Posts with tag "news"

Are bloggers becoming your new news anchors?

FriendFeed discussion - click for larger view There has been a rather interesting discussion going on today on FriendFeed as a result of a post by Jason over at webomatica. In his post Jason primarily talks about getting some control back over the flood of information that comes his way via his subscribed RSS feeds, Twitter and FriendFeed.

For Jason this means doing some pruning of some 200+ feeds down to a more manageable count of 60. He reasons in his post that what he will miss from this pruning will be more than made up from his use of FriendFeed. Jason also made the point that for him FriendFeed is replacing his reliance on GReader to bring him what is interesting or important due to what he calls “…the social filter of other FriendFeed users“.

This got me to thinking about the whole world of RSS feed readers, Twitter, FriendFeed and Shared Links Feeds (SLFs) like Google Shared Links or Newsgator Shared links. Also included in the mix could be things like ReadBurner, RSSMeme, Techmeme and Digg. While all these forms of sharing information are typically lumped together as social aggregators meant to make the information consumer‘s life easier I have; as a blogger / content creator / content provider, begun to look on them more as tools instead of an end game.

As this tsunami of information keeps rolling over us at an ever increasing amount these aggregators have become almost indispensable for a lot of people but I wonder if at some point bloggers who use these new social media tools correctly will become the better aggregator – or better yet a personal news anchor for the people that read their blogs or follow them on the various social media outlets.

In the comments to Jason’s message on FriendFeed Mike McBride questioned my assumption regarding this news anchor concept suggesting that this idea was only recreating the role of a information gatekeeper which is what the whole idea of RSS feeds and blogs was suppose to get us away from

@Steve So instead of moving away from mass media, we just become mass media? I thought the whole beauty of RSS is that you don’t need gatekeepers any more, you subscribe to what you want to subscribe to, and follow what you want to pay attention to, apparently not.

AS valid as that concern is I don’t think it applies in this case for a number of reason. First off as I said in my reply to him that bloggers are essentially gatekeepers as it is. We become a gatekeeper; a word I really don’t like that much, the moment we get our first blog visitor or RSS subscriber. This happens because the reader or subscribe likes what he or she reads because it fits in with their own thoughts and feelings. As Greg Hollinsworth said in a post on How to Split an Atom

The goal of new media is to create information at a volume never before considered, allowing infinite vantage points for every possible situation. However, people tend to gravitate towards those who share their own worldview, regardless of its accuracy.

This is something that will never change it doesn’t matter the medium you use to share the things you find interesting whether it be by writing about it or posting about to a service like FriendFeed.

The other side of the coin however if the consumer of all this information and how they deal with this increasing amount of information. Granted as producers and aggregators of this information bloggers could very well be reading more into the situation of information overload than is needed. After all it benefits us to make our take on things that are going on but that doesn’t change the reality that people are trying to find more and better ways to deal with things that interest them.

For the consumer it is a constant battle to fine tune how they get their information after all they aren’t interested in dedicating as much time to keeping up to date as bloggers are. For them it is a matter of picking and choosing as quickly as possible so that they can go onto other things in their lives that are important. So things like FriendFeed serve a purpose but even there trying to parse through everything that is going on can be a difficult process not to mention time consuming as well.

Where bloggers can be the most useful to their readers and / or social aggregator followers is by learning how to use all the social tools available to us and basically act as a filter. After all this is our social network and it only exists because our readers / followers find value in what we bring to them whether it be through our blogs or on a social aggregator. We in effect become their news hub. We might be one of many but at some point they have developed a sense of trust in the news we send their way.

We have in effect I believe become news anchors providing our readers with a way to manage their daily information flow.

A news junkie’s dream …. or nightmare - click for larger view I am a news junkie and admittedly if I had cable plus the extra TV I would probably have either CNN or CBC Newsworld on the whole time I’m in my room I jokingly call my office. So when I saw Brian Solis’ post about local broadcast news going social I was at first rather skeptical of the the idea; after all everything these days is having the social sticker slapped on its ass like it is going to be the road to instant riches or something.

But when I clicked on the link (go ahead – you know you wanna) I was suddenly faced with a news junkie’s nirvana – a screen full of news from all over – just select the one you want and it loads up in the center of the screen for your viewing and listening pleasure.

According to Brian’s post it is all raw unedited video (bonus!) that originally started with just a few journalists in Chicago on Super Tuesday with only a couple of feeds but it has now gotten the attention; and participation of ABC, CBS and NBC stations.

