April 6, 2004
Go On, Get Outta Here, Find Somebody You Don't Already Know
Forget the global ultra-computer stuff. It’s all about your former college roommates.
I like this blog note by David Weinberger, who was at a social software conference at Microsoft last week:
Shelley Farnham of Microsoft Research talks about the social goals of social software: To have meaningful relationships with friends. Research shows that we use technology primarily to interact with our friends, not strangers. …
It’s so true. If I sort my e-mail messages by sender, it looks like this: Friend X, Friend X, Friend X, Friend X, Friend X, Friend X, Friend X, … some dude … Friend Y, Friend Y, Friend Y, Friend Y, Friend Y, Friend Y, etc., etc.
That’s sort’ve a banal observation, but I don’t know that it’s occurred to me before. I have often thought and spoken of the Web in terms of its ability to weave disparate people together. It’s the Global Village, dawg! But the blogs I check most frequently — and with the greatest interest — are my friends’.
Steven Johnson, a top-notch science journalist also at the Microsoft conference, is afraid that too many people are behaving like me. Weinberger paraphrases:
Then he talks against the echo chamber idea: The Net is an echo chamber compared to what, he asks incredulously? TV? Even if you just follow bloggers in your general universe of interests, you’re still following links out to more diverse ideas than ever before. He points out that the criticism used to be that the Net was nothing but flame wars. Now the criticism is that it’s echo chambers. But, he worries, we are creating these social network tools in order to decrease our contact with others.
I’m not really worried. Friends are our primary connection to new ideas and new people. Sure, I get a lot of good stuff from the NYT Mag; but I think I get even more from my friend Penny. And the NYT Mag never introduced me to anybody.
And it’s always extra good because Penny knows me, knows what I like — and not just in a shallow “Robin … likes … articles about … robots” kinda way. Penny knows my sensibility; and that’s something only friends — not super-computers, not magazine editors — can claim.
I really do like articles about robots, though.