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Update On Google iPhone Voice Recognition App: Look For It On Monday

When people come up against the realtime experience, they have one of several fundamental reactions. The first, and most pervasive, is excitement, following almost immediately by mistrust. This is great, followed by How can I keep up with this? Next is bargaining: attempting to manage the flow through a combination of filtering and exclusion, reducing the noise but also in the process the surprise, the What you don’t know or don’t know you know.

Even in that first paragraph, all the elements exist: Realtime? So what. Mistrust – you betcha. Why am I being lectured to? Too many words without sufficient context. Why am I being dropped in the middle of this crap? All real reactions, a sort of gauntlet you’re forced to run to understand something you haven’t yet thought or want to think about. That’s realtime alright.

Before realtime we had the Web page, a nod to the cerebral. Here’s a document, with a title, author, corroborative links, supportive advertising or similar model, and attendant comments, linkbacks, and related archives. RSS came along and added a notification system to an organic information space that lived at the user’s discretion outside the boundaries of the originating sites.

RSS aggregators captured the contours of this refined information in one or more UIs, the river of news popularized by Dave Winer in his seminal Radio application and the 3-pane email views most recently dominated by NewsGator’s FeedDemon and NetNewsWire. When on-demand versions proliferated, Google Reader soon became the default container. It wasn’t until Twitter that the lead changed hands again.

Today, this minute, when information happens, Twitter or some micromessaging stream, delivers the nugget first. Links, which had lost some momentum as RSS spread, regain some of their power to maintain control of the flow from one object to the next. But conversational aggregation has also become a powerful container, from two competing directions.

The first, the Track function in Twitter, allowed realtime conversations to occur between discoverable points. That is, anyone on the Twitter network could monitor a thread of individual tweets, and then, by addressing someone with an @ reply, initiate a one to one conversation. Using Track at both ends on one of the participant’s names, the conversants could continue as long as they directly cited each other or used the mutual tracked name as a kind of conversation tag. Eventually, they could formalize the relationship with mutual follows if necessary.

FriendFeed provided a more formalized alternative, first with threaded conversations and then with topics organized as rooms. Where Twitter conversations could be tracked in realtime via Track and delivered over XMPP in IM clients such as Gmail’s Gchat, FriendFeed was more leisurely delivered as an aggregation not just of Twitter but blogs, images, videos, and other services. As Twitter dropped both IM and Track, its value as a replacement for RSS readers grew along with its huge audience. In effect, Twitter became a universal controller for content, while FriendFeed captured more and more of the comment conversation around the content.

RSS aggregation had become a victim of its own success. Too much interesting content, not enough dynamic discovery of unexpected value, the growing competition from a threatened mainstream media, the quickening pace of the realtimesphere. Like the Web culture it absorbed before, RSS has spawned its conqueror. Realtime’s Darwinian efficiencies present both improvements in information processing and new problems to overcome.

Realtime harnesses social graph characteristics to improve prioritization. Faced with a limited amount of time to choose virtually unlimited resources, human filters outperform algorithms. I’d rather make decisions about how to invest my time based on a combination of what’s going on and what those important to me think important to them, than rely on filtering based on broader popularity, explicit voting, or link ranking.

A small number of Follows combined with Track produces a high degree of coverage on a daily basis. FriendFeed’s new realtime tools let you create imaginary friends to integrate Twitter follows who aren’t active in FriendFeed; Friends Lists let you mold realtime feeds into high value groups. Configuring FriendFeed to output comments to Twitter makes FriendFeed the input client. And we wait for Track, API access to creating imaginary friends, and other tools to filter in and out of FriendFeed’s aggregation services.

Let’s say we get all of these tools in place and Twitter returns Track as some kind of service for users if not competitors. How do we manage this volume of realtime data? With a new kind of media realignment.

