RSS, Attention and Flocking Behaviour


I've been giving some thought to my ever-growing collection of RSS feeds (now up to 498 subscriptions) and realized that I don't "read" many of them. The majority of the feeds (half? two thirds? more?) are merely scanned.

Why scan so many feeds? To me, it's about patterns. Keeping my peripheral vision (peripheral mind? is there such a thing?) pouring over more information than I could ever consciously absorb. And being able to pick up on subtle variations in the attention of the flock that I am a part of, as well as other related flocks.

Many of the feeds are used to keep up on the status of people, projects, and events. Things that don't fit very cleanly into the River of News metaphor. What would be more appropriate for that kind of information would be more of a dashboard at-a-glance interface, like Flickr's "Contacts'" pages. Or Google News. Something that keeps "status" items fresh and ready, without being interlaced in the content I need to be more actively engaged with.

The River of News can be a bit misapplied. Even with sorting/filtering capabilities ( something that BlogBridge does very well ) it's still the wrong interface to meaningfully present many kinds of information. Photos are better in an album (again, something BB does very well). Events are happiest in a calendar, etc.

When all types and priorities of content are dropped into a blender and squirted out in simple chronological order, it gets very difficult to separate signal from noise. Simply shunting everything into folders or directories doesn't help either - all that does is temporarily decrease the size of the flock being observed, while adding a corresponding increase in effort to get to that group (you have to navigate to the group's folder).

I'm guessing a more effective approach would be to provide multiple interfaces, each displaying the most appropriate types of information. And, ideally, some kind of 50,000' aggregate view to show group flocking behaviours - memes, linking, trajectory shifts, etc. And it has to be fast, responsive and relatively resource friendly because I'd be practically living in this space.

And, most people are consuming their content in isolation. BB has the foundations for making it a shared or even social experience - letting users publish sets of feeds (attention?), and to share ratings and tags for feeds and items. How can we more effectively leverage the intelligence of the hive, rather than making each bee try to make


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Last updated: November 28, 2022