Stephanie Booth, a long time blogging connection, has been writing about reducing her Facebook usage and increasing her blogging. She says at one point

As the current “delete Facebook” wave hits, I wonder if there will be any kind of rolling back, at any time, to a less algorithmic way to access information, and people. Algorithms came to help us deal with scale. I’ve long said that the advantage of communication and connection in the digital world is scale. But how much is too much?

I very much still believe there’s no such thing as information overload, and fully agree with Stephanie that the possible scale of networks and connections is one of the key affordances of our digital world. My rss-based filtering, as described in 2005, worked better when dealing with more information, than with less. Our information strategies need to reflect and be part of the underlying complexity of our lives.

Algorithms can help us with that scale, just not the algorithms that FB uses around us. For algorithms to help, like any tool, they need to be ‘smaller’ than us, as I wrote in my networked agency manifesto. We need to be able to control its settings, tinker with it, deploy it and stop it as we see fit. The current application of algorithms, as they usually need lots of data to perform, sort of demands a centralised platform like FB to work. The algorithms that really will be helping us scale will be the ones we can use for our own particular scaling needs. For that the creation, maintenance and usage of algorithms needs to have a much lower threshold than now. I placed it in my ‘agency map‘ because of it.

Going back to a less algorithmic way of dealing with information isn’t an option, nor something to desire I think. But we do need algorithms that really serve us, perform to our information needs. We need less algorithms that purport to aid us in dealing with the daily river of newsy stuff, but really commodotise us at the back-end.

4 reactions on “Algorithms That Work For Me, Not Commodotise Me

  1. My friend Ton has been blogging up a storm on the blogging-about-blogging front of late:

    From Semi Freddo to Full Cold Turkey with FB
    Algorithms That Work For Me, Not Commodotise Me
    Revisiting the Personal Presence Portal
    Adding a Wiki-like Section

    He is, as such, a man after my own heart.

    And he’s inspired me to recall the long-dormant feeling of how it felt to be building the Internet together, back in the days before we outsourced this to commercial interests as a way of saving money, learning curve and messiness.

    The difference now, a year after I decamped from the commercial web, is that when I did that I was focused on a combination of “the commercial web is evil” and a profound sense of personal failure at having been part of letting that happen, whereas now I’m filled with tremendous hope.

    It’s not a coincidence that I work under a banner called Reinvented: time and time and time again over the course of my life I’ve found utility in returning to earlier iterations of technology.

    Letterpress printing has taught me so much about the true nature of letterforms, in a way that the digital never could.

    Keeping a ready supply of cards, envelopes and stamps in the office has kindled a practice of regularly thanking people for kindnesses, advocacies, and boldnesses.

    Teaching myself to sketch has changed the way I look at architecture.

    What Ton’s writing–and the zeitgeist that surrounds it–have made me remember is that we invented blogging already and then, not completely but almost, we threw it away.

    But all the ideas and tools and debates and challenges we hashed out 20 years ago on this front are as relevant today as they were then; indeed they are more vital now that we’ve seen what the alternatives are. And, fortunately, often we’ve recorded much of what we learned in our blogs themselves.

    So I propose we move on from “Facecbook is evil” to “blogging is awesome–how can we continue to evolve it.” And, in doing so, start to put the inter back into the Internet.

    Blogging | Internet | Technology

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