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The End of the Rainbow for Social Media, Spectacle or Solution?

21 Mar 2010

Another Breathtaking HDR shot from Trey Ratcliff (click the image to see more of his work)

I hopped into a conversation related to how Mahendra's Palsule's organizes Google Reader. It took place under Louis Gray's Buzz share, and Robert Scoble commented how few page views and little attention was driven by Google Reader & Buzz as of late. Here's a link to the conversation, I'll quote the relevant section:

Mark Essel - @Robert How many people actively use Twitter?
@Louis how many actively use greader
how many use buzz?

How many tech geeks use the above tools?

How many normal folks give a crap about our favorite flavor of web info?

My problem with social media is that it's dominated by talking about itself, it's ecosystem, etc. To "grow up" it needs to be something we don't see/stare at/worship and just use to find great info and interesting people. Another issue with all social media is that it's focused on super human filters, and blog stars. I'd prefer the social reader learn what I like and let me tune it

Robert Scoble - Mark: humans will always be better than automation. 5:35 am
Mark Essel - Ps: black box implicit knowledge engines don't help me. I have to understand why and how a system selects information I may find relevant
Mark Essel - Agree, But humans don't scale. I can't dial up a personal Scoble Twitter filter catered to my interests, that learns about what most gets me jazzed up over time.
Robert Scoble - Mark: I don't know the latest numbers but in talking with friends in blogging at sxsw we are getting many times more traffic from Twitter than from Buzz or Google Reader.
Robert Scoble - Mark: that is what Twitter lists are good for.
Trish (Red Fox) - @Robert -- Buzz is only a month old, after all!! Twitter is 4. Be interesting to see the stats when Buzz is 4. :)
Robert Scoble - Techmeme actually does a pretty good job. So does Regator and a few others. I like humans better, though, noisy baahhhssstttaarrdddsss they might be. :-)
Robert Scoble - Trish: Buzz is a disaster. Traffic here is dropping. I sure hope they fix it soon.
Mark Essel - I like lists :). Unless people split their streams into very narrow categories they have issues.

I mentioned that Social Media is still too self involved. We're preoccupied by how we handle tech news and information, as opposed to talking about great new tech, software, geek glory. Even in this blog post I'm only adding to that sign of immaturity as I discuss the weaknesses of the social web. The problem of relevancy to individual readers is a distraction from quality analysis.

Information Overload

As much as I appreciate the fine coverage of Robert, Louis, and Mahendra at finding fantastic tech news, I can't fine tune their information streams to my personal interests. Even though I'm able to filter their shares with some effort, I can't change their attention to focus on what's most interesting to me. Robert mentioned lists (or groups feeds for open web alternatives), but almost every person shares a diversity of information. Their interests aren't a narrow laser beam of knowledge on a given topic (which is a good thing), but it makes filtering real time info that's relevant to me a challenge. As long as it's required that casual or normal web users have to sift through mountains of garbage to find a few pearls of information most relevant to them, social media sharing is failing the majority. The challenge is for us to reinvent how new content and media is rated, and rises to the attention of curious browsers without a heavy time commitment. Many startups and large knowledge systems are working hard on this problem, and I look forward to offering our spin on a solution shortly.

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