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Are We Over-Optimising for the Stream?


Alexis Madrigal had a great take on the 'stream' – our focus on recency, reverse chronology of content, 'nowness' - as the organising metaphor for the web:

"Nowness also transmits this sense of presence, of other people, that you get in a city when you go to a highway overpass and look down at all the cars at any time of the day or night. Things are happening. I am not alone. Look at all this."

He suggests that this is the year that 'the stream' crested. What was exciting in 2009 (the expectation of real-time, the constant flow of updates, the sheer volume of stuff, the feeling of never getting to the end) feels like a burden in 2013. He references Robin Sloan's metaphor of stock and flow content, something I've talked about a lot over the past couple of years, suggesting a rebalance toward 'stock' content (durable, packaged, lasting value) might be needed.

I'm not so sure, but I can relate to what he says about the desire for a sense of closure, edges, and structure. The feeling that you have got to the end of something, that you are up to date, or informed. It's something that is not unlike the feeling of completion that magazine and newspaper publishers will know from listening to the feedback of readers. 

The piece is right to draw attention to the balance between stock and flow, both of which are needed of-course. And yes, there is an awful lot of crap out there. But perhaps, to paraphrase Clay Shirky, it's less about information overload and more about filter failure. There's a phrase he uses in a slightly different context which I rather liked about "rocks that you can stand on in the stream, just to catch your breath". Perhaps that's a metaphor for what we're trying to do with Fraggl. Provide a rock you can stand on in the stream, to catch your breath. 

Photo Credit: ViaMoi via Compfight cc

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