The success of distributed commenting systems such as Disqus, Intense Debate, and most famously, FriendFeed have generated a heated debate over if we should let discussions break out all over the place in small pockets or try to gather them all together in context with the source material so that everyone can benefit from a collective debate.
On the one hand, you have those that encourage everyone to “go with the flow” and let discussions take place inline, wherever convenient. Duncan Riley falls in this camp with his post last week about Blogging 2.0.
On the other, you have those that want to pull the discussion back into context. If it’s a blog post, they would like to see these distributed pools of discussion pulled back together under the original blog post. Fred Wilson falls into this camp with his post today, Leaving the Instigator Out.
Call me old school but I’m with Fred on this one. I think it’s possible to have both cookies – keep discussions distributed but at least tie them together so you’re not logging to sites across the web trying to chase down the latest discussion. The solution is to revive the long forgotten Trackback.
Trackback was developed by the blogging pioneer Six Apart back when blogs expanded beyond a close circle of friends and there was a need for blogs to notify each other when they were expanding on a conversation and moving it to a new venue. The standard practice was that if you wanted to take someone’s idea and expand on it a bit more than would fit comfortably into a comment box, you would post about it on your own blog and trackback to the original post. This would do two things:
send a ping to the original blogger so that he or she would know that you’re expanding on their idea,
add a link in the comments section so that people reading the original post could follow the discussion over to the new blog post
Trackback was a very simple technology but it provided a thread that linked the two posts and brought the readership of both posts together. If you were moving the conversation from one blog to another, sending a trackback ping was the right thing to do, it was common courtesy, an attribution. That link, that attribution, is what has gotten people up in arms. Without this link, both the original blogger and the reader of the original post are cut off from distributed discussions and that just doesn’t seem right or efficient.
I could never figure out how banks and securities dealers talked themselves into loaning money to people that common sense would tell you never could repay their obligation. Listening to this episode of This American Life – Giant Pool of Money revealed that it was incremental greed that drove each link in the chain to justify the crazy loans that were extended – a kind of slow boiling of the frog – which gradually upped the ante until the market could no longer sustain it.
A vital oversight often overlooked was that with the Mortgage-Backed Securities that were famous for bundling up poorly graded loans with a few high-performing loans to basically pretty up a pig, the complex risk management tools that were used for analysis failed completely because of the lack of historical data.
Very simply, no one had ever extended credit under such situations before (i.e. NINA loans, No Income, No Asset) so they assumed an overly optimistic rate of default and dealers let the computer models talk them into taking on loans that just didn’t make sense.
I noticed a big drop in the number of Feedburner subscribers to my blog over the past few days with the number of subscribers dropping nearly 50% starting sometime Thursday last week (May 8th). I noticed one other person reporting a drop and they pointed to Google Reader numbers being the culprit and, sure enough, if you look at the two graphs below, my Google Reader numbers are down significantly (230 vs. 60) but other readers (Netvibes for example) are down as well.
As of tomorrow, First Class postage is going up from $0.41 to $0.42. I bought a book of Forever stamps a couple weeks ago and as of tomorrow they are worth a penny more. That’s a 2.4% gain in just a few weeks. Not the most practical investment vehicle, you have to stand outside the Post Office to liquidate your holdings, but the closest thing to a sure thing anyone will see these days.
I wonder how many people took the Postal Service up on their futures contract and how much interest revenue they’ll gain from front loading their earnings? They say that email and automated bill pay have cut deeply into the Postal Services’ earnings. The credit market crunch means I don’t get my daily assortment of Capital One credit card offers (don’t miss ’em!). I also read somewhere that after Capital One, Netflix is the Post Office’s next biggest customer (my local post office has a dedicated slot for Netflix drop-offs). What happens when broadband delivery of movies takes over and Netflix drops out as well?
What businesses is the Post Office thinking of getting into in order to stay relevant?
There are so many things I could say right now about Microsoft walking away from the table this past weekend. More than anything, I feel like someone peering up over the parapet and looking at the smoke clearing from the battlefield.
Therefore, perhaps we can say that Techmeme aggregates what’s important about tech and Internet news and easily provides links to surrounding conversations. It’s really a new kind of online newspaper, and a pretty terrific one. And Friendfeed is an aggregator of lots of stuff, of what people are reading and writing and sharing and looking at and listening to.
Friendfeed is the modern version of a newswire while TechMeme is a constantly updated newspaper. If you have the time to scan through the real-time updates of everyone’s lifestream, FriendFeed is going to get you the news faster. If you’d rather let the editorial algorithms do the heavy lifting, TechMeme is the way to go.
One of the best talks at this year’s Web 2.0 Expo was Clay Shirky on Cognitive Surplus. In it he suggests that modern television is a, “cognitive heat sink, dissipating thinking that might otherwise have built up and caused society to overheat.”
He concludes after describing how a child spent a few minutes looking for the mouse connected to her living room television;
Here’s something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here’s something four-year-olds know: Media that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for.
The ironic thing is that I was stuck in the hallway and missed this talk. I read Clay’s transcript and was moved. But watching him deliver his talk on video was even more impactful (for instance, listening to the collective, “Ahhh!” from the crowd when he delivers the lines quoted above).
As with many involved in the tech industry, I watch very little television but when I do, it’s mediated by timeshifting technology that lets me watch it on my own terms. It’s either on Tivo or filtered through social pointers such as Jeremy’s blog post which determine which videos I invest time to watch.
“The web is in its infancy,” says Tim Berners-Lee and looking at the tools available to manage information flow it’s easy to see why. We’re shifting from a time of channel surfing to web surfing but the evolution from web portals to something more dynamic and efficient has only just begun. The vast wealth of information is still intoxicating and we constantly jump around afraid we’re going to miss something. What’s going to happen when we wake up from this second, “collective bender” and use our spare time to improve the world around us.