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Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Insular, Self-Referential, and Circular
Heh...

From Jon Udell at Infoworld:


Just as telephones are meaningful only when connected to the telephone network, so blogs are meaningful only when connected to the blog network. Both are carriers of human communication, but...the blog network is malleable and is shaped by our use of it. It’s more like a nervous system than a computer network....

The crush of information we process every day creates a terrible dilemma. On the one hand, we must conserve the scarce resource of attention. On the other hand, we need to become aware of everything that matters. It’s a tricky balancing act, but one that nature’s humblest creatures have adroitly mastered. The real-time visual processing performed by insects...is just one example of how efficiently biological systems can crunch data.

We can’t say exactly how the trick is done, but we understand the basics: a network, a message-passing protocol, nodes that aggregate inputs and produce outputs. The blog network shares these architectural properties. Its foundation network is the Web; its protocol is RSS; its nodes are bloggers. These ingredients combine in ways that are not yet widely appreciated....

At one time, my RSS intake was mostly feeds from conventional published sources, along with a few from individuals. Now it’s the reverse. I subscribe to people more than to publications...because, outside of the realms in which I’m closely involved, I can delegate the job of tracking primary sources to people whose interests and inclinations qualify them to do so.

The blog network is made of people. We are the nodes, actively filtering and retransmitting knowledge. Clearly this architecture can help manage the glut of information. More subtly, it can also help ensure that no vital inputs are suppressed because nobody has to rely on a single source. If one of the feeds I monitor doesn’t react to some event in a given domain, another probably will. When they all react, I know it was an especially important event.

The resemblance of this model to the summing of activation potentials in a neural system is more than superficial. Nature knows best.


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