    Video becomes a first class Twitter object. Favorite network news such as Olbermann and Maddow create conversational chunks designed to be inserted into Twitter broadcasts and FriendFeed conversations. Since iPhone only supports YouTube, that defines the format.

    Tech events adopt similar strategies, microcasting conferences, press Q&A’s, and product releases over chunk channels. Once sufficient industry support is realized, tech companies can provide microstreaming services to customers in their own verticals.

    At least one of the record cartel announces a signing policy that offers new and existing artists realtime channels in return for a cut of performance and ancillary rights. Recordings are released first in realtime markets, with relaxed (free) release of concert, rehearsal, and private recordings bundled with the purchase of studio product.

    As a condition of this new content distribution model, all microcast content must be made available to all microchannels, and microchannels who carry these materials must agree to support open standards that allow Track in realtime across all channels.

Realtime economics depend on the immutable fact that we don’t have the time for realtime. We need both speed and context, and only our social clouds can provide the self-knowledge necessary to process the flow efficiently. Many of the most valuable information streams are at crossroads where it may well be worth more to sign on to a realtime network with direct control of marketing, merchandising, and publishing. I’d suggest setting up imaginary friends, Friend Lists, and realtime streams from among the talent pool of these industries.

  • kugutsumen

    Horrible article. Can you make an effort which editor let this convulated wall of text on the techcrunch main page?

    • http://twitter.com/michaelpinto Michael Pinto

      “Can you make an effort which editor” = convoluted text

      PS You also spelled “convoluted” wrong as well…

  • http://digialagency.typepad.com Mike Coulter

    Steve, a timely and incredibly useful analysis/observation.

    Terrific stuff. (Which I will of course, tweet about, and indeed import into my ff room lists.)

    Superb, man thanks.

    • http://digitalagency.typepad.com Mike Coulter

      I notice the bloke who commented before me above didn’t put a link to his name.

      Wheras I put in the wrong url in for myself.

      Must be too early for all of us.

  • http://fraser.blogs.com/ Scott Fraser

    Agreed with Mike – this was forward thinking and well timed, keep it up Steve. Regarding the first posters comments about “editing”, I could care less – that was just a little noise in the signal.

  • scott

    RSS aggregation has not become a victim of its own success. FriendFeed is built on feeds and serves as an excellent example for providing dynamic discovery of unexpected value. The failures of RSS are more about how it has been positioned and promoted. I blame Dave Winer for turning RSS 2.0 into a locked-down half-baked proprietary format which is lacking the proper facilities to support the usability and security requirements necessary for mainstream adoption. Think about where we’d all be if someone decided that HTML 2.0 was good enough and stopped making improvements. FriendFeed has been successful because it has not been about promoting a file format.

    • Steve Gillmor

      fighting the last war is an even deader end. Dave WIner succeeded in routing around the tendency to over-engineer that frustrates progress. Realtime does not deprecate RSS any more than radio has gone away, or TV, etc. FriendFeed is now becoming successful in realtime precisely by enabling realtime tools. In the process they and Twitter are winning. Blame yourself for your partisan bullshit. Luckily, it isn’t working.

      • scott

        I agree that the war is over. Atom won. All the major players have chosen it over RSS 2.0. Your realtime/RSS radio/TV analogy does not make any logical sense. If I am a partisan, I am taking the side of the users of technology that don’t want to have to become technologists. I am also on the side of open standards and industry collaboration. Dave’s thinking was that end users should be able to easily edit the pseudo XML in an RSS 2.0 feed. The trade off was that it made it more difficult for developers to build useful applications on top of RSS. It’s no secret that Dave is harboring a lot of contempt for developers. Why do you think that is?

      • Steve Gillmor

        RSS is Atom. Your personalizing of this around Dave is typical of the tactics that slowed this down. Luckily we’re done with this argument. Move on and stop swiftboating. Doesn’t work in realtime.

  • ursulas

    I have a lot to learn.

