I want my Future back.
I want the Web 2.0 I was promised, a user-backed web in which we are the machine. I etched that message into my skin1, I believe in it so much. We get to work together to decide where we go.
And we fucked it up.
We can't shut up about our cats and what we ate today1.5 and what we saw on YouTube. We quote what we read instead of what we think.
I'm not saying there isn't a place for cats and food and YouTube. What I'm saying is that should be the break from the rule. I miss brilliant points from people because I don't have the time to filter out their signal from all their noise. And often people are just passing along an idea instead of building on it. Sure, over the course of time we gain some new facets to an idea, but if you think about the vast number of people which had contact with that, it could have grown so much more. Some ideas are put incredibly well and we should stick with that2, but so much more could be done if people *interacted* with an idea, and were not afraid to voice that opinion, instead of just passing around the shiny object. Say something relevant, for fuck's sake.
So what's relevant? When I said "Based on discussion last night, a Twitter experiment: if it doesn't provide relevant information to others, don't say it." on Twitter April 14th, I got a number of responses. Most were concurrence, but nearly as many were "define relevance." Here's an example from the discussion3 which spawned the original Twitter post:
Say I'm throwing a dinner party. A number of scattered individuals know to head over to my house when I indicate I'm starting to cook. Due to timing, I don't type out an individual message to each, nor am able to sort through a contact book for a group text, to let them know to start their trek. I then might Twitter "I'm in my kitchen."
Or if I've been working on renovating a new home, the progress of which has been followed by a number of my internet contacts, none of which I have personal information for. When I'm done with the finishing touches on the kitchen sink, I might Twitter "I'm in my kitchen."
Both provide relevant information in these contexts.
But if I'm standing in my kitchen in my socks and am bored and so Twitter "I'm in my kitchen." I am just adding to an already high-traffic area of information, and should probably have my technology taken away from me until I know what is relevant and what is not.4
We are responsible for what we say. We should not have to dumb things down in order to have it be accessible when stumbled upon in the mess of "Can you hear me now? Good." If you're having a conversation with someone, why aren't you having it *with them*? Why are you doing it across Facebook walls, across Twitter, across publicly viewable forums? Are you scared that if you actually give someone a direct message they won't be so nice? That they might say no to hanging out, but if you ask when everyone can look, they aren't going to shame you in a public space? Or do you want to prove that you talk to neat people, that you have neat ideas too?5
Grow some balls6. Talk to people like they're people, not like it's just an exchange of petty ideas over the ethers or that having certain friends is a credential.
If you choose to say things to the public sphere which matter7, the responses people have to you will be more thought-out. And the people who follow it will be challenged to learn8, to spawn new ideas with which to join the discussion.
In short, have private conversations in private. Think before you speak and type. Take responsibility to add value to the existing conversations, and to start new ones. We are the machine. We work together. Don't spin in place without giving some assistance to the guy next to you. Because the two of you working together means all the other people around you can work that much better. Lubricate, damn it, lubricate! We can steer in any direction, we can have anarchists and communists and feminists and Christians and all sorts of people having dialogue so long as they remember there is a whole, and to give *something* back.
Thank you. Feedback is welcome and encouraged. Play devil's advocate or downright disagree with me. I want to hear it. Chew your brain food and then tell me what you make of it.
1. video, tattoo
1.5. I love blogs that tell me how to cook food. But I don't care if you had German for lunch unless we're hanging out later.
2. I won an improv round of Forensics once by saying in response to a quote, "it's a quote because of how well it's put. I can't say it any better."
3. Focus group on Information Diets, Self Control, and Attention. It will be up by week's end on st.imul.us
4. Twitter Shitter!
5. Of *course* there are exceptions to this. If you have something terribly clever to say to a posed question, go for it. But don't do the "@name doing better?" "@OP nah" WTF, guys.
6. I recognize the valuation of courage as a male trait with this comment, but I choose the vulgarity and accessibility of this idea over something more pompous. Also, I'm tired. And here's a Google Image Search because it's funny.
7. Bullshit and Snark amongst friends is not only allowable, but is also essential.
8. Which is not to say you should have elitist conversations in which you block out potential participants. Accessibility with challenge is key.
Side note: yes, I know there are people who are just connected to their friends and don't interact with the rest of the world. It's closed communication for them, not broadcast. And while I understand that, I also feel that is what mailing lists are for. Then again, that's the beauty of Twitter: it's opt-in. There is no spam, because you just have to quit following the person who is spamming.