Stepping out of the firehose


I’ve been collecting pictures like this for a while now, partly because they’re hilarious, but mostly because I think they say something interesting about how we find room for digital in our lives. The internet is a firehose. I don’t, myself, have 351 thousand unread emails, but when anyone can publish and connecting and sharing is free and frictionless, then there is always far more than we can possibly read. So how do we engage with that?

The first generation of internet services tried to help with filters and settings, but most normal people ignore the settings and don’t want to write filters, and so we very quickly went to systems that tried to help automatically. Gmail has its priority inbox, and social networks build recommendation engines and algorithmic feeds. Given that the average Facebook user is apparently eligible to see over a thousand times a day, it seems (or seemed) to make sense to try to show the video of your niece before the special offer from a restaurant you ate at five years ago. So your feed becomes a sample - an informed guess of the posts you might like most. This has always been a paradox of Facebook product - half the engineers work on adding stuff to your feed and the other half on taking stuff out.

Snap proposed a different model - that if everything disappears after 24 hours then there’s less pressure to be great but also less pressure to read everything. You can let (Read more...)