Positive Interference

Snowball Rolling Down Snowbank by Rob Casey

Yesterday I commented on Jeremy Zawodny’s blog on a fundamental difference I see between Plaxo Pulse, FriendFeed and MyBlogLog and I wanted to expand a bit further here in the name of thinking out loud and getting a sense of what others think.

As I announced on the MyBlogLog blog a couple of weeks ago, we are getting close to releasing a feature which publishes an aggregated view of all your updates from services such as flickr, del.icio.us, YouTube, twitter, and others. This aggregated event stream has been called a number of things (vitality feed, activity stream, lifestream, mini-feed) but we’re simply calling it New with Me.

As more sites add this feature, there seems to be two approaches to what to do with this data. One the one hand you have sites like Wink and Profilactic which simply pull in updates and republish them. MyBlogLog’s approach is like this. On the other, you have sites such as Plaxo Pulse and FriendFeed which are hosting specific actions such as adding comments around the content aggregated on their sites.

The question is, what is the value of hosting comments on a site that is removed from the place that generated the content? If I’m feeding my updates to a site such as Pulse or FriendFeed, I would rather be able to keep the conversation threads all together on my site or at least tie them together with something like a trackback to pull in threads if the discussion jumps over to another venue. The way Pulse and FriendFeed are built, your readers can never know what additional discussion is taking place which makes it an open loop of dis-jointed conversations that may never come together.

Bret Taylor from FriendFeed responded with a perspective that shed light on his perspective which didn’t occur to me. In his response to my comment on Jeremy’s post, Bret says that FriendFeed is less a distribution platform but more, “a forum for private discussion with people you know.” But why break off what likely to be the most thoughtful commentary and keep it from the others that might benefit from it if they are not your friend?

I look for inspiration from a broad variety of sources and thrive on the serendipity of unintended consequences. This morning I was listening to a podcast because there was a mention of a term I follow that dropped it into one of my tracking feeds. In it, Jeff Schmidt, a bassist that is also quite thoughtful on the latest social media technologies threw out a line that struck me.

I love being open to the possibility of positive interference.

That describes what I most love about the online world in which we live. The way that someone halfway around the world can stumble into your world and zap you with a turn of phrase that crystallizes a new way of looking at things. This happens best in a world where comments are open and thoughts are shared together in a way that everyone benefits. It’s all about Doc Searls’ Snowball.

Bret and I are on a panel together next week at the Graphing Social Patterns conference in San Diego and I really look forward to learning more what others think. It should be a fascinating discussion!

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