Social Noise

Being part of the privileged few that are overwhelmed by social networks (contrary from friends’ popular belief that everyone has that problem), I’ve started to experience level of noise as I use various systems that was not there before.

I have always jumped on the alpha and beta band-wagons and am the first in line of coming soon lists, so I join stuff just to see what it’s like left and right. While that has always generated a volume of username and passwords I couldn’t possibly keep track off, it’s sort of a non-issue as some of these services become uninteresting and whiter.

Recently, though, a lot of the these services have started to become more of connectors of existing services than anything else. While openness and sociability have long been attributes of these systems, it’s only been in the last few months that I’ve seen it realized in the sense of function reuse and content cross-pollination.

Jott is a really nice service that allows you to call in and leave notes to self and others. It also allows you to automagically have your notes transfered to I Want Sandy, which is another service with similar intention but different approach. I Want Sandy allows me to interact with it via Twitter, which serves an entirely different purpose, but which has a very good input method that’s omnipresent in my life.

As you can imagine, this results in triplication of information — which totally works in these three instances because things only get divulged to the connected services to the extent that I want (as defined by my preferences). Not all systems play nicely like that though. And it becomes increasingly difficult to remember which systems I can count on and rely on to get to what I have gathered.

Last week I was in Chicago and I took this photo at Midway airport as I proceeded to the TSA line. I captured that with the intention to share it with Jared, who loves TSA as a metaphor in his presentations. I snapped the photo with my phone and uploaded directly to Flickr. Then I sent Jared a public message via twitter about it. Jared is connected to me on Flickr, so he probably also saw it on his friend feed. Because my message was public, Bill followed the link (he is also connected to me on Flickr so he’d get it eventually anyway) and added a comment asking if he could use the photo for a presentation. I immediately went to Twitter and told him he could. Then I thought maybe I should post that comment on Flickr as well in case anyone else wanted to use that photo. Two minutes later I checked my email and Bill had asked me the same question in a message (probably thinking I would not see his comment on Flickr soon enough). I wrote him back in confirmation.

Then I stopped and realized a) the sheer amount of content produced throughout this story b) the amount of interactions across and within different systems that allowed this to happen and c) the convoluted duplicated and triplicated content that came out of it as a result.

What this will mean for the non-hardcore early adopters of tomorrow? Will any of these products even reach such audiences? Will these things also wither and die for me because of the cumulative effect of these small duplicative efforts? How long until this social noise gets in the way of the conversations I actually want to have?