There's a lot of talk about Twitter these days from upcoming books such as Shel Israel's Twitterville to how-to's like Twitter For Dummies. But there's a much bigger movement at play here that you need to grasp before you go diving into networks such as Twitter and try friending your way toward influencer status. I believe that one of the functions that networks such as Twitter does is to serve as something of a human powered feed, a real time living stream of links, content and conversation often times generated by our friends, peers or the people we look to as "filters"—indivisuals who we trust to seperate the wheat from chaff.
But aside from the tools, it's important to take a step back and see what's going on here. In the earlier days of the internet, the Web became a place quickly saturated with information and we needed something to beat the information into submission. Search engines were born—and as a result the internet became more productive. Today, the internet is still about information—but it's also about attention. There is a surplus of information, and a meta surplus of marketing in every form. For individuals, we are experiencing the opposite. We have a deficit in attention.
We've long exceeded the capacity of information that we can absorb and retain. We all suffer from technology induced attention deficit disorder, bright and shiny object syndrome and short term memory loss.
Bookmarks don't help—now we need tools like del.icio.us. And of course we need Google more than ever. And there's once more thing we need. We need each other to make sense of it all. We need a Web with a human touch to help guide us through the fragmented, landscape of the internet. And that's where the human feed comes in. If you sign up to a service like Twitter, Friendfeed, or even subscribe to the del.ico.us links of real live people who you trust and look to for insights, you'll find that a wealth of information will be brought right to you vs. you having to go out and hunt for it.
In many ways, this is why Twitter is so talked about. I have nearly 7k followers through Twitter—most of who are working in related fields. Even with this substantially sized human engine in place, it's one of the first places I go to monitor conversations, scan for links and look for patterns. Of course I can also go the search route using search.twitter.com. But I've found power in the human feed. Another way I've tapped it's power is by using it as a research tool. I ask the collective on Twitter qeuestions and the human feed goes to work passing along high quality links and information that are very niche in nature. I consider my feed to be high quality and because I provide value to them, they don't hesitate to provide it right back.
Often times the quality of links and information I get on Twitter is better than what I would have gotten from Google because the knowledge of the human feed is deep, niche, and fickle.
I don't believe that you have to have thousands in your human feed, or network to provide value. If you put in the time to cultivate high quality connections that are in the tens or hundreds, you can get similar value. It's not always about size—it's also about quality. The key here is understanding what's going on here and why, not just thinking about how we can use these tools to our own advantage. The human feed is a powerful evolution of the Web that is providing us key insights into where things are going.
As more noise, clutter, information, services, and networks are introuduced on the Web, the human feed—human beings will become even more essential in helping us all filter signal from noise so we can make the most of the medium. It will be messy, organic and serendipitous in some ways, combining conversation with content. But context will be key.
As we dive into streams, that's where our attention will be. If our trusted peers are swimming in those streams as well, we will look to them to help us stay afloat.
If you think there is something here that you'd like to explore more, I'd invite you to join myself and others on Twitter to see how just one of the manifestations of the human feed works.