The barrier to entry for content creation has dropped dramatically. Real-time information coupled with feed and stream architecture now used by the major technology platforms has forever changed how we consume information. Information is exponential.
Facebook and Twitter have turned us all into potential citizen journalists. It’s never been easier to express your point of view publicly or to find and gather with others who hold the same opinions.
I’m a big proponent of the real-time data movement, but the media’s has not done a great job of probing the consequences: how do we keep up? Who curates this real-time information and what is their responsibility, if any?
Here are a few areas I think are worth considering:
Personal Curation & Attention
First how do we as human adjust to the ubiquity of information? Everyone is fighting for our attention and it’s a zero sum game. Our attention spans have limits. What are news and brands willing to do, or willing to compromise to win our attention? How are we able to curate, or be selective about what we consume? How do we information sift?
Real time data also effects businesses, or the enterprise. At Workstreamer we designed a platform that could programmatically scrape the web and provide real time alerts when key events changed: job titles, news articles, etc. Businesses like individuals face a new challenge in deciding what to pay attention to and where to invest time – both consuming content and producing it.
Platform Level Curation
The major platforms built on feed or stream architecture (think Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc) are also forced to take a role in curating what we see. There is simply too much content being created for us to see everything published by our networks. Thus the platforms must play the role of gatekeeper. In most cases this will be done by algorithms. These algorithms may make decisions that are biased. Someone like Facebook and choose to show you only content they know you will like. In contrast, a traditional news source like the New York Times publishes one article ideally with a neutral perspective verses a Feed which could surface only long tail perspectives with inherent biases.
The Dangers of Real-Time Reaction
When we can act in real-time, we also run this risk of acting in haste. We could react or respond without really thinking. We could even be reacting to perspectives that ultimately turn out not to be truthful. And what system will we use to turn information day trading into information alpha? We must still design the workflows and tooling to allow this.
Lastly we will see new ways of monetizing real time information. The traditional approach of course has ben advertising, monetizing eyeballs at scale. But I think we will see many new models, including subscriptions and micro transactions. Public markets have proven that many of our most valuable technology companies are in fact those that have social and feed based architectures at their core. Network effects are powerful moat. But it will be interesting to see if ultimately people find they desire community that is more niche or that portends deeper quality relationships over quantity. Monetization models will likely need to evolve in that case.