Don't read blogs like you read newspapers

I remember a sales call that I got a year or two ago. It was a news monitoring company that had a new sales pitch, since I had said that I wasn’t interested in their services previously.

Sales person: You know, now we even cover blogs!
Me: Really? What blog index are you using for that? [I was, admittedly, smirking]
Sales person: Index? We’re adding several hundred – every day!

She didn’t get a sale.

After the call, it occurred to me that the sales girl regarded blogs as any other media outlet: one that should be regularly monitored and followed on a daily basis. Arguably most people look at them that way. But as there is an abundance of interesting people to follow, myself and a lot of my friends suffer from RSS-anxiety – the “unread” figure is simply to high to handle. And we don’t won’t to miss out on anything?

For a while now I have started to think about this differently. An abundance of information, a scarcity of time. This miss-match will never be in balance however we try to adapt and evolve. As the publishing threshold is so low, the amount of “interestingness” produced will always surpass the time you can spend consuming it.

That’s why we need to regard blogs and microblogs as flow, not as regular media. Limiting ourselves to just follow a predefined set of blogs (just as we follow newspapers, tv-channels etc) is an inadequate way of consuming this new media. Unsurprisingly, it is the exact way we have consumed old media – we got a newspaper each morning and “followed” it. We had a tv-channel, and “followed” it too.

So how should we follow this new media more efficiently? I think it will be through combining selected voices that we never want to miss with sophisticated search strings and meme trackers. We need a system that tells us what we should be reading, rather than reading everything just in case. Sure, there are Techmeme and players like that, but we’re not quite there yet.

At Reboot last year Jyri Engeström said that if an article was interesting enough it would elevate through his social network with such a frequency that he knew he would find it interesting. That wouldn’t work for everyone, but it’s the type of logic that we need to be looking at if this information flow is going to be manageable. Social filtering together with aggregated data processing.

In DN today there is an article about Swedish politician´s blogs and that nobody is reading or commenting on them. In the light of what I’ve just written, the perspective of the article is warped. Why would loads of people regularly read or comment on the daily lives of a politician? The interesting thing is that once they do write something interesting, it can be found and become a conversation piece where they can choose to be a part. Having a blog gives them an honest chance of that. But the amount of readers and comments should probably not be among the key success factors when evaluating the project. The abundance of information and the scarcity of time makes that a tough challenge to handle for anyone, and even more so for a politician that is supposed to run the country at the same time.

So keep on blogging, politicians. There’s nothing wrong with just being part of the flow.