2010-02-28

Fragmentation

Years ago someone tried to convince me that the USENET would be replaced by blogs, RSS feeds and comments -- because this would be so much better.   While I didn't doubt that the USENET would be greatly diminished, and eventually disappear, as the central arena for public discourse on the net as this newfangled interweb grew in popularity, I never did subscribe to the idea that things would become significantly better just by using blogs and RSS.

I am sad to say that I was right.

In order to keep abreast of all the various discussions or conversations I am having, I have to visit more than a dozen sites.  And those are just the ones I care about right now.  There are a few dozen sites that I have forgotten about.  Where I will never return to read what people have since contributed to some discussion, nor will I ever respond to them.  It isn't because I don't care.  It is just because it is turning into a bloody easter-egg hunt.

There are lots of sites that try to neatly tie the fragmented conversations you have together.  But none of them have succeeded to the degree where the problem is even close to being "solved".   Blogs, Twitter, PhpBB, Facebook, Google Groups etc; it is just one big fragmented mess.  With lots of partial aggregation-systems thrown in just to add to the confusion and fragmentation.


Don't get me wrong; the USENET was not perfect -- in fact I'd have to say that the USENET has been completely irrelevant for many years now because of its many shortcomings.  But it did solve some problems that a lot of people have yet to re-invent properly.  

And that is what bugs me: why do we keep reinventing the wheel and then forget about problems that people at least tried to address 25-30 years ago?

From a technical point of view, Google Wave is probably one of the more promising technologies I've seen.  The problem is that most people do not seem to understand what makes Google Wave a good solution.  Heck, it even took me a few hours of reading up on the underlying technology to see it, and I care about these things.  I kept telling my techie friends to read the specs before dismissing Google Wave.  I told them that it takes a bit of time to get it; the underlying ideas are sound.  The only problem is that last I checked, the client doesn't really work -- and to the user, the client is Google Wave.

In any case, if you miss my participation in some forum where I've posted something and you have replied, it isn't that I'm ignoring you.  It is just that it is such a pain in the ass to follow every place where I've posted something because we've collectively reverted to really, really dumb communication technologies.

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