Jon’s article points out his experience of the erosion of serendipity or at least opposing view points that social media enforces (somewhat) accidentally. I couldn’t agree more. One of the big promises of the Internet was that it was unimaginably vast and continuing to grow. The other big promise was that it was open in the way people could participate. There were no dictats or proscribed methods per se, but etiquette at best. There were FAQs to guide us, and rules of thumb to prevent us from embarrassing ourselves. But the Internet, It was something so vast one could never know or see everything that was out there, good or bad.
But like the Wild est, search engines began fencing in the old prairie. At once both allowing us to get to the good stuff and waste less time doing important stuff. But therein lies the bargain of the “filter”, giving up control to an authority to help you do something with data or information. All the electrons/photons whizzing back and forth on the series of tubes exisiting all at once, available (more or less) all at once. But now with Social Neworks, like AOL before we suffer from the side effects of the filter.
I remember being an AOL member, finally caving in and installing the app from some free floppy disk I would get in the mail at least once a week. I registered my credit card for the first free 20 hours (can you imagine?). And just like people who ‘try’ Netflix, I never unregistered. I lazily stayed the course and tried getting my money’s worth, spending more time online. At the same time ISPs, small mom and pop type shops were renting off parts of a Fractional T-1 leased line they owned, putting up modem pools and started selling access to the “Internet”. Nobody knew why you would want to do that with all teh kewl thingz one could do on AOL. Shopping, Chat Rooms, News, Stock quotes. It was ‘like’ the Internet. But not open and free and limitless like the Internet. And that’s where the failure begins to occur.
AOL had to police it’s population, enforce some codes of conduct. They could kick you off, stop accepting your credit card payments. One could not be kicked of the ‘Internet’ in the same way, especially in those early days. But getting back to Jon’s point about filters that fail and allow you to see the whole world, discover an opposing viewpoint or better mulitple opposing viewpoints. That is the promise of the Internet, and we’re seeing less and less of it as we corral ourselves into our favorite brand name social networking community. I skipped MySpace, but I did jump on Flickr, and eventually Facebook. And in so doing gave up a little of that wildcat freedom and frontier-like experience of dial-up over PPP or SLIP connection to a modem pool, doing a search first on Yahoo, then AltaVista, and then Google to find the important stuff.
- Four short links: 27 January 2014 – O’Reilly Radar (radar.oreilly.com)