    • http://blog.stealthmode.com francine hardaway

      That’s just how I feel, but that’s the good part. I love to try to understand real time means why Steve is going where he is going, using only the tools of my Ph.D in English:-) I am sharpening my geek to human translation skills. You know what he means: real time is the closest we come to non-virtual virtual communication:-) We are at the frontiers of language trying to explain it.

  • http://www.wannadevelop.com/ Mike @ WannaDevelop.com

    Steve, well written.. And very useful information.

    Good read ;)



  • http://drumsnwhistles.com/ Karoli

    Pfizer should be reading this, and responding in real time to their ill-advised effort to market using web tools. I doubt they have a clue right now as to what the term “motrinmoms” is about, but by the time they discover it the damage will be done and irreversible.

    • http://blog.stealthmode.com francine hardaway

      I just got an email from EmpowHer to all their staff from their Ops guy pointing to the Motrin campaign and basically saying “let’s learn from this and never participate in something like this.”

  • http://blog.stealthmode.com francine hardaway

    Oh, I forgot to say that the email came from a guy not generally involved in social media, so clearly this has already spread.

  • http://www.drumsnwhistles.com/2008/11/16/twitter-swarm-motrin-v-moms/ odd time signatures » Blog Archive » Twitter Swarm: Motrin v. Moms

    […] Link: Microcasting Sphere: Related Content Leave a comment Comment RSS Previous: Sunset & Sylmar Fire […]

  • http://blog.echovar.com Cliff Gerrish

    This idea of text as live broadcast is an important transition. You’ve laid it out for all to see. I got a sense of this idea reading Andrew Sullivan on “Why I Blog.”

    I particularly like the thought that real time is both necessary and too much. True on both the production and consumption side of the equation.

    On the Web, one-sentence links are as legitimate as thousand-word diatribes—in fact, they are often valued more. And, as Matt Drudge told me when I sought advice from the master in 2001, the key to understanding a blog is to realize that it’s a broadcast, not a publication. If it stops moving, it dies. If it stops paddling, it sinks.

    Andrew Sullivan – http://tinyurl.com/68qjs6

  • http://davemartin.blogspot.com Dave Martin

    Bravos, Steve. You have made a solid case for the promises of realtime and the need to create practical frameworks, personalized tuning tools needed to optimize the experience. Keep up your calls for the return of Track and API access.

  • http://matik72.blogspot.com/ Mathew A. Koeneker

    Great post! Although, if you have a good craft you can ride the surf for awhile with minimal paddling. ;-)

  • http://bhc3.wordpress.com/2008/11/17/follow-everything-by-a-select-few-select-content-by-everyone/ Follow Everything by a Select Few, Select Content by Everyone « I’m Not Actually a Geek

    […] #3: Steve Gillmor blog post: A small number of Follows combined with Track produces a high degree of coverage on a daily […]

  • http://www.zannel.com/bainfu Bain Kennedy

    I love to see this as news, Twitter, the little darling of the web. Really, it must be fun writing articles about them, day in and day out. Video becomes a first class object, it’s about time. It’s been that way since day one with Zannel, oh and on mobile too. However this probably will be good news for Zannel + Twitter hybrid users, now if Twitter supports it they can “microcast” (who comes up with the names of this stuff) on Zannel, and we can update their Twitter feed as well.

    By the way the statement “Since iPhone only supports YouTube, that defines the format.” the iPhone doesn’t only support YouTube, it supports the format H.264, so any individual can send Non-YouTube video content over to the iPhone if it’s encoded that way. We’ve been doing it for a while.

  • http://excapite.wordpress.com/2010/01/16/forget-freemium-tomorrow-we%e2%80%99ll-be-talking-me-mium/ Forget Freemium. Tomorrow we’ll be talking Me-mium « excapite

    […] audience is becoming increasingly smaller. From broadcasting, to narrowcasting (2000), to microcasting (Today), to nanocasting (Tomorrow?). Media has moved from Mass to Niche to […]

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