Thursday, August 21, 2008

An Aggregator for Aggregators

Earlier this week a friend of mine popped up on messenger to ask me about a rumour regarding someone at one of my previous workplaces. So we got chatting about rumours, what is news and what is worth blogging about? So he suddenly asked are you on FriendFeed?

My reaction, quite frankly was of bafflement? what is this now? I usually consider myself to be on the bleeding edge of technology, but I have been out of this watch-techcrunch-and-sign-up-for-everything-new-thing-that-gets-announced loop. After some moments of befuddlement on my part, I start adding the usual aggregator stuff, del.icio.us, Amazon wishlists, Google reader et al. And then I added Jassim (the aforementioned friend) and some other friends and suddenly a thought struck me: Firehose.

It was like drinking from a firehose. after the first few minutes, I was complely zapped. this is impossible, first you had del.icio.us which kinda helped you to keep track of websites as an aggregator. Google reader to keep tack of news feeds and NOW (imagine a drumroll) something to keep track of all that in one place along with all the crap your friends are keeping track of as well…

What is wrong with people? was my first reaction. They use this everyday? Don’t they have a life?or a girlfriend? Jassim pips in with “or both?”

Well, he says “think of it as an Aggregator for Aggregators”. WOW! what an idea? Makes me think that folks who read newspapers are somewhat simple-minded in comparison.

Or not.

Folks reading newspapers are smart enough to know that everything in this world is not important to them, some of what their friends do, sure. but not everything.

A Fundamental Flaw

This whole Internet, customise the shit out of your news needs stems from a a fundamental flaw in our thinking of media and the Internet. “I know everything that I need to know about and I need to know everything about what I need to know.”

A newspaper’s fundamental premise is to broaden your viewpoints/horizons etc. The New York Times prides itself on a tagline “All The News That's Fit To Print”. Who decides, what is fit to print and what is not? The editor obviosuly. Clearly something that the aggregator (or the aggregator of an aggregator) is not capable of doing.

Attention Deficit Disorder

This I-need-to-check-everything-upto-the-minute firehose does is somewhat destroying my ability to focus on tasks at hand (even when I don’t use Friend Feed or Twitter), perhaps even destroying productivity. In the time that I take to write this post, I’m probably playing a game on Conquer Club, responding to mail, IM and perhaps editing Wikipedia. This is not my fanciful theory. I point you to The Atlantic, which ran an article titled Is Google Making Us Stupid? a few weeks ago. Which esentially asserts that we are increasingly unable to sit through a longish article.

This article was preceded by a comment in a speech by Nobel Laureate, Doris Lessig who said

“We are in a fragmenting culture, where our certainties of even a few decades ago are questioned and where it is common for young men and women, who have had years of education, to know nothing of the world, to have read nothing, knowing only some speciality or other, for instance, computers”

Quite so, I would agree. Tech Crunch’s loud protestations apart.

A Fad?

I’ve had a blog since the dawn of blogging (or thereabouts), and in those days, bloggers couldn’t stop being obsessed with each other. Inter-blog commentary was the order of the day. As time progressed, bloggers suddenly realised that writing about what you ate for dinner is just not something the world is interested in. It takes time to be a writer, just because you have something to say, doesn’t mean that there will be someone to read it. Blogging eventually evolved. Something like Engadget has grown tobe more than blogs. Infact, you could easily mistake it for a mainstream publication on the internet, were it not for the steady stream of snarkiness that pervades it. Some people may call it attitude.

Go back a few years, Newsgroups were the tool of choice to communicate, then was IRC, then came Blogs. Each has evolved to be more (or less) than it was.

RSS, some claimed would take over email as the communication tool of the day. 8+ years on, we hear the same thing. It is the New New Thing.

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