
There’s a lot more to read in his post, but I agree – although I think, if anything, these are not three separate trends but different facet of one big trend. About the age of flow, or the stream, or the firehose – this is very clearly the case, with our newly focused attention on search engine optimization, filtering, and curation – how to find the best content in the stream as opposed to “navigating” through menus.
Stowe’s second point about social tools just reinforces the concept that it’s now all about the stream, and I find the idea that blogs are now primarily about “pushing links into the social nervous systems” a really interesting one. As a blogger, my intent remains that I want to write about things that interest me and that I think will interest those who read my posts – but there’s no doubt that each individual post is connected by many arteries to that information stream and that someone can get to this spot where they are reading this via a million different pathways (and devices). And we talk to organizations every day about building blogs as their central hub for content to be pushed out to social sites – for workflow, content strategy, and resource reasons – but it’s interesting that that conversation has shifted too, away from the “what if we start a blog and no-one reads it?” worry. Maybe we know that if we’re any good at pushing the content into the stream, and optimizing it for search, and making sure it’s shareable in lots of ways, then we know for a fact that people will read it.
And of course, the third point is important too – and maybe will spark some pushback. In fact I recently read a really long but truly fascinating article by the Mark Pagel that Boyd refers to, who is a Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Reading, where he talks about social learning (the fact that humans can learn from observing and understanding other humans). And, worryingly, hypothesizes that over the years we’ve become (as a species) very good at copying and following.
“This herd instinct, I think, might be an extremely fundamental part of our psychology that was perhaps an unexpected and unintended, you might say, byproduct of our capacity for social learning, that we’re very, very good at being followers rather than leaders. A small number of leaders or innovators or creative people is enough for our societies to get by.
Now, the reason this might be interesting is that, as the world becomes more and more connected, as the Internet connects us and wires us all up, we can see that the long-term consequences of this is that humanity is moving in a direction where we need fewer and fewer and fewer innovative people, because now an innovation that you have somewhere on one corner of the earth can instantly travel to another corner of the earth, in a way that it would have never been possible to do 10 years ago, 50 years ago, 500 years ago, and so on. And so, we might see that there has been this tendency for our psychology and our humanity to be less and less innovative, at a time when, in fact, we may need to be more and more innovative, if we’re going to be able to survive the vast numbers of people on this earth.”
Now I tend to be an optimist, so I will sit on that a while, but what’s important is Stowe’s point about the importance of curation – figuring out and showcasing the best ideas or information. We’ve all been talking about that for a while now, but I would agree that it’s become more and more important over the last 18 months or so and for organizations who are still trying to figure out how to manage all of this social stuff, understanding their role as curators of content is absolutely essential at this point.
Anyway – read the post, to get the full argument. Would love to hear your take on this.
This post originally appeared on SocialFishing.