When I was a boy—I can remember how my Mother would spend a good part of her Sundays. She would take out her phonebook—a tattered collection of names and numbers written in handwriting you could barely read, and re-connect with her personal network—an intimate collection a family and friends. She didn't create media other than the pictures she took or the video my father shot on his 8mm video camera.
Digital Networks And The Increasing Number of Data Streams
Fast forward 36 years. To the non-participant—Social Media seems like a dizzying array of communications, conversation, connections and technology that leaves them partially curious, partially intimidated and more than likely confused. To the active participants, there is no shortage of technologies, platforms and networks which promise to provide social experiences that connect with business contacts, friends and even brands.
In addition to this blog, I have active digital sources in place where I am producing multiple streams of output or data. Twitter, Slideshare, Linked In, and of course my Web site to name a few. I also have inactive sources such as mybloglog, Ning or Kaneva—these are sources of personal data which exist but are no longer being fed. And most recently I've recently added another lifestream—a fairly powerful one: Facebook.
But let's take a step back for a moment and think about a word I just used. Lifestream.
Lifestreaming as described by a blog with the same namesake can be summarized this way:
"What is a Lifestream? In it’s simplest form it’s a chronological aggregated view of your life activities both online and offline. It is only limited by the content and sources that you use to define it. Most people that create them choose a few sources based on sites that track our activities such as Del.icio.us (bookmarking), Last.fm (Music we listen to), Flickr (photos we take) etc..."
Lifestreaming As A Basic Human Desire
The premise of Lifestreaming interests me primarily because it speaks to a basic human need. The need to make sense of our lives. The need to simplify the complex—and make it meaningful. I'm not interested in technology here—leave that to the true geeks. There are probably a variety of technical platforms to choose from. Steve Rubel has aggregated much of his "Lifestreams" on Steverubel.com. There are other kinds of examples. I think in some ways that Trevor, the infamous Mentos intern is also doing this by aggregating his multiple streams into one place. Heck, his video feed acts like a live stream—no prerecording there.
But here's what I find really interesting about Lifestreams. What the visual here shows is that our streams do have a source. Us. Network aside—it's the individual that produces a stream of data whether it be media, text or other. And what's becoming increasingly important is the array of multiple digital platforms that we use to create the streams. Most of the aforementioned platforms have some type of mobile support. Add advances in technology like the iPhone and the increasing pervasiveness of wireless digital networks and you've got the perfect storm. Soon, most participants will be looking for ways to make sense out of there multiple streams—not just the early adopters like Rubel.
Junctions + Aggregations
The irony of having multiple Data streams is that they don't have straight paths that go from point A to point B. As the visual shows, our Lifestreams intersect at junctions. Point in case, if you look around this blog you can see examples of several junctions. I've got my own Twitter feed streaming in along with the feeds from individuals in my network. Ive got a widget from Facebook that updates as soon as I update it—whether it be from mobile or PC. While my blog doesn't act as a full-fledged aggregator—it does highlight some of my junctions. Facebook's popularity is also due to this as it can consolidate some of the streams we produce. Rubel recently penned a post singing the praises of Tumblr as a simple and free option to aggregate multiple streams in once place. He wraps up his analysis by saying this:
"Aggregated Lifestreams could be the next big thing on the web, particularly as community expands. I am also thinking about how this might be coupled with services like social networks, Twittergram, Spock and OpenID."
I think I'm in agreement with Rubel on this. As a recent member to Facebook, I'm less inclined to see this particular network as more than a "community cluster" (more on that later). However, I'm more interested in how we'll attempt to manage our multiple Lifestreams as more of us move from passive bystanders to active participants—creators from consumers. Who knows? Maybe "Lifestream consultants" or better yet "Brandstream consultants" will become a lucrative new profession as the number of streams and junctions increase. You never know.