Sunday, July 6, 2008

Diversify Myself One

Allow me to put this post in context.

Yesterday evening (Saturday, July 5) I was sitting in a bedroom at a relative's house in Las Vegas, Nevada, having just finished playing bingo with some other relatives and having a post-bingo dinner with my wife. Earlier in the day I had been waiting for some new tires to be installed (to replace the old tires), and missing yet another opportunity to play NTN/Buzztime trivia.

That is where my mind was when I read Dave Winer's tweet as reproduced on FriendFeed:

“The people on Twitter are still more diverse and (imho) interesting than those on FriendFeed. Twitter seems brighter.”

I'll grant that this was only part of what Winer was saying at the time, but the thought interested me.

Winer used that good old word "diversity." The word's been around for a while, and some argue that diversity can be good, and some argue that diversity solely for diversity's sake is meaningless, and some argue that diversity advocates aren't all that diverse. Don't forget that diversity has been trumpeted by all sorts of people, including former Secretary of the Interior James Watt. If you haven't heard the name, let's just say that his views on environmentalism were opposed by many, and the many got their chance to dump Watt after his comments on diversity (as recorded by Democratic Central):

He resigned on October 9, 1983, following a furor touched off by his comments to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on September 21, 1983, in which he referred to the U. S. Coal Commission -- the group that was in charge of the program that leased to private companies the right to mine coal on federal lands -- as "a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple."

I couldn't find much about the U.S. Coal Commission after the 1920s, but I did find this account of Watt's statement from NNDB:

In a press conference on 21 September 1983, made the following comment about his staff: "I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent."

Back to Winer - actually, not yet. As I was thinking about Winer's comments on FriendFeed's lack of diversity, I was thinking about something that I had done some time ago. Remember CFOT? Of course you don't. But I do. Well, I thought I did. Here's what I said back in May:

I've gravitated to a realm of insularity and self-referentialism. And it's not "them," it's me. If I am favoriting things about Twitter, FriendFeed, and Barack Obama, then I'm part of the problem.

OK, now back to the FriendFeed thread that Dave Winer started. Robert Scoble maintained that FriendFeed was more diverse than we suspected.

Dave: you need to visit the "Everyone" tab. There's a TON of non geeks here. I just don't "Like" their posts, so you don't see them.

So, sitting in my cousin's kids' Las Vegas bedroom, I began to wonder - are there places in FriendFeed where people don't talk about 24/7? Are there even places in Twitter where people don't talk about 24/7? Even though I only had my mobile phone, I was able to perform some searches and record my informal observations, choosing the non-geeky topic "American Idol."

  • When I used fftogo's search feature to check the previous 30 mentions of American Idol on FriendFeed, I noted that the 30th item was over two days old.

  • When I used Slandr to perform a Summize search of the previous 30 mentions of American Idol on Twitter, I noted that the 30th item was about a day old.
On the surface, this test seemed to indicate that Twitter was less geeky, since I could find more instances of this non-geeky conversation on Twitter than on FriendFeed. Or perhaps I should have searched the conversations; maybe that has become a hotbed of American Idol discussion.

But Robert Scoble himself interjected a comment in one of my FriendFeed posts:

What is there to say about American Idol? Especially beyond 140 characters.

This is why you shouldn't only follow one person on a social media network, and Robert Scoble would probably be the first to admit that. Scoble writes about a lot of things, but the things that interest Scoble are not necessarily the things that interest the American population as a whole. I was reading Scoble's comment on my phone because my cousin's house doesn't have broadband. Um, in fact, they don't have dialup. Um, in fact, they don't even have cable. The kids use the TV to play games and watch DVDs and videos. Heck, even American Idol isn't of interest to this particular family.

But it's not just Robert Scoble. Pretend for a moment that social media services were your only source of information on the U.S. presidential election. If this were the case, you would probably conclude that Barack Obama had an easy cakewalk to the Democratic nomination, and that Ron Paul had an equally easy cakewalk to the Republican nomination. Again, the population on relatively small social networks such as FriendFeed and Twitter are not, on the surface, representative of the general population.

Perhaps Facebook, with a much larger user base, is more representative, but I wouldn't know.

Fast forward one day. It's now Sunday, July 6, and I'm back at home, noting that Mark Trapp shared a Paris Lemon post.

While the first two rules of Fight Club may be that you do not talk about Fight Club, I think the first several rules of FriendFeed are that you must talk about FriendFeed.

I expressed some opinions on this - on FriendFeed, of course - and others looked at it from another angle (namely, the ability to hide things in FriendFeed). Rather than hiding stuff, I began to thinking about seeking stuff:

Perhaps some behavior changes, at least for me, are in order - namely, to seek out the discussions that are about things other than the F-word (or that other F-word, Firefox) or about the US presidential election. Diversify myself, as it were...

In other words, rather than complaining that FriendFeed is insular, why don't I seek out the non-insular stuff in FriendFeed?

Mark Trapp, who shared the post in the first place, had some suggestions on that front:

Ontario: there have been two guidelines to diversify my subscriptions: 1) Unsubscribe from anyone I manually hide 5 times in one day, and 2) subscribe to anyone that's been exposed via Friend-of-a-Friend, that is sharing something that's not social media related, AND hasn't been liked by an A-lister. I've found a lot of interesting people that way. At this point, I do think it takes a conscious effort to find the world outside social media on Friendfeed, but it's definitely there.

While his first suggestion doesn't apply to my particular situation (for the record, I'm not hiding anything or anyone on my ontarioemperor FriendFeed account), Trapp's second suggestion definitely applies to me. I can't really use it while mobile FriendFeeding (fftogo doesn't explicitly identify friend of a friend items), I can certainly use it while at a desktop or laptop.

So, what's the latest on Paula Abdul's mental state?

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