Wednesday, July 17, 2013

And how many words have I got to say?

Every day tens of millions of people now have an astonishing and remarkable ability to make use of the answer to that question in the subject line. We now have tools and venues that give our thoughts, ideas, and opinions voice in ways that were physical if not theoretical impossibilities for the past 99% of human history. Here are some thoughts on how the Internet and the devices that connect to it give us "voice":

  • There seems to be some emerging norms regarding which way certain social networks are to be used. But there is a lot of variation with significant dispersion. Serious versus light-hearted is one dimension. Professional versus personal is another.
    • Facebook seems naturally more personal in nature since one speaks only to one's "friends" or a subset of friends in nearly all cases. So it always surprises me how some use it for more serious topics or for advancement of political or ideological positions. For me it just seems more social in nature; so I find it hard to take too seriously given the alternatives.
    • Twitter on the other hand is a voice to the world (potentially) with no audience filter per se except the bounds which one's own reach has set. Seems like we'd be as nervous tweeting as we would be speaking at the Oscars, but reasonably we are not. Since we don't expect people from outside our intended audience to hear our tweets, we don't have the apprehension. 
    • Google+ seems to be still seeking its definition in this dimension. I see it more naturally as a place of both personal and professional self promotion as well as recommendation. In that sense I think it competes eventually with LinkedIn, and the case for Google+ will be very strong with the more natural crossover to mini-blogging.
    • Isn't it always interesting if not awkward when someone seems to use one of the above out of tune with the "local", that is group-specific, norm?
  • We are now audiences of individuals. Our group action is both more powerful than in the past but less prone to peer pressure. Many would disagree with this point, but it seems strong to me. Failure to conform in the audiences of the past (theaters, church pews, dinner parties, et al.) met strong and effective opposition. Switch cost in terms of behavior is now much lower. At the same time the ability of even a small group to mount counter voice is quite high--the thrust of this post is about this very point. 
  • The noise versus signal aspect is interesting. Bloggers tend to face a more pure market test. These other social networks have audience stickiness that insulates the speaker. Are you really going to defriend Grandma because she keeps posting Great Depression-era recipes? Noise versus signal is context dependent. It is subjective to the individual audience member. While every social network has some logic helping to mute noise and boost signal, all are highly imperfect. The next great advancement in social networking may be a mastery of this domain. 
  • Here is a great example of how the Internet is revolutionary greatness offering to give us all a voice never before so vocal and therefore offering us all experiences never before so dreamed: What Ali Wore.
We live in amazing times.