SOPA Spring

I haven’t written one of these things in quite a while, since before PandoDaily and SOPA Spring and the Republican Rumble in the primaries. The way things are going for Mitt Romney, it appears harder for him to close the deal with voters than for Twitter to come up with a business model.

What really boggles the mind is how the Democrats have handed No on SOPA to the Republican Party. Suddenly Chris Dodd has become the Senator from Clueless with his rant about how his former colleagues in Congress will regret not living up to the contract they signed for their SuperPAC auto deposits. What part of realtime do these guys not get?

It’s not so much that the world has changed as that the speed with which events evolve has telescoped. The rise of social analytics and realtime feedback loops means that business processes are now transformed on the fly by the velocity with which the impact of a product or idea or strategy is folded back into the process flow. Products become services, interactive streams of data and influence metadata where who thinks what about it when changes the service elastically.

That explains why our leaders are having so much trouble with realtime. Their expertise is in the politics of yesterday, where all the PI used to live. What’s happening? Look at the last election’s data. Meanwhile this year’s voters are getting Twitter push notifications with links to the most up-to-date attitude from a cloud-curated stream of instant influentials. Translated: the news is delivered on a whispernet by those we trust with follows and engage with @mentions.

Speed in and of itself is different, but with that comes the requirement for prioritization to signal context. Those in the media who crawl out of their defensive posture will realize they can and must translate their insight into context metadata or be abandoned as a source of clarity and value. What Steve Jobs understood was that those who could adapt would find success in the digital realm.

He bet Adobe would not adapt. The result: Flash Spring. He bet apps would win because standards follow, not lead. He built in the HTML hole, to evangelize the native edge. I can’t wait for HTML5 to catch up, and I don’t have to. While others check email, I’ve cherry picked a blend of email, Twitter IM, news flashes, and @mention traffic, waking up the iPad or window-shading in from the top of the screen.

It’s that little extra step that wins in the new information culture. It doesn’t change everything, but something important every time it works. Our brains are still ahead of the flow of these realtime streams, whether we realize it or not. Information overload is a symptom of our inability to use the stream efficiently, not a capitulation. We are fatigued by the intuition that we are wasting time on useless data.

In email, we are at the mercy of a lack of global context. They, the ones who are emailing, have knowledge we don’t have, or an agenda to be revealed, or one of a million spam splits, or a reply. That last one is a no-brainer, something we asked for with a message of our own. But often we get something in between a reply and spam, the cc or blind cc. Gmail did a good job of providing context to the reply and cc stream by rolling the thread up and escalating incoming updates to the top.

Contrast this stream with a combination of Twitter @mentions and direct messages. Twitter messages carries two types of context absent or submerged in email. Direct messages require a mutual follow, eliminating the interruption of unwanted email. @mentions and their cousins retweets carry a social context that suggests publicly the presumed value of the communication, an implied or overt endorsement.

Looked at through the lense of push notification, it’s easier to rank value via a socially curated stream. Unpacking an email thread is better left to opening the replies as they come in, once vetted by name. Twitter DMs suggest a need to know, and an immediate push. @mentions also push a social context with a kind of social cc texture. You can use some form of Track to harvest those streams and derive a cloud of authority.

The various Springs are much more attuned to this kind of notification than the socially immature vehicle of email. The enterprise adds Chatter to further enhance the power of social context via private and external groups, where @mentions and external customers can bridge internal corporate email and external Twitter DMs.

It’s no surprise when I get a push notification that RIM’s co-CEOs have given up power. The Blackberry broke out of the pack with its ability to bring email into realtime on mobile devices, but could not compete with the spread of iOS and Android. With ActiveSync, Microsoft provided a good-enough notification on the iPhone and iPad for Exchange. But iOS 5 and the iPad’s viral corporate adoption has created enough scale for the advent of the push notification platform. Those who underestimate the power of the new realtime platform will be as surprised as Chris Dodd was when SOPA Spring arrived.