No that’s not my ‘ideal’ way of reading, although it is a representation of the core concept that made blogs blogs, the reverse chronological order. Ideally I’d have ‘heat maps’ of activity in a network visualisation. The way you can spot on a public square where people are most engaged. Or other visualisations along those lines.

For that reason I mostly leave the compilation of all feeds in my reader alone. What I do is I check in a folder which blogs have posted (in the earlier screenshots you see the author’s name and then a number, which is the number of unread posts). I click on the individual feeds I am curious about. Then I start working my way from the ‘closest’ folder to the ‘furthest’ in terms of social distance.

For the start of actual reading, within a single blog’s feed, I am fine with the reverse chronological order, as most recent is an aspect of how I filter. Yet, it usually leads to reading on the source blog and then following links etc deeper into a site. I do need full post feeds though, I can’t stomach just having excerpts or not even that, which require me to click through just to see if it is worth a read. I use an offline reader on purpose.

I have noticed that the news-feed type stream of posts of all feeds together carries echoes of the allergy I built up for my endless FB and Twitter streams.

Replied to Feed Reading By Social Distance (Kicks Condor)

I think the one area where I am not sure is still having to deal with a ‘news feed’-type stream of posts in each of those folders—is that your ideal way of reading?

2 reactions on “

  1. Ok, thank you—I am with you on this as well. It sounds like we might be in
    agreement that there is much innovation to do in the spectrum of ‘feeds’/‘filters’.
    I think I also agree that needing access to the full post contents is
    useful—otherwise we end up with titles dominating and our filter weighs toward
    attractive headlines.
    Re: ‘heat maps’—I’m reluctant to give any thought to the popularity of a
    writing. Yet, there’s no
    doubt that it’s important. If people are congregating, it’s worth knowing what
    the fuss is about. (I found your wonderful essay through Indienews—and this is
    a case where checking there has made it all worth it.) But I don’t want the
    zeitgeist jerking me around all day—think of it as a literal “ghost of The
    Now” pushing me around—I just want to peek at it usually and then move on to
    reading those things that are being overlooked.
    I’m not saying you are wrong to prize that higher for yourself—I think
    perhaps the most innovative thing that can be done is to
    provide a variety of views on this filter—maybe RSS readers have just been too
    narrow by making themselves simple ‘inbox’ clones. We are trying to wrangle a
    lot of data here; we might need something quite configurable to do this task.
    (Which is contrary to my own reader—which I have been designing to be
    extremely naive.)
    This is getting away from the juiciest part of your article, though: that there
    are serious human skills to build up. Reading and filtering. (I like your tag:
    ‘infostrats’.) But your mention of ‘heat maps’, for instance, reveals that our
    tools can improve with respect to enhancing our ‘infostrats’. Thank you for the
    further thoughts, Ton!

  2. Kicks Condor dives deeply into my info-strategy postings and impressively read them all as the whole they form (with my post on feed reading by social distance as starting point). It’s a rather generous gift of engagement and attention. Lots of different things to respond to, neurons firing, and tangents to explore. Some elements with a first reaction.

    Knowing people is tricky. You can know someone really well at work for a decade, then you visit their home and realize how little you really know them.

    Indeed, when I think of ‘knowing someone’ in the context of information strategies, I always do so as ‘knowing someone within a specific context’. Sort of what Jimmy Wales said about Wikipedia editors a long time ago: “I don’t need to know who you are“, (i.e. full name and identity, full background), but I do need to know who you are on Wikipedia (ihe pattern of edits, consistency in behaviour, style of interaction). As Wikipedia, which is much less a crowdsourced thing than an editorial community, is the context that counts for him. Time is another factor that I feel is important, it is hard to maintain a false or limited persona consistently over a long time. So blogs that go back years are likely to show a pretty good picture of someone, even if the author aims to stick to a narrow band of interests. My own blog is a case in point of that. (I once landed a project where at first the client was hesitant, doubting whether what I said was really me or just what they wanted to hear. After a few meetings everything was suddenly in order. “I’ve read your blog archives over the weekend and now know you’ll bring the right attitude to our issue”) When couch surfing was a novel thing, I made having been blogging for at least a year or two a precondition to use our couch.