The only drawback I see with it is that every time you change between the available pages of news feeds (currently 3 pages of US News feeds) you have to wait for all the video images to reload. That said I can see this becoming almost as interesting (I will not say the word addictive) as watching FriendFeed go by.

Have we lost the essence of what reading really is?

Books - the journey of the mind There has been a growing debate over whether books have become passe in our modern day and age of e-books, web sites and blogs. News and information is either a click away or and RSS feed delivering a constant flow of new stuff to digest. His Jobness brought the discussion into even clearer focus with his quip about the percentage of people who even pick up a book these days to read rather than getting all their information via the web.

Then today we have Scott Karp and Mathew Ingram proposing that actually rather than losing out on anything by reading less books; and both men are Lit majors, we are in fact learning a whole new way to process incoming information. As Mathew phrases it in his post:

I think the most common criticism of people who do all their reading on the Web is that they are like moths, flitting from flame to flame, never stopping in one place long enough to actually think something through. In this view, the Web is a medium designed for those with short attention spans. The other perspective, however, is the one that Scott is advancing: that the Web enables you to connect thoughts and ideas that you might not otherwise have had, and therefore is actually of more value rather than less.

For the first time that I can think of I find myself in disagreement with Mathew. I do think that we are losing something very valuable with our declining reading of books. When I was growing up – long long before there was anything called the internet – hell we still had black and white television that needed a 40′ outdoor antenna to get any channels at all, my house was full of books and magazines that ranged from fiction to coffee table books of photographic journeys through countries you had never heard of.

The main wall in our dining room was a floor to ceiling wall to wall custom built bookcase that was crammed full of books upon books. Each day would find our mailbox at the end of the driveway stuffed full of new magazines to read. It didn’t matter where my family and I went in our circle of friends you would eventually end up listening to long discussions on the politics raised by one book to the intent to outrage by another author.

I have memories of a weekends spent at a family friend’s home out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by the likes of Ian and Sylvia, Allan Mills and Gordon Lightfoot where discussions over dinner were a result of the things we had read in the news or magazines. As a young 14 year old being able to sit in front of a raging fireplace sipping on a sneaked glass of brandy while having my first puffs on a cigar snuck to me by Gordon Lightfoot as we talked about the magic of music and books was a magical time.

It didn’t matter where I ended up in future years because there was always one thing that has stuck with me and that is the magic that comes from reading – whether it be a book or a magazine – and disappearing even for a short while into world of logic or passion. Whether it was being allowed to read Lady Chatterley’s Lover at the age of 15 or to still go to my high school library and find my name the only one in the sign-out cards on religious philosophy books these were all experiences that opened up young eyes to new thoughts and ideas.

That isn’t to say that you can’t learn the same things from the internet but learning doesn’t always equal the experience of the learning. A computer screen is a cold emotionless thing that plays back the words written by some-one. The act though of picking up a book; or even a magazine, and being able to touch the words that have been written can be almost as important as the reading itself. There is an emotive quality that comes from turning the pages as you join the author in their journey of writing the words that no PDF can come close to equaling.

No matter how you cut it there is no way that you can form any kind of emotional attachment to a PDF on a computer screen the same way you do when you curl up on the couch and feel the life of the words as your fingers turn page after page until you regret having turned the last page. In the end the essence of reading isn’t so much the words before your eyes but it is the experience and emotional attachment we form with both the book and the author.

That is reading a book.

It was bound to happen

Yes hell has frozen over Anyone who reads this blog knows that I’m not the most enthusiastic type person when it comes to all this social networking and other such Web 2.0 group hug type of stuff. Well I regret to report that I have succumbed – I have been coerced into being a part of one such social news experiment on reddit.

It all happened when MG Siegler; one of the bloggers I respect, emailed me asking if I would like to be one of the moderators for the new custom reddit he had setup when reddit made the service available. He informed me that my current partners in crime this endeavor would be none other than Louis Gray; who I also respected, and a new blogger for me – Frederic – but from what I’ve read of his site so far I can see why MG extended him the offer.

The way it works is that the reddit feed created by MG is where the group of us will post links to story in the tech blogosphere that we have found; for whatever reason to be relevant enough to share with the subscribers to the feed (or page on reddit). The illustrious name for this custom reddit feed is “Elite Tech News” (thanks MG .. nothing like setting the bar way up there eh :) ). So if you’re interested in checking it all out and maybe subscribing head over to the Elite Tech News page on reddit and subscribe.

Also both Louis Gray and Frederic have posted their take on this idea on their respective blogs incase you are interested – in other words they were both a little more technical oriented in their explanations of how this all works than this cranky old fart was :)