RSS, supernodes, and Gladwellian Connectors

RSS, supernodes, and Gladwellian Connectors

Both Jonathon's article and its commentary are of interest. In the article, Jonathon concludes:

The answer seems simple: offer the option to publish the title but not the content to RSS. Michael points to a side benefit: "It would give the art of writing headlines a whole new life."

In the commentary, Dave says:

Write as it makes sense to you to write.

The RSS is secondary to the HTML version.

Let the RSS readers pick and choose what makes sense to them.

To me, it makes sense to write like this:






It makes sense because I want the RSS readers to be able to pick and choose what make sense to them. This is, to me, an engineering principle that helps the RSS network to scale, as I believe it needs to do by orders of magnitude.

To Shelley's point:

I like being notified when a person's weblog is changed, and check regularly. But to strip a person's thoughts and plunk it into a queue that gets spit out to me on this plain white background -- this isn't a true group forming and communication process, is it?

In and of itself, no. It's only one piece of the puzzle. Blogspaces today are relatively few, and relatively homogenous. The degree of overlap among blogrolls, or (what shall we call them, channelrolls? [1] [2] [3]), is quite high. This will change, I am certain, as blogspaces become many and diverse. Means of interconnecting these communities then become critical. HTML and RSS renderings will work in tandem to accomplish that interconnection, as they already do, but I foresee an even larger role for RSS.

To explain why, I refer to Malcolm Gladwell's original New Yorker story on Lois Weisberg. Here for the first time I was introduced to the notion of what I call the human supernode. We all know a few people who are wired like this, people who seem to know everyone. In geekspace, Tim O'Reilly is one such, and Dave Winer is another. Gladwell's story shows how the essential quality of Lois Weisberg is not simply "knowing everyone" but, to me more profoundly, "belonging to many quite different groups."

Elsewhere, Gladwell quantifies just how different these supernode invididuals are from ordinary folks. He ran an experiment (was this in The Tipping Point? I can't find my copy to check it) in which he presented a list of hundreds of surnames to a set of test subjects, and asked them to count the number of surnames belonging to people they knew personally. The result was not a bell curve. Most people knew a handful of the names. A very small number knew a whole lot.

My conclusion: we all want to achieve the effects that supernode inviduals do. But most of us aren't wired with the natural ability to be tuned in to many diverse groups, an ability that a lucky few are gifted with. Part of the future of RSS, as I see it, is to help the rest of us have some of the social power that those lucky few already possess.

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