    I wonder if ‘knowing someone’ drives ‘social distance’—or if ‘desire to know someone’ defines ‘social distance’. […] So I think it’s instinctual. If you feel a closeness, it’s there. It’s more about cultivating that closeness.

    This sounds right to me. It’s my perceived social distance or closeness, so it’s my singular perspective, a one way estimate. It’s not an estimation nor measure of relationship, more one of felt kinship from one side, indeed intuitive as you say. Instinct and intuition, hopefully fed with a diet of ok info, is our internal black box algorithm. Cultivating closeness seems a worthwhile aim, especially when the internet allows you to do so with others than those that just happened to be in the same geographic spot you were born into. Escaping the village you grew up in to the big city is the age old way for both discovery and actively choosing who you want to get closer to. Blogs are my online city, or rather my self-selected personal global village.

    I’m not sure what to think about this. “Neutral isn’t useful.” What about Wikipedia? What about neighborhood events? These all feel like they can help—act as discovery points even.
    Is the problem that ‘news’ doesn’t have an apparent aim? Like an algorithm’s workings can be inscrutable, perhaps the motives of a ‘neutral’ source are in question? There is the thought that nothing is neutral. I don’t know what to think or believe on this topic. I tend to think that there is an axis where neutral is good and another axis where neutral is immoral.

    Responding to this is a multi-headed beast, as there’s a range of layers and angles involved. Again a lot of this is context. Let me try and unpick a few things.
    First, it goes back to the point before it, that filters in a network (yours, mine) that overlap create feedback loops that lift patterns above the noise. News, as pretending to be neutral reporting of things happening, breaks that. Because there won’t be any potential overlap between me and the news channel as filters, no feedback loops. And because it purports to lift something from the background noise as signal without an inkling as to why or because of what it does so. Filtering needs signifying of stories. Why are you sharing this with me? Your perception of something’s significance is my potential signal.
    There is a distinction between news (breaking: something happened!) and (investigative) journalism (let’s explore why this is, or how this came to be). Journalism is much closer to storytelling. Your blogging is close to storytelling. Stories are vehicles of human meaning and signification. I do follow journalists. (Journalism to survive likely needs to let go of ‘news’. News is a format, one that no longer serves journalism.)
    Second, neutral can be useful, but I wrote neutral isn’t useful in a filter, because it either carries no signifcation, or worse that has been purposefully hidden or left out. Wikipedia isn’t neutral, not by a long-shot, and it is extensively curated, the traces of which are all on deliberate display around the eventually neutrally worded content. Factual and neutral are often taken as the same, but they’re different, and I think I prefer factual. Yet we must recognise that a lot of things we call facts are temporary placeholders (the scientific method is more about holding questions than definitive answers), socially constructed agreements, settled upon meaning, and often laden with assumptions and bias. (E.g. I learned in Dutch primary school that Belgium seceded from the Netherlands in 1839, Flemish friends learned Belgium did so in 1830. It took the Netherlands 9 years to reconcile themselves with what happened in 1830, yet that 1839 date was still taught in school as a singular fact 150 years later.)
    There is a lot to say for aiming to word things neutrally. And then word the felt emotions and carried meanings with it. Loading wording of things themselves with emotions and dog whistles is the main trait of populistic debate methods. Allowing every response to such emotion to be parried with ‘I did not say that‘ and finger pointing at the emotions triggered within the responder (‘you’re unhinged!‘)
    Finally, I think a very on-point remark is hidden in footnote one:

    It is very focused on just being a human who is attempting to communicate with other humans—that’s it really.

    Thank you for this wording. That’s it. I’ve never worded it this way for myself, but it is very to the point. Our tools are but extensions of ourselves, unless we let them get out of control, let them outgrow us. My views on technology as well as methods is that we must keep it close to humanity, keep driving humanity into it, not abstract it so we become its object, instead of being its purpose. As the complexity in our world is rooted in our humanity as well, I see keeping our tech human as the way to deal with complexity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.