What I’m doing to fight the social media echo chamber

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I think the number one threat to social media is the echo chamber.

Online social media is an amazing thing. One of the most powerful aspects of social media is that it’s a scale free network. This is the phenomena that create viral videos. People, companies or their agencies don’t create viral videos, scale free networks create viral videos. Scale free networks are why once you get to the top it’s infinitely easier to stay on top. This is why when Robert Scoble posts something on FriendFeed it gets dozens of likes and comments (seriously EVERY single thing).

The downside of this attribute is what we call the echo chamber. I don’t have to follow Seth Godin’s blog because so many people will share his most recent post on Twitter or in their Google Reader. I used to not (but I do now) follow TechCrunch because of the same reason. If you’re on FriendFeed you don’t have to follow Robert because someone else in your network will like it and it will show up in your feed.

The great thing about this activity is that it creates a certain layer of human filtering. This is why sites like Digg, Techmeme, Slashdot, Tweetmeme, RSSmeme and others are so useful.

The problem is that it leads to group think. We’re all reading the same blog posts, following the same people ipn Twitter, linking to the same things and drinking the same Kool-Aid. It’s dangerous. It’s this kind of group think that leads really smart people to miss really obvious things (mortgage crisis anyone?).

That is why I try not to share links from the obvious sources, unless I REALLY feel they are worth while. This is why I spend so much time looking for the really good long tail blogs. I try and share posts on Twitter and this blog that most people aren’t talking about. This is why I break up my twitter posts with things like what I’m listening to on Pandora. And while it may not seem like it this is also why I’ve started sharing less stuff on Twitter and trying to write more posts here on my blog. Beyond 140 I can add context. I can expand why I agree or disagree

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  • It's an important point that you make,I am sure you are articulating a pain many of us have been feeling. However the content gold and the noise aren't going to stop so I feel like for myself I need a more sophisticated to deal with.

    I remember when I discovered list view in Google Reader, at the time it was a breakthrough in dealing with RSS.

    Now Friendfeed seems really promising in filtering stuff that is on topic, popular and linked up.

    I think you are right we need human networks to help filter i.e. it's the sources we pull from in Friendfeed. So our sophistication in choosing sources we trust will become more important in relation to the tools.

    Of course if everyone focused more on their purpose and less on being popular (myself included) and created genuine content (like you just have), the realtime web would be richer.

    Thanks for provoking thought rather than inciting social excitement.


    P.S. I don't want to sound down on excitement, it can be vital too.
  • Tac --

    Good stuff. DL Byron & Steve Broback, in their book "Publish & Prosper: Bogging for Your Business," emphasize the need to ADD to the global conversation, not just repeat it.

    That said, being new to Twitter, I guess I don't mind seeing RT's (yet?). They appear to serve as an underscore of the value or importance of a topic for me. At the same time, one hundred percent agree with the need to seek out the interesting, valuable, long-tail nuggets on the roads less traveled.
  • Frank Shaw
    What you are describing is what Chris Anderson at Wired calls "finding and amplifying the weak signals."
  • Chris is always good for a pull quote :)
    I also think that this is a key area where agencies can help their clients by helping the employee/signals gain amplification.
  • christinadw
    I appreciate this. Seriously. You just won a spot in my feed reader.
  • I think that's about the best compliment someone could give. Thanks.
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