Friday, August 14, 2009

Start Thinking Infostreams, Not Web Pages

Ever since the first time I encountered the Web it has been all about 'pages.' Thinking of the Web in terms other than in pages is quite difficult. Even before the Web I created content using HyperCard, which was based on the concept of a stack of virtual cards.

It's time to begin thinking beyond the page.

The instantaneous and conversational discovery and delivery of newly added content is emerging as the new phase of evolution of the Web. In a post entitled Distribution...Now, John Borthwick discusses how information is increasingly being distributed and presented in real-time streams instead of dedicated Web pages.
Today there seems to be a new distribution model that is emerging. One that is based on people’s ability to publicly syndicate and distribute messages — aka content — in an open manner...what emerges out of this is a new metaphor — think streams vs. pages.

This seems like an abstract difference but I think its very important... In the initial design of the web reading and writing (editing) were given equal consideration- for fifteen years the primary metaphor of the web has been pages and reading. The metaphors we used to circumscribe this possibility set were mostly drawn from books and architecture (pages, browser, sites etc.).

Most of these metaphors were static and one way. The steam metaphor is fundamentally different. It’s dynamic, it doesn’t live very well within a page and still very much evolving.
The people I talk to about information streams they generally state that they don't want more information, they want less. I don't blame them. All these streams (Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, etc) are independent of each other. We need to constantly flip from one to another.
So, what I am really hearing from them is they do want access to more information, they just want to be able to winnow and aggregate the streams. Again, from Borthwick:
The streams of data that constitute this now web are open, distributed, often appropriated, sometimes filtered, sometimes curated but often raw...Weeding out context out of this stream of data is vital... I believe search gets redefined in this world, as it collides with navigation... filtering becomes a critical part of this puzzle. Friendfeed is doing fascinating things with filters — allowing you to navigate and search in ways that a year ago could never have been imagined.

This is not to say that streams will replace Web pages or Web search, but it will certainly transform them. As a result, libraries need to begin thinking in terms of streams and not pages when; A) redesigning their Web sites; and B) When rethinking information literacy/education programs.

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1 comment:

@ericrumsey said...

Eric -- Good job of summarizing Borthwick -- See my thoughts on Rushdie and the Stream, via Borthwick.